A rose may look beautiful, but what if it smelled awful? The same goes for garlic. Earning the nickname “stinking rose,” this herb may not be beautiful, its odor is anything but pleasant, but its health-promoting effects can’t be denied. Related to other allium vegetables such as onions and leeks, garlic contains a high amount of sulfur compounds. Sulfur may smell pungent, but the body uses it for optimal functioning. In addition to sulfur compounds, garlic is also high in essential vitamins and minerals including manganese, selenium, vitamin B6, and vitamin C.
Don’t let the fear of bad breath keep you from enjoying the flavor of garlic. You may be missing out on amazing health benefits.
Good for Your Heart
Garlic has been found effective in treating many conditions related to the cardiovascular system. From high blood pressure, heart attack, and high cholesterol to heart disease and atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries), garlic fights it all.
The sulfides in garlic work to dilate blood vessels and have the potential to reduce your blood pressure by seven to eight percent. Garlic can also lower your blood triglycerides and total cholesterol by five to 15 percent. And the compounds found in garlic protect your blood vessels from damage and inflammation, reducing the risk of plaque buildup and heart attack.
Decrease Your Risk of Cancer
The unique properties of garlic have been found effective in warding off certain types of gastrointestinal cancers, such as stomach, colon, esophageal, pancreatic, and rectal cancers. All these benefits, however, are experienced when individuals eat garlic—not when they take garlic supplements.
Garlic has also been used to treat prostate and bladder cancers. Currently, research is ongoing in garlic’s role in reducing one’s risk of breast and lung cancers.
What is it about garlic that lends such powerful effects? It may be its antibacterial properties, the way it limits cancer-causing substances, its ability to enhance and repair cells, or its power to induce cell death.
Treat Skin Infections
Many people have found garlic oil or gels containing garlic helpful in treating fungal infections such as jock itch, ringworm, and athlete’s foot. In fact, garlic seems as effective as over-the-counter anti-fungal creams when it comes to the treatment of these common maladies.
Some folks promote garlic’s ability to treat corns and warts, but there’s insufficient evidence that garlic is truly helpful.
Other Possible Benefits
Garlic’s strengths don’t stop there. Many people eat extra garlic as treatment for colds, flu, asthma, bronchitis, coughs, fever, headache, stomachache, diabetes, hay fever, gout, rheumatism, stress, fatigue, snakebites, and as a natural tick repellent.
To receive the full health benefits of garlic, the World Health Organization recommends adults eat approximately one clove of garlic, 300 to 1,000 milligrams of garlic extract, 0.4 to 1.2 grams of garlic powder, or 2 to 5 milligrams of garlic oil a day.
In order to get the goodness from garlic, you’ve got to eat it when the clove has been crushed or chopped. This method may release the unwanted, strong smell, but it also initiates the chemical reactions that produce the good sulfides. Wait 10 to 15 minutes after crushing or chopping before exposing the garlic to heat so the compounds have time to form.
Chopped garlic bought in jars and garlic stored in the freezer both still maintain their potent sulfur compounds. Aged garlic may not smell as strong and therefore be more appealing, but remember that this type of garlic loses its potency and is less effective than fresher garlic.
Before taking any supplements, including garlic, talk with your doctor. Garlic is known to interact with certain medications and may cause a dangerous reaction or cause the medication to lose its potency. If you decide to take a garlic supplement, find one that is coated so it will be able to pass through your stomach and into your intestines before dissolving. And to neutralize the sulfur compounds, wash down garlic with a glass of milk.
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