The most alluring health benefits of garlic come from its allicin content, a potent mixture of sulfur compounds that help to curb appetites and ward off infections. Allicin is the reason garlic has so many antiseptic qualities. It is the compound that makes allicin effective in fighting infection. It is derived from the Allium genus, which includes other familiar alliums such as onion, chives, and garlic. Allicin is the reason for the distinctive flavor of garlic, and it accounts for its use in many recipes.
Garlic is also known to boost immune system function. Boosting immunity is a major factor in preventing illness and disease. Garlic extracts may prevent the common cold by warding off the common virus that causes the common cold. Some research has shown that a chemical in garlic called allicin is able to penetrate the upper respiratory tract of mice and prevents the development of the common cold virus. Allicin may prevent the common cold by warding off the common cold and other viruses that are responsible for many illnesses.
Garlic may prevent certain heart diseases like atherosclerosis. Atherosclerosis is the hardening of the arteries that leads to heart disease. A chemical in aged garlic extract is able to prevent the development of plaque in the arteries, which may help to prevent heart disease. Plaque is made up of fatty deposits and cholesterol that harden and collect around the arteries. Coronary artery disease can lead to heart disease.
Garlic has also been proven to be a powerful antioxidant. It may help to prevent the development of clogged arteries and increase the amount of oxygen circulating in the bloodstream. A chemical in garlic called allicin is able to scavenge free radicals that can cause damage to DNA in cells and reduce the amount of oxygen reaching cells, thus preventing tissue death. Free radicals are one of the most common causes of cellular aging and disease, which is why it is so important to look for the most beneficial effects of garlic in preventing age-related diseases like cardiovascular disease and cataracts.
Garlic contains many natural anti-inflammatory compounds. These compounds have been found to reduce symptoms of arthritis. Anti-inflammatory compounds can reduce the symptoms of Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. The most beneficial effects of aged garlic extract come from the anti-bacterial, anti-viral and anti-fungal properties of these compounds.
The most medicinal properties of allicin are its ability to prevent bacterial infections. Allicin has been found to inhibit the growth of Streptococcus pyogenes, a group of strains associated with antibiotic-induced diarrhea. The antimicrobial activity of allicin against bacteria has also been found to inhibit the growth of the bacteria responsible for strep throat and decrease diarrhea associated with it.
Research has shown that allicin protects cardiovascular tissue from damage caused by free radicals and atherosclerosis. This protection is particularly noteworthy since most cardiovascular disease is associated with high blood pressure or cholesterol level. Allicin prevents the buildup of cholesterol in artery walls, lessens blood flow through arteries, and prevents the hardening of blood vessel walls that leads to coronary artery disease. A study conducted at the University of Wisconsin shows that a compound in garlic called allicin lowers high blood pressure and lowers the triglyceride level in patients with mild hypercholesterolemia (a condition that increases the risk of heart attack or stroke). Allicin lowers blood pressure and triglycerides as much as do the anti-cholesterol drugs statins.
It is not known whether the medicinal properties of dried garlic can be absorbed orally in any dosage because no adequate studies have been done. However, people who use garlic regularly as a natural medicine often report that their ailments improve after just a few days. Some of these reports include alleviation of asthma symptoms, asthma attacks, sore throats, coughing, nausea, arthritis, irritable bowel syndrome, and digestive problems such as constipation and diarrhea. One of the most interesting health benefits of garlic, however, involves the treatment of prostate cancer. Some studies have shown that, in addition to reducing the risk of prostate cancer, the compound may also lower the size of prostate tumors.