Garlic is classified as both a food and medicinal herb. It can and should be eaten as food, but it can also be taken in supplement form to augment a healthy diet when more serious health problems arise. Here's how this alternative medicine works:
Garlic has many healing properties, but the most research has been done on its potential to help reduce heart disease. Garlic has been intensively studied, and numerous large studies have shown that taking supplements that mimic fresh garlic can significantly lower LDL cholesterol levels without hurting beneficial HDL cholesterol levels. Garlic appears to act by blocking the liver from making too much LDL cholesterol.
There is also some evidence that garlic supplements can mildly lower blood pressure by dilating or expanding blood vessels. And garlic helps prevent blood clots -- and therefore reduces the risk of heart attack and stroke -- by decreasing the stickiness of platelets, which are tiny disk-shaped bodies in the blood that are necessary for blood clotting. When platelets are too sticky, they form clumps that can adhere to artery walls and contribute to clogged arteries.
Garlic has also been shown to reduce pain and other symptoms in people with rheumatoid arthritis. And it reduces the size of some cancerous tumors and helps prevent some cancers, particularly those in the intestines. However, the research on this is not nearly as far advanced as that for garlic and heart disease, so do not use garlic supplements without consulting with a natural health care professional.
One of the oldest uses of garlic, however, is as an antibiotic. Garlic kills a range of microbes, including viruses, bacteria, fungi, and parasites, and can be effective against such conditions as athlete's foot, thrush (a fungal infection of the mouth), viral diarrhea, and the ulcer-causing bacteria Helicobacter pylori. Only fresh garlic or supplements that mimic it have these effects.
Preparation and Dosage
For best results, fresh garlic or preparations that mimic it need to be used. Dried or cooked garlic, as well as garlic oil, lose a significant amount of potency during processing (though they aren't worthless and are still beneficial to eat as food). Preparations used for medicinal purposes should state that they have allicin potential of at least 6,000 mcg on the label. Alternately, eat one chopped clove of fresh garlic per day. (The fresh garlic that has been peeled and sometimes minced and sold in jars in the grocery store is not potent enough.)
Good quality garlic supplements list the "allicin potential" they contain and not a certain amount of allicin. This means that when the supplement gets to the stomach, it releases 6,000 mcg of allicin, the pungent chemical that accounts for garlic's sharp flavor. The supplements do not contain actual allicin, because this compound is extremely unstable and quickly breaks down. Instead, good garlic supplements contain alliin, the stable precursor to allicin. It is released only upon digestion, so your body can make the best use of it.
Store garlic in a cool, dark, dry place with good air circulation. Check on it occasionally, and remove any cloves that have gone bad, being careful not to nick the remaining cloves.
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This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.