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Garlic is a culinary delight used widely for its healing properties and health benefits. It provides a distinct pungent kick to foods that are savoured by chefs all around the world. Garlic is originally a native of Middle Asia but has a history that is as vast as its culinary and medicinal usage. According to USDA (United States Department of Agriculture), garlic is one of the oldest crops to be cultivated.

Garlic was being used by Sumerians as early as 2100 BC. Ancient Indians used garlic for its healing and appetite developing benefits. You’ll be curious to know that garlic was considered as apt offerings for some deities in Greece. According to some historians, Olympic players in ancient Greece consumed garlic to improve their performance. 

Legends of garlic usage and medicinal benefits are found in almost all major civilizations across the world including Iran, Tibet, Israel, Persians, Babylonians, the list goes on. In fact, the healing benefits of garlic have earned it names like “Natural antibiotic” “Plant talisman” and “Russian penicillin” from health experts all over the world. It might interest you to know that garlic was highly prized by Egyptians for its health building benefits. In fact, it is mentioned on some "Egyptian tablets" inscriptions written on stone that garlic were used as a nutritional supplement for slaves who built the pyramids in ancient Egypt. A vast amount of wealth was spent by Egyptians for acquiring enough garlic for all slaves.

Did you know?

Garlic has five out of six ayurvedic tastes viz. Pungent, salty, sweet, bitter and astringent. It misses on only the sour taste.

Some basic facts about garlic

  • Botanical name: Allium sativum
  • Family: Alliaceae/Amaryllidaceae (Liliaceae)
  • Common name: Garlic, Lehsun
  • Sanskrit name: Lasuna
  • Parts used: Bulbs, Tender shoots(for cooking)
  • Native region and geographical distribution: Garlic plant is a native of Asia wherein, it is grown in India, China, Egypt, Europe, Iran, and Mexico
  • Energetics: Hot
  1. Types and Varieties of Garlic
  2. Garlic Nutritional Facts
  3. Garlic health benefits
  4. How to use garlic
  5. How much garlic can be taken everyday
  6. Garlic side effects

Types of Garlic

Garlic is a herbaceous plant with erect hollow stems that can grow to a height of 1m. Garlic bulb grows underground and it is divided into small bulbils which are commonly called as garlic cloves. On the basis of physical structure, garlic can be of two types.

  • Hard-neck garlic:
    Characterized by a stem that comes out from the middle of the bulb. They thrive better in harsher winters. Less number of cloves are present in a single bulb.
     
  • Soft-neck garlic:
    No stem is present inside the bulb. Consists of many more cloves in every bulb (can go to 20). It grows in comparatively less harsh weather conditions and has a milder flavour as compared to hard neck garlic.

Varieties of Garlic: Green garlic and garlic scapes

Often when we talk about garlic, the terms green garlic and scapes are used interchangeably. But, there is a slight difference between the two.

Both of these are the same garlic that’s used in cooking but they are harvested at different stages of development of the garlic plant. Traditionally, green garlic is tiny undeveloped garlic bulbs. Garlic scapes, on the other hand, are shoots of garlic plant which are harvested after the formation of seed pods but right before the seed pods open. Garlic, as we commonly know it, is harvested after the opening of seed pods.

Nutritional value of raw garlic per 100g is as follows

 Particulars Quantity
Water                  58.6g
Carbohydrates     33g
Fiber                      2g
Protein                6.4g
Calcium            181mg

Energy per 100g: 149 kcal

Garlic has a number of healing benefits for the human body. Most importantly, it is an anti-microbial, anti-oxidant and has excellent anti-inflammatory potential. Together these properties make it a champion for health and healing. Let’s talk about some health benefits of garlic.

