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HOW EFFECTIVE IS GARLIC AS A MEDICINE?             The ancient Egyptians revered it, Greek Olympians chewed it before competing, and the Chi...


          The ancient Egyptians revered it, Greek Olympians chewed it before competing, and the Chinese listed it as cure for dozens of ailments. For centuries there has been a mystical folklore about garlic (scientifically known as Allium sativum) and its magical healing ability. On blind faith, many used it to cure colds, flu and a whole shopping list of ailments. People knew garlic made them feel better, but they didn’t always understand how.

          Today scientists have discovered not only how certain microbial and cancer-fighting chemicals from garlic work but why they work the way they do. With years of serious research behind them, these researchers are now convinced that garlic has been highly effective in reducing the two leading causes of death, cancer and heart disease and extending life itself.

Engraving of garlic (Allium sativum) plant,
showing the head (bottom left), leaf, stem, and flower.
(From William Woodville, Medical Botany, 1793).

          One of the leading authorities on garlic research, Dr. Robert I. Lin, chairman of the First World Congress of the Health Significance of Garlic and Garlic Constituents, suggests that a daily dose of cooked garlic or garlic extract along with good eating habits and a good lifestyle “can substantially reduce the risks of cancer and cardiovascular disease in society.”

          Dr. Lin discovered that when garlic is cooked, processed, or metabolized, it releases a compound called thiol or thiol reagents that may modulate the body’s defense against cancerous cells. He also proved that these substances could protect the body against the harmful effect of radiation therapy and protect the liver against environmental pollution.

          “Garlic is the best candidate as a cancer-fighting substance,” says National Cancer Institute (NCI) scientist, Dr. Herbert Pierson. He pointed out that research in both China and Italy show a large reduction in stomach cancer by people who ate various forms of garlic on a daily basis.

          Even more interesting is the fact that garlic not only prevents tumor growth, but also stimulates immune cells, according to Dr. Benjamin Lau, physician and author of the book, Garlic for Health. “Garlic apparently stimulates the body’s immune system, particularly enhancing the macrophages and lymphocytes, which destroy cancer cells.”

          Garlic, a member of the onion family, has been used medicinally throughout history. It was enlisted as a curative alternative during Europe’s “Black Plague” in the 1300s and was used to treat typhus and dysentery during World War I. “Its use goes back at least 7,000 years to Egyptian times, when the slaves who built the pyramids were given a daily ration of it, not only to spice their food, but to keep them healthy,” says chemist and author Peter Josling, who wrote the book The Complete Garlic Handbook.

          In his Natural History, Pliny (A.D. 23-79) gave an exceedingly long list of scenarios in which it was considered beneficial. The 2nd century Greek physician Galen eulogized it as the “rustic’s theriac” (cure-all).

          In 1858, French scientist Louis Pasteur (1822-1895) observed garlic’s antibacterial activity, and it was used as an antiseptic to prevent gangrene during World War I and World War II. More recently it has been found from a clinical trial that a mouthwash containing 2.5 percent fresh garlic shows good antimicrobial activity, although the majority of the participants reported an unpleasant taste and halitosis (offensive-smelling breath).

          In recent times, garlic has been shown to cause modest reductions in blood pressure and cholesterol levels, and has been suggested to have antibiotic properties as well. As early as 1924, garlic was used as a tincture for the treatment of pulmonary tuberculosis or phthisis.

          In 2007 a BBC news story reported that Allium sativum may have beneficial properties, such as preventing and fighting the common cold. This assertion has the backing of long tradition. Chinese medicine used garlic for hoarseness and coughs. It was adopted by traditional British herbalists both as an anti-cough syrup and in a salve mixed with lard, which was rubbed on the chest and back of patients. The Cherokee Indians also used it as an expectorant for coughs and croup.

          Dr. Stephen Fulder, director of Consultancy and Research of Biomedicine at Oxford University, reports that garlic is now one of the most popular self-medications for lowering blood pressure.

          Garlic contains vitamins A and C, potassium, phosphorus, selenium, some 75 different sulfur compounds, and a number of amino acids, which are the building blocks of proteins. The sulfur-containing compound allicin, found in fresh garlic but in only trace amounts in supplements, has been shown to protect against cancers in studies done on animals.

          One of the first large studies to suggest a link between garlic consumption and cancer prevention was the Iowa Women’s Health Study, published in 1994, which included more than 40,000 women. Researchers found that of all the fruits and vegetables studied, garlic had the strongest association with a decreased risk of colon cancer.

