Remedies from the Kitchen Cupboard: Garlic
If I could choose only one herb to keep in my kitchen for both culinary emergencies and health ailments, it would be garlic. With an incredibly long history of medicinal use dating back 5,000 years, garlic has many health benefits but is most known for its ability to lower cholesterol levels and decrease blood clotting. Garlic is also popular for its antibacterial, antiviral, and antifungal effects.
Garlic inhibits many of the processes in the development of atherosclerotic heart disease, including high cholesterol, platelet aggregation, and LDL oxidation. Clinical studies have shown that garlic can decrease total cholesterol, LDLs, and triglycerides,1 and significantly raise HDL cholesterol2 (the protective component). A review of 10 trials assessing the effect of garlic on blood clotting showed modest but significant decreases in platelet aggregation.3 In recent news, much light has been shed on garlic’s ability to suppress oxidation of LDLs4 —a powerful mechanism in the initiation of atherosclerosis. Together, these impressive effects of garlic add up to slowing the physiological processes of atherosclerosis.
Garlic also has an extensive history as an “herbal antibiotic.” Research has shown that garlic exerts antimicrobial activity against gram-positive and gram-negative bacteria, viruses, fungi, and parasites.5 In fact, laboratory studies have demonstrated that garlic extract has the ability to inhibit the growth of MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus).6 Garlic is also an excellent remedy for viruses such as the common cold as it has been shown to have antiviral activity,7 decrease recovery time and symptoms,8 and enhance the immune system’s ability to fight off a cold.9 Studies have also revealed garlic’s antibacterial properties against oral pathogens such as Streptococcus.10 In folk medicine, garlic is traditionally used as a topical agent for skin infections such as acne and warts.
Garlic has a special place on my kitchen counter—I always have a couple of bulbs on hand. It is best to use it fresh and uncooked as high heat may deactivate some of the active elements.
For Cardiovascular Benefits: Consumption of one clove of garlic a day is sufficient. Many people like to simply swallow a whole clove daily. Personally, I like to crush a clove of garlic into a saucer of olive oil and use it as a dip for a piece of whole grain bread. This way I get to enjoy the flavor and reap the benefits of consuming heart healthy omega 9 oil as well.
For Colds, Flu, and Sore Throats: Crush or chop a clove of garlic and place it in a cup of warm water. Let steep for 5 minutes before consuming.
Topical Use: Garlic may be used topically to treat acne and warts. Simply cut the tip of a clove off and rub directly onto the affected area. Note: People with sensitive skin may experience a “garlic burn” and should avoid topical use of garlic.
Nancy Silva, ND
Dr. Nancy Silva is a licensed naturopathic physician in California. She has more than 20 years of health care experience in diverse areas such as emergency medicine, primary care, and naturopathic medicine. She holds a Baccalaureate in Biology from the University of California and a Doctorate in Naturopathic Medicine from Bastyr University.
Currently, Nancy teaches nutrition courses for the Health and Wellness department at Kaplan University. She also enjoys writing and regularly contributes to the well-known web farm directory Local Harvest.