Journal of Health and Medicine

Garlic: Nutrition, Healing Properties and Health Benefits


Garlic (Allium sativum) is classified as a herb-vegetable and is the most pungent member of the onion family. One of its dominant nutrients is organic sulfur (this is what we most often associate with the smell of garlic) which is biochemically a potent lymphatic tissue cleanser especially valuable in mucus congestion disorders like colds and respiratory infections.

Garlic also has been found to open airways and alleviate asthma. It is even reputedly useful against diabetes, high blood pressure and bacterial infection. Garlic’s characteristic aroma is evident only when the clove is cut or crushed by the oxidation of an otherwise odorless substance called alliin changing into allicin by enzymatic action.

Garlic’s smell doesn’t make you well

Over 3000 studies relating to garlic’s healing properties have been undertaken. Biochemists Arthur Stoll and Ewald Seebeck discovered the “Allicin Pathway” which describes how the odorless alliin converts to the sulfurous smelling allicin through oxidative breakdown and enzymatic action when garlic cloves are cut or crushed.

For years it has been commonly believed that the smelly allicin component of garlic was its major healing chemical – indeed there is still an enormous amount of controversy surrounding this claim – however the majority of scientific evidence supports the view that there are a number of complex organic sulfur compounds in garlic which are responsible for its healing properties and none of them is associated with garlic’s smell!

As a chemical entity, allicin is a highly unstable commodity. Neither eating raw garlic nor cooking with garlic retains the allicin in any useful form, so it was concluded, there had to be other chemical compounds in the herb to account for its healing activities.

As early as the 1950’s, these other compounds had been extensively studied by Doctor Eugene Schnell, former professor of medical chemistry at Berlin University working in Japan as the Administrative Chief of the Japanese Drug Administration.

Dr Schnell worked on developing a safe effective delivery system for garlic extracts with Mr Manji Wakunaga and together they identified the best process for the pharmaceutical manufacture of garlic extracts which retain the healing properties of the herb without its side effects of odor, digestive upsets, dermatitis reactions or diarrhea. The process discovered was a cold temperature aging and extraction of pure organic garlic which can be safely taken in liquid, dry capsule or tablet form.

Garlic’s treasure trove of nutrients

Apart from the disease fighting nature of the garlic compounds, researchers found that garlic is rich in Vitamin B1 (Thiamine) and also promotes the absorption of this vitamin from our foods. Vitamin B1 is important to carbohydrate metabolism and nerve health.

Vitamins C and A are both in garlic as well as a multitude of minerals including Calcium, Magnesium, Phosphorous, Potassium, Iron, Copper, Zinc, Chloride, Selenium, Germanium and of course Sulfur. 17 Amino Acids (those building blocks of protein) also occur in garlic.

Garlic’s treasure trove of nutrients and healing qualities prompted the holding of the First World Congress on the Health Significance of Garlic in 1990 in Washington DC, USA and was chaired by Dr Lin, a major researcher in garlic’s biochemical attributes. Research people from all over the world presented their most recent finding about garlic at the Congress.

Among those contributing was Dr Benjamin Lau whose extensive research on the treatments of major disease utilizing garlic have made him a world authority on the subject. Major disease states that Dr Lau presented papers on with respect to garlic treatments were heart disease (including lowering cholesterol, reducing high blood pressure and high triglyceride levels), certain types of cancer (stomach and prostate), Viral Influenza and Encephalitis.

Garlic has shown excellent results in a host of other disorders too, including intestinal worms, yeast or fungal infections (Thrush and Candida Albicans) and common acne. Last but by no means least, garlic has proven itself as a natural antioxidant and protective nutrient (particularly of the liver tissues).

Dr Lin, chairman of the Congress mentioned above, summarizes the outcome of the world meeting on garlic as proving beyond doubt the value of this herb to improve health, protect against infections and treat major disorders and recommends the increase in the consumption of garlic towards these aids.

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