What is the ‘Stinking Rose’? Here are some clues...If you are a fan of horror movies you will know that it has a reputation for fending off vampires. Or, at the very least, mosquitoes! A reputation crediting it with a wide range of health benefits from cardiovascular and neurological improvement to protection from infectious disease and cancer.
Indeed, for centuries, the ‘Stinking Rose’ has been renowned for remarkable medicinal properties: In Egypt, it was revered as a physical strength enhancer; in ancient Greece, its laxative properties were praised. It was even nicknamed “Russian penicillin” due to its effectiveness as a topical antibiotic for battle wounds.
Perhaps now you realise that the ‘Stinking Rose’ is the humble garlic?
Garlic (Allium sativum) contains 33 sulfur compounds, 17 amino acids, antioxidants such as germanium and selenium, and multiple vitamins and minerals like high levels of manganese, vitamin B6 and vitamin C. Garlic is also a good source of protein, thiamin (vitamin B1), phosphorus, calcium, potassium, and copper.
Out of all these good chemical compounds, allicin is the key sulphuric ingredient giving garlic its ‘unique’ aroma. Allicin is converted in the body to ajoene. All these beneficial elements influence your health in at least 6 positive ways:
6 Key Benefits of Garlic
1. Heart disease
In the body ajoene creates hydrogen sulfide gas (H2S) which makes smooth muscles relax and dilates blood vessels. This dilation keeps blood pressure under control and regulates or restores pressure to healthy levels. In so doing, blood flow is healthy and plaque build up and blood clotting are prevented. Stroke and thrombosis risks are reduced.
Garlic helps to lower blood levels of triglycerides and LDL cholesterol - the "bad" forms - as much as 20%. The Journal of Nutrition (ref 1) describes how several garlic compounds suppress the oxidation of LDL cholesterol. The researchers explained that LDL oxidation is the real key to cardiovascular issues, as opposed to “native” or natural LDL cholesterol.
So, garlic prevents LDL cholesterol from oxidation and ‘going bad’, by recognising that natural cholesterol is good.
Studies conducted in Japan, India, and Saudi Arabia show that garlic regulates and lowers blood sugar. The Indian study found the allicin in garlic combines with the B vitamin thiamine and stimulates the pancreas to produce free insulin.
In fact, studies (ref 2) have reported that giving fasting humans garlic oil and 100-125 mg/kg of S-allyl cysteine sulphoxide (SACS), a precursor of allicin, results in a significant decrease of blood glucose levels and in a raise of serum insulin.
SACS has also been shown to slow the glycation process. This is caused by high sugar levels which damage the eyes, kidneys, blood vessels and skin leading ultimately to diabetes.
"Garlic in its liquid form has proved a potent block on glycation in a series of in-vitro tests we have conducted," said Dr Nessar Ahmed, "We are trying to understand why sugars destroy the body from the inside and have a particular interest in natural products and their therapeutic benefits."
According to The National Cancer Institute studies show how garlic lowers the risk of pancreatic cancer by 54%, prostate cancer by 50%, colon cancer by 50%, and stomach cancer by 52%. Garlic has also been found to lower the risk of esophageal, breast, bladder, and skin cancer.
How might garlic prevent cancer?
The specific mechanisms are not 100% certain. However, evidence suggests that the protective effects from garlic may arise from its antibacterial properties (ref 3a), as well as its ability to:
- block the formation and halt the activation of cancer-causing substances (ref 3b-c),
- enhance DNA repair (ref 3d)
- reduce cell proliferation, or induce cell death (ref 3e).
5. Brain function
Garlic also has proven cognitive benefits. Experiments in mice showed that aged garlic extract supplements increased the mice's life span and enhanced learning ability and memory (ref 4a). The garlic compounds, especially antioxidants, also protect the brain against free radicals thought to contribute to human Alzheimer's disease (ref 4b).
These experiments suggest that aged garlic extract supplements may help prevent physiological aging and age-related cognitive disorders in humans. Nerve cells exposed to these compounds showed an unusual ability to grow and branch, which may be associated with the enhanced memory function. No similar studies have been conducted with other garlic forms.
In addition, at the Medical University of South Carolina, scientists identified 3 garlic compounds to be effective against a type of terminal brain tumor called glioblastoma. Cancer cells require a lot of energy to grow rapidly, and glioblastoma cancer cells are fast-growers. In the study, garlic compounds actually produced "reactive oxygen species" in the cells, which caused the cancer to literally overeat and die.
Some controversial herbalists claim that garlic “Eats up the brain.” Is this true?
Yes, to a certain extent. The excessive use of garlic, especially if over long periods, may be damaging because it contains the chemical "mustard". This is used to manufacture Mustard Gas, and we all know what mustard gas does, particularly to the eyes!
