Dr. Lakhvinder Singh
From the earliest times garlic has been used as a food and has a mention even in the holy Bible. Its uses have also been inscribed on the walls of ancient Egyptian places of worship and pyramids. References to garlic have also figured in the legends of both India and China. It is a ubiquitous culinary herb used in a wide variety of vegetarian and non vegetarian cuisines. Though each part of the plant can be used for cooking purposes, leaves and bulbs are common in use. Large scale of use of this herb is on account of its safe nature, inexpensiveness and abundant supply.
It is often stressed that while one’s food should have medicinal value and your medicine should be your food. Garlic is perhaps the exemplary medicinal food. The health benefits of garlic are wide-ranging and numerous. Nature has resourcefully jam-packed a chemical factory in garlic which consists of more than 33 sulphur compounds, about 17 amino acids, calcium, copper, iron, potassium, magnesium, selenium, zinc and vitamins A, B1 and C. It is especially the organo-sulfur compounds present in garlic that give it the characteristic flavour and potent health benefits. Traditionally, the fresh cloves, garlic tea, syrup, tincture, and other preparations have been used as an aphrodisiac, to treat colds, fever, flu symptoms, coughs, earache, headache, stomachache, pinworms, snake/ insect bites, fungal infections and for numerous other ailments, conditions, and applications. The antibiotic activity of garlic was first recognized in 1858 by Louis Pasteur. It even kills Helicobacter pylori, a kind of bacterium which is responsible for some stomach cancer and ulcers.
No other herb has served as many culinary and medicinal purposes
in as many cultures as garlic.
Garlic helps regulate blood sugar level, control asthama; and it has cancer fighting properties due to presence of diallyl sulphide which is believed to be an anticarcinogen. In a study involving more than 1,00,000 people at the University of North Carolina it has been found that eating one clove of raw or cooked garlic each day may reduce colon and stomach cancer.
Garlic supplementation in rats along with a high protein diet has been shown to boost testosterone levels. It is really fascinating that before vaccines were developed against polio, garlic was used to prevent the disease.
Garlic is compelling and well appreciated, but unfortunately it is a little studied crop.
Despite an outbreak of research on garlic in the previous few decades much remains to be learned. Nevertheless, over the past years it has earned so much reputation not just as a flavour enhancer, but also as a health food that the old adage about an apple a day should be recited “a clove a day keeps the doctors away”. Scientific and medical research continues worldwide on the health properties of various forms of garlic and garlic supplements. Recent scientific research has credited garlic with the ability to cure everything from common cold to coronary heart diseases. And given the fact that millions of people die each year from coronary heart diseases alone, research on garlic should be given high priority to utilize the maximum potentials of this charismatic herb.
(The author is an Assistant Professor in Botany at GDC Reasi)