  • Beneficial for cardiovascular health: Garlic is best known for its cardiovascular benefits. It reduces the risk of heart diseases by managing cholesterol levels, preventing blood clotting and strengthening heart muscles.
  • Anti-diabetic: Garlic is traditionally used as an anti-diabetic agent. Clinical studies have found that regular consumption of garlic is helpful in blood sugar maintenance in diabetic individuals.
  • Promotes weight loss: Garlic helps in losing weight by burning excessive fat in your body. It has been clinically demonstrated that garlic consumption leads to a reduction in body weight within 24 days.
  • Relieves common cold: Garlic has a warming effect on body and is thus effective in reducing common cold symptoms.
  • Benefits for skin: Garlic improves circulation and increases skin regeneration, leading to a younger and brighter looking skin. It also prevents skin conditions like acne, psoriasis and eczema.
  • Improves oral health: Garlic is an excellent antimicrobial, it helps balance the oral microflora, which, in turn, reduces the risk of oral infections and dental caries.
  • Reduces menopause symptoms: Being an excellent antioxidant, garlic reduces oxidative stress and facilitate reduction in menopause symptoms such as mood swings and irritability.

Apart from the aforementioned benefits, garlic is also useful in relieving inflammation and preventing cancer cell growth. Studies are still going on to reap maximum benefits from this plant.

  1. Garlic for diabetes
  2. Garlic for cholesterol
  3. Garlic for heart
  4. Garlic for oral health
  5. Garlic as an antibiotic
  6. Garlic for weight loss
  7. Garlic for arthritis
  8. Garlic benefits for men
  9. Garlic benefits for women
  10. Garlic benefits for skin
  11. Garlic benefits for hair
  12. Garlic for cough and cold
  13. Garlic as an anticancer agent

Garlic for diabetes

In traditional medicine system, garlic is quite popular as an anti-diabetic. Recent clinical studies on patients suffering from diabetes suggest that garlic is effective in reducing blood sugar levels. The study involved two groups of people where one group was given garlic in the doses ranging from 0.05g to 1.5g for a varied period of days. Marked reduction in fasting blood sugar levels was found in people who took garlic regularly as compared to people who were not given garlic. What better than a food that serves your health and tongue at the same time? In another study, a group of diabetic people with fasting blood sugar levels at 126 mg/dl were tested for the hypoglycemic (blood sugar reducing) effects of garlic capsules along with a capsule of a known diabetes medicine (metformin). Results were noted after 24 days and the group which received garlic and metformin showed marked decrease in blood sugar levels (around 3%) as compared to the group which received only metformin (0.5%). What better than a food that looks after your health and your tastes. It is always advisable to follow moderation while taking any food for its medicinal benefits.

(Read more: Diabetes treatment)

Garlic for cholesterol

High levels of cholesterol and harmful fats in body have been the major cause of heart-related diseases and atherosclerosis (fat deposition in arteries). This lifestyle and age-related problem are one of the leading causes of diseases and mortality in the world today. Dietary supplements and healthy lifestyle habits remain the best remedy for reducing or alleviating the risk factors in such diseases. Garlic has been in use in Ayurveda for its benefits in managing cholesterol levels in our bodies and keeping the heart healthy. Recent studies conducted on a group of 50 healthy people (both men and women) confirm this claim of Ayurveda. After a period of 90 days, consumption of raw garlic showed a substantial decrease in blood cholesterol levels. It was further suggested that daily intake of garlic reduces the low-density (bad) cholesterol in our bodies while increasing the amount of high-density (good) cholesterol. This balance in body fats then leads to a reduced risk of fat deposition in arteries and a subsequent decrease in possibilities of cardiovascular problems like stroke and heart attack.

Garlic for heart

Heart diseases are mostly linked to factors like high cholesterol levels in body, free radicals, and development of blood clots in important arteries. As an antioxidant, Hypolipidemic (reduces blood cholesterol) and anti-clotting factors, garlic is anything but a panacea for heart problems. In Ayurveda garlic is known as a tonic for heart. Regular consumption of garlic cloves not only decrease the blood pressure and reduces chances of blood clot and associated conditions like stroke and heart attacks. According to a review article published in The Journal of Nutrition, numerous studies have been done to test the health benefits of garlic. At least 44% of clinical studies indicate that regular consumption of garlic has a potent effect in reducing cholesterol levels in blood and avoiding platelet aggregation in the blood (blood clotting). However, if you are suffering from a heart disease, it is always advisable to check in with your doctor before taking garlic as a health supplement in your diet.

