As my husband, Troy, was taking our dog, Rowdy, for a walk the other day, he noticed something sprouting out of our garden. Garlic!!
Last year while in class, Marne’ Fox came and told us about the health benefits of garlic. She gave each of us a head of garlic and told us how to plant it. Marne’ invited those of us who wanted to know more, to come and talk with her husband Dan, the Garlic King. I took her up on her offer and spent over an hour visiting with Dan and learning about hard neck, soft neck, porcelain, purple, and probably other types of garlic that I’ve since forgotten. Dan kindly shared several varieties with me, and my husband and I took up most of our garden space by planting garlic.
Troy wasn’t too happy but, being the wonderful husband that he is, he acquiesced and helped me plant the garlic cloves. We planted a little late in the season so all winter long while the temperatures dropped lower than they’d been in years, I worried. When he told me that deer had been walking around in our garden, I worried. When I found out that the pesky little pocket gofer that had suddenly decided to visit our yard liked roots and bulbs, I worried.
All that worry was replaced with joy when he came in from his walk and told me that the garlic had started to sprout! Of course I had to run out and see for myself, but there it was.
You’re probably wondering WHY I would take up 3/4 of our small garden with garlic! Well, as Marne’ explained, garlic has quite a few health benefits. In addition to building your immune system, garlic has been shown to reduce plaque formation in blood vessels and even dissolve existing plaque, lower blood pressure, and reduce risk for several types of cancer. It helps prevent blood clots from forming, lowers or helps regulate blood sugar, helps remove heavy metals from the body, can kill some strains of bacteria that have become immune or resistant to modern antibiotics, has anti-fungal and anti-viral properties, and dramatically reduces yeast infections due to Candida. Garlic also has anti-oxidant properties and is a source of selenium. (Selenium is a trace mineral that combines with proteins to make selenoproteins which are important antioxidant enzymes. Selenoproteins help prevent cellular damage from free radicals, help regulate thyroid function and play a role in the immune system.)
Garlic contains a variety of sulphur-containing compounds including allicin and diallyl sulphides. Allicin has antibiotic properties and is also an excellent anti-fungal. Chopping the garlic forms sulfenic acid which breaks down into allicin. The finer the pieces are chopped the more allicin released by the garlic. It’s best to let the chopped garlic sit for 7 or 14 minutes before swollowing because for some reason every 6 and 1/4 miutes or so there’s a rapid and dramatic increase in the conversion of sulfenic acid to allicin that lasts for about 30 seconds and then drops off to normal again for another 6 and 1/4 minutes and then there’s a sharp increase again for another 30 seconds or so and then it drops back down. By waiting 7 minutes you get the benefit of the first boost and if you wait until 14 minutes you get the exra boost of the second stage. (Marne’ and Dan swollow a teaspoon every night before bed. Marne’ explained that swollowing instead of chewing elimiates “garlic breath”.)
Allicin starts to degrade immediately after it’s produced, so it’s effectiveness decreases over time. Chopped garlic left at room temperature loses allicin quickly the first day and gradually each day after for about a week until there’s little allicin left. Cooking also speeds up the process so you’ll want to add garlic to any dish during the last 10 minutes of cooking. Microwaving seems to totally destroy allicin and eliminate any health benefits. Putting chopped garlic in water though, stabilizes the allicin for a while and it can maintain it’s antibiotic properties for about 28 days. After placing the chopped raw garlic in water, wait at least 15 minutes before using but an hour or two is better because more allicin will have formed. An interesting thing about garlic water is that it has both water-soluble and fat-soluble compounds that work their way through the body in different ways. The water-soluble compounds go through the venous system and the fat-solubles enter and go through the lymphatic system.
Another compound found in garlic, diallyl sulphides, is less powerful than allicin, but still has health beneifts. Diallyl sulphides boost the immune system, and may help lower LDL levels and improve circulation. Diallyl sulphides do not degrade as quickly and they survive during cooking. The garlic still needs to be chopped or crushed to produce the sulphides, and they break down in the body within a few hours. So for maximum benefits some suggest that you have a little garlic often rather than one large dose daily.
So how much garlic should you take? The American Dietetic Association suggested about 1 fresh clove per day (600 – 900 mg).