Allium sativum, better known as garlic, is a kitchen staple all over the world. Characterized by its distinctive taste and odor, the edible bulb originates in Asia, though it's consumed globally. While the culinary potential of "the stinking rose" is no secret, less widely known are its medicinal properties. Garlic's medicinal uses are as deep-rooted as its culinary ones; the earliest recorded use of garlic for its health properties dates back thousands of years. Keep reading to understand what makes garlic so popular, and discover its medicinal benefits that you never knew existed.
1. It has antifungal properties
A broad spectrum antibiotic, garlic can be applied directly to the skin to treat fungal infections, like athlete's foot and jock itch. This is due to garlic's active ingredient, allicin, which kills fungi on contact and also gives the herb its distinctive odor.
2. It protects the heart
Garlic's phytocompound allicin is also thought to be responsible for its cardioprotective action. Heart problems, including coronary artery disease (CAD), are most likely to occur in those with high blood pressure; 1,200 mg of garlic extract per day has been shown to reduce blood pressure by up to 8% after as little as one month's use, as well as minimizing the thickening and hardening of the arteries, better known as atherosclerosis.
3. It can prevent and treat common viruses
Garlic is an antiviral herb, and medicinal preparations can work in the respiratory tract to relieve the symptoms of and prevent common viral infections, including colds. It is thought that garlic has this action against many different types of viruses.
4. It is an effective sexual enhancer
At the appropriate doses, garlic relaxes the blood vessels in the body, which improves blood circulation, notably in the genital area, which helps with arousal and has a sustaining effect. This aphrodisiac benefit could be easier to achieve - not to mention less odorous - by consuming a garlic supplement.
5. It is a great insect repellent
While the bad breath and body odor that garlic consumption can cause may be unappealing, insects are even more repelled by it than humans, which makes it an effective natural mosquito repellent. Of course, this may cause a few social issues and end up repelling humans, too; however, you can apply a garlic and water solution topically to your dog's fur to deter fleas.
6. It helps with pest control
The odor of garlic could also be of use to gardeners. Mixing garlic with water to spray on your plants is a natural pesticide to prevent caterpillars, slugs, and other insects from chewing their way through your garden. The garlic aroma will dissipate quickly, but will linger long enough to deter bugs from your herbs. If you are growing vegetables, this should not affect their taste, provided you wash them thoroughly before consuming them.
Increasing your intake of garlic doesn't have to mean using it to season every meal; garlic supplements and oils provide a more concentrated - and less odorous - means of consumption, and you can make an herbal poultice to enjoy its topical benefits, too. Garlic might be of the same family as onion, chive, and leek, but it trumps them all in medicinal power. The many benefits of garlic - both culinary and medicinal - render it one of Mother Nature's finest creations and a resource that's worth making use of in any way you can.