When eaten in moderation however, there are few significant negative effects
6. Antimicrobial action
Garlic has remarkable broad-spectrum antibacterial, antifungal, anti-parasitic and antiviral properties. It can kill a wide array of harmful and disease-causing microbes and organisms. In contrast to the use of pharmaceutical drugs and antibiotics:
- harmful organisms are very unlikely to develop resistance to garlic.
- garlic is effective against a wide range of microorganisms. Chemical drugs usually only target one or a selected group of ‘enemies’.
- garlic selectively destroys harmful and bad organisms, leaving the good ones untouched. In fact, garlic even promotes their growth. Chemical drugs can destroy many of the good and friendly bacteria in the body.
Garlic’s ability to destroy microorganisms makes it an excellent remedy for cholera, dysentery, intestinal worms, smallpox, tetanus, tuberculosis and typhoid fever.
In fact, during World War I, garlic was used to treat typhus and dysentery. In World War II, it was applied in battle wounds to ward off septic poisoning and gangrene. It is still a staple in tropical medicine to fight typhus and cholera.
Even respiratory conditions and infections such as the common cold, coughs and sore throats have been alleviated with garlic.
How exactly do the health and medicinal properties of garlic protect against microbes?
A study published in the American Society for Microbiology’s Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy explained how allicin fights infection by disabling two groups of enzymes found in a large variety of different infectious organisms, namely cysteine proteinases and alcohol dehydrogenases.
The former group causes infections, as they provide infectious organisms with the means to invade tissues and cause damage to them. The latter group plays a big part in the metabolism and survival of these organisms.
Can a clove a day keep the doctor away...And the vampires and mosquitoes?!
The evidence clearly says “Yes”. Though of course, as with all good things, garlic needs to be used in moderation as an integral part of a healthy diet and lifestyle.
Can garlic supplements do the same job? Not really.
In fact, we don’t include garlic in our supplements. This is because the processing it has to go through to create a powder includes ‘deodorizing’ which makes it lose much of its potency. It is much more effective to incorporate garlic in your general diet including your salad dressing.
Warren posted a recipe some time ago for a salad dressing that includes garlic with a number of other good ingredients. The oils seem to remove any after effect of the garlic on your breath.
Also, as Warren points out: “Mg for mg there are many more potent and heart beneficial nutrients suitable in a supplement than garlic. We could have included it in our Cardio-Klenz OK and it would have cost us a lot less as the garlic extracts are inexpensive but we would have had to leave out other important nutrients or else increase the daily dose substantially.”
To enjoy the full benefits of the ‘Rose’, please use organic, raw, crushed garlic, its oil, powder or aged extract. You can ‘neutralise’ the ‘Stinking’ aspect with fresh herbs, lemons, green tea and other natural means described here.
1. Garlic and cholesterol:
- Lau, BH. “Suppression of LDL oxidation by garlic compounds is a possible mechanism of cardiovascular health benefits.” J Nutr. 206 Mar. 136 (3 Suppl):765S-768S)
2. Garlic and diabetes:
- Sheela CG, Augusti KT. Antidiabetic effects of S-allyl cysteine sulphoxide isolated from garlic Allium sativum Linn. Indian J Exp Biol. 1992 Jun;30(6):523-6.
- Augusti KT, Sheela CG. Antiperoxide effect of S-allyl cysteine sulfoxide, an insulin secretagogue, in diabetic rats. Experientia. 1996 Feb 15;52(2):115-20.
3. Garlic and cancer:
3a - Ruddock PS, Liao M, Foster BC, et al. Garlic natural health products exhibit variable constituent levels and antimicrobial activity against Neisseria gonorrhoeae, Staphylococcus aureus and Enterococcus faecalis. Phytotherapy Research 2005; 19(4):327–334.
3b - Shenoy NR, Choughuley AS. Inhibitory effect of diet related sulphydryl compounds on the formation of carcinogenic nitrosamines. Cancer Letters 1992; 65(3):227–232.
3c - Milner JA. Mechanisms by which garlic and allyl sulfur compounds suppress carcinogen bioactivation. Garlic and carcinogenesis. Advances in Experimental Medicine and Biology 2001; 492:69–81.
3d - L'vova GN, Zasukhina GD. Modification of repair DNA synthesis in mutagen-treated human fibroblasts during adaptive response and the antimutagenic effect of garlic extract. Genetika 2002; 38(3):306–309.
3e - Hsing AW, Chokkalingam AP, Gao YT, et al. Allium vegetables and risk of prostate cancer: A population-based study. Journal of the National Cancer Institute 2002; 94(21):1648–1651.
4. Garlic and cognition
4a - Moriguchi T, et al. Anti-aging effect of aged garlic extract in the inbred brain atrophy mouse model. Clin Exp Pharmacol Physiol 1997;24:235-42.
4b - Numagami Y, et al. Attenuation of rat ischemic brain damage by aged garlic extracts: a possible protecting mechanism as an antioxidant. Neurochem Int 1996;29:135-43.