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By: James Minnie
Garlic is one of the world's oldest medicines which have been used throughout history for the treatment of a wide variety of ailments. Its use can be traced back to ancient times and there are reports of its therapeutic properties in medical texts from ancient Rome, Greece, Egypt, India, and China. Egyptian and Indian cultures referred to garlic 5000 years ago and there is clear historical evidence for its use by the Babylonians 4500 years ago and by the Chinese 2000 years ago.
It is a "wonder" food and one of the herbs to have been extensively researched. Using modern analytical methods it has been possible to find out why this remedy is so effective in resolving many common ailments. It has anti-viral, anti-bacterial, anti-fungal and anti-cancer properties. It is a good source of fibre, protein, iron and zinc. Contains sulphur compounds; amino acids; minerals, such as germanium, magnesium, manganese, selenium and rich in vitamins A, B6, and C. It is also rich in a variety of powerful phytochemicals including allicin, allin and diallyl sulphide.
Garlic stimulates the immune system, improves circulation, kills intestinal parasites, and is a powerful antioxidant and antibiotic, in addition to many other health benefits. It is a good cold medicine, acts as a decongestant, expectorant, antispasmodic, and anti-inflammatory agent. It is also active against yeasts, removes toxic metals such as lead, copper and mercury from the body. It is the closest thing to a herbal wonder drug for treating infections, considered one of the safest herbs and can be found in almost all kitchens. As a natural antibiotic it can be taken in all types of infection, particularly those affecting the nose, throat and chest. It is effective against bacterial, fungal, viral, and parasitic infections. The volatile oil is excreted by way of the lungs (hence garlic breath) and fight infections in the upper airway.
Garlic is good for virtually any disease or infection. It prevents and heals arthritis, asthma, circulatory problems, colds and flu, digestive disorders, insomnia, liver disease, sinusitis, and ulcers. It is rich in sulphur which i.e. essential for healthy skin and hair (raw garlic is used by some to treat the symptoms of acne), and contains bioflavonoid components such as quercetin which retards inflammatory reactions. Quercetin stabilises mast cells (which contain histamine) and inactivates many inflammatory enzymes, which makes garlic a useful anti-inflammatory tool.
It is valuable in the treatment and prevention of heart disease. The constituent, allicin, decreases blood fats (triglycerides), reduces clot formation, lowers cholesterol and some studies even show a lowering of blood pressure - all major risk factors in heart disease. This heart-friendly herb can help reduce the risk of acute myocardial infarction and slow progression of coronary artery calcification.
Additionally, many studies have been done to show the value of garlic when used to prevent certain forms of cancer. Studies in animals have shown garlic has chemical properties that may help with disease prevention, such as scavenging free radicals that can harm cells and have found garlic may help against colon, skin, liver, breast, and other cancers.
Garlic is a hardy perennial plant belonging to the lily family, the same family as onions, asparagus, leeks, shallots, and chives. It is propagated from individual cloves which are planted from mid-autumn to mid-winter. Softneck bulbs, such as Artichoke and Silverskin varieties, tend to be larger, have more cloves and store longer than hardneck varieties. Artichokes often are mild-flavoured, but can become pungent when grown in cold climates. Softneck cultivars prefer milder climates, tend to more irregular in individual clove sizes, and lack the strong flavours of hardneck types.
Cooked prepared garlic is less powerful but still reputedly of benefit to the cardiovascular system. Garlic cloves cooked whole have very little medicinal value. Adding fresh garlic to food (raw and crushed), or crushing and swallowing raw clove is a cheap and powerful anti-fungal treatment. Dried garlic has a longer shelf life than fresh or minced/pureed garlic. There is also strong evidence that healthful benefits derive only from the natural product, not pills or extracts.
It is one of the two best-selling herbal dietary supplement products in the mass market in the United States, and is the second-best-selling herbal dietary supplement in the health food market (second to Echinacea). In 1995, the United States imported more than 5.3 million kilograms of dehydrated garlic valued at over $2.9 million.
It has been incorporated into many traditional diets for its flavour enhancing effects, and is a common ingredient in modern cooking today. It is available as an herbal supplement and largely used in gravies, tomato sauces, soups, stews, pickles, salads, salad dressing and breads. Many cooks find it indispensable in the kitchen. As someone observes, making a dish that has a plentiful portion of garlic will bring out a reaction, and be it good or bad is what making something worthwhile is all about.
Garlic is a natural bio-stimulant for plants, encouraging healthier growth and plants that are more resistant to attack from insects, slugs and snails. The granules also form a physical barrier. It can even be effective as a natural mosquito repellent. I used garlic paste to get rid of moles in my garden.
Garlic is no magic bullet, unless you’re a vampire hunter, but with its strong chemical profile, it’s bound to have some beneficial effects!
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