“Let food be thy medicine, and medicine be thy food.”
Those are famous words from the ancient Greek physician Hippocrates, often called the father of Western medicine. You will also find this saying at The Alternative Healthcare Centre in Hayward’s Heath, as it is written on their menu board in the Ayurveda café, where they serve some delicious homemade delights.
He actually used to prescribe garlic to treat a variety of medical conditions including infections. The ancient Greeks used garlic as a dressing for external wounds. In 1858, Louis Pasteur demonstrated that garlic and onions kill pathogenic microbes.
Modern science has recently confirmed many of these beneficial health effects. Much of this research has been done using an aged garlic extract which contains the sulphur-containing amino acids S-allylmercaptocysteine and S-allylcysteine. These exhibit potent antioxidant actions believed to be responsible for many of its therapeutic benefits.
What is Garlic?
Garlic is a plant in the Allium (onion) family. It is a popular ingredient in cooking but as stated above one of its main uses in ancient times was for its health and medicinal properties. We know that most of the health effects are caused by one of the sulfur compounds formed when a garlic is chopped, crushed or chewed. This compound is known as allicin and is also responsible for the distinct garlic smell.
The active compound only forms when garlic is crushed or chopped when it is raw. If you cook it before crushing it, then it won’t have the same effect and the beneficial properties are lost.
- Garlic is highly nutritious, but has very few calories
Garlic is low in calories and very rich in Vitamin C, Vitamin B6 and Manganese. It also contains trace amounts of various other nutrients.
- Garlic can combat sickness, including the common cold – Immune Health
Garlic supplementation is known to boost the function of the immune system. One large 12-week study found that a daily garlic supplement reduced the number of colds by 63% compared with placebo.
- Reduce Blood Pressure
Human studies have found garlic supplementation to have significant impact on reducing blood pressure in people with high blood pressure. The amount of allicin needed is equivalent to about four cloves of garlic per day.
- Improves Cholesterol Levels
Garlic can lower Total and LDL cholesterol. For those with high cholesterol, garlic supplementation appears to reduce total and/or LDL cholesterol by about 10-15%.
Allicin prevents cells from taking up cholesterol, reduces cholesterol production in the liver and hastens excretion of fatty acids, thereby discouraging atherosclerosis.
Allicin has been touted as one of the most potent antioxidants found in foods. In addition to allicin, garlic delivers antioxidant vitamins and minerals such as vitamin C, zinc and selenium.
- Liver Detoxification
Studies indicate a role of garlic in supporting detoxification process in the body, by increasing levels of antioxidant enzymes in the liver such as glutathione.
It can improve blood flow to the skin by almost 50%.
- Cancer Protection
A 2007 world cancer research fund review, concluded that garlic “probably protects against” bowel and stomach cancers.
There are many ways to eat garlic raw but one of the nicest ways I think is in houmous served with some organic carrots, celery or spread it on gluten-free oat cakes as a delicious snack. I have listed a Jamie Oliver recipe below that I have used many times.
Skinny Homemade Houmous – serves 8
Mighty chickpeas are high in protein, fibre and more than ten different micronutrients, including a hefty amount of the mineral copper, keeping our hair and skin nice and healthy.
Ingredients & Method
1 x 600g jar of chickpeas, juice and all, into a blender. Add 1 teaspoon of tahini, 2 tablespoons of natural yoghurt, ½ a peeled clove of garlic, the juice of ½ a lemon and 1 pinch of cayenne pepper, then blitz until smooth. Taste and season to perfection, then serve with an extra sprinkling of cayenne.
For more health advice or to book a consultation with me, please contact the The Alternative Health Centre in Haywards Heath.
Blog written by Nutritionist Birgitta Pain