Garlic (allium sativum) is a spice, a medicinal herb, one which is becoming popular as a natural product against health problems such as cardiovascular disorders, immune dysfunctions, and cancer. In particular, both epidemiological and laboratory findings have demonstrated that garlic consumption reduces cancer incidences of the stomach, colon, breast and cervix.
What is the science behind the wonders and mystery of garlic’s properties? Here I sum up how it may boost the immune system and lower cancer risks.
1. Anti-microbial: Garlic protects effectively against bacteria, viruses, fungi and parasites, without damaging your normal cells. This natural antibiotic, unlike synthetic ones, has an affect on a broad spectrum of microorganisms with little or no resistance from the body. So it can work as your long-lasting agent for preventing and fighting infections.
2. Anti-inflammatory: Garlic acts as an antioxidant, inhibiting the secretion of inflammatory mediators/factors, reducing the migration of neutrophils, antagonizing the oxidation by free radicals, and stimulating immune response.
3. Anti-carcinogenic: Its anticancer properties are rather complex, and have been proposed to function through a number mechanisms that include scavenging of free radicals, increasing availability of substance(s) and enzymes that detoxify genetic damaging chemicals, assisting with DNA repair, and inhibiting tumor cell proliferation.
Furthermore, research suggests the anticancer effect of Allicin, a major component of garlic, is associated with its immune stimulatory properties. It’s of interest that garlic can be useful as a natural remedy against immune suppression. Apparently, suppression of immune response is linked with increased risk of cancer or other malignancies.
The next question is how you can turn scientific knowledge into a practical aide for your own health. Incorporating garlic into your diet requires a few guidelines to gain most of benefits from it. Things to consider are:
The amount—How much is enough? How many cloves a day?
Although accumulated evidence supports the health benefits of garlic, additional studies are needed to determine the quantity required by humans to minimize cancer risk. The current suggestion is to eat a minimum of two medium-sized cloves daily, based on a recent study that used garlic extract concentration equivalent to an adult’s intake. This amount can be increased to five cloves, again based on consumption of Asian adults.
Preparation—Should it be cooked or not?
The best way to consume garlic is to eat in raw (i.e. in its natural form). However, cooked ones are fine except for microwaving, which destroys much of the effective components. Some scientists claim that lightly cooked, crushed garlic provides similar health benefits found in raw garlic.
Crushed or not crushed?
Crushing may be best, since it enables the beneficial components to be released. Crush or chop the garlic at room temperature and allow it to sit for about 15 minutes.
How to reduce garlic’s odor and unpleasant breath?
Personally, I find cooking a dish with garlic and parsley together helps reduce the odor. After a meal, brush your teeth (including tongue) thoroughly. Since this concern is beyond the scope of this post, you may find solutions from other resources such as How to Get Rid of Garlic Smell and Garlic Breath Removal.
Supplements as an alternative—garlic pill or not?
Garlic supplements have some advantages, since eating lots of garlic isn’t always practical and/or socially appealing. The bottom line is—there is no clear evidence whether the pill provides the same benefits as garlic or its extracts, and whether the effective compounds detected in garlic remain potent after manufacturer’s processing. Also, depending on your health needs, you may wish to consult with your physician.
After all, maintaining immune stimulation can significantly reduce the risk of cancer. So, enjoy your daily dose of garlic!
What’s your take on garlic? Do you have a favorite recipe to share?