Garlic's Nutrients & Antifungal Activity

© Copyright Bee Wilder

Garlic (Allium sativum) is a member of the Lily family, which contains over 6,000 species including well-known edible plants such as onion, chives, leek, and shallot.

The ancient Egyptians, Greeks, Chinese, Indians and Romans all advocated the therapeutic value of garlic in the treatment of ailments ranging from eye disorders, sore throats and headaches to old age. It was even know as an aphrodisiac.

More recently, garlic was used in the First and Second World War both as an oral medicine to treat battleground infections and as a wound dressing. It was a great success in both applications.

Modern medicine is now investigating garlic's traditional properties and, surprisingly, several of them are standing up to scientific scrutiny. Clinical ecologists are particularly interested in it as an antifungal, detoxifier and immune-system regulator.

Garlic is also very effective in treating lung disorders, i.e. coughs, bronchitis, pneumonia, etc., by drinking 4 to 5 cups of garlic tea per day.

Antibiotic Activity

Louis Pasteur commented on the bactericidal (bacteria – killing) effect of fresh garlic juice when dropped onto growing bacterial colonies. Over the years studies have shown that fresh garlic juice inhibits the growth of Staphylococcus (wound infection), Brucella (brucellosis), Salmonella (Typhoid) and several other bacteria. The action was comparable in vitro (in the laboratory) with that of several antibiotics including penicillin, streptomycin, chloramphenicol, tetracycline and erythromycin.

Antifungal Activity

The action of garlic on yeast and fungi is perhaps even more dramatic. One study showed that growth of all soil fungi was totally inhibited by an aqueous garlic extract. Medically-important fungi and yeasts (notably Candida albicans are also inhibited and then killed by increasing concentrations.

This is particularly useful, since the range of antifungal agents available to the practitioner is far smaller than the range of antibacterial agents, resulting in fewer alternative treatment regimes if complications occur. Garlic, of course, has far less risk of side-effects than most antifungals and can be used indefinitely in quite large amounts (the patient's nearest and dearest permitting!).

To treat babies or small children with garlic, rub raw crushed garlic into their feet.

Immune Modulator

New scientific data shows that garlic can be a potent immune-regulator. Researcher used mice implanted with transitional carcinoma (cancer) and introduced garlic extract both systemically (into the whole body) and into the actual tumors. They found that the tumors were reused and/or eliminated and that the degree of beneficial effect corresponded with the dosage level and length of garlic treatment.

In humans, garlic has been shown to enhance the activity of natural killer (NK) cells. These are cells that act as part of the immune defense system and can destroy some types of tumor cells.

Detoxification and Antioxidant Activities

Garlic contains significant amounts of vitamins A, C, B1, iron, copper, zinc, calcium and sulphur. It is a rich source of organically-bound selenium and germanium. Nutritionally, selenium is known to aid in detoxifying heavy metals and this may explain why garlic has been shown to be effective in countering lead, mercury, cadmium and arsenic poisoning.

There is a growing awareness of the damaging contribution that free radicals make to many degenerative conditions including cancer and ageing (see anti-oxidants). Garlic has been shown to have a free-radical scavenging activity, probably because of the oxidation potential of many of the free sulphur compounds in garlic and also from the selenium, zinc and glutathione found in garlic and known to enhance the concentration of certain antioxidant enzymes super oxide dismutase and gluta-thione peroxidase.

Garlic's antibacterial and antifungal activities come from allicin and ajoene respectively. Allicin is also responsible for the characteristic odor of garlic.

Raw Garlic versus Garlic Supplements

The very best form of garlic is raw and crushed, preferably certified organic. Be cautious about buying regular commercial garlic since some may be irradiated. When raw garlic is crushed it starts a chemical process which creates allicin and ajoene.

Crush raw garlic with the blade of a broad knife, or put it through a garlic press.

There are a variety of garlic supplements currently available from health food shops and chemists. Most of them are 'garlic pearls' which contain various amounts of garlic oil. There are also garlic tablets that contain dried powered garlic. Commercial garlic oil contains little allicin and ajoene, due to the heat extraction process: thus a great deal of the antimicrobial function is lost.

Homemade Garlic Oil

You can easily make your own garlic oil by crushing up and mincing enough garlic cloves to fill 1/4 cup. Put 1 cup of extra virgin olive oil or coconut oil in a jar with a tight fitting lid. Add the 1/4 cup of minced garlic. Keep at room temperature for 14 days, preferably in direct sunlight, and shake it once every day.

Garlic powders and tablets offer greater reliability in ensuring that at least some of the antimicrobial substances are still present. However these products can be very variable and some are useless. The best powders are those where freshly chopped or pureed garlic is used and has not been heated or dried for long periods, thus preserving the antimicrobial components. Best of all are freeze-dried preparations like Kyolic.

Garlic Tea

Another very effective way to get the benefits of raw garlic is by drinking garlic tea:

  • Boil 4 cups of filtered water, and remove it from the heat.
  • Add 4-5 large crushed cloves of garlic.
  • Add the juice of one lemon, freshly squeezed.
  • Drink 4 cups throughout the course of a day. It is good hot or cold. It may be reheated, but do not bring it to a boil.
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