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by Sly Holladay

Herbs are plants which possess some of the qualities of food and some of the properties of drugs. A perfect example of this is the well-known culinary and medicinal herb Garlic (Allium sativum). Garlic has been used since the days of the Egyptians to treat wounds, infections, tumors, and intestinal parasites. In addition, this pungent plant is a common ingredient of soups and stews, as well as Italian and Greek dishes such as pesto and spanikopita.

Modern scientific research confirms these ancient uses for garlic, including the ability to lower cholesterol and blood pressure. Increased levels of cholesterol and triglycerides (fats) as well as elevated blood pressure increase the risk of cardiovascular disease, a leading cause of death in western countries. Garlic's sulfur-containing compounds, which lend the herb its pungent, spicy aroma, are responsible for many of its healing properties. Specifically, these compounds lower cholesterol by stimulating the release of bile by the gall bladder (bile contains cholesterol and related compounds) and by decreasing the production of cholesterol in the liver. In addition, garlic compounds gently lower blood pressure by slowing the production of the body's own blood pressure raising hormones.

Garlic also possesses the ability to stimulate the immune system. The bulb stimulates the activity of macrophages, white blood cells which engulf the foreign organisms, such as viruses, bacteria, and yeast. Furthermore, garlic increases the activity of the T-helper cells, immune cells which are central to the activity of the entire immune system. Garlic may be particularly effective in treating upper respiratory viral infections due to its immune-enhancing properties and its ability to clear mucous from the lungs.

Garlic also possesses the ability to inhibit the growth of parasites in the intestines, including amoebas which cause dysentery. It should be noted that amoebic dysentery is a potentially serious condition which requires the assistance of a trained physician. Garlic has also been used in folk medicine in many parts of the world to treat pinworms, an annoying but generally harmless intestinal parasite.

This amazing herb has also demonstrated the ability to protect against a variety of environmental and other toxins. Garlic's sulfur compounds, in addition to selenium containing compounds, are potent antioxidants which protect cell membranes and DNA from damage. Furthermore scientific studies have shown that garlic stimulates the production of the liver's own detoxifying enzymes which neutralize carcinogens and other toxins. The question often arises: What is the best form of garlic to use? Raw or lightly cooked garlic contains a potent array of sulfur compounds which are responsible for many of garlic's healing properties; however, these same substances are also responsible for garlic's often unwanted aroma. On the other hand, a recently observed bumper sticker offers a different point of view: Eat Garlic--It's Chic to Reek! (I swear I'm not making this up). Furthermore, liberal consumption of raw garlic may shorten the stay of unwanted houseguests. Despite these considerable advantages, those wishing to maneuver through life in a more discreet fashion should consider the use of dried garlic which is enterically coated and has the important sulfur compound, allicin, in a stabilized form. Whichever form you choose, I say, "Go for it!" and let the chips--or house guests--fall where they may.

Sources:
Garlic, the Miracle Nutrient, by Dr Earl Mindell
Garlic, Nature's Organic Remedy, by Stephen Fulder & John Blackwood
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