Garlic, or “the stinking rose” as it’s often referred to by many around the world, has the potential to offer many health benefits when consumed regularly. It’s been revered all over the world, from inside the city walls of ancient Egypt, to being an inspiration to modern Italian, Asian, Spanish, Greek, Indian, and western cooking.
This pungent member of the onion family is a favorite in many dishes. It can be chopped or pressed and added to your favorite dishes, or swallowed whole by the peeled bulb purely for the health benefits such as easing digestive discomfort. Fresh bulbs are known for their longevity: they can last up to a month if stored in a cool, dry place.
Fresh garlic definitely offers a slew of health benefits. It’s also a regarded remedy for keeping mosquitoes and other blood thirsty critters from biting you, your family, and your pets while spending time outdoors in the summer months.
Most of the benefits you’ll read about on this page refer to either fresh pressed or chopped garlic, or concentrated garlic supplements derived from quality sources. Unfortunately, that aged powdered garlic in your pantry isn’t good for much more than flavoring your favorite dishes in a pinch.
Garlic Nutrition Breakdown
As you’ll soon learn, much of the benefits offered by garlic come in the form of over 400 known chemical components including organosulfur-based compounds like alliin, DATS, DADS, ajoene, and S-allylmercaptocysteine (SAMC), and allicin. These compounds are what give garlic its trademark pungent smell, and also act as potent antibacterial and anti-inflammatory compounds in the body.
While there isn’t a lot of calories or nutrition in garlic, it does have some vitamins and minerals to offer. The following is based on approximately 6 regular-sized cloves (1-ounce):
• Manganese: 15% D.V.
• Vitamin B6: 17% D.V.
• Vitamin C: 7% D.V.
• Copper: 6% D.V.
• Selenium: 6% D.V.
• Phosphorus: 4% D.V.
• Calcium: 3% D.V.
For most people, it’s impractical to attempt to consume an ounce of garlic all at once unless it’s included in a delicious recipe. However, many do simply chop it up and add it to water, then chug the mixture down in one gulp.
Garlic Health Benefits
1. Prevention and Treatment of Heart Disease
Heart disease is the number one preventable killer worldwide. In the United States, 1 in 4 deaths are attributed to this disease every year (source). In fact, it’s responsible for more deaths than all types of cancers combined.
Garlic has been found through a slew of studies to both prevent and treat many types of lifestyle related forms of the disease including hypertension, hyperlipidemia, atherosclerosis, and thrombosis. Each are caused largely by metabolic diseases like diabetes, cholesterol, and poor lipid balance in the blood.
A study published in the Journal of Nutrition in 2016 detailed the benefits of aged garlic extract on reversing plaque buildup in patients already diagnosed with metabolic syndrome ranging from 40 to 70 years of age. The most interesting information gleaned from the study was the ability of garlic consumption to actually reduce plaque buildup, not just slow or prevent accumulation once garlic was introduced.
2. Cancer Prevention and Treatment
Cancer prevention benefits come directly from the various sulfer compounds found in garlic and other allium vegetables. The National Cancer Institute has stated that these sulfur compounds have positive effects at all stages of cancer development in the body:
“Several population studies show an association between increased intake of garlic and reduced risk of certain cancers, including cancers of the stomach, colon, esophagus, pancreas, and breast. Protective effects from garlic may arise from its antibacterial properties or from its ability to block the formation of cancer-causing substances, halt the activation of cancer-causing substances, enhance DNA repair, reduce cell proliferation, or induce cell death.” (source)
Several studies have been completed including studies on garlic’s influence on pancreatic cancer rates. One such study found a 54% lower incidence of pancreatic cancer in people who ate larger amounts of garlic and its cousin, the onion. Another study on breast cancer found women who eat lots of garlic, onion, and have a high fiber intake enjoy a significant reduction in cancer rates.
Lastly, the benefits of treating cancer with garlic are believed to result from the organosulfer compounds it contains that were mentioned earlier, primarily DATS, DADS, ajoene, and S-allylmercaptocysteine. These compounds have proved themselves to effectively interrupt the process that leads to the formation of cancer cells. Not only do they get in the way of the growth process, garlic’s organosulfers also induce death in cancer cells that have already formed inside the body.
