Garlic keeps the doctor away

by Dr. D. P. Atukorale

In years gone by garlic was used to keep the people healthy. Garlic is back to keep the doctor away. Garlic, like many other herbs has received lots of scrutiny for disease prevention benefits. A review of 10 controlled studies found that garlic can help lower cholesterol and keep blood thin if you consume five or more cloves every day. Garlic supplements like garlic tablets do not produce the same results. Ayurvedic medicine and age old folk medicine of many cultures have been using garlic for many diseases.

For centuries garlic has been one of the most important of all medical plants. A Egyptian medical papyrus from the 16th century B.C. lists 22 remedies employing garlic for everything from heart disease and worms to tumours headaches and bites. Cloves of preserved garlic were found in the tombs of king Tutankhamen. Ancient Olympic athletes chewed garlic to increase the stamina. Aristotle, Hippocrates and Pliny touted garlic for skin ulcers and cleaning wounds. For centuries Chinese have drunk onion tea (onion in a cuisine of garlic) to relieve fevers, cholera and dysentery. Even Louis Pasteur described the antibacterial properties of garlic. Albert Schweitzer deep in the jungle and lacking conventional drugs found that garlic could effectively treat amoebic dysentery.

In recent years, conventional science has at last begun to recognizing the extra ordinary healing qualities of this member of the lily family. Garlic has been found to contain at least 400 constituent compounds of which more than 30 are known to influence the body function minerals such as selenium and germanium, Amino-acids such as glutathione, methionine and cysteine, amino alkyl sulfoxides, allicin desulphide oxides, deoxidized sulphide and sulphydryl bearing compounds, s-allyl cysteine and the oxide of trithio-doderiens ajonene. Substances like those have been shown to be effectives in a wide variety of therapeutic applications.

1 To reduce the impact of cancer causing substances and to retard or prevent tumour formation.

2. To prevent sticky blood platelets from clumping together and therefore lessen the risk of strokes and heart attacks.

3. To improve the function of body’s immune system and help people with AIDS to fight opportunistic infections.

4. To retard the ageing process.

5. To help the body to detoxify itself of heavy metals and other harmful chemicals.

6. To lower the cholesterol levels and reduce high blood pressure.

7. To open the airways and alleviate asthma.

Garlic is thought to be particularly a valuable tool in boltering the human immune system because it is one of the richest sources of organic selenium and germ anium .

The main active principle in garlic is allicin which has been shown to be effective against 23 kinds of bacteria and sixty types of fungi and yeasts. Some studies suggest that as little as 1.8 gm a day can improve the functioning of the immune system.

Garlic’s antibacterial and anti-carcinogenic properties are most effective in its raw state. Boiling garlic creates sulphur compounds which can dilate the bronchial passages of asthmatic patients and act as a decongestant, cough medicine and mucus regulater.

In selecting garlic very small and very large bulbs (elephant garlic) should be avoided. Garlic heads can last six months if they are kept dry. Garlic can be used in a number of ways to enhance flavouring of many dishes. Garlic can he used to prepare a soup. 10g of garlic has 2.78mg of vitamin C, 0.02gram of polyunsaturated fat, 2.97g of carbohydrate, 0.02mg of thiamine, 0.0lmg of riboflavin 0.06mg of nicotinic acid, 0.30mg of folic acid, 15mg of calcium and 0.15m g of iron.

Garlic soup, garlic pickle and garlic bread are popular among Sri Lankans especially those who dine in restaurants and hotels. Garlic can be used in a number of ways to enhance the flavouring of many dishes. Simply rubbing half a fresh clove round a salad bowl will provide a hint of pungency without in any way overpowering. Beyond this garlic will find good use for it in most salad dressing? sterfries breads and other baked goods.

Consumption of large amounts of garlic (more than l0g per day) can make the blood cells fragile increasing the risk of anaemia. People with stomach ulcers should not consume large amounts of raw garlic.

Garlic helps to flavour food and makes eating more enjoyable. Garlic should be used with a low fat diet if you want to bring your blood cholesterol level down. If you cannot take fresh garlic, then take it with food. If you are using garlic for the first time start it with a small amount and slowly increase the amount but don’t exceed 20 gm per day.

Courtesy Peter Cox