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Along with onions, leeks and shallots, garlic is a species in the family Alliaceae. Garlic (Allium Sativum L.) has been used throughout history for both culinary and medicinal purposes. Garlic is one of the most ancient medicinal plants and believed to have originated from central Asia over 6,000 years ago. Garlic remedies have been used in India since some 5,000 years ago, in Chinese medicine 3,000 years ago and as early as 1550 B.C. Egyptians fed garlic to pyramid construction crews to give them extra vigour. It acquired a reputation in the folklore of many cultures over the centuries as a formidable prophylactic and therapeutic medicinal agent. The health benefits of garlic appear to be true today and its use as a dietary supplement is recommended in many countries. Garlic is recommended for the common cold, as well as to boost the immune system, fight off cancer, coronary diseases, inflammatory disorders, neurological degeneration, and aging. Administration of garlic has been shown to be involved in counteracting the carcninogenic effects of acrylamide, a by-product formed during normal cooking processes. The influence of garlic (and onion) as an inhibitor on the formation of heterocyclic aromatic amines, which are carcinogenic products formed during cooking and browning of meat, has also been reported. Scientists have long suspected that the active ingredient in garlic is a substance called allicin which provides garlic with its odour and flavour and often described as an antioxidant. "Garlic breath" is an unavoidable consequence of consuming garlic but is one way of knowing the garlic components are circulating in your body. Like Dr. Paul Wargovich of Houston's M.D. Anderson cancer hospital says "If it doesn't stink, it doesn't work." A bulb of garlic has from four to 16 or more cloves, depending on variety. Alliin, is found predominantly in garlic, is broken down by an enzyme in garlic alliinase which is released in nature as a defence mechanism during pest attack. At home, it is only upon fine chopping crushing or chewing of garlic that the substrate alliin meets up with alliinase and react together to form allicin (as well as other thiosulfinates). Fresh garlic is estimated to contain approximately 4.38 to 4.65 milligram of allicin per gram of garlic; thus for one fresh clove of garlic, weighing approximately 4 g, there is approximately 17.52 to 18.60 mg of allicin. For reasons not clearly understood, allicin is formed steadily in regular spurts rather than all at once. Every 6 and 1/4 minutes or so there is a rapid dramatic increase in the rate of allicin production but only for about 30 seconds, returning to normal again. This cycle is repeated. This may have something to do with the fact that the intermediate product, 2-propenesulfenic acid formed needs to combine with another molecule of 2propenesulfenic acid to form allicin. Therefore by waiting seven minutes, you benefit from the first great wave of allicin production and by waiting 14 minutes, you get the extra boost of the second surge. Allicin and related thiosulfinates are highly unstable and instantly decompose to yield various sulphur compounds including organosulphur compounds (diallyl sulfide (DAS), diallyl disulfide

(DADS), diallyl trisulfide (DATS), S-allylmercaptocysteine (SAMC), S-allyl cysteine (SAC)), dithiins ajoene and others. Three molecules of allicin combine to form ajoene when allicin is dissolved in edible oils or when heated lightly. Allicin decomposes to 2-propenesulfenic acid but as this compound is also an intermediate substrate of allicin a complex equilibrium is achieved between formation and decomposition of allicin at room temperature. Allicin does not circulate for long in the human body. The fact is that allicin has never been detected in mammalian blood, urine or stool even following a short period after administering/consuming large amounts of the purified compound or garlic in its raw form. It is postulated that even though allicin is a short-lived compound, it can easily diffuse through cell membranes and exerts its biological effects by rapidly reacting with intracellular molecules therefore allicin is unlikely to be found in the blood stream. Ajoene has been implicated in a broad spectrum of biological activities that include anticancer activity. Allicin and ajoene also function as antimicrobial and antifungal agents; dietary garlic is helpful in preventing yeast infection (Candida albicans) and treating athlete's foot (tinea pedis), for example. DATS and DADS have been shown to circulate in the lymphatic system where they inhibit cancer cells spreading there. In addition, DADS are utilised by the immune system to manufacture antibodies, which are held together by a disulfide chemical bond, further strengthening the immune system. Allicin disappears during processing as garlic's benefits are lost due to the heating process and is quickly transformed into a variety of degradation products hence most commercial garlic products contain only the degradation products and should be taken as supplements with caution. Supplements of garlic should be taken with caution as these do not contain equal amounts of allicin. There are a few main garlic supplements commercially available. These include aged garlic extract (AGE), dehydrated garlic powder, garlic oil, and garlic oil macerate, each performing different pharmacologic functions. AGE and garlic oil are most useful garlic preparations. Aged Garlic Extract (AGE) is in a class by itself among commercial products. This is produced by aging of organic fresh garlic in water, at room temperature (37 degrees C), for 20 months. Having no fatsoluble compounds it is truly odour-free. It contains mainly SAMC and SAC but also has high levels of antioxidants such as flavonoids and phenolic acids. AGE has been found to help in preventing atherosclerosis, various kinds of cancer and neurodegenerative disease, have an antiaging effect and shown to improve memory and learning. Garlic oil also holds some therapeutic potential as it also contains DAS, DADS and DATS, which may be beneficial. The exact mechanism of how allicin and other thiosulphinates in garlic work has not been fully elucidated. Recently it was suggested that the allicin intermediate precursor 2-propenesulfenic acid, which also happens to be a decomposition product at room temperature, has in fact the most potent antioxidant activity. It was found to be more potent than allicin itself. Interestingly, allicin was found to be a less potent antioxidant that the other thiosulphinates produced by garlic. Yet it's said, that 1 milligram of allicin has a potency of 15 standard units of penicillin. Thus the antioxidant activity of 2-propenesulfenic acid is more potent than any other found in nature or man-made. Sulfenic acids are thought to play a key role in the defensive strategy of diverse plants against microbial infection and insect predation. The decomposition reaction happens relatively quickly in garlic and due to a slower rate of breakdown of the allicin in onions, leaks and shallots which result in a lower level of sulfenic acid available to react as antioxidants and this gives garlic an edge as a health food. Garlic also has germanium in it. Germanium is an anti-cancer agent, and garlic has more of it than any other herb. The identification of 2-propenesulfenic acid as a potent antioxidant again places the health benefits of garlic supplements in question. What is still not understood is

