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Garlic: Discovering Familiar Things

Garlic belongs to the plants familiar to everyone due to their common use for culinary purposes. Meanwhile, it is not the only reason for its popularity. Garlic is also a valuable plant in the traditional herbal medicine, applied for fighting multiple health disorders. Taking into account the latter fact, it would be good to know a little more about this many-sided herb.
Biological Description
Garlic Latin name is Allium sativum. It has previously been classified as a member of the lily (Liliaceae) family; however, now, upon solving some controversial issues, it is said to be related rather to the onion (Alliaceae) family having more in common with its representatives.
The type of garlic, which is nowadays the most popular and frequently used, is called “hardneck garlic”, because it has a single erect hardy stem growing to a height of maximum 3 feet. Garlic leaves are flat, narrow, and long. They resemble those of leek. The flower of the plant (an umbel with many green-white or pink flowers – bulbils) is situated on the woody scape, curved at the top. The umbel is covered by a kind of spathe, which with a curled top resembles a fool’s cap.
The bottom of the plant stem is the place where multiple (from 4 in some cultivars to 60 in others) cloves of garlic are formed. They are situated around the stem and covered with a paper-like membrane to look like a bulb.
There is also another type of garlic, which has pseudo stem made of overlapping leaves. It is called “softneck garlic”. This subtype develops no flower stems.
A peculiar feature of garlic is that the plant emits strong odour if cut or crushed and has specific spicy taste, due to which it is one of the most popular culinary herbs.
Being indigenous to Central Asia, garlic now grows all over the world. However, it does better on the fertile, sandy, moist soils and sunny places. Garlic requires lower temperatures on early stages of growth; later it can tolerate warmer weather.
Being mostly cultivated rather than growing abundantly, this perennial plant is raised as an annual one.
Parts Used
Although the leaves and the cloves of garlic are both edible and used for spicing food, only the cloves are said to possess medicinal properties. 
Such forms of garlic supplements are available in the herbal stores: dried bulbs, dried powder in tablets or capsules, essential oil, tincture, liquid extracts and garlic juice. Even wine of garlic can be found these days. It looks like garlic is one of the supplements, which are available in so many different forms.
Chemical composition of garlic includes many constituents (alliin, ajoene, vitamins B and C, manganese, selenium, calcium, phosphorus, flavonoids, diallyl sulphides, etc); the most powerful element, as it is believed by herbalists and some scholars, is allicin.
Allicin, believed to be the reason of garlic hot taste, is also an effective antibiotic and antifungal agent (phytoncide). It is produced as a result of chemical reactions when garlic is crushed. Allicin has a short life losing its power and effectiveness over time; thus, garlic cloves should be used right after crushing. Cooking also destroys this component of the plant.
It is suggested that allicin stimulates the cells of the immune system, which are responsible for killing harmful germs – macrophages. The very component may also be very helpful in treating skin conditions among the other diseases (cold and flu, stomach viruses, and even tuberculosis and botulism).
Garlic is a powerful anti-inflammatory means, which also relieves pain. Alliin, ajoene, selenium, and diallyl sulphides may have anticancer effects, being able to inhibit the harmful influence and toxicity of carcinogens and prevent cancer tumours from spreading and growing.
Garlic constituents seem to have a protection power against hyperlipidemia, being able to reduce platelet stickiness; thus, preventing the deposit of fats on the blood vessels walls.
Health Benefits
Cardiovascular protection and anticancer activity are, perhaps, the most important benefits garlic can produce in the body besides its ability to treat cold, flu, and other viral, bacterial, and fungal diseases. To be precise, garlic is believed to lower bad cholesterol and triglycerides levels, fight high blood pressure and prevent the development of atherosclerosis, thus, reducing the risks of heart attack and stroke.
Moreover, garlic is used by naturopaths and herbalists to reduce arthritis pain, lower blood sugar levels, and even eliminate intestinal worms. Bladder and ear infections, vaginosis, and yeast infection are also treated with garlic supplements.
As for the cancer protection, it is said that different types of cancer (breast, colon, and skin cancers) can be prevented with the help of garlic supplements or consumption of raw crushed garlic cloves.
In addition, garlic can increase the level of testosterone, some studies report. At the same time, it is sometimes noted that too little research has been done by this time to officially confirm garlic abilities. Nonetheless, no home around the world can do without garlic in the kitchen, which is, at the same time, a mighty broad-spectrum medicine kit.

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