Garlic has obvious uses in the kitchen, but it also has health properties that have been used for centuries. In ancient Greece, athletes used garlic because it was thought to provide strength, and in India it was known as an aphrodisiac. Garlic is used today as a home remedy for many illnesses, from high cholesterol to cancer.
The sulfur-containing compound allicin is the power behind the healing properties of garlic. Allicin is released when garlic cloves are cut into; it’s best to let the garlic sit for about 10 minutes after being cut, which allows time for the allicin to develop.
Garlic is a heart-healthy food; in fact, many studies have shown that there are several benefits to eating garlic. Since heart disease—including heart attacks and strokes—is the number-one cause of death around the world, it makes sense to add garlic to your diet.
Clinical studies indicate that garlic helps lower the risk of heart disease by:
- Lowering blood pressure
- Lowering bad cholesterol (LDL)
- Lowering risk of clotting
- Helping to decrease plaque in arteries
Freshly chopped or crushed garlic has the highest health benefits, but there is evidence that garlic powder and garlic extract supplements can also be beneficial to heart health.
Cancer is the uncontrolled growth of abnormal cells that spread beyond their normal boundaries, often invading other parts of the body.
Epidemiological studies have noted links between garlic and the inhibition of several different cancers. According to the American Institute for Cancer Research, ongoing studies are showing convincing results in lab tests that analyze garlic effects on cancer cells, but high-quality human research is still needed to confirm the cause of these benefits.
Garlic contains diallyl disulfide, a compound known to have anti-inflammatory properties—specifically, diallyl disulfide inhibits pro-inflammatory cytokines. Making garlic part of your diet and even using it directly on affected areas can help lessen inflammation and pain from arthritis and sore or swollen joints.
Make your own garlic oil treatment: Crush ten cloves of garlic and let them sit for ten minutes. Mix the crushed garlic into 5 tablespoons of olive oil. Heat the mixture on low until it begins to turn brown. Rub the oil on painful joints, letting it sit for at least an hour before washing off.
You can also mix crushed garlic with warm aloe lotion. Be sure to let the garlic sit for 10 minutes before mixing with the lotion.
Garlic is considered beneficial for skin health, again because of its sulfur content. Laboratory studies have shown that the allicin in fresh, raw garlic has antimicrobial properties.
Try treating the following conditions by rubbing a slice of garlic over the affected area:
- Athletes foot
- Cold sores
What About Garlic Breath?
All garlic lovers have battled a dreaded side-effect of eating garlic: garlic breath!
The sulfur compound that gives garlic its wonderful flavor is also the cause of stinky garlic breath. As garlic is digested, the compounds are absorbed into the bloodstream and filter into the lungs, which is why garlic breath can be so hard to get rid of.
Some people avoid eating garlic because of this, but the health benefits and delicious flavor is well worth the inconvenience of garlic breath.
Here are some easy remedies for garlic breath that will take care of the odor so you can eat all the garlic your heart desires (and garlic is known to promote heart health, so give the heart what it wants!).
Fancy a Cuppa?—Serve a hot cup of green tea after a garlic-heavy meal. Polyphenols, an antioxidant in green tea, will cover up the garlic smell created by the sulfides. One study showed that green tea cured bad breath better than gum or mouthwash, so sip away!
An Apple a Day—Include a raw apple with a garlicky dinner. The enzyme in apples acts as a natural deodorant against the sulfides that cause garlic breath. Lettuce is also thought to help garlic breath, so include an apple in your salad and you’ll be all set.
Lemon Squeezy—Lemon juice has been known to fight garlic breath, so sprinkle it over your salad or add a tablespoon to a glass of water and drink it after your meal. Who doesn’t love a little refreshing lemon water after a spicy meal?
A Milk Chaser—If you’re a milk lover, pour yourself a glass after a garlic-laden meal. And make sure it’s whole milk, because that’s been shown more effective at killing odors than the skim stuff.
Double Up on the Garlic—If garlic is on the menu for a romantic dinner, make sure you both eat it—if you both have garlic breath, you’re less likely to notice it in your dinner date!
What about garlic odor in general?
Besides getting rid of garlic breath, some people have trouble ridding their hands of garlic smell after handling garlic in the kitchen. Believe it or not, stainless steel has been shown to remove the odor of garlic because of the chemical reaction between the sulfur in garlic and how it bonds to stainless steel (and transfers off of your hands). Try a stainless steel bar of “soap” to get the garlic smell off your hands. Or just rub your garlicky hands on your stainless steel sink while washing your hands under the water. And stainless steel acts the same way to draw away onion and fish smells, too!
Did you know that garlic can be so healthful? Please tell us about healthy ways you use garlic.