Wise up and smell the garlic
More than just a tasty flavour - you can use cloves to cure many ailments...
Garlic is famed for packing a mighty punch in flavour but that silvery bulb on your kitchen shelf could also improve your health and wellbeing, according to garlic expert Natasha Edwards.
She has devoted years to researching its hidden uses and says: “I’m still constantly amazed and intrigued by the healing power of garlic, it truly is a medicinal marvel.”
Edwards’ new book, ‘Garlic: The Mighty Bulb’, is packed with health-boosting recipes and remedies using garlic, which she’s tested on her family at their garlic farm on the Isle of Wight. The farm produces more than 20 varieties of garlic across 24 hectares of land.
“Incredibly, years and years of planting, harvesting, cleaning, plaiting, cooking, tasting and talking about garlic have done nothing to dampen my enthusiasm for the ‘stinking rose’ - its historical nickname,” Edwards says.
While garlic has been used medicinally for at least 3,000 years, she points out that it’s only relatively recently that its benefits have been scientifically proven to be more than folklore.
“More than 1,000 scientific studies now detail its useful chemicals, which can do everything from lowering cholesterol, to preventing blood clots and reducing blood pressure,” Edwards says.
“As well as vitamins and minerals, the cloves contain numerous health-giving sulphur compounds of which allicin is the most potent. These are triggered into action when the garlic is chewed, crushed or cut.
“They then set to work in harmony with the body to protect it against a variety of common ailments and more serious diseases.
“There’s now a growing body of opinion that garlic may even help protect against certain cancers such as those in the gut.”
Check out ways you could boost your health and wellbeing with Edwards’ suggestions for using garlic…
Grab the garlic
Edwards advises a daily dose of garlic - one to two cloves for long-term health benefits and The World Health Organisation recommends one clove of raw garlic a day to promote general health. There are many ways to take garlic, says Edwards, such as adding a clove or two to cooking, although this means it will lose a degree of its potency.
“For the most powerful medicinal effect, a daily dose of raw garlic is best,” she advises.
“Chewing raw cloves first thing in the morning probably won’t appeal, and it’s not a good idea to eat garlic on an empty stomach, but there are ways to make it more palatable.” Initially, she says, it’s advisable to start with a very small amount, a quarter or a half-a-clove eaten with other food, then gradually build up your intake so that you can assess your body’s reaction to it. Remember though, as garlic can slow blood clotting, it should be avoided by pregnant women, those anticipating surgery or dental procedures and those who have sensitive stomachs or ulcers. If you are taking anticoagulant drugs, you should consult your doctor before consuming garlic regularly, especially in raw form.
Beat the sneeze
Garlic has been used for centuries as a natural antiviral to ward off symptoms of cold and respiratory infections. “I’ve found a garlic infusion will knock a cold on the head if you drink it at the early onset of the symptoms,” says Edwards.
If you’ve been plagued by mosquitos in recent weeks you’ll be pleased to hear regular consumption of garlic is an effective repellent, says Edwards explaining a small amount of sulphur released in the perspiration after eating garlic may help prevent insects from biting. “Alternatively, a diluted solution of garlic and water or garlic crushed into petroleum jelly and applied to the skin is helpful in warding off biting bugs,” she says.
While combating cardiovascular disease often involves comprehensive lifestyle changes, taking garlic can also play an important part to lower cholesterol and reduce blood clotting, leading to better circulation and reduced risk of thrombosis.
Garlic’s ability to improve circulation to all parts of the body may be behind its seemingly unlikely reputation as an aphrodisiac. It’s believed that garlic can act as natural Viagra, says Edwards, by improving blood flow and is prescribed by Ayurvedic practitioners to improve virility.
Research by Dr Joerg Gruenwald, of Berlin University, found that garlic’s effect on circulation could be of benefit to any narrowed arteries in the groin. He believes, however, that normal garlic consumption would be insufficient to have an effect and recommends garlic supplements.
We recognise that run-down feeling when it seems every bug and cold is seeking us out, says Edwards. “At times like this, eating relatively large quantities of garlic can be very beneficial,” she says. “It has immune-stimulating properties which, combined with its ability to transport toxins out of the body, make it an excellent fortifier.”