Properties and Benefits of Garlic: Garlic (Allium sativum) is one of the most fascinating bulb plants, full of nutrients and phytochemicals, highly pungent in flavor and capable of killing even the most feisty bacteria. Garlic is famous for its antibiotic and antimicrobial properties and posseses incredible amounts of most essential nutrients, from vitamins C and B6 to copper, calcium, iron, manganese, phosphorus and selenium.
Aancient peoples such as the Egyptians, the Greek and the Romans thought garlic was a highly potent medicinal plant and used it to cure everything from parasitic infections to respiratory problems. It was even used as a cure for the plague that broke out in Europe during the Middle Ages.
Though there is no actual scientific proof that garlic was efficient in stopping the spread of the Black Death, recent studies have shown that the antrax bacterium, for instance, is sensitive to certain natural compounds found in garlic.
Following a laboratory analysis, Louis Pasteur, the famous French microbiologist, discovered that garlic was a potent natural antimicrobial. His research was taken forward and, after numerous scientific studies, it has been confirmed that garlic is indeed a strong natural antibiotic, capable of killing off a wide range of bacteria, fungi and viruses.
Research conducted by the Wright State University has concluded that garlic is approximately 1% more potent than a traditional antibiotic, say penicillin. There are some that say that the blood of a garlic eater can actually kill bacteria. Scientists have even conducted experiments to find out whether or not garlic is more potent than traditional antibiotics. The results of this experiment have shown that this bulbous, smelly plant can actually prove more efficient than some large spectrum antibiotics.
However, a bacterial infection in progress is more likely to respond well to a broad spectrum antibiotic; in this case it is best to treat it accordingly and rely on garlic to help build up your immunity so your body will have a better, stronger, quicker response to future infections. The difference between garlic as a natural antibiotic substance and traditional antibiotics is that bacteria do not appear to develop a resistance to garlic.
When bacteria develop resistance to antibiotics, new strains, which are stronger and definitely more resilient, develop. This means that garlic can help fight the new super-bacteria as well (and when I say garlic, I mean the powerful substances found in this plain-looking plant), which is great news for us all.
Nevertheless, garlic may interfere with other medication, especially anticoagulants so it is best to tell your doctor if you eat garlic on a regular basis. The antimicrobial properties of garlic come from a substance called allicin, which is released when raw garlic cloves are crushed. Keep in mind that, if cooked, garlic loses all of its antimicrobial properties, though other health properties are still preserved.
There are studies which show that more mature garlic bulbs may have a stronger antioxidant effect. Black garlic especially is said to have more antioxidants than cloves. Garlic reduces high blood pressure and lowers the LDL (bad) cholesterol. However, as the Latin saying goes, Est modus in rebus, it is best to eat garlic in moderation.
A study released in 2001 suggested that garlic supplements may have dangerous side effects when combined with HIV-AIDS medication (Link). Though antibiotics are becoming increasingly less effective, I do not recommend substituting them with garlic or garlic supplements. Matters of health should always be taken seriously. So talk to your doctor and ask him/her about whether or not you may get better results from eating garlic or taking concentrated garlic supplements than from traditional medication.
In addition to bad breath, if eaten excessively, it may cause heartburn and even lesions of the stomach wall as well as garlic body smell. That is why doctors do not recommend it to people suffering from gastritis or other similar digestive tract problems. Because it interacts with anticoagulant medication, it is best to avoid it before any major or minor surgery.
Overall, garlic is to be appreciated for its more than generous amounts of essential nutrients. It is particularly rich in vitamin C, hence its immunity-building properties. It also contains great amounts of vitamin B6, great for digestion and energizing. Copper helps prevent premature hair graying, while manganese is a strong antioxidant. Phosphorus, calcium and magnesium are great for healthy bones, while iron fights anemia.