Posted on: December 18, 2019 at 6:17 pm

Cold and flu season is officially upon us, and if you haven’t come down with at least a minor case of the sniffles yet, you know your time is coming.

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There are hundreds of different cold medications and remedies that people swear by, ranging from over-the-counter, FDA-approved drugs to a drink of whiskey, honey, and lemon. But what if the answer to your runny nose and raspy cough could be found on your kitchen counter?
Garlic does more than just make your food taste great and give you bad breath. Research has shown that this little bulb that grows in the dirt is one hundred times more effective than antibiotics, and works in half the time [1].

Garlic: A History of Medicinal Use

Garlic has been used in medicine by many different ancient societies. The literature suggests that garlic was often fed to the working class in some civilizations to maintain and increase their strength so they could be more productive [2]. This is particularly true in Ancient Egypt, to feed the laborers who were working on the pyramids [2].

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Jewish people also appeared to use garlic for the same reason but included the consumption of garlic for the treatment of infection with parasites and other disorders as well [3].

Similar sentiments are found in the literature from Ancient Greece and Rome, and there is evidence that garlic was also used in Ancient China as a preservative and to improve male potency [4].
The leading surviving medical text from India, the Charaka-Samhita, recommended the use of garlic for the treatment of heart disease and arthritis two thousand years ago [2].

Why is Garlic So Good for You?

Garlic contains a compound called alliin. When it’s crushed, it becomes allicin, which breaks down rapidly to produce organosulfur compounds that are the source of garlic’s potentially disease-fighting benefits [5].

Research has shown that allicin exhibits antioxidant properties that protect against cancer-causing free radicals [6], and there is a growing body of evidence that suggests that ingesting garlic is particularly beneficial against esophageal, stomach and prostate cancers [7]. 

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Garlic has also been shown to control populations of pathogenic microorganisms, which could be why it is useful in the prevention of the cold and flu [8].

Garlic and Immunity

The sulfur compounds found in garlic, the ones that give it its distinct odor, are what gives garlic it’s immune-boosting properties [9]. They have been shown to increase the disease-fighting response of some types of white blood cells when they come in contact with viruses [9].

In fact, garlic has even been seen to prevent you from getting sick in the first place, help you get better faster, and reduce the severity of your symptoms [10].

How To Maximize the Benefits of Garlic

The way you prepare garlic can significantly change its health benefits. Allinase, the enzyme that converts alliin to allicin, can be deactivated by heat. Crushing your garlic, however, and letting it stand for ten minutes before you cook it can help prevent its medicinal losses [11].

Researchers have also indicated that you can minimize the loss of health benefits by simply increasing the amount of garlic you use [11].

This soup recipe contains 52 cloves of garlic that can help you fight off cold and flu viruses this season:

26 garlic cloves (unpeeled)

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 tablespoons (1/4 stick) organic butter (grass-fed)

1/2 teaspoon cayenne powder

1/2 cup fresh ginger

2 1/4 cups sliced onions

1 1/2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme

26 garlic cloves, peeled

1/2 cup coconut milk

3 1/2 cups organic vegetable broth

4 lemon wedges

Preheat oven to 350F. Place 26 garlic cloves in a small glass baking dish. Add 2 tablespoons of olive oil and sprinkle with sea salt and toss to coat. Cover baking dish tightly with foil and bake until garlic is golden brown and tender about 45 minutes. Cool. Squeeze garlic between fingertips to release cloves. Transfer cloves to a small bowl.

Melt butter in a heavy large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add onions, thyme, ginger and cayenne powder and cook until onions are translucent about 6 minutes. Add roasted garlic and 26 raw garlic cloves and cook 3 minutes. Add vegetable broth; cover and simmer until garlic is very tender about 20 minutes. Working in batches, puree the soup in a blender until smooth. Return soup to saucepan; add coconut milk and bring to simmer. Season with sea salt and pepper for flavor.

Squeeze the juice of 1 lemon wedge into each bowl and serve.

The Jury is Still Out, but a Little Garlic Can’t Hurt

Scientists remain divided as to whether or not garlic is effective at combating colds and flu, due to a lack of large-scale research. Pharmaceutical companies have little interest in running expensive trials because they cannot patent it, sell it, or make any money off of it [11].

That being said, there is still mounting evidence that garlic can be highly beneficial for maintaining health, and including the spice in your regular routine could help you through this year’s cold and flu season.

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Brittany Hambleton
Team Writer
Brittany is a freelance writer and editor with a Bachelor of Science in Foods and Nutrition and a writer’s certificate from the University of Western Ontario. She enjoyed a stint as a personal trainer and is an avid runner. Brittany loves to combine running and traveling, and has run numerous races across North America and Europe. She also loves chocolate more than anything else… the darker, the better!

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