Garlic is among the most medicinal foods we have available to us. Here’s what you should know about it.
Origins & How Garlic Has Been Used Historically
Garlic is one of the oldest remedies for illness. It has been touted for millennia because of its broad spectrum of uses against disease long before the advent of modern pharmacology. Many scientists speculate that garlic originated somewhere between Western China, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan. From its origins, garlic spread throughout the old world and eventually to the new world. We know that the Chinese were using garlic as early as 2700 BC, as were the Sumerians and the Egyptians.
Garlic would be used throughout antiquity wherever its cultivation spread to both as a medicine and as an an important component of each culture’s cuisine. By the Renaissance, garlic had disseminated throughout Europe where it was quickly incorporated into cuisine, particularly in France and Italy. Its medicinal properties were widely accepted there, too; garlic is known to have been used as a preventative remedy and a treatment in times of plague. Some citizens would wear necklaces strung with bulbs of garlic in public with the intent of preventing infection.
By the time the Enlightenment arrived, what was once regarded as a folk remedy was now being scientifically scrutinized. Louis Pasteur noted that garlic could kill bacteria, including Helicobacter pylori, the bacteria that causes stomach ulcers. The active component, allicin, would also be discovered around this time.
Garlic continued to be valued for its antiseptic qualities up until (and even past) the advent of antibiotics; during World War II, garlic was used extensively by the Russian Army as a natural antibiotic, even after the development and implementation of penicillin. (1)
The Benefits Of Garlic
Garlic’s traditional use as a medicine has largely been validated by science. Garlic has been studied for its use against a wide variety of diseases, largely with positive results. Many of the studies done on garlic have been smaller scale, and more research is likely needed to confirm many of the health benefits of garlic. Largely, though, since it is a food, there is little reason not to incorporate it into your regimen.*
Garlic is very dense in nutrition.
Garlic has very few calories per serving, but significant amounts of manganese, vitamin B6, vitamin C, and selenium per serving. Garlic is also rich in a variety of antioxidants, which provide a wide range of benefits, including support against Alzheimer’s disease. Garlic is rich in a variety of active, sulfuric compounds, which are likely responsible for many of the positive health effects that garlic provides.
Allicin is perhaps the most-well known and well-studied of these compounds. Allicin is released when garlic is crushed or chewed, and is known to confer a number of the health benefits that garlic is responsible for.
Garlic provides potent cardiovascular system support.
Garlic has demonstrated potent benefits for the cardiovascular system, in particular. It is known to be a vasodilator, which opens up the blood vessels, allowing for blood to flow more freely throughout the body.
Garlic has been shown to lower blood pressure, a key risk factor in heart disease. Aged garlic supplements (1,500mg daily) even proved to be as effective in lowering blood pressure as some blood pressure medications over a 12 week period. (2)
Garlic has also been shown to lower LDL (bad) cholesterol, and might possibly raise HDL (good) cholesterol, which are two other important factors in heart disease. (3)
Garlic has strong anti-fungal and antibiotic properties.
One of the traditional medicinal uses for garlic has been to ward off infectious diseases, and there is much evidence that garlic is effective in this regard. Of particular interest to those on the Kaufmann Diet, garlic exhibits some potent anti-fungal effects. Garlic has been shown to be effective against a wide variety of fungal species, including Candida and Aspergillus. (1) In some studies, garlic performed better than pharmaceutical drugs against certain types of fungal infections. (4)
Garlic has been shown too to be effective in preventing colds and might shorten the length of illness. Garlic was shown in a 12 week study to possibly reduce the incidence of colds by over 60%, and high-dose garlic supplementation was beneficial shortening by the duration of a cold significantly. (5)
It is interesting to note that even up until 100 years ago, garlic was used as a natural antibiotic. Because antibiotics are fungal mycotoxins and wreak havoc on the beneficial bacteria in the digestive tract, they are recommended to be used as a last line of defense. (You should, however, always heed your doctor’s advice when it comes to prescription medications.) Garlic might be a good first-line defense if and when you do become ill, and taking garlic supplementally might be a beneficial preventative measure during cold and flu season. Its anti-fungal properties, however, make it a beneficial addition to your diet or supplement regimen regardless of the time of year.
Garlic is a powerful detoxifier.
Garlic possesses detoxifying abilities that make it valuable for those on the Kaufmann Diet, but also for anyone concerned about living in a toxic world. Daily, we are exposed to a wide variety of unnatural chemical contaminants in the environment, from our cosmetics, to the building materials, to household cleaning products, to a wide spectrum of industrial pollutants in our air, water and food. While our bodies posses detoxifying mechanisms (via organs like the liver), we are likely exposed to more of these contaminants than our bodies were ever intended to handle or process, and there is evidences that these exposures might affect our health in a negative way. Ultimately, to enjoy optimal health, regularly assisting our body’s natural detoxifying mechanism might be a beneficial habit.
