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Garlic – The Miracle Tuber

Garlic is used in almost all cultures and cuisines. It has always been used not only as a seasoning ingredient but also medicinally. It is well known that garlic keeps blood, heart, and blood vessels healthy. Far less well known is that the tuber is a natural antibiotic that can help treat urinary tract infections and can also be used to treat colds.

Garlic: Used for thousands of years

It is assumed that the original garlic was cultivated in Central Asia around 5,000 years ago and finally came to Europe from there via the Near East.

Egypt, for example, was considered the garlic country of antiquity. There, the tuber was regarded as a sacred plant and was given to the pharaohs as grave goods on their last journey. The workers building the pyramids were also given raw onions and garlic to maintain their health and strength.

In China, garlic has also been used since 2,000 BC. The Chinese script represents the word for garlic, and sun, with a single character—an indication of its common use from the beginning of language development.

When Roman doctors came to a new country, the first thing they did was plant garlic. In addition to its many other uses, the tuber was also used by Roman soldiers on their long marches as a remedy for athlete’s foot.

But wherever garlic was grown and used medicinally, its main uses were almost the same everywhere: digestive disorders, respiratory diseases, infections of all kinds, snake bites, worm infestations, and general weakness.

In the Middle Ages, garlic was also used against the plague and other contagious diseases, and later also against scurvy and rheumatism.

Garlic: Immoral but effective

According to medieval monastic medicine, garlic is also said to stimulate love lust, which gave it an immoral image at the time.

So the relationship to garlic was already divided in the past, even if for completely different reasons than today, where the typical taste of garlic divides people into two camps.

But none of this changes anything about the healing effects of the aromatic tuber, which have now been scientifically proven.

Incidentally, the first scientific proof of its strong antibacterial effect dates back to 1858, namely by Louis Pasteur himself – the world-famous microbiologist, who made a name for himself in particular in the field of vaccination research.

The health effects of garlic

Garlic has numerous health effects, which we have summarized briefly and concisely in the article Garlic: Best daily. Among other things, garlic has a preventive and supportive effect on:

  • Cardiovascular diseases by lowering cholesterol and blood fat levels, blood pressure, and thinning the blood
  • Diabetes by lowering blood sugar
  • Gingivitis, due to its anti-inflammatory effect
  • Cancer by counteracting the spread of tumors

Effects of allicin and other ingredients

Although the positive effects of the tuber on health are certainly due to the overall combination of all ingredients, the sulfur compound allicin in particular is considered to be the substance to which garlic owes not only its smell but also its main effect.

Allicin is initially present in garlic in its precursor “Alliin”. Only when the garlic cells are injured by peeling, cutting, or chopping is an enzyme called alliinase released which, under the influence of air, immediately reacts with the alliin present in the garlic clove. Allicin is formed from this reaction.

Allicin is the sulfur-containing amino acid that gives garlic its characteristic pungent smell and taste. It was first isolated in 1858 by German chemist Heinrich Wieland, who extracted it from garlic oil.

Garlic also contains saponins – secondary plant substances with positive influences on the regulation of blood fats (cholesterol). They thus contribute to improved blood flow and increased elasticity of the vessels.

Ajoene is also a sulfur compound in garlic. It naturally thins the blood by breaking down the clotting substance fibrin.

With the help of all these substances, garlic can counteract blood clots and prevent thrombosis and strokes – in contrast to blood-thinning medication in a completely natural way and without side effects.

Garlic: Natural antibiotic

Already in the Talmud, it is written about garlic: “It makes the face radiant, it multiplies the sperm, and it kills small creatures in the intestines.” No wonder garlic is traditionally used for intestinal problems (bloating, fermentation processes, and cramping pain conditions) as well as for colds or colds. used influenza.

In particular, allicin and the sulfur compounds it produces have shown germicidal properties in cell studies, being able to act against all possible types of pathogenic microorganisms and parasites (bacteria – e.g. also Borrelia, viruses, fungi, amoebae, worms).

Garlic can therefore be described as a natural antibiotic, which, in contrast to chemical antibiotics, promotes the maintenance of healthy intestinal flora. Since the intestinal flora makes up the largest part of the human immune system, garlic also contributes to strengthening the immune system.

An intact intestinal environment also enables better absorption and utilization of nutrients, which means that more “usable” things reach the cells, which in turn benefits the entire organism.

You can easily prepare a natural antibiotic without side effects at home from natural ingredients (including garlic).

In some cases, garlic even works better than conventional antibiotics, e.g. B. when bacteria are already resistant to antibiotics.

Garlic for bladder infections

A study of human urine showed that aqueous garlic extracts could kill bacteria that had already developed resistance to antibiotics. However, since these bacteria can cause cystitis – which affects millions of people every year – finding alternatives is extremely important.

