Health Benefits of Garlic
A pungent member of the lily family, garlic does more than flavor your favorite dishes;its antioxidant power, stemming from selenium and other phytochemicals, is being studied for effects on high blood pressure and reducing the risk of certain cancers.
How Does Garlic Do That?
Garlic is believed to have these healthy effects because it contains selenium, an antioxidant that scavenges damaging free radicals in the body.
Something to Celebrate
Gilroy, California is often called the Garlic Capital of the World. This city loves garlic so much that it holds an annual Garlic Festival, where people come to enjoy a wide variety of great tasting dishes featuring garlic as the celebrated ingredient. The festival even offers garlic ice cream!
History of Garlic
Garlic has been consumed since ancient times by many different cultures, and it was often regarded as a medicine.
Ancient Egypt – Garlic was part of the daily diet for many Egyptians. The medical text called the Codex Ebers prescribed garlic as a treatment option for wounds, tumors, circulatory ailments, parasites and low energy. Well preserved garlic cloves were even found in the tomb of King Tutankhamun.
Biblical – According to the Bible, slaves in Egypt were fed garlic to enhance their strength and productivity.
Ancient Greece – Well-preserved garlic cloves have been found in excavations of ancient Greek temples. Soldiers ate garlic before going off to war to give them strength. Hippocrates, often regarded as the father of medicine, recommended eating garlic as a treatment option for a variety of ailments.
Ancient Rome – Like the ancient Greeks, the Romans believed garlic could provide strength and endurance. Garlic was regularly fed to soldiers and sailors. The leading Roman doctors at the time regarded garlic as a form of medicine. The chief physician for Nero’s army recommended garlic because it “cleans the arteries”.
Ancient China – Garlic became a part of the daily diet for the Chinese as early as 2000 B.C. Records also suggest that the ancient Chinese used garlic as a food preservative. Garlic was used as a medicine and prescribed to treat depression, aid in digestion, and provide energy.
Ancient India – Ancient medical texts dating back to 300 A.D. describe garlic as a medicinal treatment for heart disease, arthritis, fatigue, parasites, digestive diseases and leprosy.
Middle Ages – Garlic was grown in monasteries for its perceived medicinal properties. Medical texts of the time recommended garlic to relieve constipation, prevent heat stroke and protect against the Great Plagues.
Renaissance – Garlic, along with other plants believed to possess medicinal value, was grown in gardens in leading universities across Europe. Dr. Pietro Mattioli of Siena prescribed garlic to treat digestive disorders and kidney stones and to help mothers during difficult childbirth. The English used garlic to treat toothache, constipation and plague.
Early America – Native Americans used wild bulbs of garlic in their tea to treat flu-like symptoms. The Home Book of Health, written by John Gunn in 1878, featured garlic as a treatment for infections, asthma and lung disorders.
Garlic can be added to virtually any dish, from pasta sauces, hamburgers and stir-fries to casseroles, grilled vegetables and mashed potatoes. Garlic’s complex flavor can add depth to any recipe. The next time you are tempted to reach for the salt shaker, think again. Try adding some minced garlic instead. Garlic is naturally very low in sodium!
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1. Tingg U. Selenium: its role as antioxidant in human health. Environ Health Prev Med. 2008 Mar; 13(2):102-108.