The Healing Power of Garlic
Oh, garlic. The onion’s small papery cousin. Potent, delicious, and packed with healthful benefits, this is one superb little herb!
Everybody knows about garlic’s potency and deliciousness, but its medicinal uses should be equally as known as its other traits. Garlic isn’t just Italian bread’s best friend, you know. It’s your best friend too, and I’ll tell you the reasons why!
The Healthful Benefits of Garlic
And after listing the reasons, I’ll leave instructions for an easy garlic oil recipe. Reaping benefits deliciously is the best way to reap benefits!
Lowers Blood Pressure
In the United States, one out of every three adults has hypertension. Hypertension is a modifiable risk factor for heart attacks, cardiovascular disease, and strokes among other complications. While many with hypertension control their blood pressure with only one BP medication, a large percentage require two or more different prescriptions to treat the condition. Taking multiple BP drugs can be counterproductive when treating hypertension. Adverse side effects from antihypertensive medicines are more likely to occur when combined with other antihypertensive medicines. Side effects include fatigue, dizziness, cough, headache, myalgia, kidney impairment, gastrointestinal discomfort, and electrolyte imbalance.
The good news is that studies are finding links between lowered blood pressure and consumption of garlic. Today, you can even find garlic supplements in stores — now you know what those are for, if you’ve ever seen them on the shelves and weren’t sure why.
Research suggests that garlic increases the body’s nitric oxide production, which relaxes the smooth muscle that lines your blood vessels. This relaxation leads to the widening of your blood vessels, known as vasodilation, which can lead to blood pressure reduction. So how about that? Instead of combining medications and risking complications, a person with hypertension can increase their garlic intake and stick with just one medication — at the instruction of a physician, of course. Every person handles medications differently.
And even if you don’t have high blood pressure, keep your normal blood pressure in check by adding a bit of garlic to your next savory meal!
Natural Cold and Flu Remedy
Garlic contains a cold-fighting compound called allicin. Allicin, the element that gives garlic its pungent taste and smell, has antibacterial and antifungal properties. It boosts your white blood cell count, which helps you fight infections.
Having the cold and/or flu isn’t great. The headaches, the body aches, and everything that could possibly go wrong with your nose has gone wrong. Just awful.
And to top off how awful being sick feels, your medicine is disgusting! And not only is your medicine disgusting, it makes you drowsy and even more fatigued than you already were. But guess what? Garlic has something else going for it, besides being antifungal and antibacterial. Garlic is also an energy booster! Studies show that garlic produces symptomatic improvement in those with systemic fatigue due to cold or flu.
See that noodle soup you’re eating? Find your garlic press and press right over it! Allicin is produced when the clove is crushed, so crush away!
Enhances Physical Performance
Well, I just mentioned that garlic is an energy booster. It doesn’t just address systemic fatigue brought on by sickness, though. Garlic also remedies physical fatigue brought on by prolonged physical activity. And it’s also worth noting that it’s good for fatigue with no definite cause, too. It’s just good for fatigue!
Fun fact: Garlic was used in ancient cultures to reduce fatigue and enhance work performance in laborers.
Besides fatigue, you know what else gets in the way of physical performance? Muscle soreness, right! The anti-inflammatory properties of allicin are shown to remedy muscle soreness post-workout. Be kind to your muscles and have a garlic smoothie after you hit the gym! (Well, that may or may not be delicious. If it isn’t, just sprinkle some garlic powder on your almonds or whatever you snack on at the gym.)
That clove may be small, but it’s packed with bone-healthy vitamins and minerals! Zinc, vitamin B6, vitamin C, and manganese are all found in this little bulb. Its high manganese content is especially important, though! Manganese has enzymes and antioxidants that aid osteogenesis (bone formation), connective tissue growth, bone metabolism, and calcium absorption. Wow! That’s a lot of bone health promotion!
But the promotion doesn’t stop there. Are you, or is someone you know, a woman? Well, we women have it a little rough when it comes to aging bones. As our estrogen levels decrease, our bones become more brittle. For this reason, we’re at higher risk for osteoporosis than our male counterparts. But garlic wants to help us out! Garlic is rich in phytoestrogens, which are natural compounds that increase estrogen levels. Phytoestrogens can help reduce bone loss caused by decreased levels of estrogen. So let’s treat bone disease like it’s a vampire and ward it off with garlic.
Treats Skin Conditions
Remember how allicin is an antibacterial, antifungal, anti-inflammatory powerhouse? Your skin enjoys those traits just as much as your blood pressure, immunity, athleticism, and bones do! If you’re having a breakout, you can rub garlic oil or a crushed clove on top of your blemishes. Or you can always just eat the garlic, it’s up to you. No matter how you partake of it, garlic’s antioxidants really have it out for acne-causing bacteria.
You know who else garlic has it out for? Psoriasis. Psoriasis occurs when the immune system doesn’t function properly, which causes it to react ineffectively to invading bacteria and viruses. This can lead to inflammation of the skin and joints, the main symptoms of psoriasis. But allicin, being good at seemingly everything, is all about enhancing immune system functionality. When it enters the body, allicin stimulates cells that aid your immunity: macrophages, lymphocytes, natural killer cells, dendritic cells, and eosinophils. When these cells are stimulated, they work together to get your immune system functioning properly, attacking the foreign material that can lead to serious skin conditions. And it should be noted that it can also prevent/treat cardiovascular disease, metabolic syndrome, and gastric ulcers for the same reason — bacterial and viral invaders can cause a lot more damage than just skin problems. Allicin just loves your immune system.
What else could garlic be up to?
Some studies suggest that allicin may reduce cholesterol. However, other studies suggest that the lowered cholesterol levels are only temporary, and that the levels don’t significantly decrease. More research is needed.
This one also needs more research, but allicin may also combat age-related memory loss. One study showed that repeated garlic consumption may prevent deterioration of hippocampus-based tasks. Your hippocampus, a brain structure located in your temporal lobe, has a major role in memory.
So, go eat some garlic now that you know the healing power of garlic!
Now that you know why garlic is a superfood, get to crushing some cloves! More superfood articles to come after this one. Turmeric is up next!
As promised, here’s an easy garlic oil recipe!
6 peels garlic cloves
1 cup of extra-virgin olive oil
- Place olive oil and garlic in a small saucepan.
- Bring the oil and garlic to a boil, and then turn down to low heat.
- Simmer for five minutes, or until garlic has browned.
- Turn off heat and set the saucepan aside for 1-2 minutes.
- Remove garlic cloves from oil and slice them.
- Place sliced garlic in a container and pour oil on top.
- Enjoy! Super easy right?
Serving size: 1 tablespoon
Calories per serving: 120
Written by: Katrina Jenkins, LMT
Photo credit: Canva