Whether you love it or hate it, garlic is at the core of cuisines worldwide. Its bitter and complex flavor makes it a great addition to a variety of savory dishes. More importantly, garlic benefits include medicinal properties and potent healthful compounds that work together to support every system within your body. So what makes garlic such a powerful medicine?
How Garlic Works
This well-known spice had remarkable healing qualities by virtue of the phytochemical allicin. In fact, allicin has been found to have profound antioxidant, antibiotic, anti-hypertension, anti-cancer, and lipid-lowering (cholesterol) effects. (1)
Allicin doesn’t exist in its pure state in raw garlic; it is produced when a clove is broken and accounts for the pungent aroma—a defense mechanism for the plant as it grows. It’s necessary to crush or mince garlic and give it a few minutes for enzymes to go through the process of creating allicin in order to reap its medicinal benefits. Additionally, cooking garlic at high heat destroys this powerful compound.
Following are 15 ways that garlic benefits that improve human health—all without a prescription.
15 Proven Garlic Benefits
Eat at least raw 2-3 cloves each day to get the most of these effects.
1. Kills Anthrax
This is a killer bacterium that afflicts humans and other animals. Allicin from fresh-cut garlic eradicates this (and most other) bacteria better than most pharmaceutical antibiotics. (2)
2. Natural Antibiotic
Antibiotic resistance is a worldwide concern, as the mis- and over-use of antibiotics have led to bacterial adaptation that makes the medications impotent. This poses a serious hazard for even common infections that can now become life-threatening illnesses.
Garlic kills common bacteria below with no adverse effects:
- Campylobacter jejuni (food poisoning) (3)
- Pseudomonas aeruginoasa (urinary tract infection, pneumonia) (4)
- Bacillus subtilus (food poisoning) (5)
- coli and Staphylococcus aureus (infections of the urinary tract and skin, meningitis, and others) (6)
- Klebsiella pneumonia (pneumonia, urinary tract and blood infection, meningitis) (7)
- Shigella sonnei (diarrhea/dysentery) (8)
- Salmonella typhi (typhoid fever) – a particular African study wrote:
“Crude garlic extract inhibited the growth of S. typhi…This inhibition was superior to that of all the conventional antibiotics used except streptomycin…garlic may possess immune-stimulatory effect in addition to its antibacterial effect.” (9)
- Helicobacter pylori (gastroesophageal ulcers and cancer)
“…lack of [bacteria] resistance [to garlic] has been observed repeatedly; even toxin production by microorganisms is prevented by garlic. Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) is a bacterium implicated in the etiology of stomach cancer and ulcers. The incidence of stomach cancer is lower in populations with a high intake of allium vegetables.” (10)
3. Better than the Most Powerful Antibiotic
Vancomycin is currently the antibiotic drug of last resort because it negatively interacts with dozens of other medications and has numerous negative side effects. (11, 12) The drug kills bacterial infections in the intestines, but it can cure everything. Garlic kills bacteria that even vancomycin can’t. (13)
4. Safe for Gut Bacteria
Part of the problem with antibiotic drugs is that they kill all bacteria, the friendly as well as the harmful. This is tremendously problematic, as probiotic bacteria are essential for fighting off invading organisms and overall human health. But garlic knows the difference. Better yet, garlic contains prebiotic oligosaccharides, which are non-digestible carbohydrates that feed resident probiotic (“good”) bacteria. (14)
5. Blood Pressure
In the Journal of Pharmaceutical Science, study results showed garlic to work better than atenolol, a popular beta-blocker hypertension medication. (15) Unlike beta-blockers, garlic reduces blood pressure in people with hypertension but not in people with normal blood pressure, so is safe for everyone. (16)
6. Prevents Blood Clots
Up until a few years ago, a daily aspirin was recommended by the medical establishment as a preventive measure against blood clots that can cause heart attack and stroke. That recommendation has been rescinded by the Food and Drug Administration. However, many medical professionals still advise it. When it comes to natural anti-coagulants, allicin is top of the list. “…allicin were [was a] significantly more potent platelet inhibitors than aspirin at nearly equivalent concentrations”. (17)
7. Stabilizes Blood Sugar
There’s no question that obesity and diabetes have become epidemic, especially in the industrialized world. Our bodies are overwhelmed by refined sugars and artificial sweeteners that stimulate insulin production, resulting in insulin resistance over time. High fructose corn syrup is almost ubiquitous in processed foods and is wreaking havoc with our bodies. Raw garlic moderates blood sugar levels and reduces inflammation and oxidative stress caused by consuming too much sugar . Furthermore, garlic improves insulin sensitivity to support our bodies’ own method of managing blood sugar. (18, 19)
8. Prevents Heart Disease
Statin drugs have been prescribed for decades now to reduce LDL (“bad”) cholesterol, as chronically high LDL has been linked to atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries) and cardiovascular disease. Garlic regulates cholesterol, moderates blood pressure, helps in metabolizing fats, increases antioxidant levels, and prevents arterial plaque build-up. (20, 21, 22) Statin drugs are only marginally effective and can cause other serious conditions, such as liver damage, diabetes, cancer, and neurodegeneration.
