The power of a garlic clove

MONDAY, 13 AUGUST 2012

[1] Some bulbs of garlic, an important element in many dishes across the world.

The power of a garlic clove 

Haaaaah. Can you smell that? It’s my garlic breath! What did you say? Yes, I know it’s rather revolting and off-putting (I might actually need to brush my teeth now). Whoops. Anyway, after a few history and international relations articles, I thought I would expand to a cooking and food related piece for a change. All constructive comments for improvement are welcome.

In many cuisines, be it Asian, Italian, Mediterranean, Caribbean, Arabic, Indian, Indo-Chinese (could go on forever)…the use of garlic is extensive to enhance flavour of dishes. Two big cloves of finely chopped garlic in a meat, seafood, vegetable, sauce, chutney, curry recipe and you have the difference between  a respectable dish and your friends and family applauding your strenuous efforts in the kitchen. But what I really wanted to find out was the benefits of the garlic itself, especially having seen it being the central core element of countless dishes. At the dinner table, I was always told that garlic was ‘good for preventing cancer and lowering the high-blood pressure’. Hopefully with some background research done, I can finally understand why it is so, and also learn something new here and there. As National Geographic always says to its audiences, “live curious”. I couldn’t agree more here.

In Latin, garlic is translated as allium sativum, which is in the umbrella family of…you guessed it, Allium. No wonder we say ‘ail’ in French, makes more sense to me now! [1] This group includes shallots, its bigger sibling the onion, their cousins the leeks and chives. In fact, the garlic is used throughout the course of history as a medicine and an important ingredient for many cuisines (as aforementioned) [1]. Additionally, in European culture and superstitions have it that garlic can ward away demons and more importantly, the orthodox belief of vampires! They are usually hung in windows or a doorway. [1] You might want to get some extra pungent ones now! Oh wait…

Now with a brief introduction of the garlic done, I think it is time to really understand the health benefits of the spice itself in detail. The main chemical in garlic that makes it so healthy is called allicin, which after chewing, releases the pungent smelling sulphur compounds in our breaths. [2] Moreover, these compounds release hydrogen sulphide whilst reacting with our red blood cells, which in turn, relaxes the tiring blood vessels, carrying more oxygen, decreasing the heart rate significantly and allows blood circulation to be better. [2] Believe it or not, hydrogen sulphide generates a particular type of odour that is also utilised to make stink bombs as well. However, if taken in small amounts, the garlic can be more beneficial than detrimental to the human body.

Garlic has, as mentioned before, medicinal qualities for a very legitimate reason, curing many different types of symptoms and diseases:

  • Firstly, garlic can cure many symptoms concerning the throat itself, namely asthma, coughs, hesitations in breathing and lung malfunctions. I learnt that to slowly cure asthma, a garlic syrup can be easily made by boiling some garlic bulbs (the whole garlic) with a considerable amount of vinegar until the garlic becomes soft. [1] Once ready, take out the garlic and add sugar, allowing it to turn into a thick texture resembling a type of syrup. Pour over the garlic bulb and allow to dry, preferably to preserve in a glass jar. To consume daily. For sore throats, peel and put a garlic clove and leave in your mouth for about 10 to 15 minutes. Do bite the garlic so that the juice is released and slowly sliding down your throat, relieving your soreness. [1]
  • Secondly, whenever you have insect bites, bruises and sprains from scorpions and centipedes, garlic juice can be mixed with salt to heal them. [1]
  • Thirdly and probably why I started this research article was how garlic can prevent cancer. With an increased consumption of garlic and onion, they both have the ability to reduce the production of cancerous cells in our bodies. [1] In a research carried out in October 2000, the American Journal of Nutrition discovered that people who ate garlic (either raw or cooked) periodically, had 50 per cent less of a possibility to contract stomach cancer and around a third to contract colorectal (something relating to blood vessels) cancer. [1] Given that garlic has many antioxidants namely quercetin and allin, it can prevent cancer agents which normally link themselves to vital organs especially the stomach and lung cancers. [1]
  • Fourthly and lastly, garlic can have immense health benefits in the human body, preventing sickness from many nutrients and allows weight control. By consuming garlic, the immune system in a human body can be a lot stronger, preventing common maladies or malfunctions namely colds and helps relieve the nasal area to breathe better. [1] This is particularly because garlic is a great source of vitamins C and B6, being important antioxidants and enhancing immune functions of the body. Furthermore, according to a research made by the American Journal of Hypertension, garlic, as aforementioned, has a very important substance called allicin, which can also prevent weight gain. [1]
In conclusion, garlic is an essential ingredient to many cultures and cuisines, which has been used extensively to cure different types of symptoms throughout the course of history namely sore throats, nasal blockage and most importantly, various types of cancer. There is no doubting the power of the garlic clove itself, with its main substance the allicin being very beneficial to the human body. It is definitely advisable to consume the garlic daily, but obviously with it having the ability to reduce one’s blood pressure mainly due to the sulfuric compounds, we should be wary not to take too much. A perfect case of ‘less is more’. And then, for those of you who were not too fond of the garlic clove itself, why not give it a good go, and maybe try eating more in the future?
Thank you again for reading my article, stay tuned for more.
Bye now!

References 
[1] http://lukehoney.typepad.com/photos/uncategorized/2008/03/20/garlic1.jpg
[2] http://www.disabled-world.com/artman/publish/garlic-benefit.shtml
[3] http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/health/7045557.stm

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