Garlic equals bad breath; raw garlic equals really bad breath. With this equation firmly entrenched in our mind it is no wonder that this herb has received bad press over the years. However, the medicinal benefits of garlic remain largely undisputed.
One of the first herbs to be recognized for its therapeutic abilities, garlic was considered divine in Egypt. Even though most western countries shunned it for a very long time, this pungent bulb now has an ever-growing tribe of believers.
Garlic: Cheap and Effective Medicine
Garlic is useful not just in the kitchen but also in your medicine kit. It can thin blood just like aspirin and can therefore prevent heart attacks.
It prevents arteries from clogging, and reduces blood pressure and cholesterol levels. It is also used liberally in soups to clear up a cold or chest infections. It is also used to treat intestinal worms and fungal infections, and not just in humans.
The most important thing is that garlic is said to have anti-cancer properties. Studies have shown that it can prevent digestive cancers, breast and prostate cancer.
All this at only 4 calories per clove, which is not bad at all, but eating too much raw garlic can result in heartburn, flatulence and diarrhoea and sometimes, skin rashes.
Why Is Garlic Smelly?
Garlic contains more than a hundred sulphur compounds but has a fairly neutral smell until it is cut or crushed. On doing so, one of the compounds it releases is alliin, which turns into allicin that can be absorbed into the bloodstream and lungs. Allicin ensures that garlic is kept safe from soil parasites and fungi and it is also guilty of the pungent smell that most people cannot stand.
However, this compound is invaluable because of its anti-microbial properties; it can kill 23 types of bacteria, including salmonella and staphylococcus. In fact, the more you chop or crush garlic, the more you reap its benefits.
Unfortunately, smelly allicin makes its way out through exhaled air and perspiration, which brings us back to the bad breath.
Beating Bad Breath
Cooked garlic doesn’t smell too bad, especially if you also add lots of parsley or coriander. This might not work if you plan on having lots of garlic. Note however, that allicin starts to lose its powers almost as soon as it is produced, so it is a good idea to add garlic in the dish just before you serve it.
As the fear of drug-resistant bacteria grips the world, garlic steps up as the likely saviour. It seems that bacteria would be unable to fight allicin without completely changing its enzymes that cause various diseases.
So, on your pizzas, in soups, in stir-fry veggie dishes and just plain fried in butter, don’t just turn your nose up against garlic, it’s there for a pretty good reason.