9. Fights HIV/AIDS and Stomach Cancer
AZT (azidothymidine or dizovudine) is the drug cocktail used to treat human immunovirus (HIV) that causes AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome). It works by inhibiting the virus’ ability to replicate. AZT is potent and laden with adverse side effects. (23) When tested for its effect on stomach cancer cells, this drug was found to stall growth and so has been used in cancer chemotherapy as well.
Allicin in garlic is supremely effective against gastric cancer cells; two studies went so far to say that it works better than conventional chemotherapy drugs (including AZT) and with no toxic side effects. (24, 25)
While no studies have yet to explore garlic’s efficacy in treating HIV, it is known to be an anti-viral and immune system booster. One caveat: garlic is known to impede the actions of antiretroviral drugs used to treat HIV (such as AZT) and is contraindicated for people already taking this type of medication. For those with HIV who are not taking conventional drugs, garlic may be an alternative. (26)
10. Lead Detox
Lead is a heavy metal neurotoxin for humans and its found in household products and even food. Garlic is more effective and safer for treating lead poisoning than its pharmaceutical counterparts. (27)
11. Prevents Lung Cancer
Garlic breath may be pungent but that’s how you know it’s working to support your lungs. The organosulfur compounds in garlic are especially supportive of lung health. One study found that eating raw garlic at least twice a week can reduce the risk of lung cancer by 44%. Allicin in garlic also fights pneumonia infection and eases congestion.
12. Pancreas Support
The pancreas is responsible for secreting insulin, the body’s hormone for metabolizing blood sugar into cell energy. Now more than ever, the pancreas is often overwhelmed by the amount of insulin and other hormones it has to produce to counteract the over-consumption of sugars. We hear a lot about type 2 diabetes, which almost always is caused by diet and lifestyle. Type 1 diabetes (also known as juvenile or insulin-dependent diabetes) is a chronic autoimmune disease and is different from type 2 in that the pancreas secretes little or no insulin. (28)
Allicin in garlic repairs pancreatic tissue, which allows for the production of insulin. It’s been recommended for prevention and therapy for type 1 diabetes. (29)
13. Safe During Pregnancy
All pharmaceuticals are suspect for pregnant women because of potential harm to the developing baby. Garlic is safe to eat while pregnant. Group B Strep (GBS) is a fairly common bacterium that infects women during pregnancy, so much so that routine tests for the virus are performed during the third trimester. If untreated, GBS can cause stillbirth and be passed to the infant. Garlic has been proven effective in killing this infection while inflicting no harm to mother or child. (30)
14. Tuberculosis Treatment
TB is one of the leading causes of death worldwide (often in conjunction with HIV), especially in developing countries. Strains of TB have evolved that are highly resistant to conventional antibiotics, allowing this highly contagious disease to spread. The potential for pandemic is very real if this pathogen isn’t curbed. Garlic extract kills TB bacteria by inhibiting protein synthesis while stimulating immune cell activity and counteracting inflammation. (31) Further, garlic works quickly, showing a significant reduction in bacterial infection within 24 hours of administration. (32)
15. Candida Solution
Candida albicans is a normal fungus that lives in the digestive tract. When it grows out of control, women can suffer with a vaginal yeast infection. For many, it’s a chronic condition. Prescription ointments and suppositories are the most popular form of treatment but garlic has them beat. Research has shown allicin is equally or more effective than common pharmaceuticals in suppressing Candida growth (drug: fluconazole) and more effective at killing Candida (drug: nystatin). (33, 34) For ways to prevent infection, click here.
Many, if not all, pharmaceuticals are based on naturally-occurring substances—the laboratory imitates nature. In some ways it’s easier to pop a pill than to implement diet changes and change your daily life. The issues with synthetic drugs become increasingly dire as their long-term effects are now manifesting after decades of use.
The human body doesn’t like foreign substances of any kind. From a splinter to a virus, coping mechanisms kick in to fix the problem. A laboratory chemical may alleviate a symptom but it will never cure a problem because it isn’t part of natural human chemistry and the body will somehow fight against it.
Rather than popping that pill that is based on nature, it makes sense to use the natural substance at the outset. Your body recognizes these garlic benefits and can use them to actually heal and promote wellness.
This is by no means an exhaustive list of all the ways garlic can replace pharmaceuticals. It is a start and hopefully provides some insight into just one small sample of Nature’s medicine cabinet.