Stinking Rose or Medical Wonder Garlic Benefits Everyone

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An oldie but goodie from my Suite101 days.

Of all the medicinal plants the one most studied and most beneficial for good health is garlic.  It’s uses include antibiotic, anti-cancer and antiviral.

The Stinking Rose or garlic has been used throughout history for a number of interesting reasons.  It has been used as a charm against evil.  The Egyptians swore oaths on a clove of garlic and used it for strength, speed and endurance during the building of the pyramids.

Garlic has been prescribed medicinally from the earliest times.  Ancient herbalists used it to treat high blood pressure as well as respiratory issues.  The ancient Egyptians noted in writing that it was useful for 22 problems such as tumours, heart issues and headaches.  During the plague it was reported that those regularly consuming garlic fared better than those who didn’t.

Were the ancients on to something?   Most of the pharmacological studies have focused on the anti-atherogenic, anti-hypertensive, lipid reducing effects.  Older studies were focused on the antimicrobial effects of garlic.

Modern herbalists list the uses of garlic as follows:

  • Antibiotic
  • Bacteriostatic
  • Anti-parasitic
  • Anti-viral
  • Anti-carcinogen
  • Antispasmodic
  • Antiseptic
  • Anti-thrombic
  • Hypolipidemic
  • Anticoagulant

The list goes on.

Allicin as an Antibiotic

Allicin is the constituent in garlic that gives it the strong odor.  It is also the constituent that gives garlic its antibiotic effect.  The antibiotic effect of allicin is actually equivalent to 1% penicillin.  This action explains why it was used by doctors during World War One to treat infected wounds.

Studies have shown that garlic acts against some bacteria and viruses.  The antibiotic action of allicin makes this an important part of herbal ear drops in the case of ear infections.

Folk tales and urban legends still abound regarding garlic’s ability to ward of colds and flu’s.  There is now research on the antibiotic and antiviral actions to back up the claims.

The Cardiovascular System and Garlic

Studies have demonstrated the ability of garlic to lower lipids and more than one meta-analyses has supported the fact that garlic acts as a lipid lowering agent.   It was concluded  after studying five clinical trials that an amount of one half to one clove per day decreased total serum cholesterol levels by approximately 9%.  The second metaanalyses included sixteen clinical trials.  This one concluded that garlic lowered cholesterol levels by 12% and that dried garlic preparations lowered serum levels of triglycerides.

Other studies have been done proving that garlic reduces age related aortic stiffness as well as showing a modest but significant lowering in systolic and diastolic blood pressures.  The anti-hypertensive effects of garlic  are thought to be based partly on a direct vasodilating action by the garlic constituents.

Anti-Cancer Studies with Garlic

Numerous studies exist for and against the anti-cancer properties of garlic.  According to the Department of Pharmacy, Center of Drug Research, University of Munich (Germany) The study concluded that garlic might have anti-inflammatory properties and acts by modulating cytokines resulting in the inhibition of and tumour necrosis factor in the surrounding tissues.

Recent findings reported in the UK by Garlic Mistral support a growing body of evidence that garlic works as an anti-carcinogen in both prevention and treatment, and that garlic and related foods play an important dietary role in the cancer process. For instance, scientists have correlated garlic intake with reduced nitrite levels in people and fewer deaths from stomach cancer are recorded.

It can be safely argued that garlic is a super food. In addition to the incredible amount of information on the medicinal uses of garlic throughout the ages modern research has been studying this herb for decades. The findings of these studies support the fact that garlic does have the effects that herbalists have claimed for it throughout history. As with any herb garlic is not an overnight treatment but the benefits of garlic in the diet or as a supplement are undeniable.

A simple caution must be issued that before anyone begins to treat themselves with garlic or any other herb they need to consult a Clinical Herbalist and/or their doctor.

References:

Kowalchik Claire & Hylton William H. et al, Rodale’s Illustrated Encyclopedia of Herbs, Rodale Press Pennsylvania

Bartram Thomas FNIMH, Bartrams Encyclopedia of Herbal Medicine,Marlowe & Company New York

Schulz V.,  Hansel R.,  Blumenthal M.,  Tyler V., Rational Phytotherapy, Springer-Verlag Berlin, Heidelberg, New York

White Linda B.M.D., Foster Steven et al, The Herbal Drugstore. Rodale Press Pennsylvania

Mills Simon, Bone Kerry. Principles and Practices of Phytotherapy, Churchill Livingstone Edinburgh, London, New York, Toronto, Philadelphia, St Louis, Sydney