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Garlic may not be the most attractive of scents, but its pungent aroma is part of what makes the so-called “stinking rose” such a game-changing element in your health. Discover the age-old benefits of garlic and how it can protect your heart, immune system and liver.

Garlic is a species of the onion genus Allium and is related to the onion, shallot, leek, chive and rakkyo. Its use dates back more than 6,000 years ago in Central Asia. It has long been used in the Mediterranean region. Egyptians put garlic on a pedestal, even using it as a form of currency. The herb also made its way into folklore, used as a tool to ward of vampires and protect against evil, and it has even garnered status as a natural aphrodisiac.

The main characteristics of garlic are its sulfur-containing — and quite pungent — compunds, most notably allicin and diallyl. These compounds help to reduce blood pressure, lower the risk for heart disease, and ultimately benefit the cardiovascular system. Garlic’s sulfur compounds are able to protect against oxidative stress, which would otherwise lead to inflammation in the blood vessels. They also are also powerful blood cleansers. 

Allicin is the most active component in garlic and it occurs when garlic is crushed or cut — the finer the herb is broken down, the more powerful allicin’s effects are. Allicin holds anti-fungal, antiviral, and anti-bacterial properties, which promote health in a host of ways, from ridding the body of pests to treating a cold. Diallyl also contains anti-fungal properties, but it’s more beneficial for reducing cholesterol, boosting the immune system, improving blood circulation, and detoxifying cells. Because of these effects, garlic is helpful in protecting the liver and preventing against cancer.

Many Americans are deficient in sulfur, so the addition of garlic to the diet will contribute more sulphides to your body and make garlic’s numerous effects all the more striking. The herb is surely more than meets the eye. Try adding more to your homemade dishes, making sure to vary its form — crushed, chopped, roasted, or raw. 

Photo Credit: Lowjumpingfrog