Garlic: Properties and Phytotherapy

Name: Allium sativum L.

Family: Liliaceae

Garlic is one of the medicinal plants that have always been considered indispensable, as it has infinite health benefits.

Garlic appears as a herbaceous plant between 30 and 80 cm high, which in the wild is perennial, while cultivated propagates exclusively by vegetative means due to its sterility.

Garlic has a hypogean part mainly consisting of the bulb, covered with reddish wraps and in turn composed of numerous smaller bulbs, the cloves, which supply the drug, ie the part used in the phytotherapeutic field.

The garlic bulb is one of the oldest and most widespread remedies in folk medicine.

Garlic and allicin

Aroma and antibacterial properties

The sulfur compounds contained in garlic are responsible for the formation of the typical odor, in particular alicin: this is released when the enzyme aligns acts on the alliin, a colorless and tasteless compound that is the main component of the fresh drug.

Garlic releases its characteristic odor every time it is "damaged", for example during chewing, cutting, or squeezing; this is why whole wedges have no smell. In fact, in the intact cell, alliin and other sulfoxides are confined to the cytoplasm, while its hydrolytic enzyme - allinase - is present only in the vacuole: the destruction of the cellular structure of the garlic thus releases the aforementioned enzyme, which causes hydrolysis of the sulfoxides and their transformation into disulfides and trisulphides.

Allicin is a remarkable antibiotic, whose strong inhibiting power on numerous types of bacteria (including those responsible for typhoid) was noted as early as 1858 by Louis Pasteur.

In addition to allicin, garlic contains other antibacterial substances such as garlicina; it is rich in mineral and trace mineral substances, such as magnesium, calcium, phosphorus, iodine and iron; there are traces of zinc, manganese, selenium, vitamin C (only in fresh garlic), provitamin A, vitamins B1-B2-PP; contains hormone-like substances and enzymes (lysozyme and peroxidase).

Healing Properties

Among the numerous properties ascribed to garlic is that of giving the skin a healthy appearance and promoting hair growth; this effect is due to the presence of phytinic acid, which on the one hand binds mineral substances and on the other can be transformed into inositol, a substance similar to vitamins capable of stimulating cell growth.

Garlic also contains alkaloids that perform an action similar to that of insulin, lowering the blood sugar level: for this reason garlic is considered a valid support in diabetes therapies and in other diseases related to the metabolism of sugars.

Garlic strengthens the immune system and acts as a powerful bactericide throughout the body; is a very powerful vermicide, a regulator of arterial pressure (it acts causing vasodilation of the arterioles and capillaries), reduces the risk of sclerosis of the arteries, prevents platelet aggregation (consequently the formation of thrombi), regularizes the rate of cholesterol and triglycerides in the blood.

One of the most important and interesting properties of garlic is that concerning its characteristic antibiotic function (bacteriostatic and bactericidal action both towards Gram + and Gram-): it is in fact a valid antibiotic to be used in cases where the intestinal bacterial flora has been altered by previous care. Unlike synthetic antibiotics, garlic - while dealing with pathogenic bacteria - not only does not attack the saprophytic bacterial flora, but also favors its restoration.

This plant is an excellent remedy against meteorism and abdominal cramps, and is also very useful in cases of acute and chronic diarrhea or mucus-bloody stools (dysentery).

Clinical studies have also reported the action of garlic in relation to Helycobacter pylori, the bacterium partly responsible for gastric ulcer and for the development of stomach tumors.

Another property of garlic is to protect from dangerous heavy metals, very harmful substances that enter the body through smog, contaminated fruit and vegetables; the organs most affected by heavy metals are the lungs, kidneys, liver and nervous system, with effects ranging from the immediate symptom to pathological manifestations after several years. How does garlic work in this sense? It acts as a chelator: in practice, the sulfur compounds present between the garlic molecules bind themselves permanently to the molecules of mercury, lead and cadmium present in the body, which in this way are easily eliminated.