It is delicious. Many love its spicy zing. But few people know that the benefits of garlic can do more than drive away vampires.
That’s why this article explains, based on numerous studies, how healthy garlic can be. In the process, you’ll also learn more about its many uses and applications in the kitchen.
Why Is Garlic Good for You?
Since the beginning of recorded history, garlic has been in use since it has been found in Egyptian pyramids and ancient Greek temples.
Ancient medical texts from Egypt, Greece, Rome, China, and India, among others, can attest to the use of garlic.
Even Hippocrates, the father of Western medicine, has prescribed garlic for its health benefits. In this context, the Greek physician is said to have used the effect of garlic against respiratory problems, fatigue, or parasites.
Moreover, even the original Olympic athletes in ancient Greece have received garlic. Thus, the Greeks used garlic as the first performance-enhancing agent in sports (Rivlin 20011).
As the name suggests, garlic or Allium sativum belongs to the leek or Allium genus of plants.
Since the perennial plant is also a member of the Amaryllis family or Amaryllidaceae, it is closely related to chives, leeks, and onions.
In addition, garlic grows underground in the form of a bulb. Although the garlic plant is native to Central Asia, it also grows wild in southern European countries.
Due to its intense aromatic flavor, the plant is present in virtually every cuisine in the world.
Due to active sulfur compounds, raw garlic has a spicy taste that indicates its tremendous health benefits.
For example, the sulfur compound allicin in garlic reduces cardiovascular and infection risk (Tattelman et al. 20052).
Other compounds that may be crucial for the health benefits of garlic include diallyl disulfide and S-allylcysteine (Zarezadeh et al. 20173).
In addition, regular consumption of garlic has been associated with the prevention of other common causes of death, such as cancer and diabetes (Ansary et al. 20204).
For this reason, garlic ranks among the healthiest vegetables. Furthermore, it’s insanely inexpensive, can be prepared quickly, and tastes heavenly.
Benefits of Eating Garlic Raw
The healthiest way to consume garlic is raw.
Accordingly, researchers have found that the anti-inflammatory effects of garlic, in particular, suffer when heated for short periods.
Among the numerous bioactive components, mainly the sulfur compound allicin in raw garlic counteracts chronic inflammation. Therefore, it also has the potential to be used therapeutically (Shin et al. 20135).
Moreover, raw garlic has a better nutritional profile than cooked garlic, which is why it has a narrow lead in the following vitamins and minerals, among others (*):
- Vitamins B1, B2, B3, B4 B6, B9, and C.
For these reasons, the allium is best enjoyed raw, such as a topping for salads, roasted vegetables, or fish dishes.
Nonetheless, garlic is also healthy when cooked and unfolds a wide range of beneficial effects, as we’ll explore shortly.
Honey and Garlic Benefits
Numerous magazines praise honey with garlic as healthy. The combination is said to protect against colds or strengthen the immune system.
However, people often forget that honey is chemically speaking sugar, lacking vitamins and minerals (*).
Therefore, any health benefit of the combination comes exclusively from garlic but not from honey.
In addition, the high fructose and glucose content of honey harms the liver and endocrine system, which is why it can counteract any effects of garlic.
However, this problem is quickly solved by eating garlic without added sugar, like honey.
Ginger and Garlic Benefits
Unlike honey, ginger is a potent partner of the allium plant. Like garlic, ginger has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties (Shan et al. 20056).
Ginger, one of the ingredients in turmeric tea, may help relieve indigestion by accelerating gastric emptying.
Since ginger can enormously support most of the health benefits of garlic, it’s no surprise that you can often find this potent combination in Asian cuisine.
Black Garlic Health Benefits
Black garlic is a fermented food made from fresh garlic bulbs by aging for 10 to 35 days at high temperatures (60 to 90 °C) and high humidity (Kimura et al. 201711).
In this process, fermented garlic is known for its sweet taste and jelly-like consistency in Asian cuisine.
Black garlic is particularly healthy because of its antioxidant effect, which peaks after an aging process of 21 days (Choi et al. 201412).
Nevertheless, recent studies suggest that the immune system-boosting effect of raw garlic is more significant (Li et al. 201713).
How Much Garlic Is Healthy to Eat?
On average, 1-2 cloves of garlic a day is considered healthy.
