We all know that the foods we like can change throughout our lives, but one thing I can say for sure is that I grew up loving garlic and just never stopped! As a seasoning and ingredient in soups and on meats, my family always made sure to have that extra pinch; even the smell of cooking garlic was enough to lure me into the kitchen.
Mom had no problem getting me to eat it, and that’s a good thing because this unassuming little bulb of flavor really packs some amazing boosts for your health. A member of the onion family, it has been used since before ancient Egyptian times as a seasoning all around the world. However, even more, than as a delicious food, has been prized for thousands of years for its medicinal effects, many of which come from antibacterial sulfur compounds (like allicin) that appear when chewed or crushed. It’s also what gives that delightfully pungent smell.
What’s great about garlic?
- It’s very nutritious, packing large amounts of manganese, vitamins B6 and C, selenium, and fiber into that tiny little package. Many other nutrients are also present; in fact, it has just a little bit of almost everything we need.
- It’s full of antioxidants, which combat the damage that free radicals cause in your body by oxidation. That means that, among other things, it can reduce your risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s.
- It’s a natural disease fighter. Garlic has been shown to effectively combat infectious diseases, which can lead to a healthier, happier life and increase longevity. In fact, people who regularly consume garlic are 63% less likely to catch a cold than those who don’t.
What else can garlic do for you?
- It can help to relax your blood vessels and increase blood flow. The red blood cells in your body love to snatch up garlic compounds, turning them into hydrogen sulfide – a proven “cell messenger” that tells your blood vessels to relax. What does that mean for you? It means that garlic helps to lower high blood pressure and reduce the chances of cardiovascular disease.
- It can beautify your hair and slow down hair loss. The compound allicin and similar compounds found in other members of the onion family have been proven as an effective treatment for hair loss and a great way to keep your hair naturally healthy.
- Garlic can be an easy way to remove splinters (who knew, right?). The plant’s naturally antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties help to reduce swelling, opening up the injury and allowing the splinter to come free without infection. Place a thin piece of garlic over the splinter and cover with a band-aid. Leave for a few hours or overnight.
- It’s a great medicine. This kind of goes in line with #3 above. Since garlic is naturally anti-inflammatory, it can be used to treat any inflamed condition, whether it’s psoriasis, acne, or a cold sore. Direct application of garlic is fine (though it is also naturally sticky – you can use it for glue), or you can make garlic tea.
Garlic is quite a star when it comes to health-boosting plants, whether it’s a delicious recipe or just on your skin. As you rush out to buy a few bulbs, remember to consider your source: healthy garlic comes from the healthy soil! Go local if you can, but no matter what, enjoy your garlic. There are, after all, plenty of things to use it for!