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God's Good Herbs - Garlic

My Friend Debbie      Though best known as an aromatic culinary herb, garlic is one of the few herbs universally recognized for its healing properties. It has often been referred to as the "wonder drug among all herbs" due to its long history of medicinal use by cultures around the world since early civilization. Effective health remedies utilizing the powerful benefits of garlic were mentioned over 22 times in the Codex Eber, the oldest medical text on record, dating back to 1550 BC. History also records garlic preparations used as disinfectants and antibiotics to prevent infection in treating battlefield wounds of ancient Greek and Roman soldiers before the advent of antibiotics, as well as in treating British soldiers during World War II, when antibiotics were in short supply. Builders of the pyramids in Egypt consumed garlic daily for strength and endurance.

A Powerful Natural Antibiotic

My Friend Debbie     Garlic's main value as a long-term dietary supplement has been in maintaining healthy circulation, balancing blood sugar and pressure, reducing fat levels in the blood, and improving resistance to infection. Louis Pasteur first scientifically verified its antibacterial properties in 1858. Even today, garlic is regarded as the most effective and broad-spectrum natural antibiotic in fighting most known bacteria. And it does so without creating resistant strains of pathogens or weakening the immune system by destroying friendly beneficial bacteria, as often happens with pharmaceutical antibiotics. Garlic's anti-microbial properties are also believed to kill intestinal worms, parasites, fungus and viruses that may get in the gut and cause disease.

Great for Colds

My Friend Debbie     A very popular and effective use of garlic is in helping prevent the common cold and flu. Dr. Andrew Weil, M.D. believes its cold-fighting benefits can be effective if taken early enough. In his book "Natural Health, Natural Medicine", he states: "The best home remedy I have found for colds is to eat several cloves of raw garlic at the first onset of symptoms." Some recommend making a cold/flu tea by seeping a quart of boiling water with several chopped fresh garlic cloves for 30 minutes, adding fresh squeezed lemon and honey and sipping it throughout the day when fighting a cold or cough.

Special Properties and Health Benefits

My Friend Debbie     Allicin, the principle active compound of garlic responsible for its beneficial medicinal properties as well as its strong aroma and taste, is released within the garlic bulb when it is crushed or finely chopped. The finer the chopping and the more intense the crushing, the more allicin is generated and the stronger the medicinal effect. Since allicin is an unstable compound that starts to degrade soon after being produced, it is recommended garlic be chopped or minced and allowed to sit for 10-15 minutes before cooking to help stabilize its beneficial properties. Cooking or processing in any way causes allicin to break down more quickly and readily change into other sulfide compounds. These less volatile compounds, while lacking the strong anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties of allicin, are still believed to have some medicinal benefits.

My Friend Debbie     One such sulfide component of garlic improves cardiovascular circulation by dilating blood vessel walls. Aged garlic extract has been shown to reduce cardiovascular risk factors, lowering as well as helping to regulate blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Generally, these benefits were linked to consistent use of garlic over a period of several months or longer. Garlic's inhibitory effect on platelet aggression reduces the clotting of blood, making it a natural blood thinner that protects vessels from the formation of blood clots. It is not, therefore, considered wise to take garlic in conjunction with blood thinning drugs or to consume large amounts of garlic in advance of anticipated surgical procedures.

Boosts Immune System

My Friend Debbie     Garlic is also beneficial as an immune system stimulant as the phytochemicals increase the activity of white blood cells and T-helper cells, which may inhibit tumor cell formation. The production of the liver's own detoxifying enzymes are stimulated by garlic, which helps to neutralize carcinogens and other toxins. It is also a potent antioxidant, helping to protect cell membranes and DNA from damage and disease. Though the health benefits of these additional sulfide compounds may survive cooking, the garlic must still be chopped or crushed in order to produce them. Garlic that is cooked whole has very little medicinal value.

Purchasing and Storing Garlic

My Friend Debbie     Organically grown garlic tends to have higher sulphur content than non-organic. When purchasing fresh garlic, choose solid, firm bulbs with taut, unbroken outer skin, avoiding ones with soft or damp spots. Garlic may be kept stored in a cool, dry place for several weeks. Raw garlic should never be stored in oil at room temperature or for too long in the refrigerator as its sulphorous nature makes it a prime breeding ground for botulism. In addition to consuming garlic cloves raw or cooked, garlic is also available in dried or powdered forms as well as tablets, capsules, liquid extracts or oils.

Copyright © 2008-2015 Lucinda Bedogne, CNHP, CNC

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