Pass the Garlic, Please

If you want to take full advantage of garlic’s medicinal properties, include it in your diet.

We’re not sure if garlic can really ward off vampires, but research has proven what our grandmothers and their ancestors have known all along. This pungent herb, called allium sativum, may help fight certain viruses and fungi. It also inhibits the growth of bacteria. Garlic is especially effective in treating upper respiratory viral infections. This is due to its immune-enhancing properties and its ability to clear mucous from the lungs. Mixing crushed garlic with pure raw honey is a good expectorant. Folk medicine in many parts of the world uses garlic to treat pinworms and other intestinal parasites. Modern doctors prescribe garlic to reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke by helping reduce blood pressure and helping prevent blood clots from forming. It may also lower blood cholesterol levels and protect arteries from hardening.

This herb also has the ability to protect against a variety of environmental and other toxins. Garlic contains compounds that are potent anti-oxidants that protect cell membranes and DNA from damage. Scientific studies have shown that garlic stimulates the liver to produce detoxifying enzymes that neutralize carcinogens and other toxins. Some studies have even found that large amounts of garlic in the diet can lower the rates of certain types of cancer. It prevents tumors from growing and stimulates the body’s own natural defenses against cancer cells. I have a friend who ate lots of garlic along with chilies and is now alive and well and free of the colon cancer that her doctors gave up on.

If you want to take full advantage of garlic’s medicinal properties, include it in your diet. Most researchers recommend eating raw or lightly cooked fresh garlic that has been minced or crushed. They also say eating one to six cloves a day may be beneficial. The next best thing to fresh garlic is probably the powder form with no salt. Garlic oil and tablets are not as effective because they have such small amounts of the active compounds that you have to take large amounts to get any benefit. Besides, it’s easier on your budget to just eat garlic rather than buying supplements.

This pungent plant is a common ingredient of soups and stews, as well as Italian and Greek dishes such as pesto and spanikopita. And we all know garlic bread goes well with spaghetti or minestrone. You can pound the garlic in a mortar and pestle to remove the skin. If you prefer, twist the clove of garlic between finger and thumb of each hand to loosen the skin. After removing the skin, chop or crush the flesh using a sharp knife. This releases the oils and flavor of garlic. To crush the flesh, press down all over it with the blunt side of a knife tip. For an extra smooth result, make a paste by rubbing salt into the flesh. If you don’t like to use salt and or have the strong taste, you can put the unpeeled garlic cloves into a toaster oven. Warm on low heat for 8-10 minutes. It should be really soft, a bit oily, and easy to peel. This can used for soups and spreads.

Garlic goes well with butter, salt, or vinegar. Add to salads and pasta. To use as a garnish, I chop garlic and fry them till golden. You can sprinkle this over soups, fried rice, congee, and whatever you like. Like all things in this world, nothing is perfect. Not even garlic, with all its benefits. Eating lots of garlic will not keep the doctor away all the time. People with delicate stomachs may suffer an upset stomach if they take garlic when they’re hungry. Also, this bulb is often called the “stinking rose” because it leaves a lingering smell that can drive away even your dearest friends. Lastly, those on the yogic path stay clear away from garlic because of its aphrodisiac properties.

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