what happens to 2-propenesulfenic acid once it is digested and scientist are no closer to finding out why garlic in its natural form has been working as a health benefit for centuries. Modern pharmaceutical manufacturers seem obsessed with the concept that for each food that produces the desired healing effect, there is a single "magic bullet" compound in the food that does the job. Once potentially identified it is then chemically synthesized and administered in amounts much more concentrated than occurs naturally with the hope that it will achieve better, more predictable results. Although garlic has been well researched, the health benefits of garlic likely arise from a wide variety of components in the natural form of garlic, possibly working synergistically. Research has shown that even when they synthesize DADS as a petroleum distillate; it does not have the same effect as the garlic-derived version. This is true of other isolated or synthetic components of garlic. Although AGE and garlic may seem to work, it has not been conclusively shown that any of the components in these products work in isolation. We need to be a little careful about trying to fool Mother Nature as she has a few billion years head start on us - It may be best to work with her rather than against her - hence better to get benefit of garlic naturally. The only pills and oils that have healthful properties are those made from natural, healthy, living cloves of garlic; even pills and oils made from irradiated garlic which have no discernible health benefits as irradiation destroys many of the nutrients in food (detailed in "Is Your Food Killing You?"). Unfortunately, there is a lot of irradiated garlic from China in grocery stores and it is difficult to know if the product has been irradiated. To gain any benefit at all from garlic, ensure the garlic you purchase is fresh; buy garlic grown locally or better still grow it yourself! Home grown garlic, will usually store 4 to 8 months at room temperature and that makes it best for emergency use. Garlic is fairly easy to grow. Garlic can be grown all year round in mild climates. In cold climates, you should start growing garlic in the autumn. To grow garlic, place separated cloves, top side up, six to eight inches apart into the ground anytime after September. This allows the garlic to sprout roots and develop for a little while before the cold winter temperatures force it to curtail its growth and rest. During the resting period it establishes its root system. When warmer weather comes, it then explodes with growth in the spring. Hot weather then forces the garlic to mature. This is the time to harvest your garlic. Pull the bulbs out of the ground and store it in a cool, dry place. The real secret to knowing when to harvest the garlic is to watch the leaves and they'll tell you when to harvest. Garlic leaves signal maturity by beginning to turn brown and dying. The lowest (and outermost) leaves die first and then the rest die from the ground up. The separated cloves can be used for further growth. Garlic likes to be planted in fertile, well drained raised beds so that the bulb itself is up out of the water level and the roots are down in the water. It will grow in flat ground or in pots as long as it is protected from water log and as long as it has enough space to mature. Although garlic has been shown to provide anticarcinogenic effects to individuals with regular intake of high amounts of garlic, currently there is no claim about garlic intake and cancer risk reduction in food labelling. In countries as Italy, Korea and China, where a garlic-rich diet seems to be protective against disease, per capita consumption is as high as eight to 12 cloves per day. There are too many variables that can affect the chemical composition of garlic, such as the preparation method used (e.g., whether the garlic is raw or cooked, whole, or extracted) and the conditions of cultivation. By knowing a little bit about how Mother Nature designed the human body, you can use your inside knowledge to enhance the effectiveness of your garlic. To benefit from garlic's health properties, be it anticarcinogenic or antiseptic, the best way is to

crush or chop garlic into fine pieces, leave for a few minutes for the enzymes responsible for the formation of allicin to work and then for allicin to decompose to 2-propenesulfenic acid and possibly some of the other decomposition products, then either cook the garlic lightly (heat further stimulates production of 2-propenesulfenic acid) or add garlic towards the end of the cooking stages. Garlic can be added to almost any dish although caution should be exercised as some people can be allergic to too much garlic in the diet. It also beneficial to consume garlic raw and this can be done in dips as done in the Mediterranean diet where garlic oil is used as a dip for bread. Roasted garlic may be delicious but whole bulbs of roasted garlic have little or no health benefits because the garlic was not crushed and so no allicin is formed mainly because the enzyme was deactivated by the roasting heat. You can still make delicious Roasted Garlic by correct preparation and baking at the correct temperatures.

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Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/?expert=Barrie_McDowell

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