Natural Health Tips

Ibn al-Qayyim: Garlic Can Benefit Cold Symptoms and Has a Variety of Therapeutical Uses

Garlic is a bulbous herb of the lily family, and is closely related to the onion, shallot and leek. Ibn al-Qayyim mentioned some of the benefits of garlic on the body, in his book "The Prophetic Medicine":

  • Garlic is beneficial for cold symptoms, such as inflammations and removing mucus from the throat
  • It aids digestion, bowel movement and reduces abdominal bloating
  • It can be used as a substitute for antidote in venom bites and cold sores
  • It is beneficial for a chronic cough
  • Can ease pain caused by toothache
  • It is hygienic and preserves health of most people
  • It can be used along with honey as an application for skin problems

Garlic contains many nutrients, but to benefit from garlic's nutritional value a lot would need to be consumed. With excessive consumption there can also be adverse effects, as is the case with excess of any type of food or nutrient.

Garlic is rich in phytochemicals that can protect the body from harm. These include:

A study conducted by the garlic Centre in East Sussex showed that garlic was effective in preventing the common cold, and allicin-containing garlic supplements were effective in treating infections caused by the hospital superbug, MRSA. They found that taking a daily garlic supplement containing allicin, reduced the risk of catching a cold by more than half (full article can be viewed here )

Studies have also been carried out on garlic's effectivness as:

  • An antimicrobial and antifungal agent;
  • Reducing cholesterol levels and generally improving heart health;
  • Reducing the risk of pre-eclampsia during pregnancy. Pre-eclampsia is a pregnancy-induced condition, and is characterized by high blood pressure, swelling due to fluid retention, and protein in the urine;
  • Cancer-prevention: numerous studies have shown that garlic has some cancer-preventative effect, in particular for prostate and stomach cancers.

Garlic Breath

The only main drawback of eating garlic is that it can cause bad breath. This is because garlic is full of sulphorous compounds and these compounds "feed" the bacteria in the mouth and bad breath (halitosis) is caused as a result.

There is no way to completely prevent this (except for not eating the garlic), but the effects of the odour can be reduced. The smell can be minimized by brushing your teeth after eating garlic, or eating fresh parsley or mint with the garlic.

Garlic Tips:

  • There are two common types of garlic: hardneck and softneck. This refers to the stem that the garlic grows from. Wild garlic is of the hardneck variety and the garlic used in cooking can be hardneck or softneck.

  • Peeling, crushing and cutting garlic increases the number and variety of active compounds, including the enzyme allinase. Scientists recommend waiting 15 minutes between peeling and cooking garlic to allow the allinase reaction to occur.

  • Garlic can burn easily when cooking, so brown it slowly.

  • Store your garlic in a cool dry place, but do not refrigerate.

References for further reading

  • Garlic: Effects on cardiovascular Risks and disease, Proliferative Effects Against cancer, and Clinical Adverse Effects. Accessed June 2, 2007.

  • Allium vegetables and Organosulfur Compounds: Do They Help Prevent cancer? html. Accessed June 3, 2007.

  • Efendy, JL et al. The effect of the aged garlic extract, "Kyolic," on the development of experimental atherosclerosis. Arterosclerosis. 1997;132:37-42.

  • Fleischauer, AT, Arab L. Garlic and cancer: a critical review of the epidemiologic literature. JNutrition. 2001;131:1032S-1040S.

  • Gonzalez C et al. Fruit and vegetable intake and the risk of stomach and oesophagus adenocarcinoma in the European Prospective Investigation into cancer and nutrition (EPIC-EURGAST). Intl cancer. 2006 May 15;118(10):2559-2566.

  • Hsing AW, Chokkalingam AP, Gao YT, et al. Allium vegetables and risk of prostate cancer: a population-based study. JNatl cancer Inst. 2002;94(21):1648-1651.

  • Jain AK. Can garlic reduce levels of serum lipids? A controlled clinical study. American Journal of medicine. 199-3;94:632-635.

  • Johnston N. Garlic: A natural antibiotic. Modern Drug Discovery. 2002; (5):12.

  • Mader FH. Treatment of hyperlipidemia with garlic-powder tablets. ArzneimittelForschung/Drug Research. 1990;40:3-8.

  • Milner JA. (2001) Mechanisms by which garlic and allyl sulfur compounds suppress carcinogen bioactivation. Garlic and carcinogenesis. Adv Exp Med Biol 492: 69-81.

  • Milner, JA. A historical perspective on garlic and cancer. J. nutrition. 2001. 131: 1027S-1031S.

  • Steiner M, Lin RS. Changes in platelet function and susceptibility of lipoproteins to oxidation associated with administration of aged garlic extract. J Cardiovasc Pharmacol. 1998;31:904-908.