Beyond superstition, modern research has confirmed what our ancestors believed about the health benefits of garlic. In 1858, Louis Pasteur documented that garlic kills bacteria, with one millimeter or raw garlic juice proving as effective as 60 milligrams of penicillin. During World War II, when penicillin and sulfa drugs were scarce, the British and Russian armies used diluted garlic solutions as an antiseptic to disinfect open wounds and prevent gangrene. Though not completely understood at the time, today’s research has confirmed that garlic’s healing powers stem from hundreds of volatile sulfur compounds found in the vegetable, including allicin, (which gives garlic its offensive odor), alliin, cycroalliin, and diallyldisulphide.
Garlic’s Health Benefits
The allicin in raw, crushed garlic has been shown to kill 23 types of bacteria, including salmonella and staphylococcus. Heated garlic gives off another compound, diallyldisulphide-oxide, which has been shown to lower serum cholesterol by preventing clotting in the arteries.
Vitamins in garlic, such as A, B, and C, stimulate the body to fight carcinogens and get rid of toxins, and may even aid in preventing certain types of cancer, such as stomach cancer. Garlic's sulfur compounds can regulate blood sugar metabolism, stimulate and detoxify the liver, and stimulate the blood circulation and the nervous system.
In many cultures, garlic is also considered a powerful aphrodisiac and a vegetarian alternative to Viagra. Some say it’s even able to raise a man’s sperm count. In Palestinian tradition, a groom who wears a clove of garlic in his buttonhole is guaranteed a happy wedding night.
While experts vary in opinion regarding the recommended daily amount of dietary garlic, most of them agree that fresh garlic is better than supplements. To negate the aromatic after effects of fresh garlic, herbalists recommend munching on fresh parsley (it’s more than just a garnish, folks) or fennel seed.
Public awareness about the health benefits of garlic has slowly but dramatically increased in America, aided by several landmark studies and a $176,000 grant from the FDA a few years ago. Now, garlic supplements abound and Americans are clamoring for more of the bulbous vegetable, which compliments other recently recognized “superfoods,” such as olive oil and tomato sauce, so well.