• Dr. Tara Tranguch

Grow your Phytopharmacy: Garlic!

It's time to plant Allium sativum.

It is early November here in Connecticut, zone 6 for planting, which means it is time to plant garlic!


Yes, garlic is planted in late fall before the ground has frozen but after the first frost. The cloves are planted, mulched heavily, and they will begin to sprout over the winter. By March you will see garlic sprouts pushing through the ground. In June you will cut garlic scapes, and by early July you will be harvesting garlic bulbs.

One of the great joys of growing your own garlic is getting to enjoy garlic scapes which are not commonly found in the grocery store.


Planting your winter garden bed


After a long winter, it is so great to walk into your garden in early spring and see green! So when you are planting your garlic, throw some carrot and spinach seeds in the ground too. Mulch them and you will be pleased as punch to be munching some sweet vegetables in the spring. I also planted some tatsoi, another cold loving green which will do well over the winter.


Watch the video below on how to plant garlic. If you have any questions about growing garlic or preparing your winter garden bed, don’t hesitate to reach out!

Phytopharmacy: All about Allium sativum


In addition to tasting good, garlic has so many amazing medicinal properties. Its active constituents are ajoene, allicin, allyl methyl thiosulfinate and methyl allyl thiosulfinate. Ajoene is anti-fungal and virucidal and allicin is virucidal and anti-bacterial making garlic naturally anti-fungal, virucidal, anti-bacterial and anti-parasite.

Garlic is immunomodulating, which means it serves as a tonic to balance the immune system. It stimulates heat shock proteins which improves our immune system surveillance and ability to fight infections. Research has shown that consuming garlic can reduce getting colds.

Garlic inhibits platelet clotting and promotes a healthy heart and cardiovascular system. Garlic inhibits cholesterol production in the liver which lowers cholesterol and triglyceride levels in the blood. In addition it decreases LDL susceptibility to oxidation, which can inhibit the development of atherosclerosis.


And garlic has been shown to decrease both systolic and diastolic blood pressure (up to a 8.7mm Hg systolic and 6.1 mm Hg diastolic reduction), depending on the dose of the garlic supplement.

How to get all the benefits of garlic


Garlic has the glucosinolate sulfur-containing compounds allicin, alliin and ajoene. Allicin is the most active thio-sulfinate in garlic and is responsible for garlic’s odor.

Allicin is only activated when raw garlic is crushed, chopped or chewed. Chopping and crushing garlic activates the enzyme alliinaase which turns inactive alliin into allicin.

Alliinase and allicin are deactivated by heat so cooked garlic is less powerful medicinally than raw garlic. And allicin is stable for only a few hours to a few days so buying garlic already cut up means it is missing its medicinal quality.

Food as medicine


We want the allicin! Garlic is most medicinal when eaten freshly chopped and crushed or powdered.


Here is how to maximize the allicin content in your garlic:

  1. Purchase fresh garlic bulbs.

  2. Cut the garlic and allow it to rest for 5-10 minutes. During this time the alliinase will be actively converting alliin to allicin.

  3. Use raw or very gently cooked over low heat. Remember, heat inhibits alliinase. If you crush the garlic before cooking it, this will also help increase the amount of allicin.

And most importantly, enjoy!


Sources:

Gaby, A., 2017. Nutritional Medicine, Second Edition. Concord: Fritz Perlberg Publishing.


Jeremy Johnson, P., 2020. Phytochemical Monograph: Allicin - Plant Medicine News. [online] Plant Medicine News. Available at: <http://www.plantmedicinenews.com/2017/03/phytochemical-monograph-allicin/> [Accessed 5 November 2020]

Josling P. Preventing the common cold with a garlic supplement: a double-blind placebo-controleld survey. Adv Ther 2001; 18:189-193.


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