As the chill wet of winter settles in and the incidence of coughs and colds grows it’s time to get serious about natural alternatives to prescription antibiotics. One natural remedy that has been around for thousands of years to fight winter viruses is the garlic.
The humble garlic has enjoyed a long and illustrious reputation as a heal-all, and rightly so. Garlic has been used for healing since the time of the ancient Egyptians. Now science has confirmed that garlic deserves its status and is indeed the medicinal giant it was always held to be.
Garlic was used by both the ancient Greeks and Egyptians to treat a range of health problems. From Egypt it spread through Pakistan and India into China. In many different cultures garlic was used to treat very similar ailments, including respiratory, digestive, fevers and rheumatism. In ancient Greece Hippocrates, the father of medicine, used garlic in the treatment of many diseases.
As a culinary herb garlic is relatively new and throughout history was more likely to be used for its medicinal properties. For a plant that offers so much to invigorate your palate, it seems almost too generous for it to have powerful healing properties as well.
It is the active ingredient in garlic, allicin, a sulfur compound, that holds all the healing power, and allicin is the same ingredient that gives garlic its strong odour and taste. This compound is produced when the clove surface is exposed to the air by crushing or cutting the clove.
Garlic acts as a broad spectrum antibiotic and is able to kill a wide variety of bacteria. Unlike chemical antibiotics that kill off millions of friendly bacteria that your body needs, Garlic only targets the invading bacteria, and even promotes and increases your healthy bacteria. Garlic is also a powerful anti-fungal, anti-viral, anti-protazoal and antiparasitic, efficient at destroying antigens, pathogens and any harmful micro-organism.
To gain the benefit of garlic it needs to have a strong garlic-y smell released by the active allicin. Without this aroma it won’t do you much good. The cut surface of the garlic needs to be exposed to the air while it is raw. If you are going to cook with it make sure it is crushed and left to sit for a while first.
HOW GARLIC HEALS
Some of the healing effects of garlic are:
Cardiovascular: Cardiovascular disease is the biggest killer in the world and hypertension is an important indicator. Garlic acts powerfully on the circulatory system, helping to lower hypertension and regulate cholesterol.
A 2013 study* found that taking a daily dose between 600-1500mg of aged garlic extract was as effective as the hypertensive drug Atenolol in reducing blood pressure over a 24 week period. It does this by widening the blood vessels
By lowering LDL (bad) cholesterol garlic reduces the risk of heart disease. However it doesn’t seem to affect triglycerides or HDL levels.
Skin: Although you won’t find garlic in your skin cream it is a strong acting topical treatment for acne. It possesses excellent anti-microbial properties to kill bacteria and works effectively to kill radicals swiftly.
Chronic fatigue syndrome: In many ancient cultures garlic was used to improve the capacity of labourers to work longer and harder by reducing fatigue. Today it can be used to relieve the symptoms of chronic fatigue syndrome as well as to improve physical endurance, although no studies have been done into this use.
Respiratory: Asthma and Bronchitis – Garlic is known to have a strong action on the respiratory system and is a useful treatment for asthma and bronchitis. As well as being very effective in treating the common cold by reducing its duration, garlic can also be used to ward off colds and other viruses.
Immunity: Garlic is known to boost immune function to reduce the incidence of colds as well as dramatically reduce the duration of colds by up to 70%. This wonderful bulb is a true superfood, containing many trace nutrients to strengthen immune function. Garlic is high in manganese, Vitamin B6, Vitamin C, Selenium and fibre. It also contains decent amounts of potassium, calcium, phosphorous, iron, copper and vitamin B1 as well as small amounts of other nutrients.
Detox: In high doses it has been shown that garlic can protect against heavy metal toxicity as well as reducing many signs of heavy metal toxicity.
Food Poisoning: It has been suggested that fresh but not aged garlic may be capable of killing certain bacteria including E. coli.
Hair Loss: Garlic contains keratin in the sulfur it contains which both stimulates hair growth and strengthens the hair.
Vaginitis and candida
Plus many, many more ailments from the prevention of tick bite to diabetes.
HOW TO REAP GARLIC’S BENEFITS
When a cold first begins its assault on you one of the easiest ways to fight it off is to chew or swallow a raw clove of garlic in which a strong garlic aroma has developed. The effect of garlic can be quite dramatic even eradicating the cold. Cut the clove open first and leave to sit in the air for a few minutes before you eat it. The healing power strengthens when the cut clove is exposed to the air.
Some people have no problem with eating cloves of raw garlic but for others it’s not so easy.
When I need a dose of garlic I crush it and use it on top of my meal. That way I can eat it with the first mouthful – the garlic is still raw but easier to take with a mouthful of food.
Don’t shy away from raw garlic. Garlic only affects your breath if you chew it. Instead you can cut the clove up and swallow each piece without chewing. Plus there are plenty of delicious foods such as fresh hommus or guacamole that contain lots of garlic in its raw state.
As a bonus garlic is not only very nutritious it is also low in calories.
Another way to take your garlic is through your skin. Your skin absorbs what is put on it and this goes for garlic as well as expensive skin products.
Crush a few cloves of garlic and cover them with some carrier oil that is suitable for applying to the skin, such as olive oil, jojoba, almond or other food grade oil. Allow the mix to steep for at least half an hour. Don’t be tempted to heat the garlic as even short-term heating reduces the anti-inflammatory effects. The carrier oil holds the allicin from the garlic clove.
Once the oil has finished steeping apply it to the soles of your feet. Put on some socks to protect the oil and relax while the oil is absorbed through the pores of your skin. Once in your body it is carried throughout the body.
If you prefer you can rub the cut garlic clove directly onto the soles of your feet. It will still be absorbed through your skin.
But be warned. You will probably develop a garlic taste in your mouth, or your breath may start to smell of garlic about twenty to thirty minutes after applying the garlic to your soles. This indicates that the garlic has been absorbed and carried through your body.
It would be wise not to do this immediately before going out socialising.
If you simply cannot face raw garlic you can always take your garlic as a supplement, in the form of a powder, an extract or oil. However there is a great difference between garlic supplements. The amount of allicin they contain is dependent on the way in which they are prepared. Unfortunately, allicin is not stable and can change quickly, reducing the effectiveness of the preparation. If the supplement is odourless its effectiveness is compromised.
To reach therapeutic levels you need at least two to three cloves each day. Don’t be afraid to use this smelly treasure and hold back, as the body can tolerate up to four grams or about four cloves each day.
But, there are some people who are allergic to garlic. And you need to be careful with garlic if you suffer from a bleeding disorder or are taking blood thinning medications.
*Pakistan Journal of Pharmaceutical Studies.
All information and opinions presented here are for information purposes only and are not intended as a substitute for professional advice offered during a consultation. Please consult with your health care provider before following any of the treatment suggested on this site, particularly if you have an ongoing health issue.