Garlic is one of many examples of a centuries-old natural cure that is gaining fresh respect in the new millennium.  Aside from its reputation as a vampire repellent, garlic has been used as both food and medicine in many cultures for thousands of years.  Garlic is part of the onion family called Alliaceae, which also includes shallots, chives and leeks.

In India, garlic is considered a strong detoxifier while traditional Chinese medicine embraces its ability to expel parasites and ease coughs. In Western countries garlic is gaining significant credibility as a tool for strengthening the immune system.   Garlic gets its immune-boosting powers from a compound called allicin which is activated when garlic is chopped, chewed, crushed or cut.  (If you cook with garlic it is important to let it stand for 15 minutes after crushing it to allow the allicin to activate fully.)

Holistic practitioners maintain that garlic has a role to play in the prevention of heart disease and stroke as well as lowering LDL (bad) cholesterol and increasing HDL (good) cholesterol. It has been effective in lowering high blood pressure and fighting against bacteria and fungi, including the bacteria that is linked to peptic ulcers. According to studies cited by the National Cancer Institute, garlic’s cell-protecting properties give it the potential to reduce the risk of cancers of the stomach, colon, esophagus, pancreas and breast.

Because it contains vitamins A and C, garlic is considered an excellent treatment for colds and other respiratory illnesses. It acts as a natural decongestant and expectorant and some studies have shown that if garlic is taken at the onset of a cold it can soothe symptoms and shorten the duration by as much as 50 percent.

If you choose to include fresh garlic in your daily regimen, be sure to select garlic heads that are firm to the touch. Whole bulbs of fresh garlic will keep for several months or more when stored at room temperature in a dry, dark place. To avoid mold, do not store it in plastic.  For best results, consider investing in a good garlic press.

Given the scientific evidence regarding the health benefits of garlic, it just makes sense to include this ageless healer in your “stay well” strategy. Talk to your holistic practitioner to determine the garlic supplements that work best for you and sleep better knowing that you are keeping vampires and diseases at bay!