Also known as the stinking rose, garlic (Allium sativum) plays a paramount role in worldwide cuisines, especially Asian and Mediterranean cooking. A very close relative of onion, this herb imparts exceptional taste and aroma to dishes. Although raw garlic is quite strong, pungent and fiery, it becomes soft, creamy and mildly sweet when cooked. However, the qualities of garlic are not just limited to its role as an herb in cooking. It is a miracle herb that holds immense medicinal properties, because of which it is used extensively in treating a wide range of health conditions and diseases. In fact the medicinal value of garlic has been recognized since time immemorial and it has been used as a medicine ever since then.
Nutritional value of garlic
The health benefits of garlic can be attributed to the presence of many important vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients that acts as potent antioxidants. Garlic is found to contain several sulfur compounds that possess antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. It is a good source of vitamins like vitamin A, vitamin C, and B complex vitamins like B1, B2, B3, B6, folate, choline and pantothenic acid. Garlic is also one of the richest sources of minerals like calcium, potassium, magnesium, manganese, iron, phosphorus, zinc and selenium. In addition to these vitamins and minerals, garlic also provides you with the benefits of flavonoid antioxidants like beta-carotene, lutien and zeaxanthin.
Health benefits of garlic
Garlic contains a wide variety of sulfur compounds that not only give this herb its sharp and pungent odor, but is also responsible for many of its therapeutic and health-promoting properties.
Garlic and its cardiovascular benefits
One of the most researched and talked about feature of garlic is its ability to protect your heart. Although in moderate amounts (5-15%), garlic helps in lowering your blood triglycerides and total cholesterol. The sulfur compounds in this herb act as powerful antioxidants and prevent the oxidative stress and subsequent inflammation caused by free radicals to your blood cells and blood vessels. This helps in preventing damage to your blood vessels and also the accumulation of plaque that may cause clogging. Moreover, vitamin C in garlic also contributes to eliminating the effects of free radicals.
A disulfide called ajoene in garlic has anti-clotting properties and hence prevents the formation of clots in your blood vessels. Another important heart protecting feature of garlic is its ability to reduce high blood pressure. The sulfur compounds in garlic help in dilating your blood vessels, thereby lowering blood pressure. All these properties of garlic help in preventing cardiovascular problems like atherosclerosis and heart attacks.
Garlic may prevent cancer
Research shows that members of the allium family, including garlic have potent anti-cancer properties. An interesting finding is that while high consumption of garlic helps in lowering the risks of any type of cancer (except breast and prostate cancer), moderate consumption lowers the risks of only two types of cancers – renal cancer and colorectal cancer. The cancer preventing properties of garlic may also be attributed the sulfur compounds in it. It has been found that these compounds trigger certain metabolic activities in the cells that cause the cells to destroy themselves as they become unhealthy. This phenomenon called aptosis is very critical in destroying cancerous cells and preventing cancer. The antioxidants in garlic also lower your risks of cancer by eliminating the cell damages and mutations caused by free radicals.
Garlic and skin benefits
In addition to the health benefits, garlic also enhances your beauty by providing benefits to your skin. By including garlic in your beauty regime, you can get smooth and flawless skin. Some of the skin benefits of garlic include:
Cures and prevents acne – Garlic contains a compound called allicin that has potent antibacterial properties. It can destroy the bacteria on your skin and hence is an effective remedy for acne. Make a paste out of a few pods of garlic and apply it on the acne affected area. Wash it off after some time. By the end of the day, you will find significant reduction in the swelling and redness of the acne.
Removes whiteheads and blackheads – Garlic has been found to be effective in removing blackheads and whiteheads. Add garlic juice or mashed garlic pods in your facial scrub and gently exfoliate your skin. Continuous use of this remedy will get rid of blackheads and whiteheads.
Anti-aging benefits – Garlic is rich in powerful anti-oxidants and polyphenols that help in fighting off the free radical and the damages caused by them, thus keeping your skin looking young and beautiful. The sulfur compounds in this herb stimulate the production of collagen that helps in increasing the elasticity of your skin, keeping it supple and preventing wrinkles and fine line. Just mash a few garlic pods and add the garlic juice into your regular face pack and use this pack for at least once a week. For minimizing the pores in your skin and toning it, apply a paste of half a tomato and 4 garlic pods on to your skin. Wash it off with lukewarm water followed by cold water after 20 minutes.
Makes your skin smooth – Allicin in garlic is very effective in softening your skin. Using a face mask that has crushed garlic added to it will help you have soft and smooth skin.
Eliminates stretch marks – Garlic has been found to be helpful in removing stretch marks. Heat some oil and add the juice of garlic to this oil. Massage this garlic infused oil onto your skin and you will see noticeable changes in a few weeks. Eating garlic is effective in preventing the occurrence of stretch marks because the sulfur compounds and allicin in garlic increases the elasticity of your skin.
Homemade garlic solutions for skin problems
- Mix garlic paste of 3-4 cloves and a table spoon of oatmeal. Add to this few drops of tea tree oil and a tsp. of lemon juice and honey. This paste along with benefits of garlic offers other substances considered good for skin. Using this scrub, one can remove dead skin, keep away blackheads.
- Garlic paste along with gram flour and turmeric mixed in yoghurt also offers similar benefits for skin.
- Make paste of half tomato along with 3-4 cloves of garlic and apply to skin for 20-30 minutes. It will offer clear skin.
