Garlic: Food or Function?

Not too many substances can be described as smelling really good and really bad simultaneously. There’s nothing more appetizing than the smell of garlic browning in butter. In turn, there is nothing more distasteful than the smell that garlic can leave on your skin, or the foul way it turns in your mouth shortly after consumption.

Garlic, one of nature’s most valuable foods, not only tastes great, it has a broad history and a long list of medicinal properties. It has been used since Biblical times and is found in the literature of the ancient Hebrews, Greeks, Babylonians, Romans and Egyptians. Garlic assists in digestion and helps maintain healthy serum cholesterol levels. It also helps promote healthy circulatory function.

Garlic is a member of the Liliaceae family, which also includes the onion. The plants in this family are noted for their penetrating, pungent odor. Common varieties of Garlic are Crow Garlic, Ramson’s, Field Garlic and the best known, Common Garlic. The name is Anglo-Saxon and describes the long, narrow spear-like shape of the leaves: Gar (a spear) and lac (a plant). The bulb consists of several smaller sections known as cloves. These are used for medicinal and dietary purposes.

Modern science has shown that garlic can be a powerful antibiotic, even though it is more wide-ranging than targeted. The body does not appear to build up resistance to the garlic, so its positive health benefits continue over time.

Modern scientific research confirms the Egyptians used garlic to treat wounds, infections, tumors and intestinal parasites. Garlic has remained a very popular plant in traditional medicine. It was and is believed that garlic and onions aid endurance. Garlic’s sulfur-containing compounds, which lend the herb its pungent aroma, are responsible for many of its healing properties.

In general, a stronger tasting clove of garlic contains more sulphur, and thus more medicinal value. Raw garlic was routinely given to asthmatics and to those suffering with bronchial-pulmonary complaints. Applied as an external liniment or taken internally, it is believed by the Egyptians to be beneficial for bronchial and lung complaints including colds.

Fresh cloves are peeled, pressed and macerated in a mixture of vinegar and water and used as a gargle to treat sore throats and toothache. Mashed garlic is often added to olive oil for added nutrient value. A freshly peeled clove of raw garlic wrapped in muslin or cheesecloth and pinned to the undergarment is hoped to protect against infectious diseases such as colds and influenza.

A compound contained in garlic known as Allicin inhibits the synthesis of fats. Allicin has antimicrobial, anti-yeast and antifungal properties; it inhibits the growth of parasites in the intestines, including amoebas, which cause dysentery. The compound Allicin can be transformed into Ajoene, which has anti-clotting properties. Garlic’s sulfur compounds, in addition to selenium-containing compounds, are also potent antioxidants.

Although popular worldwide, the garlic plant is enjoyed for its flavor more than its professed healing properties. So go ahead and enjoy that scampi — not only will the strong garlic flavor taste great, it can help keep your body healthy too!

A head or bulb of garlic usually contains about 10 cloves. 1 clove = 1 teaspoon chopped garlic = 1/2 teaspoon minced garlic = 1/8 teaspoon garlic powder = 1/2 teaspoon garlic flakes = 1/4 teaspoon granulated garlic = 1/2 teaspoon garlic juice


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