After a higher dosage mainly brings bad breath and body odor, one or two more cloves might not harm health.
So, unless you have a date planned, you can enjoy garlic every day.
Garlic Benefits for Health
As you will see below, the health benefits of garlic cover an incredible range.
Not only does it enrich any home-cooked meal, but it can also be used as a natural home remedy in many ways.
1. Its Antioxidants Support Longevity
Sulfur-containing foods have antioxidant effects. Due to its high density of bioactive compounds and nutrients, garlic is among the most potent.
We particularly need sulfur for the synthesis of glutathione (Grimble 200614).
Glutathione is one of the most important and powerful antioxidants that can neutralize free radicals in your body and prevent disease.
With this in mind, oxidative cell damage caused by free radicals heavily contributes to the aging process (Amagase et al. 200115).
In light of this, glutathione can, for example, remove toxic protein deposits and thus prevent age-related neurodegeneration and macular degeneration (Ballatori et al. 200916).
Accordingly, the antioxidant properties of garlic extract may reduce the risk of common brain diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease and dementia (Borek 200117).
Moreover, scientists have been able to detect the antioxidant effect in the blood plasma of older people, suggesting a reduction in oxidative damage (Avci et al. 200818).
In short, the consumption of garlic could be healthy for your mental state and healthspan.
2. Garlic Offers Cancer-Preventive Properties
Besides aging, the relative of onion can reduce cardiovascular diseases and cancer (Borek 200119).
A growing number of studies suggest that the organic sulfur compounds in garlic may exert anti-cancer effects (Cerella et al. 201120).
For example, some researchers suggest active compounds such as S-allylcysteines responsible for this effect (Amagase et al. 200121).
Therefore, dietary intake of these compounds might be a promising chemopreventive and chemotherapeutic measure (Nagini 200822).
Also, a study suggests that the compounds in garlic can induce cell death of lethal brain tumors (Das et al. 200723).
3. The Allium Strengthens Your Immune System
In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, we have probably all been thinking more about how to strengthen our immune system.
Although this may have occurred to few people, this task can be as simple as adding a few cloves of garlic to your next meal.
Accordingly, a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, parallel-intervention study of 120 healthy volunteers found improved immune cell function due to garlic extract intake.
This study of the highest quality concludes that this benefit may be responsible for the reduced incidence of colds and flu (Nantz et al. 201224).
Furthermore, another randomized, double-blind study found a 63 percent reduction in colds from garlic consumption (Josling 200125).
4. Garlic Has Anti-Inflammatory Benefits
Chronic inflammation in the body is the driving force behind chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and arthritis.
Against this background, scientists have demonstrated that the sulfur compounds in garlic may have anti-inflammatory effects of therapeutic grade (Lee et al. 201226).
Moreover, a recent randomized, controlled, double-blind study involving 70 women with the inflammatory autoimmune disease rheumatoid arthritis supports this fact.
Taking just one gram of garlic supplements per day for two months could reduce the following symptoms (Moosavian et al. 202027):
- Inflammatory markers
- Sensitive joints
- Pain intensity
For this reason, even the Arthritis Foundation recommends increasing the natural consumption of garlic in your cooking (*).
5. Fresh Garlic Improves Blood Clotting
A study in which men between the ages of 40 and 50 consumed 3 grams of fresh garlic for 16 weeks reduced markers of platelet aggregation by about 80%.
Thus, garlic may contribute to improved blood clotting.
Consequently, researchers concluded that even small amounts of fresh garlic consumed over an extended time could help prevent thrombosis (Ali et al. 199528).
Besides, animal studies have noted the potential of garlic to prevent and reverse atherosclerosis (Orekhov et al. 199729).
Furthermore, researchers have found that garlic ingestion reduced the oxidation of LDL cholesterol by 34% in their experiment (Phelps et al. 199330).
It is not the number but the oxidation of these lipoproteins that is crucial for developing cardiovascular disease. Therefore, foods with fresh garlic are good for your heart health.
6. Garlic May Act As an Antihypertensive Agent
Cardiovascular diseases such as heart attacks and strokes are the most common cause of death in the Western world.
In this context, hypertension plays an essential role not only as a symptom.
With this in mind, researchers have found that taking garlic extract can significantly reduce high blood pressure (Ried et al. 201031).
