Garlic has been used as a medicinal herb since medieval times right up to the modern era where its benefits have been observed and scientifically proven. Historical records indicate that garlic had been used as medicine as a diuretic, digestive aid, antibiotic, anti-parasitic, for colds, infections and a wide variety of other ailments.
If garlic did not work well for so many ailments, it would have fallen out of historical records but because of its multi-faceted health benefits, garlic has been extensively researched over the last two decades and is now truly cemented in medical and human history.
The benefits of garlic
Since the time of the Industrial Revolution, the search for medicinal compounds from plants began to appear. Notable examples include morphine from the opium poppy, aspirin from willow and quinine from the Cinchona bark. This is also the time when research was more intensely focussed on garlic. Scientists wanted to find out why garlic had an odour when cut or crushed, what were it constituents and why did it work for so many ailments.
Scientists found that each clove of garlic has an astonishing 400 plus beneficial compounds found within the oil. One of the key compounds is called allicin. Each bulb of garlic contains an enzyme called allinase which combines with allinin found in the garlic bulb to form the active compound allicin, which has health enhancing properties and gives garlic its distinctive odour even in some supplements. Odourless garlic supplements are generally considered to be inferior since most have low allicin content.
Some of the benefits of garlic:
Nutritionists have long believed that garlic is healthy for the heart working to reduce homocysteine levels in the bloodstream. Homocysteine is an amino acid which damages arterial walls and encourages the deposition of cholesterol onto the arteries.
Research indicates that garlic boosts circulation by increasing the production of hydrogen sulphide. Garlic contains numerous sulphur compounds that may be of benefit in maintaining healthy blood pressure levels and may also aid normal clotting. It is likened to taking low dose aspirin.
Garlic stimulates white blood cell activity required by the immune system for fighting infections including colds and fungal infections including candida. In fact, some studies indicate that garlic fights infections that are often resilient to some antibiotics. Garlic has potent antimicrobial properties and in the 1950’s was used to treat cholera and dysentery. During the First World War, garlic was used to treat battle wounds in the absence of antibiotics.
Garlic has been shown to be of benefit in normalising blood sugar levels and it is thought that this is due to its ability to enhance insulin production.
It is theorised that garlic may enhance testosterone levels in both men and women suggesting that it may be of benefit to boost libido.
These are just some of the main benefits of garlic. Because garlic has blood thinning properties, those of anticoagulant medications should consult their GP before taking any garlic supplements. Eating raw garlic can irritate the digestive system which is why supplements may be a route to take.
So what is Black Garlic?
The above mentioned benefits apply to White Garlic however recently there has been a rise in popularity of Black Garlic. White Garlic becomes Black Garlic following a month-long fermentation process under strictly controlled heat and humidity. This very specific process results is a soft, jelly-like texture that is free from odour and has a taste similar to figs.
From a nutritional point of view, Black Garlic has a much higher content of allicin, the active ingredient in White Garlic that imparts its benefits, but without the odour. Additionally, Black Garlic is rich in amino acids and has almost double the amount of antioxidants when compared to White Garlic. But that is not the whole story.
Black Garlic also contains an additional very specific compound called S-Allycysteine (SAC) in very high concentrations, compared to White Garlic which is water soluble and thus absorbed easily within the body. S-Allylcysteine has been shown to assist with the absorption of allicin. This makes Black Garlic much more effective than White Garlic for all the benefits mentioned above and additionally it is well tolerated by the digestive system so the chance of gastric distress is completely minimised.