Garlic is known for its distinct taste and smell whenever it’s cooked and added to various dishes. Garlic has a long history as a culinary spice and medicinal herb. Its Latin name comes from “al” which means burning, and “sativum” which means harvested. Its most widely used part is the head, which is used in cooking to give its distinct taste. Its head is made of 4 – 20 cloves.
The Truth About Garlic
Garlic’s odor is attributed to allicin, an antobiotic and antifungal compound from an odorless sulfur-containing chemical Alliin, which came from the amino acid cysteine.
Because of its distinct taste and aroma, it is a commonly used spice that is mixed with other herbs like ginger and onions in preparing various dishes. Depending on the flavor desired, the method of cooking it could either be mellow or intense. In Northern European cuisine for example, garlic is used in little amounts and is cooked for a long time to diminish its taste.
Garlic contains many other compounds aside from allicin. It has flavanoids, allyl sulfides, quercetin, and antioxidants, making it a useful medicinal herb for centuries and even to this day.
In fact, it is prescribed to treat a variety of health conditions like cough, asthma, noarseness, neuralgia, and earache. It is used as a poultice to cure headache and as liniment for infantile convulsions and other nervous and spasmodic infections.Laboratory research suggests that it can help prevent certain types of cancers, like cancer of the skin, colon and lung. The Iowa Women’s Health Study discovered that women who included garlic in their daily diet had lower risks for colon cancer.
Today, people consume garlic because of its chemicals believed to fight atherosclerosis, a precursor to stroke and heart attack. When plaque begins to build up in the arteries, the blockage will prevent the blood from flowing to the heart, brain and legs, leading to heart attack, stroke or even peripheral vascular disease (PVD). Studies suggest that garlic when eaten fresh or as a supplement can prevent atherosclerosis.
Garlic contains antioxidants. Antioxidants are found in certain food like garlic, green tea, coffee, red wine and apples. These are responsible for fighting free radicals which naturally occur inside the body, and which contribute to the development of health problems such as heart disease and cancer.
Garlic can heal the pain caused by insect bites like those of scorpions and centipedes. The juice of fresh garlic mixed with salt can be applied to bruises, sprains and ringworms.
Garlic is safe for adult use. 2-4 grams of fresh, minced garlic can be eaten each day. However, when eaten excessively, it can leave a distinct odor on the skin and breath, can cause heartburn, upset stomach and allergic reactions. It can also thin the blood so caution is advised to people with blood disorders, to those who will have surgery, and to those who will deliver a baby, about consuming it either fresh or in supplement form. Side effects from taking garlic supplements include headache, fatigue, loss of appetite, muscle aches and dizziness.