Garlic for oral health

Oral infections are a nuisance for teeth and gum health. According to dentists, most oral problems are caused by an imbalance in good and bad bacteria present in our mouths. Garlic, as an antibacterial is considered a superfood by dentists. It selectively kills the harmful bacteria while letting the good bacteria to survive in mouth thus improving the overall health of gums and teeth. Studies conducted on non-vital (milk teeth, early teeth) in children suggest that treatment of infected gums with garlic extracts significantly reduces the total bacterial count. According to a research published in The Indian Journal of Dental Research, Garlic extracts may be effective in killing infection-causing bacteria like Streptococcus, Pseudomonas and Lactobacillus present in the oral cavity. However, in the absence of adult based clinical studies, it is best to ask your dentist to understand the effects of garlic on teeth and gums.

(Read more: Toothache)

Garlic as an antibiotic

Numerous studies have been done to test the effectiveness of garlic as an antimicrobial. Most of these studies conclude that garlic has many potential antimicrobial compounds which are effective against bacterial, fungal and viral infections. According to a study in India, extracts are potent against the antibiotic-resistant strains of E.coli and Staphylococcus aureus. Another research article published in The Journal of Pharmacovigilance confirms the effectiveness of garlic extracts against these two antibiotic-resistant bacteria. It was further stated that allicin, a naturally occurring compound present in garlic is responsible for its antimicrobial properties. Additionally, garlic extracts have also shown potent antimicrobial effects against fungi like Candida albicans and Aspergillus and against some virus. However, human studies need to be conducted to test the effectivity and any potential side effects of garlic extracts as a medicine. So, it’s best to check in with your ayurveda doctor to know more about the antimicrobial properties of garlic.

Garlic for weight loss

Obesity and weight issues are a rising global concern. Researchers believe that obesity is caused mainly by an excess of energy uptake in diet. Excess deposition of fat in the liver is just one complication that is associated with overweight people. This fat deposition decreases the efficiency of liver functions. And a decreased liver efficiency would not only affect the digestion process but it also has a detrimental effect on the overall working of the body. Traditionally, eating garlic is known to be very useful for overall body health. Animal-based studies indicate that a natural compound S-allylmercaptocysteine present in garlic is effective against fatty liver. Clinical studies suggest that administration of garlic tablets can help reduce overall body weight and amount of fat present in the body. In another study, administration of garlic to a group of 210 people showed a marked decrease in body weight after a period of 24 days. According to a review article published in the Journal of Chemical and Pharmaceutical Sciences. Garlic is a potent hypolipidemic (reduced cholesterol) and anti-obesity effects.

(Read more: Weight loss diet chart)

Garlic for arthritis

Garlic is widely used in traditional and folk medicine for treating inflammatory problems especially arthritis. Numerous animal studies hint at the usefulness of garlic as an anti-inflammatory agent in arthritis treatments. Lab studies claim that allicin, a natural compound present in garlic is responsible for reducing inflammation in organisms. Due to lack of human studies, it is best to check in with your Ayurvedic doctor before taking garlic as a supplement for inflammatory problems like arthritis.

(Read more: Arthritis treatment)

Garlic benefits for men

There is a strong controversy when it comes to the efficiency of garlic in increasing male sexual functions. While some studies claim that administration of garlic is useful in increasing sperm count and testosterone levels in males; there are studies that indicate that garlic is also a potent spermicidal (kills sperms) and has a negative effect on male sexual functions. So, if you want to take garlic as a supplement for a better sexual health it is always advisable to talk to your ayurvedic doctor first.

(Read more: Men's sexual problems and solutions)

Garlic benefits for women

Garlic is priced for its antioxidant properties especially when it comes to women health. Menopause is one of the most important concerns for women in the age of 50 and above. According to doctors, menopause doesn’t only mark the end of the reproductive phase in women but it also causes a decrease in oxygen levels in female bodies. Menopausal symptoms like hot flashes, irritability, mood swings, vaginal dryness etc are some of the side effects that come with decreased estrogen (natural antioxidant of the body) and oxygen levels in the body. In a study done with 30 postmenopausal women, it was found that administration of garlic reduces the oxidative stress in the body thus helping alleviate some of the symptoms that come with menopause.

