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Research reveals new properties of garlic - antibiotic and healing herb

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An antibiotic used since ancient times, garlic has found new converts impressed by its broad range of healing powers. Garlic can help you reach your health peak, and if you are worried about the smell, health food stores now offer an odorless variety.

This versatile herb helps reduce cholesterol, triglycerides and blood pressure, thins the blood to prevent heart attacks and strokes, acts as an expectorant and decongestant to help prevent chronic bronchitis, fights infections and strengthens the immune system.

Garlic is no Johnny-come-lately among health foods. It has a track record that goes back at least 5,000 years. One ancient Egyptian manuscript lists 22 medical ailments for which garlic is recommended, including headaches, throat disorders and physical weakness. Garlic was used as an energy booster by laborers building the pyramids.Ancient physicians on every continent wrote about the curative powers of garlic. More recently, at the start of this century, garlic was used extensively for its antibiotic properties and, for a time, was the therapy of choice in some areas against tuberculosis.

In World War I, garlic was used to treat typhus and dysentery and, in World War II, to ward off septic poisoning and gangrene in battle wounds. It is still a staple in tropical medicine to fight typhus and cholera. Alternative doctors throughout the world use garlic to flush dangerous toxins from the body.

Modern research daily spotlights the cure-all qualities of garlic. A 10-month study by Dr. Arun Bordia at India's Tagore Medical College, revealed that 18 cloves daily drastically reduced the blood cholesterol and fat levels in his patients.

In another experiment, Dr. Bordia divided 62 patients with coronary heart disease and high cholesterol levels into two groups. One group received garlic oil daily -- the equivalent of 18 garlic cloves -- for 10 months. The other group did not.

Those on garlic oil showed better heart health, lower cholesterol (an average drop from 305 to 218) and 83 percent less tendency to form dangerous blood clots.

This study was borne out by Dr. Eric Block, head of the chemistry department at State University of New York, and his associates, who found a chemical in pure garlic that keeps blood platelets from clumping and forming deadly clots that cuase heart attacks and strokes.

Most doctors recommend that people who are prone to develop heart attacks take aspirin as a blood-thinner. Aspirin does the job, but it can cause gastrointestinal bleeding and peptic ulcers with long-term use. Several studies show that garlic oil, particularly if taken with vitamins C and E, magnesium, fish oil and bromelain thins blood as well as aspirin but with virtually none of aspirin's toxic side effects.

If you have been advised to take aspirin by your doctor, please continue to do so until the two of you have discussed the matter fully. If your physician is not convinced, have him/her check the double-blind research published in the Journal of the Orthomolecular Medical Society, Vol. 3, No. 1, 1987, which shows that garlic decreases platelet clotting.

Garlic also can reduce high blood pressure, as doctors throughout the world have discovered. Chinese physicians have used it for this purpose for centuries. The Japanese government has given official recognition to garlic for reducing hypertension. As early as 1921, an American researcher found it effective for this ailment.

In clinical studies, scientists in England, the Soviet Union and bulgaria have found garlic a blood pressure depressor. Physiologist Dr. V. Petkov at the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences has tested garlic many times and finds that daily cloves of garlic lower systolic blood pressure 20 to 30 points and diastolic blood pressure 10 to 20 points.

Versatile garlic also works wonders with respiratory ailments such as colds, flu and bronchitis, according to Irwin Ziment, M.D. professor of medicine at the University of California at Los Angeles.

Garlic acts as a decongestant and expectorant for common colds and as a regulator of mucus for chronic bronchitis. Dr. Ziment claims that garlic acts in a way similar to drug store decongestants and expectorants. Furthermore, daily doses of garlic can help to keep certain susceptible individuals from developing chronic bronchitis.

Jean Carper in her book, The Food Pharmacy, refers to garlic as "one of the stars in cancer research circles," mentioning the success of Russian scientists with garlic extracts against human tumors for almost a generation.

In many animal tests, the Russians have shown that fresh garlic can strengthen the immune system against development of tumors or reverse them once started. Japanese biochemists eradicated breast cancer in mice with fresh garlic, giving credit to one of its ingredients, allicin, for the victory.

A research project in China reveals that people who eat seven cloves of garlic daily are more likely to avoid cancer than those who don't. In one county in Shandong province people relish eating raw garlic daily and in another county people rarely eat it. Twelve times as many of the non garlic-eaters die of gastric cancer as the garlic-eaters.

Why does garlic have this effect? Researchers at the M.D. Anderson Hospital and Tumor Institute in Houston say that the sulfur compounds in garlic (and onions) do the job.

Tarig Abdullah, M.D., and associates at the Akbar Clinic and Research Center in Panama City, Fla., conducted in-depth research on the power of raw garlic and Kyolic garlic extract. They found that both the raw garlic and the garlic extract supercharged the immune system's natural killer cells. Nine test subjects ate from 12 to 15 garlic cloves daily. Nine others took the equivalent amount of garlic extract each day. Nine others took no garlic in any form.

Then the natural killer cells from the blood of each group were mixed with cancer cells. Killer cells from the blood of those who took the raw garlic or the garlic extract annihilated 140 to 160 percent more cancer cells than did the killer cells of those who had no garlic. Dr. Abdullah was so encouraged by these results, he is now testing garlic in AIDS patients. Results have not yet been announced.

Dr. Abdullah said he deliberately prescribed high doses of garlic to be certain he got an effect. However, he believes that even lower amounts can boost immunity. As someone who eats at least two garlic cloves a day, Dr. Abdullah reports he has not had a cold since he began taking garlic in 1973.

Garlic may also be useful for treating herpes simplex. Almost three years ago, an international patent was issued for treating herpes simplex with garlic extract used either topically or orally. It was found that the oral or topical application of garlic or garlic extract markedly inhibited the outbreak of the genital herpes virus. Astoundingly, the garlic extract arrested the growth of virus in lesions after they appear, reduced the number of lesions and enhanced the rapid clearance of the virus and the lesions.

For those who avoid garlic so that they won't be avoided socially, odorless garlic extract is available in health food stores. It seems to pack the same punch as raw garlic.

by Stephen Langer - Better Nutrition (1989-90), April, 1990

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