Garlic (Allium sativum) is a type of plant of which the bulb portion is often used in the kitchen. Garlic has been known for the flavor it provides in soups, stews, casseroles and stir-frys. The benefits and uses of this plant go beyond typical household use. Garlic is also beneficial for human health as it has the ability to ward off sicknesses and prevent illness by strengthening the immune system. Some of the more specific ailments that garlic is known to heal are cancers, issues concerning the gastrointestinal tract for example, irritable bowel syndrome or disease, and infections triggered by bacteria, yeasts, parasites and fungi. Due to garlic’s unique strong odor, garlic can also work to rid the body of parasites. The major conditions garlic is used to prevent or recover from are various internal inflammations, infections. Garlic is also known for and used to improve immunity (G. Gebreyohannes, M. Gebreyohannes, 2013).
There is no standard dosage of garlic for individuals, but the dosage is dependant on the condition being treated, the age of the consumer, and a list of other factors which healthcare providers consider before deciding that garlic is the reasonable source of treatment for the patient. In the several different studies examined for this paper the trial dose ranged from as 4000 micrograms to as much as 2.5 grams of garlic (G. Gebreyohannes, M. Gebreyohannes, 2013; Percival, 2016). Over the counter supplements that are available to the general public range from 0.4 milligrams of garlic powder to 1000 milligrams of garlic extract (“Garlic uses, benefits & dosage,” 2017). Garlic extract will be more potent than garlic powder, but the most potent form is the fresh bulb. Garlic is a natural and inexpensive treatment and preventive measure for various ailments of human health.
According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, some of the side effects of consuming garlic especially in the raw form are bad breath, bad body odor, a puffy abdomen, nausea and upset stomach. The reactions to those having a confirmed or suspected garlic allergy, sensitivity or intolerance to garlic could be more severe. Using garlic in any form to treat medically related conditions without medical supervision, or if an allergy or sensitivity is known or suspected, is cautioned against (Erlich, 2015).
Garlic’s strength and ability to treat disease and infections depend on the form of garlic that is consumed by the individual. Garlic works best in the natural state, in other words, from the raw bulb which has been chopped, smashed, pureed, rather that in other forms such as powders or teas (Arreola, et al. 2015). “The sulfur compounds found in fresh garlic appear to be nearly 1000 times more potent as antioxidants than crude, aged garlic extract” (Gebreyohannes, Gebreyohannes, 2013). Crushing the bulb is important because it is in this process that allicin is activated. Allicin is stimulated when allicin interacts with garlic’s natural enzyme, alliinase, which happens when the bulb is disfigured (Khalil, et al. 2015).
Garlic works to strengthen the immune system by inhibiting the factors that are involved in the inflammatory response. Some of these factors include the cytokines, THF-a and IL-1b prostoglandin-E2, and the chemokines (Rabe et al. 2015). Garlic is a safe, natural, and affordable medicinal treatment to certain conditions under the supervision of a doctor or another healthcare provider. Garlic’s method of action lies in the natural compounds, such as allicin, which work to trigger the activation of the T cells in the blood. These natural compounds are a type of lymphocyte in the blood that work to inhibit the release of the immune system’s neurotransmitter, histamine. In one study, laboratory test animals were given garlic to treat the inflammation of the fat cells caused by lipopolysaccharides. There was a decrease of inflammation due to the sulfur compound, allicin, which works to prevent the inflammatory response (Arreola, et al. 2015).
The elements in the garlic that enhance the immune system are the fructo-oligosaccharide sugars as well as the antioxidant-amino acid compound, Na-fructosyl arginine. A study was carried out to test the theorized ability of garlic to bring down inflammation. The garlic compounds reduced the cytokine and nitric oxide activity after just one hour of the test animals receiving a dose of 10-30mg/mL of the 14-kDa protein (Rabe, et al. 2015). From this study it can be inferred that garlic has anti-inflammatory properties and can be used for this purpose under medical supervision.
In one study a group of sixty adults, both male and female, took 2.56 grams of garlic extract for a period ninety consecutive days. Another group of sixty members of both genders served as a control group. The purpose of the study was to test the influence of garlic on the human immune system. The individuals who used the garlic had less severe flu and cold symptoms. As hypothesized, the control group reported no change (Percival, 2016).
The active compounds in garlic, in particular allicin, enable garlic to have the ability to fight infections and inflammations triggered by bacteria, viruses or fungi (Gebreyohannes, et al. 2013). “It [can]…be hypothesized that garlic acts as an immune modulator…shift[ing] the balance from a pro-inflammatory and immunosuppressive environment to an enhanced anti-tumor response leading to suppression of an emerging tumor” (Schaefer & Kaschula, 2014). Garlic also strengthens the immune system by enhancing the activity of the natural killer cells of the immune system. One study on garlic as a treatment for AIDS was conducted on seven subjects who daily ingested 5-10 grams of garlic extract for twelve weeks. The results showed an increase of activity of the natural killer cells. Other studies demonstrate that garlic is an effective treatment for both herpes and the flu virus. Garlic works as an antioxidant to free the body of free radicals (Gebreyohannes, et al. 2013).