3. High Blood Pressure Reversal
Billions are spent around the world on a yearly basis for drugs designed to control high blood pressure and the resulting impact it has on artery, heart, kidney, and eye health.
One study from 2010 found that administering 960 milligrams daily of garlic extract resulted in a drop of an average of 10 points in blood pressure after 3 months of continued use. The most compelling thing about this particular study was that it was performed on patients who had “uncontrolled high blood pressure” despite being on numerous medications to treat the issue.
A more recent study came to the conclusion that garlic has similar results to standard meds when used as a standalone high blood pressure treatment: ie., without the introduction of anything other than a standardized garlic extract. Aside from the effects mentioned above in the section detailing garlic’s effect on cardiovascular health, science believe the compounds in garlic promote increased flexibility in the artery walls themselves, leading to lower blood pressure.
4. Illness and Infection Prevention and Treatment
This benefit is believed to be the sole result of the polysulfide compound, allicin. Though research is underway to test how the other constituents lead to garlic’s antimicrobial, antiviral and antifungal properties. Garlic has proved itself a formidable opponent against both common and rare infections like the common cold and flu, as well as several other infections.
This study, published back in 2001 showed that 12 weeks of supplementation with garlic led to significantly lower incidents of colds in the participants. Even when a few did get a cold virus, they recovered much faster than those who received a placebo in the study. Another interesting finding from the study was that those in the placebo group were more likely to contract more than one cold during the duration of the study.
5. Topical Hairloss Treatment
Garlic’s benefits aren’t limited solely to ingestion. Several men and women all over have been using garlic as an effective hair restorative treatment in recent years.
A 2007 published in the Indian Journal of Dermatology, Venerology and Leprology proved the efficacy of garlic in treating bald or balding patients stricken with the as yet incurable autoimmune dysfunction alopecia. Corticosteroids are currently the only thing that helps patients regrow hair, but the same study out of Mazandaran University found that a garlic gel applied to the scalp twice daily over three months, in addition to the corticosteroids, significantly upped the hair regeneration rates of the participants.
Naturopaths all over the world suggest that applying a store-bought or homemade garlic infused topical can offer the same hair regrowth benefits as the combination corticosteroid/garlic treatment detailed in the study.
There are several products on the market that take advantage of this benefit, but if you want to try regrowing hair using garlic, a simple method is to crush a single clove of garlic and smear the juices on the affected areas of your head twice daily, for at least 3 months (you’ll need to continue the treatment indefinitely if it works). This is considered most effective, as there’s no way of determining how much actual garlic is contained in over-the-counter formulations.
6. Brain Health Booster and Disease Prevention
Alzheimer’s, dementia, and other degenerative brain conditions can be helped when garlic is added our daily diet. The antioxidant properties of garlic can help prevent the oxidation damage that often leads to many age-related brain diseases (Note: in the case of Alzheimer’s, genetics are also a contributing factor).
Specifically with Alzheimer’s, plaque formed from “β-amyloid peptides” are observed in the central nervous system (CNS), causing reactive damage to neuronal cells. This study from the Journal of Neurochemistry proved aged garlic extract offered significant neuroprotective properties to participants.
Specifically, science believes this benefit to be a direct result of S-allyl-L-cysteine (SAC); an active compound found in abundance in the extract form. Note that the brain benefits in the study may not apply to consuming garlic cloves, as extracts contain significantly more of the active compounds.
7. Diabetes Prevention and Treatment
Garlic is well known for helping to lower fasting, post-postprandial, and long term blood sugar markers in diabetics and pre-diabetics. However, there’s much more to diabetes than high blood sugar itself.
The real impact of the disease happens when blood sugar remains elevated beyond normal ranges for long periods of time. Poor sugar control leads to imbalanced LDL and HDL cholesterol levels, elevated triglycerides, and puts a strain on kidney function. These and other side effects are what lead so many who suffer from the disease to develop circulation problems, neuropathy, loss of vision and limbs, poor brain function due to hyperinsulinemia, and other complications.
