How much do you really know about this healing herb?
Did you know, for instance, that the original Greek Olympians ate this pungent bulb before competing, believing it to be a source of strength?
Or that Roman soldiers chomped down on the stuff before before heading into battle, and the builders of the Egyptian pyramids survived on a diet of bread and garlic?
Even in the 20th century, medics applied it as a paste, which hasnatural antibacterial qualities—to the wounds of World War II soliders when penicillin was in short supply.
This "stinking rose" is “basically a superfood,” stimulating the immune system and helping ward off illness,
Research has demonstrated the mechanism behind this bulb's amazing antibiotic powers and its cardiovascular and cholesterol lowering benefits.
Biologists from the University of Alabama in Birmingham, USA, have shown how this healing herb can be so effective in lowering cholesterol, lessening blood pressure and protecting your heart, as well as beating infections and boosting your immune system.
It (Allium sativum) has been known as a universal, savory ingredient, even a food in its own right, ever since the ancient Egyptians, Greeks and Romans ate the pungent bulb in large quantities.
The slaves and free men building the Egyptian Pyramids were fed garlic, onions and leeks, and it was an essential part of the rations for Roman legions.
Equally important, these ancient civilizations recognized it's important health protecting powers, attributes that 21 century science is just starting to recognize.
The Health Benefits
In the past couple of decades, this relative of the onion has been touted as an excellent source of Vitamin-C, and more recently as a natural antibiotic, a stimulus to the immune system, and a possible treatment for lowering high blood pressure.
It might also prevent the development of atherosclerosis, which hardens arteries and is the first step in the development of heart disease, by discouraging "bad" LDL cholesterol and increasing "good" HDL cholesterol.
According to the U.S. National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, it's also used to prevent certain types of cancer, including stomach and colon cancers, but there's no scientific evidence to support this theory.
Hydrogen Sulfide Is the Key
This pungent bulb contains a compound called allicin, which the researchers showed stimulates the release of hydrogen sulfide (H2S ), better known as "rotten egg gas", from our red blood cells.
Hydrogen sulfide is lethal in large doses, for humans and animals, as well as bacteria and viruses.
However, in minute doses it relaxes the blood vessels and promotes smooth flow of blood, thus lowering blood pressure and protecting the heart.
Sometimes it's called the "Stinking Rose".
It has a number of different names like that, because it's very potent to our olfactory system, and, it's very toxic.
It's a naturally occurring toxic gas, and if we smell a lot of it, if we get a large whiff of it, it can paralyze our olfactory system and you can succumb to it.
It is lethal...but under high concentration.
Fortunately for us, at low doses it's highly beneficial.
To start with, the University of Alabama researchers took mice blood vessels and bathed them in the juice of crushed cloves.
Measuring the tension within the blood vessels they found the tenseness was reduced by a rather dramatic, 72 percent.
Then they found that the juice was able to stimulate red blood cells to release hydrogen sulfide.
Hydrogen sulfide at low concentrations is also useful in cell-to-cell communication.
It also relaxes the blood vessels promoting easier blood flow within them.
This in turn brings down the blood pressure and lowers the load on the heart.
What research seems to show is that if the benefits of this "Stinking Rose" are related to the release of H2S when it's in the body, then this would be a way to standardize the variety of garlic supplements that are used for clinical trials, to make sure that the patients are all getting the same amount of the compounds that will produce H2S in the body.
Additional research is already showing that the sulfide can protect us from cardiovascular damage during a heart attack.
It can alleviate various sorts of inflammation and it can reduce platelet aggregation that would cause a clot to form.
Sulfide is known to do many of these things already.
It can be shown that this pungent bulb produces sulfide from these compounds.
It's then a very small logical step to say, the sulfide that's produced from garlic is providing these additional benefits.
Supplements or Fresh Cloves?
So, should we all take supplements to maintain healthy hearts and perfect blood pressure, as well as to protect us against colds and flu’s?
