Garlic, Heart Healthy tonic

(heart-healthy tonic~)
For many people, garlic supplements have become as much a part of a daily health regimen as their morning vitamin pills. Heavily promoted in advertisements that tout the herb's tonic benefits, garlic is outsold only by echinacea and ginseng in today's crowded herbal marketplace. I certain­ly agree that garlic is nothing short of an herbal superstar. But this is one case where I'm convinced that the benefits of eating the real thing outweigh those of swallowing a capsule, since commercial extracts don't preserve the full activity of the fresh bulb. Instead of taking a supplement, I urge every­one to add garlic liberally to their diets.

Valued as both food and medicine since the reign of the Egyptian pharaohs (King Tut had some in his tomb), garlic has been a staple of folk medicine around the world ever since. Today, this humble bulb has garnered more scientific validation than any other herb. There have
been an estimated 2,400 scientific studies on gar­lic, showing it to be a rich source of sulfur-con­taining compounds (including allicin) whose biological activity benefits so many areas of the body that I classify it as a true tonic. Some of garlic's most dramatic effects are on the cardio­vascular system: It lowers total cholesterol, while increasing HDL ("good") cholesterol and reducing the susceptibility of LDL ("bad") cholesterol to oxidize, the first step by which it damages arterial walls. (One well-reported meta­analysis showed that the equivalent of one-half to one clove a day can lower cholesterol an aver­age of 9 percent.)
A body of solid research suggests that gar­lic also lowers blood pressure, mimicking the action of hypertensive drugs without their toxic side effects. In addition, garlic reduces the clotting ten­dency of the blood, protecting against heart attacks and strokes.
Through a different kind of action, this versatile herb fights many kinds
of bacteria and fungi that cause disease in humans. It also enhances immunity by boosting the number of natural killer cells that check the spread of cancer. Epidemio­logical studies have shown a link between regular consumption of garlic (as well as onions, scallions, and chives) and a reduction in the risk of stomach cancer.
lil'i'i'flf'M'FUH Many manufacturers of garlic supplements standardize their products for allicin content in the belief that this compound is primar­ily responsible for the herb's many health benefits, but I'm not so sure. Instead, I recommend that everyone eat one or two cloves of garlic a day. It's much better to eat garlic raw or lightly cooked, as it loses some of its antibiotic properties when you cook or dry it. Chop it fine and mix it with food, mash it into salad dressing, saute it lightly in olive oil to flavor pasta, and, in general, add it near the end of cooking to enjoy its pungent flavor. You can also cut a clove into chunks and swallow them like pills. If you find that garlic gives you flatulence, eat less. Try chewing parsley after eating gar­lic to minimize any odor.
In a more-specific use, I have found garlic to be the best home remedy for colds: Eat several cloves of raw garlic at the first onset of symptoms.
The safety of garlic as a culinary herb is clear, but we have no data on the safety of concentrated extracts. Because of their blood-thinning effects, use them cautiously if you are taking any anticoagulent drugs, espe­cially Coumadin.

buying   tips
Buy fresh, whole garlic rather than supplements.
If you simply can't use the real thing—such as when you're traveling—look for enteric-coated capsules standardized for allicin content.



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