Garlic has also been referred to as the food that one avoids before meeting someone! You can make anyone run miles away from you if you have garlic breath. It is unpleasant yes, but the substance which gives this peculiar odour to garlic, also is responsible for various benefits of garlic. It has been used as an herb for many generations, as well as for its medicinal value.
Garlic plant belongs to the same family as Onions and Leek. It has been in use for over 7000 years and is a native plant of Central Asia. It has been in use for culinary and medicinal purposes. It has a strong and pungent flavour. A single bulb of the Garlic plant is made up of several segments known as cloves. One bulb can contain anywhere between 10-20 cloves, except for Pearl Garlic, which has single clove. Garlic leaves and flowers are also used in culinary preparations and they impart a mild flavour than the cloves.
Why Garlic is considered medicinal?
The medicinal properties of Garlic can be attributed to an active compound called as “Allicin” which is a sulphur compound. It is produced when Garlic is crushed, cut or chewed and is present in the form of an oily liquid with a pungent smell. Garlic also contains various flavonoids which are responsible for some of the benefits of garlic. It is considered to be a medicinal herb because it has anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, anti-viral properties, along with having anti-oxidant properties.
Benefits of Garlic:
1. Reduces Cholesterol & Improves Heart Health:
High cholesterol levels increase the risk of developing heart disease. Having a garlic odour is a small price to pay if it is going to help you in getting your cholesterol levels down, although you can always take supplements. It has long been known as an herb which is good for heart health.
Various studies have been carried out on the effectiveness of garlic in this context, and there is ongoing research as well. It has been found that the total cholesterol as well as LDL or bad cholesterol levels reduce by almost 10-15% by garlic supplementation. There hasn’t been a significant impact on the HDL cholesterol levels, they do not increase or decrease. The cholesterol lowering benefit is attributed to the organosulfur compounds present in Garlic, one of which is Allicin.
2. Reduces Blood Pressure
Increased blood pressure or Hypertension is referred to as a Silent Killer, because it does not have major symptoms initially, but can result in various life threatening situations. According to WHO, 7.5 million deaths have been caused due to increased blood pressure!
If you ensure you have garlic added to your diet on a daily basis, you can significantly decrease your blood pressure and with that all the corresponding conditions like heart attack and stroke.
In a study of 50 patients on treatment for uncontrolled hypertension, aged garlic extract reduced the systolic blood pressure as effectively as the medication.
For hypertension also, the compound which is beneficial is Allicin. However, the amount of Allicin required to have this effect, is equivalent to 4 cloves of garlic.
3. Reduces Risk of Alzheimer’s and Dementia
Conditions of the mind are very difficult to deal with, especially since there are no obvious physical symptoms. Alzheimer’s and Dementia is hard for the person suffering from it as well as the family and care givers.
Ageing is fastened due to oxidative stress, which increases when there are high number of free radicals in the body. Garlic is known to have antioxidants, which protect the body from the damage caused by these free radicals. It is also seen that the intake of garlic causes the anti-oxidative enzymes to increase. This is quite important and beneficial in preventing brain diseases.
This works well in the elderly population because of its combined effect of anti-oxidant activity, reducing cholesterol levels and blood pressure.
4. Bone Health in Women
Menopausal women have long been known to suffer from osteoporosis, osteoarthritis or other bone disorders and it is mainly attributed to the low estrogen levels in the body. Garlic can help women in dealing with bone health, by elevating the estrogen.
Animal studies performed on female rodents have shown that the garlic increased the estrogen levels and thus there was a decrease in bone loss. Besides this, the other mode of action could also be by the increase in transfer of calcium in the intestine.
In a human study, menopausal women showed benefit by having garlic, where the marker for estrogen deficiency also reduced significantly.
We add a lot of toxins into our body on a daily basis, which get accumulated and can cause problems. One such example is of heavy metals, like lead, which can cause toxicity in the body.
In a study, garlic supplementation was compared with another medicine, on 117 workers of a car battery factory, who had been exposed to lead. It was found that garlic was much more effective and safe, without much side effects as well. For mild and moderate lead poisoning, garlic supplementation can be recommended.
Garlic is effective because the heavy metal from the body, bind with the sulphur compounds present in garlic and are eliminated from the system.
6. Hair fall and other related conditions
Garlic can be used as an effective agent against hair fall and dandruff, lets read on to know how. Allicin again comes to the rescue and can be helpful for hair loss problems. You can rub garlic directly on the scalp or you can use oil which has been infused with garlic.
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