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12 Surprising Health Benefits of Garlic

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Image: Garlic Cloves

12 Reasons Garlic is Medicine in Your Food (+ Are Raw Garlic Supplements Better?)

There are many surprising health benefits of garlic, but first, let’s start with an overview. The Mediterannean diet, dubbed by nutritionists as one of the healthiest on the planet, contains ample amounts of garlic. Garlic was used as medicine in ancient Mediterannean life. In fact, the original Olympic athletes in Athens used it to enhance their performance. Garlic’s health-boosting properties have been widely studied, and are shown to boost immune function, reduce blood pressure and cholesterol, slow cognitive decline, prevent cancer and more. In this article, we’ll look at all the amazing health benefits of garlic, and the best ways to consume garlic to reap these benefits.

1. Helps Fights Infections

Before the existence of modern antibiotics, garlic was used to tackle a wide range of infections, from intestinal worms to ear infections. It’s shown in recent studies to act as a natural antibiotic, killing even antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria [1]. Because it also kills fungus, you can use it to fight Candida overgrowth, treat yeast infections, cure athlete’s foot and more. It also kills viruses, which helps you fight the common cold, HPV virus and herpes simplex.

2. Helps Improve Immune Response

Besides reducing the toxic load on your immune system by killing pathogens, garlic also stimulates your immune response to harmful invaders. It increases your body’s production of white blood cells, which release antibodies that kill infections. In fact, supplementation with garlic extract has been found in studies to lessen the length of common colds and reduce symptoms [2].

3. Supplies Essential Minerals

By adding garlic to your food, you’re able to increase its nutritional value while making it delicious at the same time. Garlic is a great source of manganese, phosphorus, copper, calcium, magnesium, selenium and other essential minerals. The sulfur compounds in garlic are known to increase your body’s absorption of iron and zinc.

4. May Have Anti-Cancer Effects

Cancer researchers are greatly interested in the active medicinal compound in garlic called allicin because it’s shown in test tubes to kill cancer cells. Sadly, 1 in 8 American women develop breast cancer in their lifetime. Test tube studies have found that allicin is effective against breast cancer cells, killing them by inducing apoptosis. By killing cancer cells before full-blown cancer can develop or spread, consuming garlic regularly may help with cancer prevention. In fact, the World Health Organization (WHO) recommends women to supplement with 2 to 5 mg of allicin per day to help protect against breast cancer.

5. May Lower Blood Pressure and Cholesterol Levels

The allicin in garlic has the ability to effectively reduce blood pressure, which means they could reduce the need for blood pressure medication for people who are taking it [3]. This research suggests that regular garlic intake through your diet could help ward off high blood pressure, which is a contributing risk factor for heart disease.

Regular garlic intake also lowers cholesterol and triglyceride levels, according to studies. In most studies, ½ gram to 1 gram of garlic was taken daily to effectively lower cholesterol and triglycerides [4].

6. Helps with Weight Loss

By boosting fat metabolism and having an appetite-suppressant effect, garlic can help with weight loss efforts. If you’re trying to lose weight, taking a daily garlic supplement can help support your efforts. To lose weight, you need to expend more calories than you consume. Garlic makes this easier on both fronts–helping to lower your calorie intake by controlling appetite and increasing energy expenditure by boosting your metabolism [5].

7. Supports Liver Health

Garlic also reduces fat deposition in your liver, which helps in the prevention of fatty liver disease. Garlic’s detoxifying abilities also help eliminate heavy metals from the body, taking a load off your liver.

8. Provides Antioxidant Support

Garlic is a great source of antioxidants, which fight aging and disease by neutralizing free radicals. When free radicals build up in your body, they cause damage to cells and DNA, and accelerate the aging process. By getting a daily dose of garlic, you can ensure you’re helping your body fight free radicals [6].

