What Are the Health Benefits of Garlic?

Reader Contribution by Kc Compton
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I’ve heard garlic is good for you, but what exactly does it do? Are there any specific health benefits that come from eating a lot of garlic?

My initial reaction to this question is that even if garlic weren’t healthy, my diet would still be full of the stuff. Just considering that aroma and flavor are part of what makes life worth living, I’d say that garlic is exceptionally good for you. But yes, it does have specific medicinal uses.

Ethnobotanist James Duke, Ph.D., one of the world’s leading experts in medicinal plants, places garlic among the best all-around plant medicines in the world. According to Duke’s seminal book, The Green Pharmacy, garlic is effective for alleviating conditions ranging from high cholesterol and high blood pressure to yeast infections and clotting disorders. Garlic compounds have the potential to help treat more than 200 ailments, Duke says. It’s the best overall plant for stimulating the immune system, the best anti-clotting herb, one of the best anti-fungals, and potentially useful for preventing heart disease and cancer.

When I’m learning about any herb, what gets my attention isn’t the amount of advertising it garners on late-night TV or even in the pages of magazines, but how long it has been in the human medicine cabinet and what its uses have been through the ages. Garlic passes that test with the highest marks. Cultures throughout the world have recognized garlic’s healing abilities. The first-century Roman scholar Pliny the Elder cited uses for it from treating snakebites to dealing with dizziness and intestinal parasites. In China, records show garlic was used as early as the sixth century to treat conditions such as colds and digestive ailments.

For specific information on how much garlic is recommended for a particular condition, check out the articles at The Herb Companion, or read about garlic in The Green Pharmacy, a welcome addition to any home library.

Note: Because garlic is a powerful anti-coagulant (prevents bloodclotting), don’t take it in large amounts if you have a clotting disorder, and consult with your health care practitioner if you take anti-coagulants, such as Coumadin, or therapeutic doses of aspirin. Stop using garlic two weeks before any scheduled surgery. 

K.C. Comptonis senior editor at MOTHER EARTH NEWS, and formerly was Editor in Chief of our sister publications, The Herb Companion and GRIT. A huge fan of the food chain, from molecules to meals on the table, K.C. is passionate about the idea that most of what we need to be healthy can be found in the garden. Find her on .

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