Garlic has been proven to protect against heart disease (by thinning the blood and helping to lower cholesterol) and ward off coughs and colds (it’s a powerful antimicrobial).
So where do garlic’s health benefits actually come from? When cloves are chewed, crushed or cut, they release a sulphur compound called allicin – this is what gives garlic its characteristic scent and flavour.
This is also the component that scientists have believe is responsible for garlic's therapeutic qualities.
Most modern research on garlic concentrates on its ability to lower cholesterol and blood pressure as well as offering protection against strokes and heart disease.
Garlic seems to also help the body fight off infections. One study, in a recent issue of the Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy, explains how allicin is a broad-spectrum antimicrobial, capable of warding off different types of infections.
Furthermore, unlike with antibiotics, the body does not appear to build up resistance to the garlic, so its positive health benefits continue over time.
A recent study found that a daily intake of garlic reduced the risk of the volunteers catching a cold by half, those who did succumb were more likely to make a speedier recovery than the non-garlic taking volunteers.
AVOID COOKING IT
And if you needed any more reasons for that clove every day, it’s also a rich source of vitamins A and C, B-complex and various minerals, including selenium, iodine, potassium, iron, calcium, zinc and magnesium.
For best results, you need to eat it as soon as possible after peeling as its potency fades the more it is exposed to light.
Sadly, although it still tastes great, cooking diminishes most of garlic’s healing powers (microwaving appears to destroy allicin totally and eliminate any health benefits).
If you really can’t stand the taste and want to take garlic tablets, be wary of useless supplements.
Many experts believe that the allicin in garlic cloves is so volatile that heating and deodorising it so that your breath doesn’t smell diminishes its potency.
The only really effective garlic supplements are those known as real allicin products. Garlic oil, aged garlic extract and garlic powders are inferior products, with few healing properties.
While some of the medical community are not yet convinced, I think that old-fashioned remedies seem to work and can give us a powerful no-drug approach to health.
Note: Garlic can interact with anticoagulants, such as Warfarin, so if you take blood thinning medication or aspirin, talk to you doctor before taking supplements.
It is also a good idea not to take garlic supplement is taken for two weeks before surgery, as they may interfere with blood clotting and increase risk of bleeding.