Due to the potential causation of sulfur deficiency, researchers assume that the compounds in garlic have a positive effect on hypertension (Ried et al. 201432).
On the other hand, the antioxidant ability of garlic supplements may scavenge free radicals that lower high blood pressure (Dhawan et al. 200533).
But you don’t have to consume supplements to reap the benefits of garlic. The majority of these health benefits are the equivalent of 3-4 fresh garlic cloves per day.
7. It Helps Your Body to Detox
In high doses, the sulfur compounds in garlic can reduce toxic heavy metal concentrations in the body.
A study of 117 employees of a car battery factory exposed to heavy metals daily found that garlic reduced blood lead levels by 19%. Garlic treatment was also able to relieve headaches and high blood pressure.
Compared to the drug D-penicillamine, there was no significant difference in relieving these symptoms, significantly reducing side effects.
Therefore, the researchers concluded that garlic may treat moderate lead poisoning (Kianoush et al. 201234).
8. The Health Benefits of Garlic Strengthen Bones
In light of this, a study of menopausal women found that the equivalent of 2 grams of raw garlic per day can substantially reduce estrogen deficiency (Mozaffari-Khosravi37).
Therefore, garlic could have a beneficial effect on women’s bones.
Accordingly, scientists found that alliums such as garlic, onions, and leeks may have equally beneficial effects on osteoarthritis (Williams et al. 201038).
9. It May Increase Athletic Performance
Knowing about the anti-fatigue benefits of garlic, the ancient Greeks administered it to the first Olympic athletes (Rivlin 200139).
Moreover, a Japanese study echoes these findings by identifying garlic as a potential agent against sports-induced fatigue (Morihara et al. 200740).
In addition, scientists studied patients who suffered from coronary heart disease. In the course of the study, garlic oil was administered to the subjects over 6 weeks.
The bottom line is that garlic significantly improved peak heart rate and cardiac workload, translating into better exercise tolerance (Verma et al. 200541).
10. Garlic Offers Antibacterial Benefits
The bioactive allicin in garlic is said to have antimicrobial and antiviral properties.
If we look at a study conducted by bio-chemists, these are not loose claims. They attribute the following properties to allicin (Ankri et al. 199942):
- Antibacterial action (e.g., against E.coli).
- Antifungal effect (e.g., against Candida)
- Antiparasitic effect (e.g., against Entamoeba histolytica)
- Antiviral effect (in general)
Thus, the antibacterial properties in fresh garlic may, for example, kill bacteria that lead to food poisoning.
In addition, another study suggests that allicin could be used to combat bacterial lung infections by direct inhalation because it inhibits bacterial growth as a vapor (Reiter et al. 201743).
In light of the COVID-19 pandemic and the seriousness of lung infections associated with it, this is quite an exciting property of garlic.
Furthermore, a study established that the antifungal benefits of the sulfur compounds in garlic is effective against athlete’s foot.
In this study, 79 percent of the participants could completely cure the fungus in 7 days by applying the garlic cream (Ledezma et al. 199644).
If you want to treat an athlete’s foot with a home remedy at your own risk, crush garlic cloves and rub them over the affected areas twice a day.
Garlic Benefits for the Skin
The allium also enjoys a high status in dermatology. For example, according to dermatologists, eating garlic protects against UVB radiation and cancer.
In addition, topical application of garlic extract can improve the following conditions (Pazyar et al. 201145):
- Keloid scars
- Wound healing
- Viral and fungal infections
- Leishmaniasis (also in dogs)
- Skin aging
Furthermore, topical application of garlic extract can heal corns and make them disappear completely (Dehghani et al. 200546).
Nevertheless, the clinical efficacy of garlic extract in dermatology has not yet been sufficently researched.
Benefits of Garlic for Hair
While a recent study suggests that even eating garlic may be effective against hair loss, there is more solid evidence for applying garlic gel (Bassino et al. 202047).
Alopecia areata is an autoimmune disease of the skin that causes hair loss on the head, face, and sometimes in other parts of the body. It is one of the most common causes of hair loss in both women and men.
Researchers at Mazandaran University of Medical Sciences from Iran tested how garlic gel affected subjects who suffered from alopecia.
In addition to corticosteroids, the gel was applied to the scalp twice daily for three months.
