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Overview

Garlic is arranged in a head, called a “bulb,” which averages about 50 millimetres in height and diameter and consists of numerous small separate cloves. Both the cloves and the entire bulb are encased in paper-like sheathes that can be white, off-white or have a pink/purple hue. Although garlic cloves have a firm texture, they can be easily cut or crushed.

The taste of garlic is like no other. It hits the palate with a hot pungency that is shadowed by a very subtle background sweetness.

While elephant garlic has larger cloves, it is more closely related to the leek and therefore does not offer the full health benefits of regular garlic.

History

Native to central Asia, garlic is one of the oldest cultivated plants in the world and has been grown for over 5000 years. Ancient Egyptians seem to have been the first to cultivate this plant that played an important role in their culture.

Garlic was not only bestowed with sacred qualities and placed in the tomb of Pharaohs, but it was given to the slaves that built the pyramids to enhance their endurance and strength. This strength-enhancing quality was also honoured by the ancient Greeks and Romans, civilizations whose athletes ate garlic before sporting events and whose soldiers consumed it before going off to war.

Garlic was introduced into various regions throughout the globe by migrating cultural tribes and explorers. By the 6th century BC, garlic was known in both China and India, the latter country using it for therapeutic purposes.

Throughout the millennia, garlic has been a beloved plant in many cultures for both its culinary and medicinal properties. Over the last few years, it has gained unprecedented popularity since researchers have been scientifically validating its numerous health benefit.

Currently, China, South Korea, India, Spain and the United States are among the top commercial producers of garlic.

Benefits

Garlic’s health benefits have long been known. Garlic has been considered a herbal “wonder drug”, with a reputation in folklore for preventing everything from the common cold and flu to the Plague!

It has been used extensively in herbal medicine (phytotherapy, sometimes spelt phitotherapy). Raw garlic is used by some to treat the symptoms of acne and there is some evidence that it can assist in managing high cholesterol levels. It can even be effective as a natural mosquito repellent.

In general, a stronger tasting clove of garlic has more sulphur content and hence more medicinal value it’s likely to have. Some people have suggested that organically grown garlic tends towards a higher sulphur level and hence greater benefit to health.

Nutritional Profile

The sulphur compounds in garlic are perhaps its most unique nutrients. There are literally dozens of well-studied sulphur molecules in garlic and virtually all of them have been shown to function as antioxidants. In addition, many provide us with anti-inflammatory benefits. The very presence of sulfur in some many different garlic compounds may also play an important role in our nourishment.

Additionally, garlic is an excellent source of manganese. It is also a very good source of vitamin B6 and vitamin C. In addition, garlic is a good source of protein and thiamin (vitamin B1) as well as the minerals phosphorus, selenium, calcium, potassium and copper.

Disclaimer

Warnings: Raw garlic is very strong, so eating too much could produce problems, for example irritation of or even damage to the digestive tract.

There are a few people who are allergic to garlic. Symptoms of garlic allergy include skin rash, temperature and headaches.

Also, garlic could potentially disrupt anticoagulants, so it’s best avoided before surgery. As with any medicine, always check with your doctor first and tell your doctor if you are using it.

The information provided is for educational purposes only and must not be taken or interpreted as a suggestion or as medical advise.

If you have any medical conditions, you should consult your health care professional.

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