This study showed improved insulin response in diabetics. Another study completed on rats showed the consumption of raw garlic dropped serum glucose levels by over 55 percent, with the additional bonus of 40 percent lower serum cholesterol, 35 percent lower triglycerides, and a 50 percent reduction in urinary protein levels – which are a direct result of kidney damage caused by diabetes and/or high blood pressure.
8. Asthma Treatment
Garlic is a cure-all for a variety of respiratory ailments including tuberculosis, pneumonia, and asthma. In particular, asthma is a treatable condition that often leaves sufferers on a strict regimen of dangerous drugs that have a plethora of undesirable side effects such as bone loss, lowered immune function, and depression, which in some cases leads to suicidal thoughts and tendencies.
The anti-inflammatory benefits of garlic have a significant impact on relieving the airway inflammation and constriction that causes asthma symptoms. Before modern medications, a common prescription for asthma from a sufferer’s family doctor would be to consume 3 cloves of raw garlic every evening before bed.
You can also make a garlic milk, which is considered more palatable than the cloves themselves:
• A half liter of milk
• 1 quarter cup of water
• 10 cloves minced garlic
• 2 tsp of sugar (optional)
*Combine ingredients and boil on medium heat until the mixture boils down to half the original quantity. Remove from stove and strain with mesh strainer. You can drink it all at once or consume in 3 equal quantities over the next 3 days before making more.
9. Garlic Improves Athletic Performance
This garlic benefit has very little scientific backing. However, many athletes recommend consumption to increase athletic performance. It’s well known that Greek Olympians were given garlic to boost their vitality.
Surprisingly, many other ancient cultures came to the same conclusions about garlic’s performance-enhancing effects including ancient Egypt, Italy, Asia, China, and India.
10. Heavy Metal Detoxification
The sulfurous compounds in garlic have shown promise in removing toxic heavy metals from the blood and body, including lead poisoning.
This study showed levels of lead in people working in a car battery plant dropped by as much as 19 percent after consuming garlic. Garlic consumption had a more profound effect on the symptoms of lead poisoning than the commonly prescribed drug D-penicillamine.
11. May Decrease Bone Loss Due to Menopause
Estrogen levels are thought to be the number one cause of bone loss in menopausal women, next to dietary calcium deficiencies which are rare.
This study performed on 44 menopausal women showed an increase in estrogen levels of the participants. There are several other studies that have been done on rats, but more human studies are needed.
12. Improved Iron Metabolism
Iron deficiencies are becoming increasingly common, particularly in people who don’t eat red meat or the various seafood varieties that contains heaps of iron.
In limited studies to date, consumption of garlic has shown promise at increasing the internal passageway that transport iron into red blood cells. This passageway is a protein called ferroportin; a protein that bridges the gap between blood and iron-hungry cells.
Garlic Side Effects
There are very few side effects from consuming garlic. Most notably, there are really only two worth mentioning:
1. Garlicky breath and/or body odor when consuming too much.
2. Some people find that garlic upsets their digestive system, including upset stomach and diarrhea symptoms.
Garlic Selection and Storage Tips
Choosing fresh garlic cloves from the supermarket, or growing them yourself, is the best way to ensure you and your family get all the benefits mentioned on this page. Selecting fresh cloves is really easy.
Consider that a knife or garlic press is the preferred way to process garlic.
Garlic cloves should be very hard to the touch and near impossible to crush in your fingertips. If they feel squishy, avoid altogether.
Never buy skinned garlic cloves, or peel them before you’re going to use them. Peel at the time of use. Garlic should be stored inside a paper bag in a cool, dry cupboard for up to a month after purchase.
Garlic is indeed a superfood that offers benefits far beyond what many other superfoods can claim. Setting aside the obvious taste benefits to a variety of dishes after adding garlic, the true health benefits offered by the “stinking rose” can have a significant impact on how long you live, and the overall heathful quality of each year of your life.
There’s literally no reason not to start consuming more garlic, whether by adding it as flavoring to your favorite savory dishes, brewing up some stove top garlic milk, or by consuming a quality garlic supplement from the health food store.
Here’s wishing you a long, healthy, and happy life!