Garlic is a perennial plant that is grown throughout the world. It can grow more than 2 feet in height. The compound bulb is the part used for medicine. Each bulb is made up of 4 to 20 cloves (each clove weighs approximately 1 gram). Garlic supplements can either be made from fresh, dried, or aged garlic or garlic oil.
Garlic, Allium sativum, contains several sulfur compounds and alliin. Alliin converts to allicin which gives garlic that characteristic smell when it is crush. Allicin is thought to have antibacterial properties, but some studies suggest that it is a short-lived, unstable compound.
Garlic has been used as both food and a medicine for thousands of years. Garlic cloves can be eaten raw, cooked, in a dried / powder form, in tablets and capsules, or used to make oils.
"Garlic is rich in antioxidants. In your body, harmful particles called free radicals build up as you age and may contribute to heart disease, cancer, and Alzheimer's disease. Antioxidants like those found in garlic fight off free radicals, and may reduce or even help some of the damage they cause over time." - From Penn State Hershey
Traditionally, garlic has been used for high cholesterol, heart disease and some cancers.
Today, garlic is still used to prevent heart disease including atherosclerosis and lowering blood pressure. Atherosclerosis is the hardening of the arteries due to plaque buildup. A 4-year long study found that people taking 900 mg daily of standardized garlic powder slowed the development of atherosclerosis.
In addition, garlic was used to lower cholesterol, but recent studies suggest that garlic does not lower cholesterol.
Garlic is thought to boost the immune system because of the antioxidants it contains. In one study, people that took garlic supplements for 12 weeks during the cold season had fewer colds and if they did catch a cold, the symptoms went away much faster than the people that took a placebo.
Eating garlic regularly may also help protect against cancer. Garlic has been found to kill cancer cells in test tubes. In addition, researchers that reviewed 7 different studies found a 30% reduction in risk of colorectal cancer among people who ate a lot of raw or cooked garlic. Unfortunately, garlic supplements do not seem to have the same effect.
How to Take It
- Whole garlic clove - 2 to 4 grams per day of fresh, minced garlic clove (each clove is approximately 1 gram)
- Aged garlic extract - 600 to 1,200 mg daily, in divided doses
- Tablets of freeze-dried garlic - 200 mg, 2 tablets 3 times daily, standardized to 1.3% alliin or 0.6% allicin (Products may also be found standardized to contain 10 to 12 mg/gm alliin and 4,000 mcg of total allicin potential (TAP))
Garlic may interact with a number of medications. Some of these medications are listed below. But this list does not include every medication that garlic may interact with. To be safe, if you take any prescription medicines, ask your doctor before taking garlic supplements.
Isoniazid (Nydrazid) -- This medication is used to treat tuberculosis. Garlic may lower the amount of isoniazid that the body absorbs, meaning it might not work as well.
Birth control pills -- Garlic may make birth control pills less effective.
Cyclosporine -- Garlic may interact with cyclosporine, a medication taken after organ transplant, and make it less effective.
Blood-thinning medications -- Garlic may make the actions of these medications stronger, increasing the risk of bleeding. Blood thinners include warfarin (Coumadin), clopidogrel (Plavix), and aspirin.
Medications for HIV/AIDS -- Garlic may lower blood levels of protease inhibitors, medications used to treat people with HIV. Protease inhibitors include:
- Amprenavir (Agenerase)
- Fosamprenavir (Lexiva)
- Indinavir (Crixivan)
- Nelfinavir (Viracept)
- Ritonavir (Norvir)
- Saquinavir (Fortovase)
Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) -- Both NSAIDs and garlic may increase the risk of bleeding. NSAIDs include ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) and naproxen (Aleve), as well as prescription medications.
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