Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Garlic - Packed with flavor and lots of Health Benefits

When we speak about food that has plenty of health benefits, Garlic is one thing that tops the charts. Everyone knows about its benefits for a healthy heart, but there's more to this stinking(or should I say fragrant!)spice than what meets the eye. Garlic has long been considered a herbal "wonder drug", contributing to cures of everything from the common cold to the Plague. It has also been used extensively in herbal medicines. So here's a comprehensive list of some well-known and some less-known facts about Garlic. After reading this, I think you'd appreciate it more than just for the "garlicky flavour" that most of us love in our food!!

Garlic contains a wide variety of phytochemicals, but the one that seems to be the center of attention and a lot of research is "Allicin". Garlic, in its raw form, does not normally contain allicin. In fact, Allicin is formed when garlic is cut, crushed or cooked and the sulphur containing amino acid "Alliin" is broken down by enzymes to form di-allyl sulphides or Allicin. Though current research shows that there is insufficient evidence to support health claims about garlic, history and personal experience of millions is enough to make me believe in this "wonder drug".

Some of the tried-and-tested health benefits of garlic are as follows:

Healthy Heart - Garlic is said to be good for cardiovascular problems due to its blood pressure lowering effects, blood lipid lowering effects and its anticoagulant properties. It helps reduce atherosclerotic buildup (plaque) within the arterial system, thereby lowering or regulating blood sugar levels. One recent study shows this effect to be greater in women than men.

Anti-Cancer - It is believed to help in prevention or alleviate cancer,especially of the digestive system,and helps fight hepatic and microbial infections by removing heavy metals such as lead and mercury from the body.
It can also prevent certain tumors from growing larger

Common Cold and Fever - There are reports that eating garlic reduces the frequency and severity of the common cold. A way to use garlic on a stuffy nose, sore throat and infection is to crush a garlic clove and use it like an inhaler. This will help clear the passages as well as fight the germs. Garlic has anti-fungal and anti-viral properties. Garlic dramatically reduces yeast infections due to Candida species and also has anti-oxidant properties (is a source of selenium). Garlic also brings down fever significantly. Crush fresh cloves of garlic to make a paste, apply this on a cotton pad or gauze. Apply olive oil on the feet and press the garlic pads onto the feet and leave overnight to see the fever gone in the morning!

Psoriasis - Applying garlic oil to the red and itchy affected areas of skin can help reduce the effect of psoriasis.

Anti Acne Agent - Raw garlic(mixed with white vinegar)is used by some to treat the symptoms of acne. This treatment uses the antibiotic, antifungal, antiseptic and germicidal properties of garlic to fight the acne while its antioxidants help repair and protect the skin from free radical damage and help draw out infections. The vinegar balances your skin’s pH levels.

Antibiotic - Crushed raw garlic applied to the site of the infection, can burn badly for a min, but allicin, a very powerful antibacterial compund can be very effective on most infections. It can also act as a natural mosquito repellent.

Besides these, garlic has been used for Hair-loss treatment, toothaches, beauty treatments and other things as well. The list can go on and on. But I think what we summarized above conveys the message of how beneficial it is. However, if you are on any prescribed medications, ask your doctor if your garlic intake interferes with it in any way (especially haemophilliacs or anti-clotting agents)

So if Garlic is still not a part of your daily diet, now is the time to incorporate it! It will not only make your food taste better, but will also make you a more healthy person. And if you hate the smell it leaves in your mouth, you can easily use the garlic capsules available in the stores. Great health and no Bad Breath- what more can one ask for??

This article is on it's way to Mathy's JFI-Garlic festival to spread the message of good health!

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