Reading Time: 4 minutes
Garlic is arguably one of the best known alternative remedies to be used even today. That said, alternative remedies have often gotten a bad reputation over the years, seen as treatments without any real scientific backing.
As you’re going to discover, however, garlic is different. A large number of peer-reviewed scientific studies have shown that garlic most certainly does have an astonishing range of health benefits, some of which might just surprise you.
While some people may turn their nose up at the potential side-effects, such as dizziness, headaches and bad breath, therefore, thousands more consume garlic on a regular basis. Far from a crank treatment, these people might just be making the smartest health decision.
So why do so many people swear by the health benefits of garlic, and what do scientists truly think about its properties?
Colds & Other Viruses
An interesting study some years ago assessed a group of 146 people during the worst of the winter weather when colds and flu are most likely to strike. The scientists tracking how often each person caught a cold between November and February, how severe the infection was and how long the person remained affected.
During the study, half of the group was given a daily tablet containing garlic extract, while the others were given a placebo, with nobody being aware which regime they were on. The goal was to discover what effect – if any- garlic has on the viral infections that plague many of us each winter.
The results were startling.
The scientists found that individuals consuming garlic regularly not only suffered far fewer colds but the few they did catch cleared up much more quickly. As the experts themselves concluded “an allicin-containing supplement can prevent attack by the common cold virus”.
The first health benefit, especially among those of us suffering weeks of colds each year, is that garlic has a noticeable impact on not just how many colds we catch but how long they put us out of action.
Perhaps rather more surprisingly, a number of studies have demonstrated that garlic may help to fight against the growth of cancers. Quite how garlic works its magic is still being assessed, but it is widely known to protect cells from damage thanks to its antioxidant properties. It is believed by many scientists that these antioxidants help to protect cells from the damage that can otherwise lead to cancerous growth.
One study claimed that “garlic and its organic allyl sulfur components are effective inhibitors of the cancer process” while another summarized numerous past studies with the agreement that “garlic consumption inversely correlates with the risk of oral, stomach, esophageal, colon, and prostate cancers.”
The second health benefit of garlic is therefore even more valuable; it seems that consuming garlic in your diet, or supplementing it with garlic extract, does actually significantly reduce the chances of suffering from a range of cancers in later life.
It is well known that cardiovascular diseases are one of the biggest killers of adults in the developed world. One common example of such a disease is atherosclerosis, whereby the arteries become clogged with fatty substances, primarily from the diet. If the condition is serious enough, this can block blood flow, significantly increasing the chances of strokes or heart attacks.
Interestingly, it seems that here too garlic can have a positive effect. By reducing the concentration of fats in the bloodstream, it seems that studies “support the proposal that garlic consumption have significant cardioprotective effect”.
In a similar manner to atherosclerosis it also seems that consuming garlic regularly can also help to reduce blood pressure, doubly reducing the chances of suffering from such a potentially life-threatening condition.
Inflammation does not happen for no reason. Before an inflammatory response occurs the body first sends out messages that it is under attack and as a result white blood cells flood to the area in order to mount an attack. Anything which has an effect on this “messaging system” can increase or decrease the impact of inflammation on the body.
Research suggests that garlic can also have an impact here, by interfering with this communication pathway. Indeed, studies have found that an extract of garlic is capable of “preventing the formation of pro-inflammatory messengers”.
In doing so, the message is stopped entirely, or reduced in magnitude, resulting in a far smaller inflammatory effect.
While this may perhaps not sound the most exciting health benefit of garlic, for those suffering from inflammation-related diseases such as arthritis the impact can be almost life-changing.
While scientists are still unraveling the root causes of dementia, it is known that diseases such as Alzheimer’s are positively correlated with a range of other medical conditions. In short, sufferers of these conditions significantly increase their chances of developing dementia in later life.
Now it seems that garlic can even help with these co-occurrent diseases, and so may protect one from dementia in later life. For example, it is known that high cholesterol, cardiovascular diseases, and inflammation all increase the risk of dementia.
As garlic can positively impact each of these issues, it should come as no surprise that its use is positively correlated with avoidance. Indeed, one major study concluded their findings by stating that “garlic, extracted and aged to form antioxidant-rich aged garlic extract (AGE or Kyolic), may help reduce the risk of these diseases.”
How to Benefit from Garlic’s Health Properties
One concern raised in the scientific literature relates to how garlic is consumed. For example, fresh (raw) garlic has been known to produce a number of potentially unpleasant side-effects, such as dermatitis, stomach irritations and, of course, garlic breath.
Cooked garlic, added to recipes, seems to have less of a negative effect. However, in comparisons between different dosing strategies, it seems that garlic extracts are likely to have the most beneficial impact on the health while minimizing side-effects. A form known as “aged garlic extract” can be purchased from many health stores in tablet form, making it a convenient and cost-effective way to add garlic to your diet.