My husband just harvested the garlic I planted last fall. We go through a lot of garlic in our house so these approximately 250 bulbs will last the two of us most of the year including what we will plant for next year’s crop. I was surprised to realize I hadn’t yet blogged about garlic since it is one of my most commonly used herbs and not just in the kitchen. My reliance on garlic began when I was first in college. I would get bronchitis after nearly any cold. When I started taking garlic during colds and for short while after them, I no longer had the lingering bronchitis. Garlic can also be used to prevent colds and other upper respiratory infections. A study from England showed that garlic taken daily for 12 weeks reduced the risk of colds by 2/3 compared to placebo.
While I was mostly taking advantage of garlic’s antimicrobial benefits, garlic is also one of the best cardiovascular tonics. Garlic can help improve cholesterol, and as an antioxidant, it helps prevent the oxidation of cholesterol. When cholesterol becomes oxidized, it is more harmful to our arteries. Garlic also can help to slowly reduce the amount of plaque in the arteries according to one 4-year placebo controlled study. Finally, garlic is a mild blood pressure reducer, partially by increasing the dilation of blood vessels.
There are a few choices in how to use garlic. Cooked garlic seems to retain many of the heart protecting qualities, but I add it to my food towards the last 5-10 minutes of cooking as opposed to the beginning like in most recipes. For the antimicrobial properties, raw garlic or supplements need to be used. Raw garlic can be upsetting to the stomach so I always take it on a full stomach. I mix minced garlic with honey and swallow it without chewing. Another option recommended by one of my instructors is microwaving 3 cloves of garlic with their skin on for 30 seconds. There is the issue of breath and body odor, so on days I am going to be around others, I tend to take the odor controlled garlic supplements instead.
Here is a picture of my cat Persimmon enjoying our garlic harvest.