(Health Secrets) Garlic can be used to reduce blood pressure levels in people with uncontrolled hypertension, even if they are already being unsuccessfully treated with medication, according to an Austrialian trial. Although garlic is known for a range of health benefits, this is one of the first conclusive studies into its cardiovascular benefits.
What does the study show?
The trial, which was undertaken by the University of Adelaide, involved 50 patients, all of whom were being treated for hypertension, but who still had high blood pressure despite their medication. The volunteers were divided into two groups. The first group was given four capsules of aged garlic every day for 12 weeks. The second group was given a placebo instead.
The results of the trial, which were published in the scientific journal Maturitas, showed that the systolic blood pressure of the group who took the garlic capsules was around 10mmHg lower than the group that took the placebo.
Karin Ried, a researcher who worked on the trial, said:
“Garlic supplements have been associated with a blood pressure lowering effect of clinical significance in patients with untreated hypertension. Our trial, however, is the first to assess the effect, tolerability and acceptability of aged garlic extract as an additional treatment to existing antihypertensive medication in patients with treated, but uncontrolled, hypertension.”
However, the researchers were keen to point out that more extensive trials into the use of garlic to reduce high blood pressure need to be carried out, and that people should consult their doctor before starting to take medicinal doses of garlic extract as it can thin the blood or interact with other medications.
Other health benefits of garlic
As well as its potential to reduce high blood pressure, there are a number of other proven and alleged health benefits of garlic.
- Garlic may help to normalize cholesterol levels. Although this effect is clearly seen in animals, research is still continuing into the effect of garlic on cholesterol levels in humans.
- Garlic has antibacterial, antifungal and antiviral properties. It was actually used to prevent the occurrence of gangrene in the First World War, and in recent years has been studied as a mouthwash.
- Garlic may reduce the risk of developing cancer. A study at Ohio State University concluded that the higher your level of garlic consumption, the lower your risk of developing cancer. In countries where garlic consumption is particularly high, the incidence of stomach and colon cancer is generally lower.
- Garlic can help to regulate blood pressure, meaning that it can be very useful for diabetics. However, large amounts of garlic can interact with insulin, so type 1 or insulin dependent diabetics should always consult their doctor before taking garlic extract.
- Garlic can help to fight off the common cold, and can be used as an expectorant for a cough, or to soothe a sore throat. Garlic also has a very high level of vitamin C.
- Garlic may boost testosterone levels according to various trails involving animals, although it is not known whether this is also the case in humans.
While many people enjoy the taste of garlic and use it liberally in their cooking, eating raw garlic cloves might not be so appealing due to the strong aftertaste and smell. Eating fresh parsley, basil or mushrooms with garlic can help to reduce the aftertaste and smell, and drinking milk can also be very effective. However, if you’re worried about the antisocial effect of eating garlic, or you simply don’t like the taste, aged garlic extract is available in tablet or capsule form.
Photo by PAHO/WHO