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Does it Work? Garlic

Love its pungency or hate it, garlic has recently been portrayed as a cure for all our ills, writes Thea Jourdan

Garlic has been hailed as a remedy for the common cold and, more remarkably, as a weapon in the fight against MRSA, and even a "performance enhancer" for men in the bedroom. This month, the South African health minister caused controversy by claiming that garlic can help fight AIDS. So what does it really do?

Heart disease: according to the latest research, presented at the American Heart Association meeting in Washington DC by scientists from the University of Medicine in Berlin, garlic can reduce the risk of heart disease. In laboratory tests, it was shown to reduce dramatically the build-up of fatty deposits in the arteries.

MRSA: allicin, a compound derived from garlic, which has antibacterial properties, has been used to treat patients with the deadly superbug.

Cholesterol: numerous studies in Europe and America have shown that garlic reduces harmful cholesterol in the blood; garlic supplements can reduce bad cholesterol levels by a tenth.

In the bedroom: garlic helps to improve the flow of blood to the extremities. Dr Gunter Siegel, who headed a research team in Berlin, says: "Garlic can help with impotence caused by heart disease. A good flow of blood to the groin means that a man should not have a problem with sex."

Stomach ulcers: studies suggest that garlic helps to protect against the bacterium Helicobacter pylori, the leading cause of stomach ulcers. And, individuals who eat lots of garlic have a lower incidence of stomach cancer.

Colds: research has confirmed what our grannies always knew, that people who regularly eat garlic suffer from fewer colds. Anecdotal evidence shows that taking large amounts of garlic at the onset of a cold can reduce the time taken to recover. A traditional remedy is to crush a clove of garlic in to warm milk.

Pregnancy: gynaecologists at the Chelsea and Westminster Hospital have found that mothers-to-be who eat garlic boost the birth weight of small babies. They also discovered that it cut the risk of pre-eclampsia.

Toothache: for centuries, garlic has been used to ease the pang of toothache. Traditionally, a clove is crushed to release the allicin, and is then placed next to the tooth. Sometimes the garlic is used in conjunction with cloves or clove oil.

How does it work? Ajoenes and dithiins are among the most active chemical compounds found in fresh garlic. Ajoenes have been shown to reduce blood clotting and work against tumour cells. These compounds also act as potent antifungals and have been shown to inhibit the growth of a range of common fungal infections, including thrush and athlete's foot.

Must it be eaten fresh? After it has been peeled and chopped, fresh garlic quickly loses its potency, because the beneficial chemicals are unstable and are destroyed within hours. Fresh young garlic bulbs, which are in season during the summer, are the most powerful health boosters, although too much raw garlic will give you bad breath.
The Daily Telegraph 16th May, 2005

PHILLIP DAY'S COMMENT: The above article is very heartening and gives an indication of garlic's versatility. Allicin products can be used greatly to increase the potency of the garlic 'hit' without the bulk of the attendant odour. Garlic liquids and other supplements have been found to produce next to no allicin once in the stomach due to the hydrochloric acid action. Stabilised allicin, however, is most effective and now available in sprays, creams and capsules. For more information:

Further Resources
Allicin - The Heart of Garlic by Peter Josling

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