Garlic could provide the basis for such an alternative. And of course, garlic can be taken by anyone (in addition to D-Mannose) who suffers from UTIs and wants to speed healing.

Garlic in cancer prevention and cancer therapy

The anti-cancer properties of garlic are no longer just said about it but have now been proven by a number of studies. For allicin z. B. has been shown in cell studies that it destroys tumor cells by initiating their suicide program. It thus counteracts the spread of tumors.

It has also been proven that regular consumption of garlic reduces the risk of stomach and esophagus cancer, and lung and breast cancer.

With regard to lung cancer z. B. At least two Chinese studies sit up and take notice. The scientists reported that garlic and green tea seemed to somewhat offset the negative effects of typical lung cancer risk factors (smoking, eating fried food, etc.) in an epidemiological study.

Garlic protects the liver

Garlic also counteracts wear and tear on the liver by strengthening its cell walls and supporting the organ in its detoxification function. So the tuber z. B. in heavy metal poisoning (mercury, cadmium) or mitigate the negative consequences of alcohol consumption.

Garlic in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM)

Traditional Chinese medicine, like many other naturopathic healing methods, confirms the aforementioned effects of garlic. Roughly explained, TCM classifies the different foods according to their taste and their temperature behavior:

Garlic is associated with a “spicy” flavor. The pungent taste triggers e.g. Stagnation of blood and Qi (energy), expels external pathogenic (disease-causing) factors, opens the pores, and induces sweating.

The temperature behavior of garlic is warm to hot, i. H. it is able to expel the cold that has penetrated and to warm up “the middle”. At the same time, foods with a warm or hot temperature behavior allow blood and Qi (energy) to circulate better.

This makes it even easier to understand why garlic with its combination of “warm/hot and spicy” is so well suited to treating colds and improving the vascular situation.

It is also understandable that garlic is not necessarily suitable for everyone and in every situation, precisely because of this combination of “spiciness and heat”. The use of garlic is only indicated for those colds, flu infections, etc. that are not associated with fever.

Apart from acute fever, Chinese medicine knows other patterns of disharmony, which are based on too much heat in the body anyway (e.g. “damp heat in the bile”). In these cases, regular consumption of garlic would tend to worsen the symptoms.

Garlic in the medicine cabinet

Of course, the use of garlic with all its healing effects is particularly useful in the medicine chest:

Garlic for a cold

Garlic Clove: At the first sign of a cold, hold a peeled clove of garlic in your mouth until it no longer tastes good; then spit it out and repeat the procedure two more times. The antibacterial active ingredients in garlic pass into the saliva and can be absorbed there.

Garlic Juice: Mix 1 squeezed clove with 1 tablespoon lemon juice and 1 tablespoon honey and consume this juice up to 5 times daily. Or: Finely chop 2 cloves of garlic and boil with 4 tablespoons of honey in 250 ml of water. The juice must then steep for 3 hours and should then be taken daily with 3 teaspoons.

Sour garlic paste: peel 3 cloves of garlic, press and mix with 15 ml rice vinegar. take at once. Then you should go to bed to sweat.

Garlic for bacterial diarrhea

Peel 1 head of garlic and cut it into cloves, boil together with 3 slices of fresh ginger in ½ l of water. Strain the brew and drink warm in small sips.

Garlic plasters for corn or warts

Place 1 slice of a clove of garlic on the corn before going to bed and fix it with a plaster, leave it on overnight. Take a hot foot bath the next morning and continue the treatment until the corn falls off.

Garlic for sciatica and lumbago

Externally, garlic not only unfolds its healing effects on corn and warts but also on other problems. Possible areas of application are, for example, ear infections, rheumatism, sciatica and lumbago, headaches, skin lichen, and insect bites.

To do this, make a paste of pressed garlic and olive oil and rub it into the painful areas before going to bed. Then you wrap a cloth over it and let the fragrant pad work overnight.

When used externally, however, you should remember that prolonged contact with garlic can lead to skin reactions such as redness, burning, and even blistering. Does the garlic sparingly and carefully, just like for internal use.

The Garlic Lemon Cure

The lemon-garlic cure is considered a rejuvenation cure from folk medicine and can be used e.g. B. have a positive effect on the joints, the heart, and performance. How to prepare it:

30 peeled cloves of garlic and 5 unpeeled organic lemons, washed with hot water and cut into pieces, are finely chopped in a blender, adding a little water if necessary.
Carefully heat this porridge with water (a total of no more than 1 liter of water should be used) to 60-70°C.
After cooling down, pour into a screw-top jar while still warm and store in the fridge.
You drink a shot glass full of this every day. First, carry out the cure for two or three weeks, then take a break for eight days, and then another two to three-week phase. This cycle can be repeated once or twice a year.

