Garlic is the #1 Herb

“The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.” – Aristotle

Image Pickled Garlic I don’t think Aristotle was considering garlic’s numerous, versatile attributes and uses, when he coined this quotable-quote.

Garlic’s individual parts, all the way from the tip of the curly-cue garlic scape, down to the garlic head, have been credited with medicinal properties for thousands of years1. Depending on which part you use, and how it’s prepared, the beneficial chemicals and nutrients are quite different2.

  • Cooking whole or coarsely chopped garlic destroys alliinase, the enzyme necessary for production of allicin, ajoene, diallyl sulfide, diallyl disulfide, and vinyl dithiiins only cysteine sulfoxides such as alliin remain.
  • Crushing or finely chopping garlic followed by boiling in an open container, leads to volatilization and loss (including Vitamin C) of many chemically unstable, but potentially medicinal, thisulfinates.
  • Steam distillation produces an oily mass of active compounds including dillyl, methyl allyl, dimethyl, and allyl 1-propenyl oligosulfides that originate from the tiosulfinates.
  • Maceration of garlic in vegetable oil or soybean oil produces vinyl dithiins, ajoenes, and diallyl and nethyl allyl trisulfides. This latter method is the one used to prepare commercially available garlic capsules.
  • Cold aging (fermenting) garlic produces water-soluble S-allyl cysteine3, S-allyl-mercaptocysteine, and other biologically active compounds4.

Depending on your purpose and use, cooked garlic is better than crushed for some chemicals, but crushed is better than steamed for others, while steamed might be preferable to macerated garlic…it’s incredibly versatile, which is why herbalists adore garlic, their #1 herb.

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To Learn More Graphic

Pickl-It Pickled Garlic Clove Recipe
Garlic’s Useful Forms – Dehydrated, Raw or Pickled
Pickl-It Garlic Scape Recipe

In-depth look at the chemistry of garlic

Garlic Health Benefits – health benefits as well as interesting information on topic use of garlic as a way to get it into the system faster as well as infusing wine, as another means of speeding it up into the system (since allicin, the key component is usually neutralized or greatly reduced by saliva and the stomach’s digestive enzymes, not necessarily making it into the digestive tract, etc.)

What Happens with Allicin Breaks Down – more in-depth on what happens with allicin breaks down in the system, and what other components are delivered due to that breakdown.

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1 Hasler (1998), IFIC (1998, 2002) and American Dietetic Association (1999)

2 Srivastava and Tyagi, 1993

3 Garlic Overview, University of Maryland, Medical Center: “There are several important components of garlic that have been identified, and many more that have not. Alliin is an odorless sulfur-containing chemical derived from the amino acid cysteine. When garlic bulbs are crushed, alliin is converted into another compound called allicin. Allicin appears to be one of the primary active compounds that gives garlic its characteristic odor and many of its healing benefits. However, allicin is not absorbed effectively by the human body. To combat this problem, aged garlic is fermented to break allicin down to usable compounds. These compounds are water-soluble sulfur compounds (S-allyl cysteine and others) and a small amount of oil-soluble sulfur compounds. The sulfur containing compounds in aged garlic give the supplement its reported benefits in cholesterol levels, heart disease, and cancer.

4 Toxicology and Clinical Pharmacology of Herbal Products By Melanie Johns Cupp, p. 108

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