About this Episode
In this episode of the Medicinal Herbs podcast series, naturopath and herbalist Jo Boyd joins host Daina Parent, ND, to celebrate an “unsung herbal hero” – garlic. This herb has a well-known culinary and medicinal history of use beyond eschewing vampires. Garlic ancient medicine uses extend back to centuries ago and continues to be a main staple in modern times as well for its numerous health benefits.
Traditional Use of Garlic
Garlic (Allium sativum) is recognized for its reliability and consistency as a medicinal herb, with culinary applications and medicinal purposes known for thousands of years (00:55). Interestingly, in the time of the great pyramids, garlic was even used as a form of currency. It is one of the oldest cultivated plants and has long been used for its anti-infective properties as well as other medicinal attributes.
Modern Evidence and Research
There are thousands of published research articles providing evidence for health benefits associated with garlic (04:48). Some of its associated medicinal benefits include: cardiovascular, immune, respiratory, expectorant, diaphoretic, gut challenges, antibacterial, metabolic, osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and erectile dysfunction effects. Garlic also plays a supporting role in the Nrf-2 pathway in the context of detoxification and the modulation of inflammation.
Garlic for Metabolic Challenges
Healthcare practitioners may choose garlic for a particular patient struggling with metabolic challenges because this herb addresses many risk factors and comorbidities associated with cardiometabolic health (06:15). Jo adds that while garlic may not be as key as black cumin seed, bitter melon, berberine, and gymnema in this context, it would be a primary choice for cases that include inflammation and require antioxidant support.
Cardiovascular and Respiratory Health
Garlic is also a popular choice for cardiovascular applications, as it may address relevant parameters like cortisol levels, triglyceride levels, cholesterol levels, blood pressure, and aortic stiffness (08:20). Garlic may be used with herbs like hawthorn and/or black cumin seed as an adjunct. For respiratory applications, garlic is associated with clinical impacts like diaphoretic, expectorant, and antiseptic activity (11:27).
Favorite Uses for Garlic
While there are many applications for garlic, Jo’s favorites include using garlic to support gut health, such as including it as part of a protocol to improve the composition of the gut microbiome (16:14). She also likes to use garlic in combination with turmeric and milk thistle to support heavy metal detoxification.
There are so many garlic products available on the market, how do you know which ones to take (20:34)? Jo emphasizes the importance of allicin potency in garlic, preferring products with an allicin releasing capability as well as those that are enterically coated (when taking garlic in capsules or tablets).