- Consuming a clove a day is good way to protect your skin.
- Chew a garlic clove and apply this paste over blackheads and moles.
Garlic and hair benefits
Garlic has been found to be an excellent remedy for hair loss and hair fall. It is also excellent for stimulating hair growth. Garlic triggers the regeneration of hair follicles, improves the texture of your hair, and strengthens your hair roots. The compound, allicin present in garlic increase the blood circulation in the scalp, thereby stimulating the growth of hair and preventing hair fall. The strong anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties of this herb are effective in treating dandruff, itchy scalp, psoriosis and other scalp infections.
The best way to make use of the benefits of garlic for your hair is to add a garlic clove in your shampoo or conditioner. Mind you, too much of garlic can cause dryness of your hair and scalp. To get rid of the smell of garlic, add honey to the shampoo or conditioner. Graying of hair can be avoided by the regular application of coconut oil heated with pepper and garlic to your hair. For managing hair fall, soak a few garlic pods in olive oil for about a week and then massage this oil on your scalp. After massaging the oil, leave it overnight and wash it off with shampoo the next day. This treatment can be done once every week.
Garlic and nail benefits
Just as garlic is beneficial to your skin and hair, it is also keeps your nails looking healthy and beautiful. The anti-microbial properties of garlic helps in preventing nail infections. The application of garlic juice on your nails is effective in getting rid of yellowness, dullness and brittleness of the nails. Regular use of garlic juice on nails will keep them strong and beautiful.
Garlic aids weight loss
Studies reveal that garlic can aid in weight loss as well as in preventing weight gain. The compounds in garlic promote weight loss by speeding up your metabolism, detoxifying your body and eliminating unwanted fat and cholesterol from your body. Allicin found in garlic has been found to suppress appetite, which is helpful when you are trying to lose weight.
Garlic prevents common cold
Because of its antibacterial, anti-viral and anti-microbial properties, garlic has the power to destroy bacteria, virus, fungus and other microbes. The presence of vitamin C, sulfur compounds and other important nutrients in garlic have been found to contribute to its flu and cold busting effects. Nasal and sinus congestion often lead to snoring. Garlic is used as home remedy for snoring. It ensures proper breathing and reduces snoring.
Garlic is a powerful immune booster
Garlic is found to contain more than 100 active components such as allicin, alliin, alliinase and sulfur compounds that are powerful immune stimulators. These compounds have potent antibiotic, antiviral, and anti-fungal agents that help prevent many diseases.
Garlic and diabetes
Studies conducted in animals reveal that garlic is effective in controlling blood sugar levels. Another research suggests that garlic may increase the secretion of insulin, which in turn helps in improving insulin sensitivity and also in lowering blood glucose levels.
Garlic relieves toothache
The compound Allicin in garlic is a powerful antibiotic agent that helps in destroying bacteria and in preventing infection. For getting relief from toothache, applying crushed garlic over the painful area. This helps in reducing inflammation and pain.
Garlic for wounds
Garlic offers healing properties for wounds and has been traditionally used to treat wounds. Sulphur content in garlic offers antibacterial and antiseptic properties. In raw paste form or diluted garlic juice is used to clean wounds and disinfect them.
Garlic as aphrodisiac
Garlic is believed to have aphrodisiac properties and increase libido. This herb also benefits in sexual health. Garlic promotes creation of enzyme nitric oxide synthase and other chemicasl which helps in erection. It helps increase blood circulation to reproductive system.
Garlic can keep away mosquitoes
Mosquitoes are found to keep away from garlic. Garlic can be rubbed over arms and body and keep mosquitoes away. Yes, it leaves pungent smell which you may not tolerate. You can make anti-mosquito cream at home with garlic oil, petroleum jelly and bee wax. Placing a garlic clove in room can also keep mosquitoes at bay.
Garlic for Allergies
Garlic is one of the natural allergy fighter. It offers antibiotic properties to keep away microbes which causes allergy. Eating a raw clove a day is good way to keep away allergies. Garlic juice is used to remove allergic effect of insect bite. Garlic juice along with salt is believed to remove insect poison and reduces pain.
Home remedy for Swimmers Ear
Garlic oil helps in clearing ears in case of swimmers ear. Few drops of garlic oil is mixed with carrier oil like coconut oil or olive oil. Add few drops of this mixture oil in each each ear, allow them to sit for half minute and then drain out. It is also effective in treating ear infections.
Side effects of garlic
Many people are sensitive to garlic. It may cause stomach irritation, heart burn and flatulence.
Various varieties of garlic are available in market these days. Some of the varieties are – Porcelain Garlic, Rocambole Garlic, Purple Stripe Garlic, Artichoke Garlic, Silverskin Garlic, Asiatic Garlics, The Creole Garlic, Turban Garlic and Elephant Garlic. Unpeeled garlic can be stored in dry and cool place for long time. Moisture can lead to germination and sprouting.
When it comes to food items that are remarkably healthy for you, garlic deserves special mention. Garlic has been considered as an elixir of health since ancient times. The very fact that whole books have been written about this wonderful herb indicates its importance in our lives as a super herb popular for its health promoting benefits. So don’t let the pungent smell of garlic drive you away. Think of all the benefits this miracle bulb offers you and the odor can definitely be overlooked.Image Credits: Flickr - Dubravko Sorić