The COVID-19 pandemic has made many people aware of the need to be vigilant in diet and health care. And garlic has been regarded as a food with good health effects for thousands of years in the East and West. What are the real benefits of garlic? How do you eat it to get the most benefits?
Dr. Jonathan Liu, a practitioner of traditional Chinese medicine, said on the program “Health 1+1” that if you know the right way to eat garlic, its resulting health benefits could be even more apparent than ginseng’s! Garlic can effectively reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases (CVD) and alleviate respiratory symptoms related to COVID-19.
Liu said that in the hot desert, the slaves who built the pyramids in ancient Egypt used garlic to keep them fit and healthy. Indian traditional medicine uses garlic to treat dysuria, asthma, and rheumatism. Hippocrates of Kos, the eminent Greek physician in the Bible’s Hebrew discipline, and Pliny the Elder, a Roman scholar, both mentioned the use of garlic to treat parasites, respiratory diseases, or indigestion.
During the Han Dynasty, Zhang Qian went on a mission to the Western regions and brought garlic back to China from Central Asia. Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) then also started to recognize its medicinal value. In the “Compendium of Materia Medica” written by Li Shizhen, a medical scientist in the Ming Dynasty, there is a case recording the medicinal use of garlic. For a nosebleed, you can mash garlic, make it into a lump, then flatten it into a small sheet. Apply it on the Yongquan acupoint on the foot sole of the side of the bleeding nostril. The bleeding will soon stop.
During the Tang Dynasty, garlic was used to treat skin ulcer infections. An official surnamed Lu suffered from severe pain due to shoulder sores. The doctor mashed the garlic into a paste, mixed it with sesame oil, and applied it to the affected area. It was replaced by a new paste once the last one became dry. This was repeated a few times and the skin ulcer healed. Another officer surnamed Li had a bacterial skin infection on his head that was also cured with such a garlic paste. All of these cases are duly recorded in the “Compendium of Materia Medica.”
The Miraculous Effects of Garlic
Garlic is rich in nutrients such as calcium, potassium, and phosphorus. The strong smell in garlic comes from a kind of capsaicin called propylene sulfide, which has a bactericidal effect. During World War II, although penicillin was invented by then, it was still not in mass production due to immature technology. Soldiers were still disinfected with garlic after suffering injuries on the battlefield.
Garlic can be used daily to treat diarrhea, and fever with aches, pains, and fever without sweating. Liu said that the general living conditions in China in the 1980s were still not very good. When people suffered from colds, they usually ate half a piece of garlic to induce sweating, and the cold would be cured in most cases. There was even one miraculous case. When a TCM physician suffered from a toothache, he applied mashed garlic for one night on the Yangxi acupoint corresponding to the tooth, and the toothache was 90 percent healed the next day.
TCM believes that the human body has 12 main meridians corresponding to the 12 viscera, and from these viscera, it further circulates to the hands, feet, head, and face. The meridian system is responsible for transporting qi and “blood” to the whole body. These are the basic substances that constitute the human body and maintain its physiological activities. Blockage of the meridians will affect the movement of these substances, allowing “evil qi” or “disease qi” (various factors that cause diseases) to prosper, resulting in complications within the body.
Acupoints refer to special points on the meridian lines of the human body, mostly where there are many nerve endings and blood vessels. TCM can stimulate the corresponding acupoints through acupuncture, massage, and the like, which can enhance the circulation of qi and blood, overcome the blockage of the meridians, restore the meridian system to normalcy, and thus cure the disease.
Garlic for Respiratory Diseases
With COVID-19 wreaking havoc around the world, Liu said that garlic will enhance the protection of the upper respiratory tract and relieve the symptoms of infection. He listed the following internal and external applications of garlic:
1. Garlic With Scallions
Ingredients: 25 grams (0.9 ounce) of garlic, minced, 50 grams (1.8 ounces) of scallions, cut in half
Preparation: Decoct in 500 ml (1 pint) of hot water, and boil for another 10 minutes. Have 150 ml (0.3 pint) three times a day. As long as you sweat after drinking, symptoms such as colds, stuffy nose, and runny nose will be relieved quickly.
