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Garlic's complex chemistry has long been the subject of scientific study. In the last 50 years, researchers have published more than 2,000 scientific papers documenting the herb's potency against bacteria, cancer, hardening of the arteries, and other threats to the heart.

Of garlic's more than 100 chemical parts, one of the strongest is allicin, an amino acid that's released when a clove is crushed. It is a powerful antibacterial and antiviral agent. Allicin is what gives off that pungent aroma particular to garlic and its cousins in the allium family (leeks, chives, shallots -- all relatives of the elegant lily.) Garlic is also rich with the vitamins A, B, and C; the minerals calcium, potassium, and iron; and the antioxidants germanium and selenium.

Lengthens cell life. In a recent Danish study, researchers added garlic extract to laboratory dishes of human skin cells. The cells reproduced while scientists checked their health and life spans. The cells exposed to garlic were healthier and lived much longer than the cells deprived of garlic.

In a Japanese study, researchers found that mice fed garlic lived significantly longer than the control mice, plus their learning ability and memory were much improved. Dr. T. Moriguchi at the University of Tokyo, Japan, who conducted the study, wrote that garlic "might be useful for treating physiological aging and age-related memory deficits in humans.

"Russian penicillin." During World War II, the Soviet Army used so much garlic as a remedy that the herb earned the nickname "Russian penicillin" for its ability to help the body fight off infections, particularly respiratory and digestive infections. The great French research biologist Louis Pasteur studied garlic's antibiotic power in 1858. In a more recent study, Boston University medical school researchers claimed that garlic works like an antibiotic against strep, staph, and fungus and yeast infections, as well as numerous strains of the flu.

In the Orient, garlic has been in use since the 6th century, and it's still extremely popular for dysentery, parasites, and other stomach infections. Traditionally, the Chinese have considered garlic a tonic for older people to improve digestion and circulation.

Allicin is the remarkable agent that fights bacteria. It seems to even fight some infections that are normally resistant to antibiotics. Such power may account for garlic's legendary reputation in folk remedies.

Battles cancer. Scientists have long known that people who traditionally eat a lot of garlic, like the Chinese and Italians, have lower rates of stomach cancer. In 1988, the National Cancer Institute reported on a study of 1,695 Chinese. Of the 564 participants with stomach cancer, most ate little or no garlic. A 1991 study concluded that two of garlic's sulfur compounds (ajoene and diallyl sulfide) appear to fight cancer.

Garlic may battle breast cancer, too. Pennsylvania State researcher dr. John A. Milner exposed rats to huge amounts of chemicals that cause cancer. Then he gave some of the rats chow full of garlic. the rats who ate garlicky chow had 50 percent fewer precancerous changes in their breasts.

Stay heart-healthy with garlic. If you live in the United States, your chances of having dangerously high cholesterol levels and hard, stiff arteries are greater than 50 percent.

Excess cholesterol in your body builds up on blood vessel walls, reducing the mount of oxygen and nutrients that get to your brain and putting a strain on your heart. Blood clots can form around these fatty deposits. In an artery supplying the heart, such clots can lead to chest pain and heart attack. If a blood vessel nourishing the brain becomes clogged, the results could be a stroke.

Taking small amounts of garlic daily can lower the "bad" LDL (low-density lipoprotein) cholesterol while raising the "good" HDL (high-density lipoprotein) cholesterol. HDL cholesterol prevents the build up of fatty deposits in your arteries.

One-half to one clove of garlic a day (or the equivalent in garlic supplements) may be all that's needed to decrease total cholesterol levels from 9 to 17 percent. Look for results after a month.

Garlic may even protect you after you've suffered a heart attack. In a three-year study in India, 432 heart attack survivors who drank the juice of six to 10 garlic cloves a day had almost half as many deaths as the group who drank fake garlic juice.

Protects against blood clots. One of garlic's 33 sulfur-rich compounds, known as ajoene, helps prevent blood clots. As you age, your blood can become "sticky" as blood platelets clump together and attach to artery walls, eventually forming dangerous clots. Some scientists believe that ajoene is as strong as aspirin in thinning the blood.

Lowers high blood pressure. There's even some evidence that garlic may also lower high blood pressure.

Eases painful leg cramps. Because garlic stimulates the circulatory system, researchers believe the herb may help treat the painful condition known as "intermittent claudication.". That's the leg cramps and aches you get when you don't have enough blood flowing to your legs. Doctors often advise a walking program to help ease the pain of claudication, but walking more than short distances hurts ! People participating in a recent study in Germany took 800 milligrams of garlic powder for 12 weeks and were able to walk farther without the cramping pain.

Richest in antioxidants. Garlic is extremely rich in antioxidants, which block free radicals -- the potentially harmful elements that circulate in the body and may lead to cancer and heart disease. The US Department of Agriculture recently analyzed the antioxidant content of several nutritious vegetables. Garlic topped the list, by far, outranking even spinach, sweet potatoes, and broccoli.











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