9. Supports Prostate Health

Research shows that men who eat more garlic have better prostate health. With age, many men experience prostate enlargement. In one study, men who ate more garlic had a 28 percent reduced risk of prostate enlargement than men who avoided garlic.

10. Acts as a Natural Aphrodisiac

By thinning the blood and boosting circulation, garlic has a natural aphrodisiac effect, boosting libido and improving sexual function. The allicin in garlic is shown to increase blood flow to the sexual organs, helping to “wake up” and activate sexual desire. Interestingly, women in one study were more attracted to body odor of men who ate garlic compared to men who didn’t.

11. Helps Fight Acne and Wrinkles

The antimicrobial activities of garlic make it helpful for fighting acne, even when it’s eaten. You can also apply garlic oil to your face after cleaning it, or cut open a garlic clove and rub it over an acne lesion to fight the bacteria that causes acne flare-ups.

Garlic can reduce the appearance of aging by neutralizing free radicals and increasing skin cell turnover—the speed at which your skin generates new cells. One clove of raw garlic per day or taking a garlic supplement may help delay the onset of wrinkles. It also reduces stretch marks and scars, even when taken internally.

12. May Enhance Hair Growth

Garlic has the nutrients your hair needs to grow, including vitamins B6, vitamin C, manganese and selenium.

Applying garlic oil to your hair or using a hair lotion or serum that contains garlic as its active ingredient is shown to reduce bald spots and promote hair growth. It increases microcirculation in your scalp so that hair follicles can get the oxygen and nutrients they need from your blood.

Research also shows that garlic fights heat damage and UV damage in your hair, so applying garlic oil as a conditioner can help keep it shiny, healthy and strong. The antimicrobial activity of garlic also fights dandruff, which is often caused by bacteria formation in the hair follicles. Massage garlic oil into your scalp and apply it down to the ends of your hair. Keep it in for up to an hour, and then wash your hair.

Garlic Types and Supplements

You have a range of options when it comes to getting your garlic, since there are different types of garlic, as well as different types of garlic supplements. Here are some of the options and their pros and cons:

  • Eating raw garlic – The most unpleasant way to benefit from garlic, but it delivers the properties in their complete and unadulterated form.
  • Black garlic – Contains a higher allicin concentration.
  • Aged garlic – Also contains a higher allicin content than regular garlic.
  • Garlic pills – Many garlic pills contain minimal amounts of allicin, so you want to look for black garlic pills, aged garlic pills, or standardized garlic pills with a high concentration of allicin. Enteric-coated capsules allow garlic to pass through the stomach and into the small intestine, where the allicin can be better absorbed than if you were to eat garlic.
  • Garlic oil – a great way to get the beauty benefits of garlic for your skin and hair, or to take garlic internally as a tincture.
  • Pickled garlic – More enjoyable than raw garlic, but keeps garlic in its raw form. Much of the allicin leaches into the vinegar during pickling, but other nutrients stay intact.
  • Fermented garlic – fermentation enhances the bioactive properties in garlic, including allicin, giving it 10 times the antioxidant power. The fermentation of garlic also makes its nutrients more absorbable.

Side Effects and Warnings

It’s well-known that garlic can create an odor on your breath and body. However, it’s generally very safe, even in higher amounts. If you’re taking any type of blood thinning medication, or if you have an upcoming surgery, avoid garlic supplements because of their blood-thinning effect. However, garlic in food shouldn’t be a problem. If you end up taking a garlic supplement, be sure to read the label and take only the recommended dose.

Conclusion

Eating garlic on a consistent basis can help lower your risk for Alzheimer’s, heart disease, osteoporosis, cancer and more. Given all the benefits, it’s unsurprising that animal studies have even linked garlic to lifespan enhancement [7]. If you enjoy garlic, you can easily incorporate more of it into your diet to reap the benefits of its health-boosting properties. Try to use fermented or aged garlic whenever possible. If you don’t like garlic, you can always take a garlic or allicin supplement.

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