Ask any herbalist and he or she will tell you that, when it comes to herbs, “Raw is always better.” Ever wonder if that’s really true? Are raw herbs always more potent than cooked herbs? Does cooking really destroy an herb’s potential healing properties? Well, when it comes to garlic, raw really is better than cooked.
Every major healing modality in the world recognizes the potential health benefits of garlic. Ayurveda, the traditional folk medicine of India, regards garlic as a powerful rejuvenating and detoxifying medicine. Traditional Chinese medicine sees garlic as a liver and lung tonic capable of expelling parasites, easing coughs and even relieving genital itching. And, of course, here in North America, garlic is growing in popularity as a potent immune supporter.
Scientifically, garlic has been studied for a wide variety of medical conditions. While the research hasn’t always produced positive results, garlic has shown at least some promise in the fight against high blood pressure, heart disease and stroke. Garlic may also slow or stop the growth of some types of cancers. Garlic was even the focus of a 2007 study on hair loss in men.
If you’re eating garlic for its potential health benefits, you should be aware that a 2007 study published in the March issue of Journal of Medicinal Food found that cooking garlic even for brief periods of time dramatically lessened garlic’s antimicrobial actions. In this study researchers looked at garlic’s antimicrobial effects on some of the most common human infections, including E. coli, the germs that cause strep and staph infections and the fungus that causes most yeast infections.
Raw Garlic Really Is Better
To study the effects of garlic on common infections, researchers extracted juice from fresh garlic then heated the juice to various temperatures for various lengths of time. In doing so, they found that garlic juice heated to the boiling point and held for as little as 30 minutes lost virtually all of its antimicrobial potential. Even boiling the garlic juice for as little as 5 or 10 minutes dramatically reduced its ability to destroy pathogens.
Getting The Most Of The Garlic You Eat
While this study on garlic’s antimicrobial effects didn’t produce any real surprises, it did confirm what herbalists have been saying for years. Raw is better. The study’s authors advise people interested in using garlic for its potential health benefits to use fresh garlic and avoid boiling it for more than 5 minutes.
If you have any questions about garlic’s possible role in your diet ask your doctor to refer you to a dietitian or nutritionist who can help you design a dietary plan that’s perfect for you.
Al-Waili, N., et al (2007). Effects of heating, storage, and ultraviolet exposure on antimicrobial activity of garlic juice.
Hajheydari, Z., et al (2007). Combination of topical garlic gel and betamethasone valerate cream in the treatment of localized alopecia areata: a double-blind randomized controlled study.