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Long thought of as an essential culinary ingredient, garlic has been cultivated across the globe for more than 5000 years. Used in virtually every cuisine in the world, garlic is uniquely flavorful and aromatic. Beyond its ability to add flavor to cooking, garlic contains beneficial compounds that can have a positive impact on health and has been used as a remedy for various ailments since the ancient and middle centuries. King Tutankhamen’s tomb was found with cloves of garlic in it when it was excavated. The Codex Ebers, a revered text from ancient Egypt, is one of the oldest written records prescribing garlic for abnormal growths, circulatory ailments, general malaise and infestations with insects and parasites.
Garlic, or Allium sativum, has both lipid lowering and blood pressuring lowering potential. The beneficial compound found in garlic is a sulfur containing molecule known as allicin. Allicin has many different biological properties and is responsible for the typical smell and taste of freshly cut or crushed garlic.
The lipid-lowering mechanism of garlic works by increasing the breakdown of fatty acid-containing lipids, such as triglycerides, and inhibiting the formation of cholesterol. Additionally, the saponins found in Allium sativum interfere with the absorption of total and LDL cholesterol resulting in reduced plasma levels of total and LDL cholesterol (1). Allicin has also been linked to garlic’s ability to support healthy blood pressure levels.
Wollschlaeger B, Brinckmann JA., American Botanical Council Clinical Guide to Herbs, 2003
For centuries, garlic has been used to support immune health across the world.
Garlic has a rich history of traditional use in many cultures, ancient medical texts from Egypt, Greece, Rome, China and India each prescribed medical applications for garlic (1). Modern research has proposed that garlic plays a role in the homeostasis of the immune system. Garlic appears to enhance the functioning of the immune system by stimulating certain cell types, such as macrophages, lymphocytes, natural killer (NK) cells, dendritic cells, and eosinophils, by mechanisms including modulation of cytokine secretion, immunoglobulin production, phagocytosis, and macrophage activation (2).
Historical Perspective on the Use of Garlic
Rivlin RS, The Journal of Nutrition, Volume 131. Issue 3, Pages 951S–954S, 2001
Immunomodulation and anti-inflammatory effects of garlic compounds
Arreola R, Quintero-Fabián S, López-Roa RI, et al, J Immunol Res. 2015;2015:401630., 2015