Garlic (Allium sativum)
Fun fact: Garlic is an edible bulb from the lily family. Yup, as in the flower.
Garlic Allium sativum is affectionately known to herbalists as “the stinking rose.” for centuries, there has been many traditional medicine uses for garlic. Uses include treatment of skin conditions, immune support, antimicrobial, and even to reduce risk for cancer and heart disease. In fact, Garlic’s reputation is so strong in this area, it is one of the most widely studied herbal supplements for its beneficial effects on the heart.
Garlic contains several vitamins and minerals that support heart health, including vitamin B6, vitamin C, manganese, and selenium. But it’s the same chemicals that give garlic its pungent odor that scientists believe are the source of the herb’s heart health-promoting effects. Garlic is rich in the allicin, alliin, and ajoene—antioxidant compounds that help reduce the risk for cardiovascular disease.
There are three main health benefits of garlic that are strongly supported by science include:
- Slows the development of atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries)
- Reduces blood pressure
- Reduces triglycerides and improves cholesterol
The amount of active compounds supplied by garlic supplements can vary because allicin is very sensitive to air and heat. For example, aging garlic to reduce its odor also reduces the allicin present and compromises the effectiveness of the product. So it’s interesting to note that studies on garlic and the cardiovascular system typically use garlic powder, oil, or aged extracts – not always when the antioxidants are the most potent.
Generally safe for most adults, taking a garlic supplement can cause heartburn, upset stomach, an allergic reaction, and breath and body odor (common with raw garlic). Garlic (especially in high doses) may impair the body’s ability to form blood clots should not be taken by persons who are preparing for surgery or who have bleeding disorders because it – ask your doctor if you’re on a blood thinner before you use a garlic supplement.
Let’s not skim over garlic’s antimicrobial properties – if you haven’t already check out my blog on using garlic to make “Fire Cider Vinegar” to help boost immunity in the winter. This stuff saved me last week when I was getting congested and run down.
- World’s Healthiest Foods: Garlic. http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=60
- National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. Garlic. https://nccih.nih.gov/health/garlic/ataglance.htm
- Medline Plus. Herbs and Supplements: Garlic. (Includes information on garlic interactions with other drugs) https://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/druginfo/natural/300.html
- Karagodin VP, Sobenin IA, Orekhov AN. Antiatherosclerotic and Cardioprotective Effects of Time-Released Garlic Powder Pills. Curr Pharm Des. 2015 Nov 12. Available from: http://www.eurekaselect.com/136921/article
- Seki, T. and Hosono, T. Prevention of Cardiovascular Diseases by Garlic-Derived Sulfur Compounds. Jnl of Nutritional Science & Vitaminology (Tokyo). 2015. 61 Suppl:S83-85. doi: 10.3177/jnsv.61.S83. Date Accessed: Dec 8, 2015. https://www.jstage.jst.go.jp/article/jnsv/61/Supplement/61_S83/_pdf
- Xiong, XJ., Wang, PQ, et al., Garlic for hypertension: A systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Phytomedicine. 2015 Mar 15;22(3):352-61. doi: 10.1016/j.phymed.2014.12.013. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25837272