Garlic - Food as Medicine
Get to know this highly therapeutic herb
If you haven't got this wonderful little herb stocked in your cupboards, it's time to get on it!
Garlic is excellent for:
- Improving cardiovascular health
- Balancing out gut microbiota imbalances (dysbiosis)
- Thrush and vaginal dysbiosis
- Digestive issues (flatulence, cramping, indigestion)
- Blood sugar imbalances
- Oh! and adding an amazing taste to your dishes
Botanical Name: Allium sativum (L.)
You can consume the entirety of garlic plant e.g. seed, roots, flowers and leaves (scape – dependent upon if the plant is a soft or hard neck cultivation). The peels of the garlic cloves can be steeped in boiling water or added to stews/soups for antioxidant benefits (Future, 2016).
[Image of] Allium Sativum Plant, (Flora of Wisconsin, 2010).
History and traditional, medicinal uses
Globally, throughout history garlic has been used medicinally with the first knowledge dating back to sixth century BC found in Avesta, Zoroastrian holy writings. Garlic was used preventatively and curatively by ancient Egyptians, Greeks, Koreans, Chinese, Indians and many parts of Europe enhancing athletes for stamina and various healing properties such as; anti-inflammatory, anti-carcinogenic, anti-parasitic, anti-bacterial, anti-microbial, antioxidant, immune-tonic, anti-catarrhal, hypolipedaemic, anti-coagulant, cardiovascular protective, hypotensive and even found to be effective with toothaches (Bayan, 2014).
Garlic contains enzymes, volatile constituents, sulfonic acid esters, Gamma-L-glutamic acid polypeptide, polysaccharides, lipids, at least 33 sulphur compounds and 17 amino acids. Its’ sulphur compound ratios are superior to the allium species (HangKyung, 2012).
Below are key contributors to garlic’ therapeutic activities:
Alliin (S-allyl-L-cysteine sulfoxide)
The water-soluble compound, the precursor of allicin and other sulphur compounds exhibiting antioxidant activity (Bhandari, 2014), most abundant phytochemical in garlic. (MD Extracts Professionals, 2018)
The oxidising compound, made from the sulphur group, gives garlic it’s odour, oxidises the haemoglobin in the blood to methaemoglobin. (MD Extracts Professionals, 2018)
Mechanisms of Action and Therapeutic Benefits
Scientific and traditional literature validates significant health benefits related to blood pressure, atherosclerosis, cholesterol, triglycerides, inflammation and fibrinolytic activity (Ried, 2014).
Garlic sulfides can normalise nitric oxide (NO) endothelial cellular synthesis, by interacting with BH4 (tetrahydrobiopterin) and guanylyl cyclase-dependent mechanisms subsequently improving endothelial dysfunction via NO uncoupling and superoxide synthesis pathway inhibition. Garlic’ thiol antioxidants cysteine and glutathione (GSH) regulate cellular signalling, vascular tone and endothelial function by redox reaction modulation and oxidised GSH/reduced GSH ratios. Ultimately, reducing atherosclerotic plaques, inflammation and hypertensive pathways (Ried, 2014).
Antimicrobial Mechanism of Action (MOA):
The sulphur compounds (primarily thiosulphate) within the allicin provide targeted antimicrobial actions against fungi, bacteria, parasites and viruses. Garlic increases sulphide molecules through complex biochemical pathways targeting the cell wall and membrane lipids of gram-negative, gram-positive and acid-fast bacteria in addition to parasites (HangKyung, 2012). Garlic compounds have been shown to infiltrate viral envelopes, preventing the proliferation and penetration of host cells (HangKyung, 2012).
Insulin Resistance MOA:
Animals studies have shown a significant reduction in oxidative damage within intestinal tissue and liver cells by antioxidant action. This thereby increases insulin homeostasis and reduced blood glucose levels. Multiple human studies have supported garlic use with diabetic patients through antioxidant, protective and regenerative activity within the islet of Langerhans pancreatic beta cells in addition to intestinal glucose absorption reduction (Hosseini, 2015).
Cautions, Toxicity and Interactions (including drug and food interactions, any potential allergies, etc.)
In higher doses potential drug Interactions:
- Immuno-suppressants (Cyclosporin).
- NSAIDs (ibuprofen, naproxen) - Interaction inconclusive; due to anti-aggregatory and increased brinolysis, potential antiplatelet activity and increase the risk of intraoperative bleeding.
- Anticoagulants and antiplatelet drugs (warfarin). (Hechtman, 2012)
- Saquinavir (Fortovase, Invirase)
- Medications used for HIV/AIDS (Non-Nucleoside Reverse Transcriptase Inhibitors (NNRTIs))
- Isoniazid (Nydrazid, INH)
- Medications changed by the liver (Cytochrome P450 2E1 (CYP2E1) substrates) (WebMD, 2018)
- If known allergy to alliin/allicin compounds.
- Inhibit use minimum of 10 days prior to surgery. (Bone, 2007)
- Garlic can irritate the gastrointestinal tract (GIT), use with caution if stomach or GIT problems are prevalent (WebMD, 2018).
Toxicity is difficult to obtain, however, in extremely high doses (>350mg/kg body weight/day) garlic can negatively impact the kidney, liver and heart (Fowotade, 2016).
Buying and Storage Recommendations
- Aim for buying fresh, purple, local Australian grown garlic.
- Store with skins on until it’s time to use the cloves.
- Storage temperatures at 10 °C are ideal
(Sustainable Gardening Australia , 2017)