          One reason for garlic’s beneficial effects may be its ability to lessen the amount of free radicals present in the bloodstream. According to a study published in Life Sciences, a daily dose of one milliliter per kilogram of body weight of garlic extract for six months resulted in a significant reduction in oxidant (free radical) stress in the blood of patients with atherosclerosis. Since atherosclerotic plaques develop when cholesterol circulating in the bloodstream is damaged or oxidized, garlic’s ability to prevent these oxidation reactions may explain some of its beneficial effects in atherosclerotic cardiovascular diseases. A German study published in Toxicology Letters indicates that garlic also greatly reduces plaque deposition and size by preventing the formation of the initial complex that develops into an atherosclerotic plaque. Called “nanoplaque,” it is formed when calcium binds to proteoheparan sulfate and then to LDL cholesterol. Garlic prevents the binding of calcium to proteoheparan sulfate, thus decisively inhibiting plaque generation.


Four cloves of raw garlic,
contain around 35 to 50 milligrams of allicin.
          Research presented at the 6th Annual Conference on Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis and Vascular Biology held by the American Heart Association in Washington, D.C., suggests that garlic can help prevent and potentially reverse atherosclerotic plaque formation. The laboratory studies, conducted by well-known German scientist Professor Güautnter Siegel, M.D., from the University of Medicine in Berlin, Germany, found that powdered garlic reduced the formation of nanoplaque (the first building blocks of atherosclerotic plaque) by up to 40 percent and reduced the size of the nanoplaque that did form by up to 20 percent

          Laboratory research by Swedish scientists and US published in the August 2005 Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences reveals the mechanism behind garlic’s cardiovascular benefits. The compounds in garlic responsible for its pungency also excite a neuron pathway providing cardiovascular benefits. Garlic’s pungency – and that of the other members of the Allium genus, such as onions, leeks and chives – results from its organosulphur compounds, allicin and diallyl disulphide (DADS). In this current in vitro study, allicin and DADS were found to activate perivascular sensory nerve endings, inducing the relaxation and enlargement of blood vessels, lowering blood pressure and improving blood flow throughout the body.

          One of the breakdown products of allicin is S-allyl Cysteine (SAC), a water-soluble chemical shown by studies at Pennsylvania State University to kill or retard the growth of breast cancer cells. Another study at the same university showed diallyl disulfide (DADS) and diallyl trisulfide (DATS), both oil-soluble garlic components, kill or retard the development of lung, skin and colon cancers.

          Why is solubility important? There are two systems of circulation in the human body, one for water-soluble solutions (the arterial/venous system) and one for fat or oil-soluble compounds (the lymphatic system). Since some cancer cells spread via the lymphatic system, the oil-soluble DADS or DATS can seek them out. SAC can spread throughout the body to find cancer cells via the circulatory system, due to its water-solubility. The compounds retard the cellular division and, therefore, growth of cancer cells in the body via both channels, increasing the chance of being able to control, or slow down the rate of development of the cancer. It’s good to know that garlic has both kinds of compounds.

          “It has long been argued that garlic can fight a wide range of infections and now we have provided biochemical evidence for this claim.” The medical journal, Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy, have confirmed the chemotherapeutic “Effects Of Garlic.” The researchers were able to study how garlic works at the molecular level using allicin, garlic’s main biologically active component.

          One study, explains how allicin fights infection. This research supports the notion that garlic is an excellent natural antimicrobial drug that can disable an unusually wide variety of infectious organisms.

          The second study helps to clarify the role allicin plays in preventing heart disease and other disorders. Scientists revealed and characterized a molecular mechanism by which allicin blocks certain groups of enzymes. Allicin, created when garlic cloves are crushed, protects the plant from soil parasites and fungi and is also responsible for garlic’s pungent smell.

          A natural weapon against infection, the research revealed allicin disables dysentery-causing amoebas by blocking two groups of enzymes, cysteine proteinases and alcohol dehydrogenases. Cysteine proteinase enzymes are among the main culprits in infection, providing infectious organisms with the means to damage and invade tissues. Alcohol dehydrogenase enzymes play a major role in these harmful organisms’ metabolism and survival. Because these groups of enzymes are found in a wide variety of infectious organisms such as bacteria, fungi and viruses, this research provides a scientific basis for the notion that allicin is a broad-spectrum antimicrobial, capable of killing bacteria and viruses and warding off different types of infections.

          Experiments by competent scientists, as well as experiences by ordinary people, have shown beyond any reasonable doubt that consuming garlic generally has the following physical and physiological effects:

          ● Raw Garlic is a potent natural antibiotic. While not as strong as modern hardcore antibiotics, it can kill strains of bacteria that have become immune or resistant to modern antibiotics. The role of allicin in warding off infection may be particularly valuable in light of the growing bacterial resistance to antibiotics. It is unlikely that bacteria would develop resistance to allicin because this would require modifying the very enzymes that make their activity possible.

          ● Garlic has anti-fungal and anti-viral properties. The allicin compound in garlic kills staph microorganisms in contact. (Note: Raw garlic can burn delicate skin).

          ● Garlic lowers blood pressure.

