Is there anything better than the smell of something cooking that is loaded up with lots of garlic? That’s one reason I always enjoy walking into an Italian restaurant—the whole place seems to be infused with the yummy smell of garlic. Of course, it might take a few peppermint Altoids to freshen up ones breath afterwards, but it’s worth it. And as it turns out, garlic doesn’t only just smell wonderful and taste good, but research shows that it can have very definite positive effects on our health.
Garlic has actually been used for thousands of years to treat many different health conditions. And of course, it has folklore legend status too as a natural vampire repellant! Garlic’s scientific name is allium sativum, and to understand why it is both so pungent in its smell and so potentially healthy for our bodies, we need to get a bit scientific for a few minutes. Actually, we need to both literally and figuratively bring on our “A” game, as that’s the letter most of the technical terms about garlic begin with.
For example, Alliin is a naturally-occurring amino acid found in garlic. Then when we consume garlic, either in food or supplement form, an enzyme called alliinase takes the alliin and converts it to allicin. Allicin is what makes garlic so potentially healing for so many of us; it has been shown to work as a natural antibiotic. Allicin is also what makes garlic have its distinctive aroma. So if you ever hear a commercial talking about garlic supplements and the word allicin keeps popping up as being the key ingredient to look for, now you know why that is the case. Technically, there are actually over 100 compounds in garlic that can have therapeutic effects, but the alliin/allicin conversion seems to be the biggie.
The health benefits of garlic, at least as far as the literature and studies are concerned, range from boosting the immune system and helping ward off colds and flus, to helping prevent heart disease and possibly even cancer. That’s a pretty impressive list of abilities for one herb to do, but for the most part, the research is there to back up these notions.