Earlier studies into this healing herb's health benefits had failed to produce uniform results mainly because of the way garlic was prepared.
If you prepare it in certain ways, you'll actually lose the compounds that cause it to release hydrogen sulfide.
In fact, the "odorless" supplements are probably a complete waste of money, since the odor is a key to the herb's efficacy.
It's suggested we take ours the way the ancients did...as a food.
Cooked, it retains much of it's efficacy, but naturally raw is better.
An important key though, is to cut, chop or grate your garlic and let it "rest" for 5-10 minutes prior to cooking.
How much of this raw herb should we eat?
How about five or six cloves a day?
We take a small tub of hummus, and take an entire bulb of garlic and chop it up and put it in there and then spread that on bread; you can put it on vegetables, or in vegetable dips, you can use it in pasta sauces and dishes, you can use it in a multitude of different ways.
Your imagination is your only limitation.
in one bulb, there's probably 15 or 20 cloves.
If you plan on following our culinary advice, don't forget the parsley afterward.
A few springs of parsley (Petroselinum sativum) chewed afterward takes most of the odor away.
Be sure your friends and family enjoy the aroma, before you incorporate it too enthusiastically into your diet.
How Cooking Alters Health Effects
While raw, this herb has potent healthful properties, it's also the strongest in taste, so some find the pungency of its raw form too sharp to be enjoyable.
Fortunately, when cooked using a quick-cooking method such as a simple sautee still retains a significant amount of bioactivity.
When it comes to preparation method, crushing or chopping activates the enzymes that lead to many of its healthful benefits, while boiling or microwaving whole cloves will deactivate many of these enzymes.
Some studies have also shown that pungent bulb is more effective in its whole-food form rather than as an extract (powdered or pill form), which is all the more reason to cook with this super bulb rather than simply take supplements.
*** Warning: A Powerful Blood Thinner
This healing herb must be used with caution by people who have a bleeding disorder, or are on blood thinning medication such as aspirin or warfarin, because it's a powerful blood thinner.
Other side effects include bad breath, body odor, heartburn, upset stomach, and allergic reactions.
For a great appetizer before dinner or as a snack any time of the day, try this quick and easy-to-make dip that goes with any type of fresh cut vegetables (such as carrots, celery, cucumbers or bell peppers).
Greatest Garlic Dip
Prep and Cook Time: 5 minutes
2 c. cooked or canned garbanzo beans
1 Tbs. fresh lemon juice
3 cloves, chopped
1/4 c. chicken or vegetable broth
3 Tbs. extra virgin olive oil
Sea salt and pepper to taste
Combine all ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth.
Serve with carrot sticks, celery sticks, broccoli, cauliflower, cherry tomatoes or any raw vegetable of your choice.
And, if you don't know what to have with dinner tonight.
You've gotta try...
Garlicky Smashed Potatoes
These pungent bulbs not only taste great but provide you with extra health benefits from their sulfur-containing compounds
These awesome (and as I call them), garlic "smashed" potatoes, will be creamy and very flavorful without all that butter and cream.
You'll want to try this version for your holiday table, or frankly, as a side dish for any and all occasions.
In fact I can't eat just plain ole smashed spuds any more.
It's gotta be garlic-smashed-potatoes!
2 lbs. Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and cut.
6 garlic cloves, peeled.
1/3 c. fat-free milk, warmed.
1/3 c. fat-free sour cream.
1/2 tsp. fresh ground black pepper.
Chives, freshly chopped.
Boil potatoes and garlic cloves in a large saucepan for 20-25 minutes until potatoes are tender.
Drain and return to pan.
Don't discard the garlic cloves.
Add heated milk and sour cream to the potatoes and garlic, and mash with a potato masher, or with a mixer, until smooth.
Use a little more milk if you prefer thinner mashed potatoes.
Add fresh ground black pepper to taste.
Garnish with some chopped chives and you're set to go.
Makes 6 Servings
These potatoes kick everything up a notch or two and you probably won't want to go back to the plain ole, plain ole again.Tweet
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