The powers of garlic begin in the taste and aroma sensations. Taste both triggers and activates our salivary glands and digestive “juices.” Without tasting and smelling, our stomachs would not be ‘ready’ for food, and we’d have trouble with digestion and making use of the nutrients found within.
This is why supplementation is never as effective as eating a whole food diets or using herbal tinctures, if you just swallow a capsule, and lets say a garlic capsule, you have completely bypassed the first stage of digestion – I don’t think your mouth is going to begin salivating from the site of a vegetable capsule! For those who have a diminished sense of taste, garlic can be a flavor enhancer and a very useful addition to a meal to again trigger the first phase of digestion.
The Health Benefits of Garlic
This pungent bulb benefits us in more ways than just digestion. However, in Ayurvedic medicine, pungent tastes such as that from garlic benefits both the lungs and large intestine, those who have the Dosha types of Kapha and Vata are best suited for garlic consumption.
It is a rich source of organosulfur compounds, which are not only responsible for the pungent flavor and aroma, but also for many of the potential health benefits. (1)
There is a high potential for the organosulfur compounds that are derived from garlic to both prevent and combat chronic diseases; such as cancer, inflammatory, and cardiovascular diseases. There are two classes of organosulfur compounds which are found in whole garlic cloves, γ-glutamylcysteine, and cysteine sulfoxides, not that you need to memorize these names. (2)
What you really need to understand about garlic is how these beneficial compounds are activated. When whole raw garlic cloves are crushed, minced, pressed or chopped, an enzyme known as alliinase is released. When alliinase is released or “damaged” from the crushing, pressing or mincing, the garlic begins to convert a compound alliin into ‘sulfenic acids’.
Interestingly enough, a similar reaction happens as well in onions! When you chop an onion you are breaking open cells and creating sulfenic acids, which in the onions case produce a gas that reacts with the water in your eyes, making them water! Those darn sulfenic acids.
When the sulfenic acids react with each other in garlic, they form allicin and that is when the pungent smell fills your kitchen and the benefits become available!
So in short, when fresh garlic is chopped or crushed, the enzyme alliinase converts alliin into allicin, which is responsible for the aroma of fresh garlic and the benefits associated with consuming it. (3)
You can find entire books written about this stinking rose, studies have demonstrated the positive effects of garlic on more than 150 different diseases! Allicin is by far the most studied phytonutrient!
Beneficial Properties of Garlic
1. Improving Cardiovascular Health and Circulation
Garlic has been shown to protect against blood clotting, plaque buildup, high blood lipid levels and could reduce blood pressure (4)
2. Reducing Inflammation
Garlic can reduce the risk of osteoarthritis and other conditions associated with inflammation
3. Boosting Immune Function
Garlic has antibacterial, anti-fungal, antiviral, and anti-parasitic properties (5)
Beneficial for brain, lung, breast, gastric, and pancreatic cancers.
Science is still uncovering the answers behind how exactly the beneficial compounds in garlic are absorbed in the body, while it has been studied that allicin is absorbed in the intestines, as 90% of nutrients are, allicin has never been detected in the blood, urine or stool even after consumption of 25 g of fresh garlic or 60 mg of pure allicin! (source)
These findings suggest that allicin is rapidly metabolized – it has been found that the actual smell of “garlic breath” is a proposed indicator for the bioavailability of allicin! So the smell of garlic on your breath it is the outcome of the metabolized allicin, which can be measured in exhaled air!
Eating Garlic the Raw-ng Way
Now that you’ve got an understanding of how garlic is metabolized into those much talked about components of allicin and alliin you should also know how to use garlic to reap the benefits. Just as olive oil should not be heated, yet it is the most widely used cooking oil – garlic (like many other antioxidant-rich foods) should not be browned or cooked as this drastically reduces the beneficial properties!
The most important step to unlocking the health benefits of garlic is crushing, mincing or pressing the garlic cloves and allowing it to sit at room temperature for 5-10 minutes so that the enzyme reaction can happen which produces the valued allicin.
