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Garlic

Garlic (Allium
Garlic Herb
sativum) is a perennial plant in the family Alliaceae and genus Allium, closely related to the onion, shallot, and leek. It does not grow in the wild, and is thought to have arisen in cultivation, probably descended from the species Allium longicuspis, which grows wild in south-western Asia. Garlic has been used throughout all of recorded history for both culinary and medicinal purposes.

The portion of the plant most often consumed is an underground storage structure called a head. A head of garlic is composed of a dozen or more discrete cloves, each of which is a botanical bulb, an underground structure comprised of thickened leaf bases. Each garlic clove is made up of just one leaf base, unlike onions, which are composed of numerous leaf layers. The above-ground portions of the garlic plant are also sometimes consumed, particularly while immature and tender.

Garlic has a powerful pungent or "hot" flavour when raw, which mellows considerably when it is cooked. Raw or cooked, garlic is noted for its strong characteristic odor, and for giving those who eat it a distinctive breath odor as well. Some cultures accept the odor of garlic more than others. Northern European cuisines, for example, use garlic only modestly and tend to cook it for long periods of time to diminish its strength. Although people have come to enjoy the taste of garlic, these compounds are believed to have evolved as a defensive mechanism, deterring animals like birds, insects, and worms from eating the plant.

A large number of sulfur compounds contribute to the smell and taste of garlic. Diallyl disulfide is believed to be an important odor component. Allicin has been found to be the compound most responsible for the spiciness of raw garlic. This chemical opens thermoTRP (transient receptor potential) channels that are responsible for the burning sense of heat in foods. The process of cooking garlic removes allicin, thus mellowing its spiciness.

Cultivation
Selfsufficientish.com provides the following growing instructions:

Plant the individual cloves from a garlic plant in drills of 5 cm (2 in) and 15 cm (6 in) apart. Ideal soil pH is in the 6.2 to 6.8 range.
Garlic grows best in hot wet conditions, but try it all year round. It is pretty hardy and will live through frosts.
Ensure that the growing area is weed free.
Garlic likes water; in a hot climate it may need to be watered daily. If the shoots look dry then it is a sign that the plant needs a 'drink'.
Garlic is ready to harvest about four months after it has been sown. At this point the foliage will lose its colour and die back. Dig up the bulbs with a fork to avoid damaging them.

Medicinal use

Some scientific research indicates
Garlic Herb
that garlic can have some health benefits, such as diminishment of platelet aggregation; a meta-analysis showing significant (12%) lipid lowering of cholesterol, triglycerides, and low-density lipoprotein (LDL)-cholesterol; treatment of hyperlipidaemia; the significant inhibition of atherosclerosis via the use of aged garlic extract Kyolic; and the protective nature of chronic garlic intake on elastic properties of aorta in the elderly. Regular and prolonged use of therapeutic amounts of aged garlic extracts lower blood homocysteine levels, and prevent some complications of diabetes mellitus. It may have some cancer-fighting properties because it is high in diallyl sulphide (DADs), believed to be an anticarcinogen.

In modern naturopathy, garlic is used as a treatment for intestinal worms.

Garlic cloves continue to be used by aficionados as a remedy for infections (especially chest problems), digestive disorders, and fungal infections such as thrush. They are claimed to be an effective long-term remedy for cardiovascular problems reducing excessive blood cholesterol levels, atherosclerosis, the risk of thrombosis, and hypertension but these claims are disputed, as there has been no clinical trial that has demonstrated any such benefits. Whole cloves used as suppositories are sometimes used as a home remedy for Candidiasis (yeast infections). Garlic is also alleged to help regulate blood sugar levels, and so can be helpful in late-onset diabetes, though people taking insulin should not consume medicinal amounts of garlic without consulting a physician. In such applications, garlic must be fresh and uncooked, or the allicin will be lost.

Dietary supplements in pill form, such as Garlique, claim to posess the medical benefits of garlic, without (in the words of the Garlique manufacturer) "the unsocial qualities associated with fresh garlic cloves".[


Other useful herb information: Elderberry | Pycnogenol | Cohosh | Dioscorea | Wild yam | Aloe | Nettle

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