Garlic (Allium sativum)

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What is Garlic?

It's not just for warding off vampires anymore. The familiar garlic bulb, which has been used as both food and medicine since the days of Cleopatra, is actually way more useful. (For the record, it's never been scientifically proven that garlic actually wards off vampires and other demons.)Tons of studies have been done on garlic's ability to combat everything from heart disease to cancer. Meanwhile, raw garlic has long been used as a home remedy for a less-serious complaint: the common cold. Researchers believe that the same ingredient that makes garlic smelly—a sulfur compound called allicin, which is released when a garlic bulb is crushed—may be the weapon that helps it fight viruses and germs.What's the best form to use?While there are "odor free" garlic pills in the drugstore there's no evidence that a garlic pill offers the same benefits as raw garlic. Garlic pills don't contain all the active ingredients of the fresh bulb. Plus, commercial garlic products vary so widely in strength and quality that it's hard to know exactly what you're getting.

How do I use it?

Raw garlic may make your cold go away, but it might have the same effect on your friends. This herb's powerful odor can linger on your breath and body. Still, at least one leading health expert calls raw garlic the best home remedy he knows for stopping a cold in its tracks.To ward off a full-blown cold, a typical dose is two cloves of raw garlic, taken at the very first sign of cold symptoms such as a scratchy throat or runny nose. (A clove is one of the smaller segments that a garlic bulb breaks into.) You can chop the garlic fine and mix it in mashed potatoes, salad dressing, or applesauce, or even cut each clove into chunks and swallow them like pills. You can continue to take garlic for as long as you have cold symptoms.Is cooked garlic useful?Cooking garlic generally causes it to lose most of its health benefits. However, researchers have discovered a trick for preserving cooked garlic's healing powers. Before cooking garlic, crush it first and let it stand for 10 or 15 minutes. Then you can go on to, say, sauté garlic in olive oil to spice up your pasta sauce, while still taking advantage of the herb's cold-fighting abilities.

Is there anything I can do about the smell?

 

  • Fresh parsley. Skip the gum and go for the herb. Chew it slowly, one sprig at a time. Parsley contains chlorophyll, an ingredient used in some over-the-counter breath fresheners.
  • Fresh peppermint. You can often find this in the produce section of supermarkets. Break off a few leaves and chew them slowly, then swallow. You can also drink a cup or two of peppermint tea. Peppermint contains menthol, a strong-scented oil used in many toothpastes and mouthwashes. This refreshing herb may help reduce the odor of garlic in your mouth and on your body. Like garlic, peppermint oil travels into your bloodstream and seeps out through your pores. (But don't ever drink the peppermint oil you buy in a bottle in a health-food store. It's for external use only.)
  • To reduce the smell of garlic on your hands after handling garlic: Wash your hands in cold water and then rub them all over with table salt. Wash them again in soap and warm water, repeat if necessary, and the odor should be gone. You can also rub your hands with a fresh-cut lemon.

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