Garlic benefits for skin

Traditional and folk medicine uses garlic for its skin and wound healing benefits. Numerous studies have been done to test the mechanism and efficiency of garlic in improving skin health. Both animal and human studies confirm the skin healing benefits of garlic. In a study, administration of garlic powder increases blood circulation in the skin by 55%. Better circulation means a healthier tissue. Additionally, garlic is a proven antimicrobial.

Garlic is known to be effective against skin conditions like psoriasis, corns, fungal infections and other skin conditions. Topical application of garlic gel, oil, garlic powder and extracts of garlic have been used in most of these studies. Furthermore, antioxidant effects of garlic help keep the oxidative stress (caused by high level of toxic oxygen in the body which may be due to age or lifestyle problems) from hampering body and reduce the premature signs of ageing. Lab studies suggest that garlic extracts increase fibroblasts (skin cells) thus keeping the skin younger. It is always advisable to refer to your ayurveda doctor to know the possible effects of garlic on your skin type.

Garlic benefits for hair

Garlic, when applied topically, has a lot of potential benefits for hair. First, it is an antioxidant, that means it would help reduce signs of ageing and make your hairs stronger. Secondly, garlic is a known antimicrobial, it’ll kill most of the harmful microbes that are potentially dangerous to your scalp. Finally, studies suggest that garlic is an effective agent against bald spots. So, this one herb can give you shinier, stronger and healthier hair.

Garlic for cough and cold

In Ayurveda garlic is considered a warm food that means it increases heat in the body. Garlic is a known remedy for cold. Clinical studies hint that garlic may be effective in fighting against cold and cough. But, there is a lot of controversial question against these studies. 

(Read more: Common cold treatment

Garlic as an anticancer agent

Animal studies suggest that the sulfur compounds in aged garlic may have anti-tumor potential. While the exact mechanism isn’t known yet, it is speculated that garlic exhibits anti-cancer properties due to its antioxidants and tumor growth inhibition function. Due to absence of human studies, it is best to talk to your ayurvedic doctor.

(Read more: Cancer treatment)

Raw garlic is widely used for flavouring dishes like dips, salads, sauces, bread etc It provides a pungent sting to foods that are characteristic in most Italian dishes. Raw garlic is known to have a number of health benefits when taken on an empty stomach. Garlic oil is used in flavoring foods and in topical application for hair. However, garlic is also available commercially in the form of garlic tablets, capsules, and powder. If you are into herbal remedies, you can also look for garlic tea, tincture (alcohol extracts) and compress (paste as a band-aid).

How to store garlic

Garlic best survives in dark and dry conditions. Loose garlic cloves have a tendency to lose their freshness within a week. So, for a longer shelf life, it is better to keep the bulb intact right before you use it.

Ideally, 2 to 5 grams of fresh garlic and about 1 gram of garlic powder can be taken without much side effects. But dosage varies depending on the type of garlic, your body type, tolerance, and symptoms. So, it's best to consult an Ayurveda doctor if you want to take garlic in the form of a health supplement.

  • Garlic is a natural blood thinner so if you are already on blood thinning medicines or are about to undergo surgery it best to not take garlic as a supplement.
  • If you are on any prescribed medicine, its best to talk to your doctor before taking garlic as a health supplement.
  • Long-term topical application of raw garlic is reported to cause skin irritation and burns in some cases. So, if you have a naturally sensitive skin its best to avoid garlic.
  • Garlic is a natural hypoglycemic (reducing blood sugar) so if you are a diabetic on medicine it's better to talk to your doctor before taking garlic in any form.
  • If you suffer from low blood pressure it’s safer not to take garlic as it is known to reduce blood pressure.
  • Garlic is considered likely unsafe during pregnancy. Pregnant women are advised to best to follow moderation while consuming garlic and refer to your doctor to know what’s best for you and the baby.
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