In this regard, garlic might be a valuable tool. Garlic is known to assist the body in getting rid of pollutants like heavy metals––mercury, cadmium, lead, etc.––that are the result of burning fossil fuels and other industrial processes. One study showed that garlic could reduce lead contamination in blood by 20% in those regularly exposed to excessive amounts. (6)
For those on the Kaufmann Diet, this can have valuable implications. While on the Kaufmann Diet, you are attempting to eliminate any mycotoxins––fungal poisons––that may be in your body and causing health symptoms. Detoxifying these poisons can be an important part of healing. With garlic’s potent anti-fungal properties coupled with its ability to facilitate detoxification, garlic becomes a uniquely powerful tool for those on the diet.
Variations, Available Forms, and How To Use Garlic
There are two main varieties of garlic, which are hard neck garlic and soft neck garlic. Within these varieties, though, there are many different strains and sub varieties, each conferring subtly different flavors, colors and attributes. Different sub varieties of garlic grow better in certain regions better than others. Regardless of where you live, you are likely to find multiple varieties of fresh garlic year round at your local grocery store.
You are encouraged to enjoy garlic liberally in your food while on The Kaufmann Diet. Cooking with garlic is certainly fine, but using it raw is good option too, though the flavor is often stronger. Crushing or chewing garlic releases the potent components therein, so it is not necessarily recommended to swallow cloves of garlic whole.
Garlic is also comes in a variety of supplemental forms, and these are typically available at your local health food store. These can be beneficial for people who do not like the flavor of garlic. Aged garlic extracts are also thought to confer some added health benefits, as well; these can be a good supplemental option. Often though, you are still encouraged to incorporate garlic into your cooking while on The Kaufmann Diet, regardless if you choose to use it supplementally or not. A wide range of doses have been implicated for the therapeutic benefits of garlic. Often, high doses are required to achieve the desired therapeutic benefits. Some of the cardiovascular benefits, such as blood pressure control, seem to be dose dependent, and require as much as as 1200mg daily to achieve the desired effects. This can equal over 4 or 5 cloves of garlic daily. This is certainly where the utility of garlic supplementation––including aged garlic extracts––can become important.
Juicing garlic, too, is a good way to get the medicinal benefits, but the flavor may take some getting used to. Often, however, juicing other fruits and vegetables on the Kaufmann Diet, such as carrots, greens, or green apples, can assist in masking the strong flavor of garlic. Adding garlic to juice can, however serve two functions: You can easily add 4 or 5 cloves of garlic to a large juice, meeting the recommended requirements. Juicing garlic also serves to provide a way to get raw, masticated garlic into your diet. Remember that crushing garlic releases the active, sulfuric component called allicin, which is thought to confer many of the benefits of garlic, and raw garlic may confer more benefits than cooked garlic.
Regardless of how you choose to incorporate garlic, it is a valuable part of The Kaufmann Diet.
*Any time significant dietary change is implemented or a supplement is added to your regimen, you should always consult your doctor first. Particularly, if you are taking any medications, any drug interactions should be considered. Talk to your physician before making any sort of dietary or supplement change, and never use this advice in lieu of that from your licensed healthcare professional.
(1) Petrovska, Biljanabauer, and Svetlana Cekovska. “Extracts from the History and Medical Properties of Garlic.” Pharmacognosy Reviews, vol. 4, no. 7, 2010, p. 106., doi:10.4103/0973-7847.65321.
(2) Ashraf, R, et al. “Effects of Allium Sativum (Garlic) on Systolic and Diastolic Blood Pressure in Patients with Essential Hypertension.” Pakistan Journal of Pharmaceutical Science, vol. 26, no. 5, Sept. 2013, pp. 859–863.
(3) Rahman, Khalid, and Gordon M. Lowe. “Garlic and Cardiovascular Disease: A Critical Review.” The Journal of Nutrition, vol. 136, no. 3, Jan. 2006, doi:10.1093/jn/136.3.736s.
(4) Pai, S.t., and M.w. Platt. “Antifungal Effects of Allium Sativum (Garlic) Extract against the Aspergillus Species Involved in Otomycosis.” Letters in Applied Microbiology, vol. 20, no. 1, 1995, pp. 14–18., doi:10.1111/j.1472-765x.1995.tb00397.x.
(5) Josling, Peter. “Preventing the Common Cold with a Garlic Supplement: A Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Survey.” Advances in Therapy, vol. 18, no. 4, 2001, pp. 189–193., doi:10.1007/bf02850113.