The Major Health Benefits of Raw Garlic

Since moving to a tropical climate, I’ve noticed something interesting: I’ve developed an appetite for raw garlic. I’ve always enjoyed garlic in my raw food dishes and have used it medicinally to cure an ear infection. But living in Bali I find myself eating a few cloves of raw garlic at least twice a week.

I was curious why I developed this unexpected craving so I did some research and discovered that raw garlic has powerful medicinal properties with some great health benefits.

Garlic (Allium sativum L.) is part of the lily family and it’s medicinal use dates back to 4000 BCE. It grows well in nearly every climate, so it is known throughout the world. Hippocrates, the founder of western medicine, used garlic in some cancer treatments. In ancient Egypt garlic was valued as a general health tonic and sometimes even used as currency. Later in the middle ages, garlic was used in treating victims of the plaque. Even as late as WW II, garlic was used as an effective replacement for antibiotics.

The Medicinal Properties of Garlic

Garlic is high in sulfur, which accounts for some of it’s medicinal potency. The stronger the taste of the garlic, the higher the sulfur content and the better it is for you. Two other medicinally potent compounds in garlic are Diallyl Sulphides, which increase blood circulation, and Allicin, an anti-biotic, and anti-fungal compound.

In general terms raw garlic is:

A broad spectrum anti-biotic

Highly Anti-fungal

Highly Anti-bacterial

Highly Anti-parasitical

High in antioxidants

And the major health benefits of garlic are:

1. Increases blood circulation and thins the blood – this can lower blood pressure, reduce the likelihood of blood clots and lower the risk of heart attack and stroke

2. Suppresses the growth of tumors

3. Decreases levels of LDL or “bad cholesterol”

4. Stimulates the immune system by increasing blood cell count

5. Supports recovery from cancer

6. Kills some intestinal parasites – this may be related to its potency as a cancer treatment, as some naturopaths consider intestinal parasites to be directly linked to cancer

7. Repels insects – some sulphur in raw garlic passes into the blood and is carried to the skin where it is excreted. This helps to make the skin unattractive to insects

8. Soothes coughs and colds – this is due to garlic’s anti-biotic properties

9. Kills fungi such as athletes foot and warts

It’s important to note that these health benefits only apply to the use of raw garlic. The active compounds in garlic are destroyed by cooking. They are also lost over time. Crushing or chopping raw garlic releases its medicinally potent compounds, which are sensitive to oxidation. It is best to consume the raw fresh garlic shortly after crushing or chopping to get the highest benefit.

How To Use Raw Garlic

Internally – take 1 to 2 cloves or crushed raw garlic every other day. I sometimes just pop a clove in my mouth with some olive oil or avocado and chew it up (to keep it from burning). I also blend it in raw soups, use it in guacamole or sprinkle it over my salad. You can eat raw parsley afterwards to sweeten your breath.

Topically – make a poultice with raw garlic to use on skin infections like athletes foot or warts. Be careful not to irritate the skin by using too much.

As A Tincture – you can use garlic oil drops in the nose, as a gargle or in the ears to fight infection. Make garlic oil drops by mixing one clove crushed garlic with 10ml (4 oz.) pure water.

Garlic is generally very safe, but in some people and at higher doses, it can cause irritation to the stomach and skin. Also people who are on any kind of blood thinning medication not take garlic medicinally without first talking to their doctor. Garlic should be used very sparingly with small children.

A Few Facts About Garlic

Garlic is probably descended from the species Allium longicuspis, which grows wild in south-western Asia

There are now over 300 varieties of garlic

China produces 10.5 billion kilos/year – about 75% of worldwide production

In Northeastern India, it is believed that garlic mixed with water spread around the home will keep snakes from entering

Garlic plants are very hardy and not attacked by pests

A Christian myth considers that after Satan left the Garden of Eden, garlic arose in his left footprint, and onion in the right

Garlic cloves cooked whole have very little medicinal value

Central European folk beliefs considered garlic a powerful ward against demons, werewolves, and vampires

Garlic and onions were invoked as deities by ancient Egyptians at some religious ceremonies

Hidden Health Benefits of Garlic and Onions

Garlic and onions have wonderful health benefits but they also have “hidden” health benefits that can be accessed with a little planning.

ONION: These fantastic bulbs come in white, red, and yellow and are associated with reducing the risk of heart disease, lowering cholesterol levels and reducing blood pressure. Much of this is because of the sulfur containing phytonutrient allyl propyl sulfoxide (which is the cause of the smell and tearing eyes). Studies show the stronger the smell, the more healthy nutrients. Onions also have a high concentration of quercetin which has anti-inflammatory benefits, as well as chromium to help balance blood sugar levels. Other wonderful nutrients include vitamin C, dietary fiber, manganese, molybdenum, B6, tryptophan, folate, potassium, phosphorus, copper, the carotenoidsbeta carotene, lutein, and zeaxanthin, the flavonoids isorhamnetin, kaempferol, and phytosterols.

To get the most health benefits from onions, let themsit for 5-10 minutes after cutting and before cooking or eating. The sulfur containing phytonutrient alliin and the enzyme alliinase are separated in onion’s cell struture when whole. Slicing, chopping, or dicing the onion ruptures the cells and releases the alliin and alliinase allowing them to mingle and form a powerful new compound called thiopropanal sulfoxide to increase the onion’s health promoting benefits. The finer the cut, the more extensive the transformation of the sulfur compounds. Allicin also gives onions it’s pungent aroma and is what makes the eyes tear. The stronger the smell and the more you cry when cutting, the better for your health.

GARLIC: This is an amazing bulb that has been used for both culinary and medicinal purposed for centuries. It has a hot taste as well as a subtle sweetness, adding great flavor to any savory dish. It is a rich source of many vitamins and minerals such as manganese, B6, vitamin C, tryptophan, selenium, calcium, phosphorus, copper, B1, protein, as well as the carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin. It also contains a unique sulfur compound, allicin which promotes antioxidant activity and functions as a powerful antibacterial and antiviral.

Again, to get the most health benefits from garlic, let it sit for 5-10 minutes after cutting and before cooking or eating. The alliin and the enzyme alliinase are separated in garlic’s cell struture when whole. Cutting or pressing the garlic ruptures the cells and releases the alliin and alliinase allowing them to mingle and form a powerful new compound called allicin which is a phytonutrient adding to garlic’s health promoting benefits. The finer the chopping, mincing, pressing, or dicing, the more allicin may be produced. Allicin also gives garlic it’s pungent smell and “bite”. The stronger the smell, the better for your health.

Careful when cooking both onions and garlic as some of the enzymes will be denatured at 158 degrees Fahrenheit. Expose them to as little heat as possible and for as short of time period as possible (less than 15 minutes). This will keep the phytonutrients active. Research has shown that when crushed garlic was heated, it’s ability to inhibit cancer development in animals was blocked; but, when chopped garlic was allowed to sit for 10 minutes before heating the anticancer activity was preserved.

Final tip: to remove the odor of garlic from your fingers, rub them on a stainless steel bowl or spoon under cold running water. Although, in many country’s the sign of a fabulous cook is the aroma of their hands… so dice, chop, press, crush, slice, mince, and cut with abandon to enjoy all the benefits of garlic and onions.