In contrast to the lemon-garlic cure, the Ayurvedic garlic cure from Tibet linked below is carried out with an alcoholic garlic tincture that is taken raw. Their areas of application are just as diverse as those of the lemon-garlic cure.

Black garlic works better than white garlic

Black garlic is formed by allowing white garlic to ferment for a few weeks. This changes the color, consistency, and taste. In addition, the ingredients change in such a way that certain substances with an antioxidant effect increase significantly in quantity. Black garlic, therefore, has a higher antioxidant potential and thus a better healing effect.

Black garlic protects liver health, and blood vessels and can be used to prevent arteriosclerosis and diabetes. Just like with white garlic, you can also use black garlic as food in the kitchen or take it in the form of an extract as a capsule.

Side Effects of Garlic

Side effects are generally not to be feared when garlic is consumed in the kitchen, only when very large quantities are consumed, stomach and intestinal upsets are possible.
“The dose makes the poison” applies here as it does to any herb, spice, or other food. If you absolutely dislike garlic, you should stay away from it – maybe this dislike is not without reason.

People who are already taking anticoagulant medication should be careful when consuming large amounts of garlic, such as those used in the lemon-garlic cure, as garlic also has a blood-thinning effect.
Incidentally, black garlic does not cause a garlic smell and you do not have to worry about unwanted odors during a lemon-garlic cure, because the lemon neutralizes the garlic.

Garlic: Fresh or in capsules

It is also the strong taste of garlic that makes some people shy away from eating it. The obvious question is whether it has to be the fresh tuber or whether garlic preparations have a similar effect – without the garlic streak.

Here opinions differ. On the one hand, it is said that garlic dragees are not inferior to fresh garlic in terms of their overall effect. On the other hand, there are those who say that freshly crushed garlic is the best source of active ingredients and is therefore preferable to food supplements.

The authors of a 2018 study took a closer look at the bioavailability of garlic and garlic supplements. For the comparison, the researchers assumed 100 percent bioavailability for allicin in raw garlic (which, of course, is not true in reality). So, the following values for bioavailability are only to be considered in comparison with raw garlic:

  • Enteric-coated garlic tablets: 36 to 104% (in combination with a protein-rich meal consisting of a tuna sandwich and 200 ml of whole milk only 22 to 57% because the stomach empties more slowly)
  • Non-enteric-coated garlic tablets: 80 to 111%
  • Garlic Powder Capsules: 26 to 109%
  • Cooked garlic: 16% (temperature and time had little effect)
  • Roasted garlic: 30% (temperature and time had little effect)
  • Pickled Garlic: 19%

It is amazing that the garlic preparations sometimes performed better than the raw garlic. However, bioavailability within categories varied greatly by manufacturer, so garlic supplements cannot be said to be inherently better than raw garlic.

If in consideration of the environment, fresh garlic is not an option every day, it is preferable to choose preparations made from garlic powder that contain all the original components and not just individual active ingredients that have been isolated from garlic. However, you probably only have a guarantee for the highest possible amount of effective allicin if you eat it fresh – provided the garlic has been stored appropriately.

Fresh garlic is best eaten raw, or as raw as possible. When cooking, you should only add it to the food towards the end in order to enjoy its health effects as best as possible. Oil increases the effectiveness of garlic.

Proper storage of garlic

Garlic bulbs should be kept cool and dry in the kitchen. In summer they are best kept in a cool pantry or in a (dry) cellar. In the fridge, on the other hand, garlic can become bitter.

After a tuber has opened, it should be used up within 10 days so that the individual cloves do not dry out. Basically, the fresher and juicier it is, the better. Another good storage option is to soak the garlic in oil.

Garlic oil for flavoring dishes

To make garlic oil, peel, chop, and skin two heads of garlic. The skinned toes are then placed in a screw-top jar and filled with good-quality olive oil.

You can add a few peppercorns or small chili peppers if you like. The oil is left for three to four days, after which the flavored oil can be used in salads and dishes. The homemade garlic oil can be kept for several months as long as the cloves are covered with the oil.

Garlic: a miracle cure?

The list of all the health benefits of garlic is impressive, isn’t it? However, eating garlic alone certainly cannot prevent all diseases outright, let alone reverse existing pathological processes.

If the other diet or lifestyle leaves a lot to be desired in every nook and cranny, even such a “super tuber” is powerless. However, the synergy effects resulting from the combination of a healthy lifestyle and regular consumption of garlic should not be underestimated.

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Written by Bella Adams

I'm a professionally-trained, executive chef with over ten years in Restaurant Culinary and hospitality management. Experienced in specialized diets, including Vegetarian, Vegan, Raw foods, whole food, plant-based, allergy-friendly, farm-to-table, and more. Outside of the kitchen, I write about lifestyle factors that impact well-being.

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