Garlic may help with several health conditions, including high cholesterol, blood clots, and high blood pressure. It also supposedly has antibacterial, antifungal, and anticancer properties. Although garlic appears to be effective in treating several conditions, it is not suitable for everyone. Before using it medicinally, talk to your healthcare provider if you have a bleeding disorder, ulcers, or GERD.
What Is Garlic?
Almost everyone is familiar with the use of garlic in foods. However, garlic is also used medicinally, either in supplements or in raw or cooked form. Most often, people take it for heart health, but it is claimed to provide other health benefits as well.
It is thought that there are a few different active components in garlic, including allicin, ajoene, and S-allyl-L-cysteine. Some forms have more of these active components than others. For instance, freeze-dried preparations contain very little allicin.
For treating high cholesterol, garlic is thought to work by decreasing the production of cholesterol in the liver. It may also have antioxidant effects, which may protect the blood vessels from hardening. In addition, garlic has several effects that "thin" the blood, perhaps reducing the risk of blood clots, but which may also increase the risk of bleeding. For treating high blood pressure, garlic may help to relax the blood vessels and cause them to dilate (open wider), actions that may help lower blood pressure.
Garlic may also have antibacterial, antifungal, and anticancer properties.
Is Garlic Effective?
Garlic is clearly not the "cure-all" that it is often claimed to be. However, it may be effective for a number of different uses (see Does Garlic Work? for more information).
Written by/reviewed by: Kristi Monson, PharmD;Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
Last reviewed by: KristiMonson, PharmD;
List of references (click here):
Jellin JM, editor. Pharmacist's Letter/Prescriber's Letter Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database Web site. Available at: http://naturaldatabase.com/. Accessed January 23, 2008.
National Center for Complimentary and Alternative Medicine. National Institutes of Health. Herbs at a glance: Garlic (March 2007). NCCAM Web site. http://nccam.nih.gov/health/garlic/. Accessed January 23, 2008.
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