Thursday, February 28, 2008

Garlic - Allium sativum - (Medicinal Herbs)

Allium sativum L., commonly known as garlic, is a species in the onion family Alliaceae. Its close relatives include the onion, the shallot, and the leek. Garlic has been used throughout recorded history for both culinary and medicinal purposes.

It has a characteristic pungent, spicy flavor that mellows and sweetens considerably with cooking. A bulb of garlic, the most commonly used part of the plant, is divided into numerous fleshy sections called cloves. The cloves are used as seed, for consumption (raw or cooked), and for medicinal purposes.

The leaves, stems (scape) and flowers (bulbils) on the head (spathe) are also edible and most often consumed while immature and still tender. The papery, protective layers of 'skin' over various parts of the plant and the roots attached to the bulb are the only parts not considered palatable.



Medical uses

Garlic has been used as both food and medicine in many cultures for thousands of years, dating as far back as the time that the Egyptian pyramids were built. Garlic is claimed to help prevent heart disease including atherosclerosis, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and cancer.

Animal studies, and some early investigational studies in humans, have suggested possible cardiovascular benefits of garlic. A Czech study found garlic supplementation reduced accumulation of cholesterol on vascular walls of animals. Another study had similar results, with garlic supplementation significantly reducing the placque in the aortas of cholesterol-fed rabbits. Another study showed that supplementation with garlic extract inhibited vascular calcification in human patients with high blood cholesterol.

In 2007 a BBC news story reported that Allium sativum may have beneficial properties, such as preventing and fighting the common cold. This assertion has the backing of long tradition. Traditional British herbalism used garlic for hoarseness and coughs, both as a syrup and in a salve made of garlic and lard, which was rubbed on the chest and back.

Allium sativum has been found to reduce platelet aggregation and hyperlipidemia.

Garlic is also alleged to help regulate blood sugar levels. Regular and prolonged use of therapeutic amounts of aged garlic extracts lower blood homocysteine levels, and has shown to prevent some complications of diabetes mellitus. People taking insulin should not consume medicinal amounts of garlic without consulting a physician.

Allium sativum may also possess cancer-fighting properties due to the presence of allylic sulfur compounds such as diallyl disulfide (DADs), believed to be an anticarcinogen.

In modern naturopathy, garlic is used as a treatment for intestinal worms and other intestinal parasites, both orally and as an anal suppository. Garlic cloves are used as a remedy for infections (especially chest problems), digestive disorders, and fungal infections such as thrush.

Garlic supplementation in rats along with a high protein diet has been shown to boost testosterone levels.

To maximize health benefits from consuming cooked garlic, it has been suggested to allow crushed or chopped garlic to rest for 15 minutes before use to allow enzyme reactions to occur. However the primary compound of interest from this reaction, allicin, is generally deactivated during cooking due to its instability, and may be more beneficial consumed raw.

Side Effects and Cautions

* Garlic appears to be safe for most adults.

* Side effects include breath and body odor, heartburn, upset stomach, and allergic reactions. These side effects are more common with raw garlic.

* Garlic can thin the blood (reduce the ability of blood to clot) in a manner similar to aspirin. This effect may be a problem during or after surgery. Use garlic with caution if you are planning to have surgery or dental work, or if you have a bleeding disorder. A cautious approach is to avoid garlic in your diet or as a supplement for at least 1 week before surgery.

* Garlic has been found to interfere with the effectiveness of saquinavir, a drug used to treat HIV infection. Its effect on other drugs has not been well studied.

* Tell your health care providers about any complementary and alternative practices you use. Give them a full picture of what you do to manage your health. This will help ensure coordinated and safe care.

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4 comments:

Margaret March 8, 2008 at 5:50 AM  

I love garlic! My animals love it too and benefit greatly from it's properties. I think its one of those things you just don't know about all the benefits you can derive from eating and it's also one of those things you can eat for pleasure and still get benefit from.

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JoLynn Braley April 14, 2008 at 7:49 PM  

I cook with garlic all the time, I just love it now, more than I used to!

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