Garlic (Allium sativum) is a plant in the same family as onions, leeks, shallots, and chives. The bulbs of the garlic plant are divided into sections called cloves. Garlic cloves have been used for centuries for both medicinal and culinary purposes. Garlic is known for its pungent aroma and spicy flavor. It mellows somewhat when cooked, so it is often used cooked for its flavoring and used raw medicinally. It is not known where garlic originated, but it is now cultivated all over the world. China grows the most, producing over 23 billion pounds per year.
Medicinally, garlic has been shown to have antibacterial properties. It is also an antiviral and antifungal substance. Garlic has been touted for years as being beneficial in preventing heart disease and cancer. No definitive studies exist proving these claims conclusively. However, preliminary studies done on both animals and humans show some promise. One study done in the Czech Republic shows garlic reduces the amount of cholesterol that attaches to the inside of veins and arteries of animals subjects. Another study done on rabbits corroborates the findings in the Czech study. Other studies have shown that patients with high cholesterol experienced a reduction in vascular calcification when given garlic supplements.
The bad news is that clinical trials conducted by the National Institutes of Health in the U.S. were published in 2007 and state that garlic has absolutely no effect in reducing blood cholesterol levels. The website Heart.org agrees with the NIH study. As well, no studies of any sort have ever been done on garlic and cancer. It is believed that garlic has no effect on cancerous cells.
Even if garlic has no anti-cancer or heart health benefits, the BBC reports that it is good for the common cold. Native Americans have also used garlic for treating cough. As well, it was used during WWI and WWII as an antiseptic to help stop the onset of gangrene.
Posted 1153 day ago