Garlic is a perennial plant of the amaryllis family and a species in the onion genus, Allium that is grown for its culinary value and health benefits across the world. It is used as a popular ingredient in a variety of dishes, mostly savoury, due to its strong smell and delicious taste. Garlic can be used in many forms, such as whole cloves, smooth paste, garlic powder, and garlic oil. If you wish to derive some of garlic benefits, use it in your cooking, it is best crushed or sliced and left exposed to the air for at least ten minutes before being added to your food. Garlic contains compounds with potent medicinal properties and therefore, has been traditionally used to treat a variety of medical conditions. Especially, the presence of sulphur-containing compound Allicin in garlic not only provides it anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties but other health benefits as well. Some of the health benefits of garlic are given below:
1. Helps detoxify heavy metals in the body: Garlic contains sulphur compounds which have been proven to protect against organ damage caused by heavy metal toxicity. In a four-week study on battery-plant employees (excessive lead exposure), it was found that lead level in the blood of those employees decreased by 19 per cent with the use of garlic. Besides, the toxicity symptoms, such as headache and blood pressure were also reduced.
2. Increases metabolism: Garlic increases body’s metabolism. It is supposed to stimulate the nervous system to release the adrenalin hormone, and thereby increases metabolism. High metabolism can, in turn, help you to burn calories and lose weight. Garlic also helps in the proper assimilation of nutrients and thus prevents neurological diseases that are caused due to malnutrition or malabsorption.
3. Helps reduce blood pressure: Studies have shown that garlic has significant effect on reducing blood pressure in people suffering from hypertension. One study demonstrated that 600 – 1,500 mg of aged garlic extract was just as effective as the drug Atenolol in reducing blood pressure over a period of 24 weeks.
4. Helps prevent Alzheimer’s disease and dementia: The antioxidants present in garlic protect against the oxidative damage caused by free radicals which may play a role in the pathogenesis of Alzheimer’s disease. Garlic thus protects your brain and memory from the ravages of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. In high doses, garlic has been shown to increase antioxidant enzymes in humans and reduce oxidative stress in individuals suffering from hypertension. The combined effects on reducing cholesterol and blood pressure, besides the antioxidant properties may help reduce the risk of brain diseases like Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.
5. Reduces the risk of cancer: Studies have shown that ingesting 5 gram garlic daily blocks the excretion of the enzyme nitropoline that helps slow down cancer cells. Evidence has also supported garlic’s ability to inhibit tumors and other agents that are responsible for causing cancer. Many population studies show a link between increased intake of garlic and reduced risk of certain cancers including cancers of the stomach, colon, esophagus, pancreas, and breast.
6. Boosts skin and hair health: Garlic contains antioxidants which protect the skin from the effect of free radicals and, therefore, retards the depletion of collagen which leads to loss of elasticity in aging skin. Garlic also does wonders to skin infected with fungal infections and provides relief from skin ailments like eczema. Garlic is also quite beneficial for hair and is an effective remedy against hair-loss. You can prevent hair-loss and even reverse it by rubbing crushed garlic extract on your scalp or massaging with garlic-infused oil.
7. Lowers the risk of heart disease: Garlic improves cholesterol levels in the body which may lower the risk of heart disease. Studies have shown that garlic can lower total and LDL cholesterol by about 10% – 15% in those with high cholesterol. Besides, while garlic appears to lower LDL (the “bad”), it has no reliable effect on HDL (the “good”) cholesterol that helps keep your cardiovascular system healthy
8. Helps in maintaining weight: Allicin in garlic is linked to reducing insulin levels in the body. In one study, garlic reduced the increased insulin and aided metabolism of sugars in lab animals that were kept on a high sugar diet and also in those that showed diabetes signs. The American Journal of Hypertension study showed that among the animals with high insulin levels, high blood pressure, and high triglycerides, those who received garlic showed a slight decrease in their weight while the control group showed a slight gain. This indicates that garlic may reduce weight gain while helping in stabilizing sugar levels in patients with diabetes. As garlic boosts body’s metabolism, it also makes you burn calories and thus lose weight.
9. Remedy for splinters: This is among the lesser-known benefits of garlic. It is effective against stubborn splinters. Place a cut garlic piece over the splinter cut and cover with a bandage. Very soon the splinter will be gone.
10. May improve bone health: Although no human studies have assessed the effects of garlic on bone loss, studies on rodents have shown that it can reduce bone loss to a minimum by increasing estrogen in females. The finding of a study in menopausal women showed that a daily dose of dry garlic extract significantly decreased a marker of estrogen deficiency. This suggests that garlic may have beneficial effects on bone health in women by increasing estrogen levels.
11. Purifies blood: Garlic is effective against problems related to impurity of blood, like zits and pimples. It prevents acne by flushing out toxins and naturally purifying your blood. Consuming two cloves of raw garlic with warm water in the morning regularly, coupled with intake of a lot of water the whole day, will help you get rid of acne.
12. Protects against cold and flu: Garlic builds immunity in your body and protects you against cold and flu. Consuming 1-2 cloves of raw or cooked garlic a day or taking some garlic tea can relieve a stuffed nose and cure the cold.
There are some drawbacks of garlic as well, bad breath being the first one of them. Garlic may also cause allergy to some people. It should be avoided before surgeries and operations and those who have asthma should not take it, as it may have side-effects. In case you are on blood-thinning medications or have bleeding disorders, consult your doctor before its consumption or increasing its intake.
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