The researchers found that the hormone cream combined with the garlic gel produced far better results (Hajheydari et al. 200748).
With this in mind, natural treatment using a mixture of garlic and coconut oil could be effective against hair loss without resorting to steroid hormones.
Garlic Benefits for Women
Women often suffer from yeast infections. According to Harvard University physicians, about three-quarters of all women have at least one vaginal yeast infection in their lifetime (*).
Because of allicin, garlic can inhibit the growth of the Candida fungus that causes yeast infections (Shuford et al. 200549).
For this purpose, garlic can be taken as allicin tablets or applied as a cream.
Whether you choose to use garlic orally or topically to treat a yeast infection, talk to your trusted health care provider beforehand. She can better judge whether the approach is a good idea.
With over-the-counter garlic extracts or tablets, you should also pay attention to the dosage.
In any case, after most creams are intended only for external use, they should only be applied to the outer area of the vagina.
However, garlic can also be consumed raw or in the form of delicious dishes to promote healthy bacteria and prevent the growth of yeast fungi – without any supplements or medications!
Garlic Benefits for Men
Garlic also creates significant effects for men that may sometimes seem paradoxical.
For example, a recent study found that women are more attracted to the body odor of men who eat large amounts of garlic than to men who do not.
Why women find the body smell more attractive and less intense after garlic consumption could not be determined.
However, researchers suspect that they subconsciously prefer the improved health benefits of men eating garlic (Fialova et al. 201650).
In addition, rumors about a possible potency-enhancing effect of garlic keep circulating.
As a study shows, there could be a grain of truth in these rumors. Researchers proved that the sulfur compound allicin promotes blood flow (Batirel et al. 200251).
In most men, erectile dysfunction is physiological and not psychological. To maintain an erection, efficient blood flow in the arteries is critical.
Therefore, erectile dysfunction indicates a hardening of the arteries. Consumption of garlic may help prevent such cardiovascular disease (Bayan et al. 201452).
Garlic Side Effects
Although garlic is largely considered safe, susceptible people need to be careful when using it.
When consumed in appropriate culinary amounts, garlic is primarily considered healthy and safe.
When eaten, garlic can cause bad breath, a burning sensation in the mouth, heartburn, nausea, body odor, or flatulence.
Thereby, these potential side effects can be worse with the high consumption of raw garlic.
Because of its blood-thinning effects, garlic may increase the risk of bleeding. In addition, asthmatics might experience problems when preparing raw garlic.
In summary, here are the best tips to protect yourself from any side effects:
- Consume natural garlic instead of supplements
- Eat it through traditional dishes in appropriate doses
- Do not overdo it with raw garlic
Topical application on the skin
Most garlic products such as gels, pastes, and mouthwashes are considered safe for the most part.
Nonetheless, when applied to the skin, the allium can cause skin damage similar to a burn.
Although even the application of raw garlic to the skin is considered mostly safe, it can cause severe skin irritation in some circumstances.
Garlic May Offer Substantial Benefits for Your Health
Although my vegetable consumption is not above average, garlic remains a staple in my kitchen.
Because of the following range of beneficial effects, garlic is healthy:
- Acts as an antiviral and antibacterial
- Lowers high blood pressure
- Prevents cancer
- Detoxifies the body
- Prevents dementia
- Strengthens bones
- Prevents cardiovascular diseases
- Enhances athletic performance
In addition, garlic’s sulfur compounds can even remove fungus and corns on the skin through topical application.
Unlike many exotic fruits and pseudo-grains, garlic is a true superfood that everyone probably has in their pantry.
If you put up with the possible body odors, you will not only live a healthy life, but according to studies, you will also paradoxically look more attractive.
Garlic Benefits for Health FAQ
What garlic can cure?
Garlic has antibacterial, antioxidant, cancer preventive, or even blood pressure lowering effects. Moreover, it can even cure an athlete’s foot and corns.
What happens if you eat garlic everyday?
If you eat garlic every day, it can lower your risk of developing cancer, Alzheimer’s, infectious and cardiovascular diseases.
Does garlic help sexually?
Garlic can improve the blood flow and, therefore, indirectly help to maintain an erection.
Can garlic cause liver damage?
If you overdo garlic supplements, there is a chance to cause liver damage.
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