Healing food

Healing Foods: Garlic

The "stinking rose" is blooming with health benefits

BY Jack Challem

PHOTOGRAPHY Mike Lorrig

Sitting on the pantry shelf, a garlic bulb seems innocent enough. It doesn’t need refrigeration to stay fresh and has no pungent odor to speak of. But when the cloves it contains are sliced, diced, or crushed and exposed to air, a series of oxidative chemical reactions occurs, transforming the inert chemical alliin into some 200 biologically active compounds, including allicin.

Last year, David W. Kraus, PhD, of the University of Alabama at Birmingham, and his colleagues showed that human red blood

cells convert allicin and other garlic compounds to hydrogen sulfide, one of the substances that cause garlic breath. Hydrogen sulfide was found to relax blood-vessel cells, helping maintain their flexibility and possibly protecting against hypertension.

“Garlic reduces coronary calcification (which contributes to hardening of the arteries), it reduced cholesterol beyond that of statin drugs (e.g. Lipitor) in one study, and it may lower the risk of gastrointestinal and prostate cancers,” explains Richard Rivlin, MD, of the Weill Medical College of Cornell University in New York, who has spent years studying the health properties of the “stinking rose.”

Garlic has been used to treat a variety of ills for thousands of years

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