Garlic (allium sativum) use as both a food and a medicine dates back as far as 2000BC in China, and even further in may cultures world-wide. Its origin has not been established, but it appears to be descended from the species Allium longicuspis, which grows wild in central and southwestern Asia. In Europe, there are a number of species that have Protected Geographical Status, including several in France, Spain, and Italy. Bulb garlic is available in many forms, including fresh, frozen, dried, fermented, and in tubes or jars in olive or other oils. Garlic is fairly easy to grow, and grows year-round is mild climates. In colder climates, the cloves are planted in the fall about six weeks before the soil freezes, and harvested in late spring. Garlic plants are very hardy, and are not attacked by many pests or diseases. They repel rabbits and moles. Garlic also lends itself very well to container gardening as well.
Garlic is grown globally, but China is by far the largest producer with approximately 23 billion tons grown annually, which accounts for 77% of the total world crop. Garlic is used in culinary applications around the world for its pungent flavour as a seasoning or condiment. The bulb is the most commonly used part, and can be divided into cloves which can be used whole, chopped, ground, raw, or cooked. The leaves and flowers can also be eaten as well, and the skin and root cluster are totally inedible.
Medicinally, garlic has many beneficial properties. In in vitro studies, it has been found to have antibacterial, antiviral, and antifungal properties. It is widely used in prevention and treatment of heart disease including atherosclerosis, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure. Studies have shown that concentrated garlic supplements can reduce plaque deposits and accumulation of cholesterol on vascular walls, which can help to reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke. It has been found to be superior to placebo in reducing total cholesterol and triglyceride levels, as well as reducing the stickiness of platelets. Garlic is used in combination with other herbs to help regulate blood sugar levels. Regular use of therapeutic amounts can lower homocysteine levels, and is also used to prevent some of the complications of diabetes. People taking insulin however should not consume therapeutic amounts of garlic without consulting their MD or ND. Garlic cloves have been used as a treatment for infections, digestive disorders, and fungal infections such as thrush. It enhances thiamine (B1) absorbtion, and was used in the past to prevent beriberi. It has also been used in AIDS patients successfully to treat cryptosporidium infections in China, as well as to treat toxoplasmosis, a protozoal disease. Garlic supplementation has been shown to boost testosterone levels along with a high protein diet. Garlic may interact with blood thinners, blood pressure medications, some antibiotics, and some hypoglycemic drugs as well. Please check with your MD or ND to make sure it is safe for you to use garlic at therapeutic levels if you take any of these medications.
The Bottom Line on garlic is YES YES YES!!
Dr Maureen-The County Naturopath