          ● Garlic lowers LDL Cholesterol.

          ● Garlic helps reduce atherosclerotic buildup (plaque) within the arterial system. One recent study shows this effect to be greater in women than men.

          ● Garlic lowers or helps to regulate blood sugar.

          ● Garlic helps to prevent blood clots from forming, thus reducing the possibility of strokes and thromboses (It may not be good for hemophiliacs).

          ● Garlic helps to prevent cancer, especially of the digestive system, prevents certain tumors from growing larger and reduces the size of certain tumors.

          ● Garlic helps to remove heavy metals such as lead and mercury from the body.

          ● Garlic dramatically reduces yeast infections due to Candida species.

          ● Garlic has anti-oxidant properties and is a source of selenium, which has been shown to have anti-tumor properties, and also provides protection against heavy metal toxicity. A cofactor of glutathione peroxidase (one of the body’s most important internally produced antioxidants), selenium also works with vitamin E in a number of vital antioxidant systems. Since vitamin E is one of the body’s top defenders in all fat-soluble areas, while vitamin C protects the water-soluble areas, garlic, which contains both nutrients, does a good job of covering all the bases. 


          This is just my personal experience. When I was a young kid, bronchitis seemed to be my diagnosed annual ailment. I’m always having persistent coughs and colds that last for a long time, even months in some occasions. Doctors then would prescribe cough syrups, expectorants, and loads of antibiotics. I felt my body, my immune system, going weak. Until I get to learn herbalism. I started using natural herbs to treat my ailments, especially when pharmaceutical drugs weren't particularly affective. It works – on my coughs, colds, sore throats, and even in preventing the onset of flu! So, from that moment on, whenever I feel like having a cold or flu, I would take herbs, ginger and garlic in particular. Ginger for sore throat and itchy lungs, and garlic for colds and flu. Both have been proven medically and scientifically to have antibiotic properties.

          The recent appearance of a new strain of Coronavirus in Wuhan, China, alarmed the entire world population. This 2019 novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) possesses a deadly epidemic threat. It is easily transmitted through contact with the infected people and animals. Experts said that the 2019-nCoV is more contagious but less deadly than the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS). With the current geographical movements, it is almost impossible to stop the coronavirus outbreak from spreading globally.

          The common cold has been associated with more than a hundred different viruses, including Human Coronavirus and Rhinovirus. Common symptoms include nasal and throat discomfort, followed by sneezing, runny nose, coughing, nasal congestion and breathing difficulty, onset of flu or flu-like symptoms, weakness, and infirmity. Just like with the common cold virus, many recent strain of the coronavirus can stay on objects and items outside the body, from clothes to door handles, to glasses and accessories, and can circulate in the air that people breathe. The common cold viruses that belong to the same coronavirus family can survive on indoor surfaces for more than 7 days, although their ability to cause an infection will be rapidly reduced after 24 hours. It cannot survive on warm and hot environment.

          As scary as it may sound, we need to be fully aware that the novel coronavirus infection can only be lethal for those with a weak immune system. Initial diagnoses say that people with a strong immune system are unlikely to die from coronavirus infection. Elderly people, children, people who suffer from diabetes, lung disease, cancer or other chronic diseases are at a higher risk of the life-threatening condition induced by coronavirus infection.

          Now, so as not to be accused of practicing medicine without a license or quackery, this is just my theory, take it “with a grain of salt” and due diligence, review my research, and the logic behind my idea.

          Whenever I feel like having a cold or flu, I either chew a few pieces of garlic, swallow it and drink a little water, or take garlic oil capsule (available at herbal shops and drugstore). This I do half to an hour after eating. The first option is better, as you will feel the heat surging through your body. The next step is breathing in, inhaling air through your mouth, and then breathing out, exhaling through your nose. This will hasten and facilitate the “heat” from the garlic to pass through your lungs. I don’t recommend inhaling garlic oil into your nose (like other herbalists do).

          According to coronavirus researchers, one peculiar primary characteristic of this microbe is it seeks your lungs and attach to the walls with their antenna-like crown spikes. But the virus is easily killed when exposed to heat.

          Garlic has several anti-microbial components and it packs a wallop of bio-heat to do the finishing kick against fungi, bacteria and viruses. Get the logic?!

          Of course one needs to have a healthy immune system. This you do by eating healthy food and supplementing it with intake of multi-vitamins and micronutrients (for this ailment, zinc is vital and selenium, which is also present in garlic).


NOTE: You also need to know if you are allergic to ginger and garlic and, if you’re taking any forms of pharmaceutical drugs, if it is contra-indicatory to the drug. Eating raw garlic or taking garlic supplement may reduce the effectiveness of certain drugs like those you drink for blood clotting. Garlic is also known to help protect our body from toxic chemicals, consequently, it may treat certain drug components as toxic chemicals that need to be removed from the body.

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