2. Garlic With Ginger
Ingredients: three pieces of garlic, three slices of ginger, and a handful of tea leaves
Preparation: After boiling with 500 ml (1 pint) of water, cook for about 10 minutes and then turn off the flame. Drink until sweating. It is especially effective in treating flu symptoms.
3. Garlic With Honey
Ingredients: three pieces of garlic, honey
Preparation: Mash the garlic into a paste and put it into a pot. Add water until boiling, then turn off the flame. Add a spoonful of honey and stir well to serve. Alternatively, put the garlic directly into the honey and leave it under seal there for a week, and then take two cloves of garlic each time to eat. Do it two to three times a day. This is mainly to treat common colds.
4. Garlic With Tangerine Peel
Ingredients: 50 grams (1.8 ounces) of garlic, 15 grams (0.5 ounce) of tangerine peel
Preparation: Chop the two and cook together, filter out the residue, and leave the juice. Drink it twice a day for three days to eradicate mild cough.
5. External Application of Garlic Paste
Ingredients: Garlic is mashed and made into a paste and molded into thin sheets
Preparation: Apply externally on the Yongquan acupoint on the foot sole. Before applying, smear a layer of Vaseline on the sole first, and wrap it with a gauze bandage. In general, coughing will stop after three to five consecutive applications.
Garlic Reduces Risk of Cardiovascular Disease (CVD)
In addition to dealing with respiratory symptoms related to the pandemic, many studies have confirmed that garlic has multiple effects in preventing CVD, including lowering cholesterol, blood pressure, and triglycerides.
A study published in The Journal of Nutrition in 2001 found that water-soluble organic sulfuric compounds in garlic can effectively inhibit cholesterol synthesis, especially S-allyl cysteine (SAC), which can effectively reduce cholesterol levels within the blood.
Another research review published in the journal Antioxidants (Basel) in 2020 showed that garlic has anti-inflammatory and lipid-lowering properties, antioxidant capacity, and heart benefits.
CVD is prevalent and is a common cause of death. Liu recommends a few Chinese recipes for garlic that help prevent CVD.
1. Garlic Porridge
Ingredients: 30 grams (1 ounce) of garlic, 100 grams (3.5 ounces) of rice
Preparation: Remove the garlic peel, and cook it in boiling water with rice. This helps improve high blood lipids.
2. Garlic Vegetable Broth
Ingredients: 20 grams (0.7 ounce) of garlic, lean pork, fungus, ginger, jujube
Preparation: Add all ingredients and water, cook thoroughly, and add salt to serve.
Lean pork is low in fat, and fungus can help eliminate microcirculation obstacles. Eating it once a day can promote blood circulation and lower blood lipids and blood pressure, especially for those with hyperlipidemia or arteriosclerosis. Sticking to this diet for a long time can effectively reduce the risk of CVD.
Caveat: Too Much Garlic Can Hurt the Stomach
Although garlic has many benefits, excessive intake can cause physical discomfort.
- Overstimulation of the gastrointestinal tract: The capsaicin in garlic may cause stomach pain.
- Anemia: Garlic will reduce the hemoglobin of both the red blood and white blood cells, thereby reducing the oxygen-carrying capacity, and may cause anemia.
- Diarrhea: Allicin in garlic will stimulate the stomach. If the stomach is already in some unfavorable condition, eating garlic will make the already congested and edematous intestines react more vigorously and aggravate the symptoms of diarrhea.
- Odor: Its strong smell is difficult to eliminate.
If you want to eliminate the bad smell resulting from eating garlic, Liu offers the following three ways:
- Fresh fruit: Apples contain an enzyme that can convert the residual garlic smell in the mouth into odorless molecules.
- Milk: After eating garlic, have some warm milk. The combination of protein and allicin can significantly reduce the garlic smell.
- Tea beverages: Traditional green tea or oolong tea contains tea polyphenols, which can eliminate the garlic smell.