“Let food be thy medicine, and medicine be thy food.”

Those are famous words from the ancient Greek physician Hippocrates, often called the father of western medicine. He actually used to prescribe garlic to treat a variety of medical conditions. Well, modern science has recently confirmed many of these beneficial health effects.

Photo courtesy of Shutterstock
Garlic supplementation is known to boost the function of the immune system. Photo courtesy of Shutterstock

Here are 11 health benefits of garlic that are supported by human research studies.

1. Garlic Contains a Compound Called Allicin, Which Has Potent Medicinal Properties

Garlic is a plant in the Allium (onion) family. It is closely related to onions, shallots and leeks.

It grows in many parts of the world and is a popular ingredient in cooking due to its strong smell and delicious taste. However, throughout ancient history, the main use of garlic was for its health and medicinal properties. Its use was well documented by all the major civilizations, including the Egyptians, Babylonians, Greeks, Romans and the Chinese.

The entire “head” is called a garlic bulb, while each segment is called a clove. There are about 10-20 cloves in a single bulb, give or take. We now know that most of the health effects are caused by one of the sulfur compounds formed when a garlic clove is chopped, crushed or chewed.

This compound is known as allicin, and is also responsible for the distinct garlic smell. Allicin enters the body from the digestive tract and travels all over the body, where it exerts its potent biological effects (which we’ll get to in a bit).

Bottom Line: Garlic is a plant in the onion family, grown for its cooking properties and health effects. It is high in a sulfur compound called allicin, which is believed to bring most of the health benefits.

2. Garlic Is Highly Nutritious, But Has Very Few Calories

Calorie for calorie, garlic is incredibly nutritious.

A 1 ounce (28 grams) serving of garlic contains:

  • Manganese: 23 percent of the RDA.
  • Vitamin B6: 17 percent of the RDA.
  • Vitamin C: 15 percent of the RDA.
  • Selenium: 6 percent of the RDA.
  • Fiber: 1 gram.
  • Decent amounts of calcium, copper, potassium, phosphorus, iron and Vitamin B1.

Garlic also contains trace amounts of various other nutrients. In fact, it contains a little bit of almost everything we need.

This is coming with 42 calories, with 1.8 grams of protein and 9 grams of carbs.

Bottom Line: Garlic is low in calories and very rich in Vitamin C, Vitamin B6 and manganese. It also contains trace amounts of various other nutrients.

3. Garlic Can Combat Sickness, Including the Common Cold

Garlic supplementation is known to boost the function of the immune system.

One large 12-week study found that a daily garlic supplement reduced the number of colds by 63 percent compared with placebo. The average length of cold symptoms was also reduced by 70 percent, from five days in placebo to just 1.5 days in the garlic group.

Another study found that a high dose of garlic extract (2.56 grams per day) can reduce the number of days sick with cold or flu by 61 percent.

If you often get colds, then adding garlic to your diet could be incredibly helpful.

Bottom Line: Garlic supplementation helps to prevent and reduce the severity of common illnesses like the flu and common cold.

4. The Active Compounds in Garlic Can Reduce Blood Pressure

Cardiovascular diseases like heart attacks and strokes are the world’s biggest killers. High blood pressure, or hypertension, is one of the most important drivers of these diseases.

Human studies have found garlic supplementation to have a significant impact on reducing blood pressure in people with high blood pressure.

In one study, aged garlic extract at doses of 600-1,500 mg was just as effective as the drug Atenolol at reducing blood pressure over a 24 week period.

Supplement doses must be fairly high to have these desired effects. The amount of allicin needed is equivalent to about four cloves of garlic per day.

Bottom Line: High doses of garlic appear to improve blood pressure of those with known high blood pressure (hypertension). In some instances, supplementation can be as effective as regular medications.

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