Having a well-balanced diet of fresh produce, including garlic, can greatly benefit the immune system and help the body to fight various illnesses, infections, and inflammation. Adding garlic to one’s daily diet is beneficial for strengthening the immune system and preventing viral infection, bacterial overgrowth and infections, and preventing cancers from taking over in the body. The sulfur compounds of garlic are responsible for the benefits garlic has on health. The maximum benefit of garlic is reaped fresh garlic soon after the bulb has been disfigured. Allicin changes form with time and is therefore no longer beneficially potent, garlic’s benefits on the immune system decrease with time after crushing the bulb (Schäfer, et al. 2014).
The anti-inflammatory response that garlic has on the immune system comes from the ability of the thiosulfinate, allicin, in the garlic that binds with the amino acid cysteine and inhibits the activity of the immune system’s inflammatory response. Garlic also inhibits the activation of the pro-inflammatory response factor of the B-cells, suppressing the action of the cytokines (Zardast, et al. 2016).
Garlic is a natural remedy for the treatment of Helicobactor pylori (H. pylori) infections. H. pylori is a bacteria that is a common disease-causing agent in the stomach creating inflammation. A study was performed with a control group as well as fifteen individuals including four males and eleven females. These individuals registered positive for a H. pylori infection. The fifteen control group participants took three grams of fresh garlic two times a day over the course of three days. The results showed a decrease in the population of the H. pylori bacteria in the group that consumed the garlic (Zardast, et al. 2016).
Using garlic, especially in the form of oil, as a treatment, appears to be more easily accepted by patients as opposed to drug treatment due to the intolerance of antibiotic and anti-parasitic drug treatments. Several strands of H. pylori are antibiotic resistant and as a result the bacterial infections diseases do not respond to the use of an antibiotic treatment. Various treatments have been shown to be ineffective and there was a reoccurrence of the infection shortly after concluding the drug treatment. Garlic, however, has been tested and has shown to be affective as an in-vitro treatment for preventing bacterial infections such as Salmonella, Escherichia coli, and streptococcus-A. “Such inhibitory effects of garlic are even more marked than those of penicillin as 1mg of allicin is as effective as 15 standard units of penicillin.” The compounds work in this way by inhibiting the manufacturing of nitric oxide which is involved in the inflammatory response. With this in mind, garlic can be used in medical treatments. Regardless of the medical condition, however, the use of garlic to treat and to prevent bacterial infections should be discussed with a healthcare provider before disregarding traditional medical treatment (Zardast, et al. 2016).
Garlic’s natural disease fighting properties are more effective than some prescribed medications and drugs. There was an in-depth study done to test the effects of garlic on artificial joint infections when combined with the drug vancomycin, instead of using the drug or saline alone. This study builds on the previous in-vitro studies, and proves the benefits of garlic in-vivo. The author includes a study performed on New Zealand rabbits that had colonies of Staphylocococcus epidermisis injected in the lab into the right knee joint. There were four groups of rabbits in this experiment. One group received an injection of garlic and vancomycin (4mcg and 20mcg/mL), another group vancomycin (20mcg/mL), the third group saline, and the fourth group allicin (4000mcg)/mL) for three days into the infected joint. The results showed a significant decrease in the numbers of bacteria in the garlic-enhanced treatment. This proved that garlic worked as a treatment for bacterial infections. Garlic does not allow new bacteria to form (Zhai, et al. 2014). Garlic is a potent natural remedy that inhibits the manifestation of bacteria not only in the human body, but also in rats and other animals.
There are certain amounts of garlic that can be harmful. Garlic can cause unpleasant effects to those who are allergic or sensitive. Garlic thins the blood and so consuming a large amount of garlic without medical supervision can increase bleeding tendencies. Garlic can also interact with various medications such as the Tuberculosis treatment Isoniazid, the post-organ-transplant drug, Cyclosporine, various medications that are used to thin the blood, drugs for the treatment of HIV/AIDS, and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (“Garlic uses, benefits & dosage,” 2017).
There have been several recent tests and studies performed on the ability of garlic to treat a variety of medical conditions. Garlic is also known to help prevent and hasten recovery from infections and inflammations. Garlic has shown to be affective in both human and animal internal health. The sulfur compound, allicin, in garlic is where the garlic gets its benefits. Garlic works best in the fresh, raw form, and immediately after it the bulb is crushed as the allicin is more potent. Merely because garlic is a natural plant which is cheap and safe in the kitchen, this level of safety does not mean that garlic should be taken medically without supervision. Garlic can be harmful to individuals in certain amounts and can interfere with other medications. Garlic can also cause mild to severe reactions in sensitive or allergic individuals. Due to the undesired reactions that can occur from consuming garlic it is recommended that individuals talk with a medical professional, doctor, registered dietician, or other healthcare provider before making an uninformed decision to use garlic to treat any medical condition, whether severe or benign. This medical professional will be able to assist the individual in treatment to overcome the medical condition without causing the individual unnecessary side effects and reactions.