Why garlic is good for health
23 October, 2007
For centuries, garlic has been
believed to be good for health,
especially on account of its
anti-bacterial and anti-fungal
properties as well as the beneficial
effects on the cardiovascular system.
Researchers at the University of
Alabama at Birmingham in the United
States now say that they have found
out precisely why garlic makes such a
valuable health tonic. Garlic enhances
the body’s own production of a
compound that relaxes blood vessels,
increases blood flow, and prevents
blood clots and oxidative damage.
Much of the research into the
pharmacological benefits of garlic has
focused on the organic polysulphides
that the clove is rich in, the best
known of which is allicin.
But the new research suggests that
allicin and similar biologically
active compounds are only a part of
the positive effects of garlic and
that it is the chemical messenger that
is produced when these compounds are
metabolised that is important.
Allicin stimulates the release of
hydrogen sulfide from red blood cells.
Though this compound is lethal in
large doses, in minute doses it
relaxes the blood vessels and promotes
smooth flow of blood, the researchers
In a purely laboratory-based
experiment, researchers bathed the
blood vessels of laboratory mice in a
bath containing crushed garlic juice.
They found that the tension within
these blood vessels was reduced by as
much as 72%.
They also found that garlic juice was
able to stimulate red blood cells to
release hydrogen sulphide. Hydrogen
sulphide at low concentrations is also
useful in cell-to-cell communication.
Garlic relaxes the blood vessels,
promoting easier blood flow within
them. This, in turn, brings down the
blood pressure and lowers the load on
David Kraus, senior researcher at the
University of Alabama, Birmingham,
said that earlier studies had failed
to produce uniform results mainly
because of the way garlic was
prepared. He explained: “If you
prepare it in certain ways, you can
lose the compounds that cause it to
release hydrogen sulfide, so that
helps explain why there has been such
great variability in studies.”
Garlic, or allium sativum, is
one of the most-studies herbs in
relation to heart benefits.
According to the United States
National Center for Complementary and
Alternative Medicine, garlic is also
used to prevent certain types of
cancer, including stomach and colon
cancers, but there is no scientific
evidence to support this theory.
Garlic might also be used in
preventing the development of
arteriosclerosis, which hardens
arteries and is the first step in the
development of heart disease.
However, garlic must be used with
caution in people who have a bleeding
disorder, because it is a powerful
blood thinner. Other side-effects of
garlic include bad breath, body odor,
heartburn, upset stomach, and allergic