If you just throw minced garlic into a pan without letting it sit, this reaction does not happen. After allicin is created, the minced garlic can withstand about 10-15 minutes of medium-low heat without damaging the allicin. However, you get the best health benefits of garlic when you eat it raw!
- 5-15 minutes = minimal loss of nutrients
- 15-30 minutes = moderate loss of nutrients
- 45+ minutes = substantial loss of nutrients
While eating raw garlic may not sound very appealing, let me tell you – it is powerful stuff and you can actually enjoy the healing properties of garlic.
When To Use Raw Garlic
In my own Holistic Nutrition practice, I would recommend eating raw garlic or Upgraded Honey + Garlic for
- Colds & Flu
- A sore throat
- High blood pressure
- Lowering LDL cholesterol levels
- Killing parasites
- Regulating blood sugar
- Ear infections
- Increasing bile flow
- Immune boosting
- Anti-microbial properties
- Busting candida
NOTE: Please speak with the appropriate medical physician before including garlic into your lifestyle if you are taking blood thinners
Another awesome fact is that garlic is accessible everywhere! It is used all around the world, making it an easy remedy to get your hands on while on vacation.
Now aside from just the potential allicin content in garlic, like many natural foods, garlic has more than just one benefit, this is a whole food with a wide array of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and phytonutrients. Along with allicin, garlic is also rich in manganese, calcium, phosphorus, and selenium, plus vitamins B6 and C.
So include more garlic in your lifestyle! Add it to your homemade salad dressing, dips and use it as a garnish. Also remember that if it sprouts, don’t throw it out. Sprouted garlic is not only safe to eat but it may be even healthier than non-sprouted garlic. In many cases, sprouted foods contain more antioxidant activity than fresher, younger ones.
The reason for this is because garlic is asexual, meaning when garlic sprouts, you can actually plant it and a garlic plant will grow, just as with grains and edible seeds. So the benefits of sprouted garlic should not be surprising when you consider that nutritional changes typically occur in plants when they sprout.
When seedlings grow into baby green plants, they make many new compounds, including those that protect the young plant against pathogens. The same thing is happening when green shoots grow from old heads of garlic!
So have a clove or two of garlic a day and still use it when it sprouts. If you’re concerned with garlic breath, just remind yourself that your delicious smelling breath means that the garlic’s beneficial healing properties are being utilized!
Check out how simple it is to make an Upgraded Honey + Garlic! Add this to teas, enjoy straight or get creative!
Upgraded Honey + Garlic
Makes one 4 oz Jar
- 1 head of organic garlic, peeled
- Unpasteurized liquid honey
- 1 sprig fresh thyme (optional)
- 3-6 fresh rosemary needles (optional)
- Peel each garlic clove and use the back of your knife to slightly crush each clove, then peel off the paper shell.
- Place the activated garlic into your jar with fresh herbs (if using) and cover with enough honey to completely cover and submerge, leaving at least 3 inches of space from the top, as during the fermentation process the honey will expand and can bubble over.
- Screw or snap on the lid of the jar and let it hang out in your cupboard for 3-5 days. Place a plate underneath the jar to catch any overflow.
- You will be infusing the benefits of the garlic into the honey and the garlic will absorb some sweetness from the honey.
- After 3-5 days, place in the refrigerator to keep fresh throughout the season.
- Consume 1-2 cloves daily, as needed
I recommend flipping the jar upside down daily to re-saturate and submerge the garlic if you are using a fido style jar. If you use a lid which screws on, you should twist it open daily to flush out the CO2 buildup.
Fermentation is simple, but it is not always easy. “Ah-ha” moments can happen! I have seen jars explode from the CO2 pressure and while this experience is not fun – it happens along the fermentation journey. Maybe one day I will share with my water kefir story…
If you’re looking to reduce the risk of an incident, use fermentation-approved equipment.
This article is shared with permission from our from our friends at Holisticole.
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