Natural Immune Boosters ~ Garlic

Garlic Immune Booster picWelcome to the fifth installment in my ten-part natural immune booster series. If you are just joining us, please see the articles on the first four natural immune boosters: coconut oil, oil of oregano, manuka honey, and goldenseal. Today, we’ll take a look at garlic – the pungent, delicious staple in every Italian kitchen. (I know; I have several braids of my garden garlic hanging in my own kitchen.) This wonderful allium is not just an Italian cook’s delight; it also contains a plethora of health benefits.

Disclaimer: I am NOT a medical practitioner of any kind, and this series of articles on natural immune boosters is not intended to diagnose or attempt to cure any disease. This series is for informational purposes only. If you have a medical condition, please see your medical practitioner for professional advice.

Garlic, known to scientists as Allium sativum, belongs to the same family as onions, scallions, and leeks. Most of us have been cooking with it for years, but how many of us know just how good it is for us?

The health benefits of garlic have been known for over 5,000 years. Hippocrates, the Father of Western Medicine, prescribed garlic for respiratory ailments, parasites, poor digestion, and fatigue. Health practitioners in the Middle East, East Asia, and Nepal used it to treat bronchitis, tuberculosis, liver disorders, dysentery, colic, high blood pressure, diabetes, and fevers.

Garlic, in its raw form, is a powerful anti-inflammatory, antibiotic, antifungal, antiviral, and antiparasitic. This is due to various compounds in garlic, the most important being a sulfur-compound called allicin, which garlic creates as part of its defense mechanism.

Allicin is a powerful antibiotic that is even effective against antibiotic-resistant bugs. It is formed when alliin and the enzyme allinase (both found in garlic) are activated when garlic is injured. When growing garlic is attacked by pathogens or insects, alliin and allinase interact chemically and form allicin, which fights off the attack. When we cut or crush garlic cloves, we bruise the garlic tissue – injuring it – causing the garlic to initiate that chemical reaction and create allicin.

Allicin is not a stable compound, however. Within an hour of cutting or crushing garlic, the allicin will begin to break down. According to two scientific studies, allicin is reduced to non-detectable levels within one to six days. This is one of the reasons why you should handle your garlic gently when storing. In addition, allicin is destroyed by cooking, aging, or processing garlic.

However, allicin is not the only beneficial compound in garlic. There are over 100 different compounds in garlic, some of which come from the actual breakdown of allicin. For example, sulfenic acid is produced during the rapid breakdown of allicin, and it immediately reacts with and neutralizes free radicals, making it a powerful antioxidant. Isolating all the compounds and what they do has not yet been accomplished by scientists. What they do know is that all the compounds in raw garlic work together to produce its many health benefits.

Here are just some of the benefits of raw garlic, many of which have been upheld by scientific research (see my reference links below for more information):

  • anti-inflammatory – for use in osteoarthritis, for example
  • boosts immune system
  • antibiotic – even against TB, MRSA, and other drug-resistant bugs
  • antiviral – even against herpes
  • antifungal – kills candida (yeast infections)
  • improves the cardiovascular system (lowers blood pressure, lowers total cholesterol)
  • helps cleanse the body of heavy metals
  • improves thyroid function due to high levels of iodine
  • helps fight colds & flu
  • toxic to 14 kinds of cancer cells, including brain, lung, breast, and prostate
  • may help improve iron metabolism
  • helps keep mosquitoes away (the garlic scent comes through your pores)

As I mentioned above, there have been many studies done on garlic. Here are just a few:

  • In a 12 week study, a daily garlic supplement reduced the number of colds by 63% vs a placebo, and decreased the average length of cold symptoms by 70% (5 days with a placebo vs 1.5 days with garlic)
  • People who ate raw garlic at least twice a week have a 44% less chance of getting lung cancer.
  • Organo-sulfur compounds in garlic are effective in destroying cells in glioblastomas, a deadly type of brain tumor. (This study was actually done at the medical university where I work!)

Garlic is a safe food to eat (unless you’re allergic to it). However, in large quantities (or via supplements), garlic can interact with several medications, including blood thinners (like Cumadin), birth control pills, and cyclosporine (for rheumatoid arthritis). Please talk to your doctor about taking garlic supplements or eating lots of garlic if you’re on any prescription medications or have a medical condition.

Although there are many garlic supplements on the market, the absolute best way to get your garlic is to eat it raw. Eating garlic as nature created it guarantees you get every immune-system-boosting compound garlic has to offer.  And, you just might keep away a few vampires this Halloween. 😉

How much garlic do you eat?

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For further information on garlic, please visit these sites which I read in preparation for this post:

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