Ever since its cultivation began thousands of years ago in ancient China, garlic (botanical name: Allium sativum) has been held in high esteem throughout the ages for its gastronomic as well as for medicinal properties. When crushed or finely chopped, garlic yields allicin, which is a powerful antibiotic and antifungal compound. It is allicin that lends the characteristic smell and the hot pungent taste to garlic. Allicin is also known for its antioxidant and fat-dissolving properties, and has been shown to inhibit arteriosclerosis (thickening and hardening of arteries).
Nutritional Value Of Garlic
The chemical analysis of garlic shows garlic to have a storehouse of valuable minerals like phosphorus, sulfur, calcium, magnesium, manganese, selenium, copper and zinc, in addition to substantial amount of vitamin C and a small amount of vitamin B complex. Its moisture content is 62%, protein content 6.3%, carbohydrate content 29.8%, and fat content is only 0.1%.
Of the 100+ chemical compounds present in garlic, scientists have identified more than 30; these along with the unknown ones act in synergy to make it a wonder drug that it is. For example, its hypertension-lowering ability is attributed to the compound allyl mercaptan, which also lowers cholesterol, prevents artherosclerosis (formation of plaque in arteries), and has anti-tumor and anti-diabetic properties. The amino acid arginine in garlic is considered a stimulant that warms the body and improves blood circulation by helping to relax blood vessels.
Benefits Of Garlic
The extract of garlic is a very potent medicinal compound having pharmacodynamic properties. Scientific studies have shown that garlic has many medicinal properties, such as for preventing and fighting common cold, reducing platelet aggregation and thrombosis (formation of blood clots), reducing bad cholesterol (LDL or low-density lipoprotein) while increasing good protective cholesterol (HDL), reducing blood pressure, etc.
In traditional herbal remedies, garlic has long been in use for ailments like bacterial and fungal skin infections, bronchial congestion, intestinal disorders, poor appetite, high blood pressure, rheumatism, whooping cough, etc. The sulfur compound diallyl disulfide present in garlic oil, formed by steam distillation of garlic, has also been associated with anti-cancer properties (could be partly due to its inhibitory action on bacteria like H. pylori) and anti-diabetes properties.
For the digestive system too garlic is very helpful: it aids in elimination of toxic wastes in the body, benefits the lymph, and stimulates the secretion of digestive juices. It also helps fight infectious diseases and inflammations of the stomach and intestine.
In traditional Indian medicine system garlic infused in milk is suggested as a remedy for respiratory disorders like asthma and tuberculosis of the lungs.
To sum up, the principal ailments for which garlic is known for its beneficial effects are:
2.Hyperlipidemia (i.e., high cholesterol)
How Much Garlic?
The American Dietetic Association suggests 600 to 900mg (about 1 fresh clove) per day of garlic in order to obtain its potential health benefits.