Garlic is an ancient herb and is almost always considered safe for culinary uses. If you plan to use garlic in therapeutic doses, consult with your health-care provider, particularly if you are pregnant or nursing; taking prescription medicines; have a clotting disorder, ulcers or thyroid problems; or have scheduled surgery or dental work. Potential issues include:
Garlic can interfere with the effectiveness of a number of medications, including several drugs used to treat HIV infections.
Because garlic can act as a blood thinner, you might want to avoid it if you’re planning surgery, dental work or have a clotting disorder. It can increase the risk of bleeding when taking blood-thinning medications, as well as common over-the-counter or prescription pain relievers such as aspirin or NSAIDs. Consult your physician.
Some people experience an upset stomach, heartburn or bloating, particularly when consuming raw garlic, which also can irritate the skin when handling. Naturopathic physician Sheila Kingsbury recommends cinnamon as a means to counteract garlic-induced stomachaches. Try sipping cinnamon tea before or just after a garlic-heavy meal.
When it comes to medicinal foods, our first recommendation is always to enjoy them as part of your diet. Some experts believe our bodies make best use of medicinal foods when they are consumed in their natural state, and incorporating healthful ingredients into our diets helps ensure our meals are packed with a range of nutrients. However, if you dislike eating raw garlic or are taking medicinal doses difficult to obtain from food, consider these supplement-buying tips.
• Aged garlic extract is made from extracts of fresh garlic that are aged over a prolonged period, and studies have shown it maintains the medicinal properties of whole garlic.
• Garlic’s health-enhancing properties are damaged or eliminated by heat, so choose only products processed without heat. Many dried garlic products rely on heat.
• Garlic oil makes a good alternative to fresh garlic for medicinal supplementation. You can find it in capsules.
• Consider making your own pickled garlic cloves, which can be used in food to ward off illness, or taken in higher doses when fighting cold and flu. Find the recipe at motherearthliving.com/pickled-garlic-cloves.
When buying garlic, be aware of safety concerns about Chinese exports. Although food from China makes up less than 1 percent of the U.S. food supply, more than 60 percent of garlic sold in the U.S. comes from China, where U.S. officials have cited dubious health and safety regulation. Organic garlic from China is also not guaranteed better, as organic certification in China is not as regulated as it is here. What’s more, garlic grown in California—the main U.S. producer—has been found more flavorful in taste tests. For better flavor and safety, opt for U.S.-grown organic garlic.
Garlic’s benefits to human health are well-documented, but its benefits for our four-legged friends are more questionable. This is the cause of some controversy: Some natural/holistic veterinarians recommend garlic in limited doses for dogs to improve health and help ward off pests such as fleas and ticks. Others, including the American Medical Veterinary Association, say garlic is toxic for dogs because of a substance called thiosulphate, which can cause hemolytic anemia and liver damage in large doses. We recommend using caution and consulting a medical professional when using natural remedies for any member of your family, including the furry ones.Learn more about The Medicinal Value of Garlic.
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