Garlic for High Blood Pressure, Cholesterol, Cancer?
Answered by: Conrad Richter
Question from: Derek
Posted on: August 28, 1998

I take garlic. What is it one for? Lowering blood pressure, cholesterol, or both? Fighting cancer?

Garlic has been shown to have a potent effect on the circulatory system. Its action is multifaceted, involving several important chemicals found in garlic (particularly fresh garlic). For instance, ajoene in garlic prevents blood clots, and works against cancer and fungi, allixin works against stress, S-allyl-cysteine can reduce low-density lipoproteins ("bad" cholesterol) by as much as 50%, and allicin is a potent antibiotic. John Heinerman has written a comprehensive book on garlic called "The Healing Benefits of Garlic" (available from Richters) in which he explains these effects, and more, in detail.

Garlic has long been associated with reduced heart disease. In this connection, one of the intriguing aspects of garlic is its potent antibiotic effect. A recent theory suggests that a contributing cause to heart disease is caused by bacteria that form scale much like plaque in the mouth. This scale clogs the arteries and eventually causes high blood pressure and arteriosclerosis and heart disease. It may be possible that the allicin in garlic controls the bacteria that is thought to cause scale. This is just conjecture at this point, but nonetheless an intriguing one.

By the way, it is important to know that allicin is a very unstable compound. Its half life (the time it takes for levels to fall 50%) is only three hours. This means that commercial garlic products that you take as a supplement are entirely unlikely to have any allicin present. The best, and cheapest, way to take garlic is by using fresh garlic, especially copious amounts in food.

Is the smell objectionable? It can be to some, but I have found that when I take garlic I notice it much less in others, and so if everyone took garlic (as they do in some countries) then garlic smell would be much less of a "problem." If garlic smell is a problem, try taking parsley which helps to reduce the odour.

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