Herbal Profile: Garlic |
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Herbal Profile: Garlic

Sarena-Rae Santos April 7, 2023

By Sarena-Rae Santos, Natural Health Blogger

What is Garlic

Garlic, sometimes referred to by its scientific name Allium sativum, is a Liliaceae or Lily family member. Garlic is a perennial plant believed to evolve from wild garlic and is often grown annually, producing edible bulbs composed of several cloves. Although garlic’s origins are unclear, wild garlic is grown in Siberia, India, Egypt, and Central and southern Europe; and is cultivated in most Mediterranean countries today (1). 

Health Benefits of Garlic

Interestingly, Egyptian and Indian cultures referred to garlic 5000 years ago. There is clear historical evidence for its use by the Babylonians 4500 years ago and by the Chinese 2000 years ago (2). Some of its health benefits include:

Highly Nutritious

Garlic is probably one of the most commonly used cooking spices and just so happens to be highly nutritious. Garlic is rich in protein, fiber, calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, zinc, manganese, selenium, folate, and vitamins A, B6, and K (3).

Antioxidant Properties

Antioxidants can help fight damage from harmful free radicals. The buildup of free radicals has been linked to chronic diseases, such as cancer and heart disease (4). One study found that garlic contains antioxidants that support the body’s protective mechanisms against oxidative damage (5). For instance, studies have found high doses of garlic significantly lowered plasma and erythrocyte MDA levels and increased the activities of some antioxidant enzymes, which indicates that consumption of garlic decreases oxidation reactions (6).

May Support the Immune System

The immune system protects the body from outside invaders, such as bacteria, viruses, fungi, and other toxins (7). When you support your immune system, you potentially support your body’s ability to fight sickness. One study found that 12 weeks of garlic supplementation reduced the number of colds by 63% compared with a placebo (8). Another study documented that high-dose aged garlic extract (2.56 grams per day) reduced the number of days sick from cold or flu by 61% (9).

May Support Heart Health

Unfortunately, heart disease is the world’s number 1 cause of death (10). Due to the incredibly complex determinants of heart disease and various possible contributions, it’s hard to pinpoint an exact way to prevent it. Still, you can at least take steps to lower your overall risk; that’s where garlic comes in. ​​

Human studies have found garlic supplements to significantly reduce blood pressure and LDL without affecting HDL (11,12). Other studies have found garlic supplements reduce total and LDL cholesterol by about 10–15% (13,14,15). A final study found 600–1,500 mg of aged garlic extract over 24 weeks reduced blood pressure as effectively as the beta blocker Atenolol (16).

May Promote Bone Health

Low bone mass affects an estimated 43 million older adults in the United States, leading to osteoporosis and an increased risk of bone fractures and breaks (17). Studies have found garlic beneficial for osteoarthritis (18). Animal studies demonstrate garlic’s ability to minimize bone loss by increasing estrogen in female rats (19,20,21,22). In human studies, a daily dose of dry garlic extract (equal to 2 grams of raw garlic) significantly decreased a marker of estrogen deficiency in menopausal women, suggesting that garlic supplementation may benefit women’s bone health (23). 

May Improve Athletic Performance

Garlic was one of the earliest performance-enhancing substances given to Olympic athletes in ancient Greece (24). Studies suggest that garlic may reduce exercise-induced fatigue (25). In animal studies, garlic promotes better exercise performance in rodents, but very few human studies have been done (26). One human study found taking garlic oil for six weeks had a 12% reduction in peak heart rate and better exercise capacity in heart disease patients (27).

Promotes Heavy Metal Detoxification

Aside from being a delicious addition to almost any meal, garlic has amazing detoxification abilities, even for heavy metals. One study found garlic to be a promising antidote to heavy metal toxicity due to its possession of plant compounds containing organo-sulfur groups, volatile oils, enzymes, carbohydrates, and amino acids (28). Another study found garlic boosts up the absorption of heavy metals in Lolium perenne of Cd 66% and Pb 44% (29). Furthermore, a study examined the employees of a car battery plant who had excessive exposure to lead and determined garlic reduced lead levels in the blood by 19% while reducing many clinical signs of toxicity, including headaches and blood pressure (30). A final study uncovered garlic’s potential to enhance the excretion of cadmium through feces (31).

Anticancer Properties

Statistics say that 158.3 of every 100,000 individuals will die from cancer, but what if they didn’t have to (32)? Studies have extracted, purified, and extensively studied garlic’s various sulfur-containing compounds and other phytoconstituents for their anticancer properties (33,34). In studies, garlic’s compounds have demonstrated the ability to help repair DNA, delay cancer cell growth, and reduce inflammation (35). 

Safety Concerns

According to the mainstream, garlic is likely safe to take by mouth in the amounts normally found in food. Garlic is possibly unsafe when used in medicinal amounts during pregnancy and breastfeeding. There isn’t enough reliable information about the safety of applying garlic to the skin if you are pregnant or breastfeeding. Stay on the safe side and avoid use.

They also note that garlic is possibly safe when children take doses of up to 300 mg three times daily for up to 8 weeks. There isn’t enough reliable information to know if garlic is safe when used in larger doses or for longer than eight weeks. It is possibly unsafe to apply raw garlic to the skin. It might burn the skin. 

Additionally, they warn garlic, especially fresh garlic, might increase the risk of bleeding (36).

Contrarily, trusted herbalist Richard Whelan states garlic is extremely safe for human consumption. It has been used in clinical trials for up to 7 years with no toxicity or adverse reaction reports. It can be a bit smelly, and, as it says in the British Herbal Pharmacopoeia (BHP), only small doses should be given to small children (37).

How to Use Garlic

You can find garlic in dried bulk, pills, powders, teas, extracts, or tinctures. Tinctures always contain the most concentrated amount of herbs. Teas and soups are also options, especially when following ayurvedic medicine recipes. If you’re a DIY person, some great starter recipes are:

Follow the recommendations of any supplement; some of my recommendations include:

  • Earthley’s Immunity Soup Blend helps support your immune system while enjoying a yummy soup, stock, or whatever meal you’d like! Simply simmer, strain, and add to your recipe for added flavor and nutrients.
  • Herbal Roots Organic Whole Bulb Garlic Pills are 100% USDA Certified organic ingredients ideal for the immune system and cardiovascular health, made in the USA. Unlike other brands, you will NOT find binders, fillers, or additives in any Herbal Roots supplements.

If you have garlic in your natural medicine cabinet, how do you use it?

This is the writings of:

Sarena-Rae Santos is the founder of The Holistic Hipppie blog, dedicated to natural health and plant-based eating. Her journey to natural health began in 2019 when she swayed away from allopathic medicine after becoming wheelchair-bound due to the side effects of 20+ medications. Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS) and dizziness due to nystagmus were the sources of her many health complications. Sarena's symptoms diminished after adopting a healthier lifestyle surrounding whole foods and herbs, leaving her a fantastic quality of life and a passion for educating people.
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Hi, I’m Kate.  I love medical freedom, sharing natural remedies, developing real food recipes, and gentle parenting. My goal is to teach you how to live your life free from Big Pharma, Big Food, and Big Government by learning about herbs, cooking, and sustainable practices.

I’m the author of Natural Remedies for Kids and the owner and lead herbalist at EarthleyI hope you’ll join me on the journey to a free and healthy life!

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