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Friday, February 13, 2009

Garlic, the food of love - as aphrodisiac

A mouthful of fresh garlic might not sound like the best start to a romantic evening, but garlic has long had a reputation as an aphrodisiac. This is connected with its classification as a "hot" herb.

Garlic (Allium sativum) is a perennial plant in the family Alliaceae and genus Allium, closely related to the onion, shallot, and leek. Both these herbs have been given special importance in Ayurveda due to their immense curative properties. The first recorded incidence of garlic as a medicinal herb dates as back as 4500 B.C. when the pyramid builders in Egypt were made to eat garlic cloves everyday for building their health. It has also been recommended by Hippocrates, who is regarded as the Father of Medicine.

Garlic is a biennial herb, but it is generally cultivated as an annual herb for convenience. Morphologically, it is a short herb with fibrous roots, a condensed stem and flattened leaves. The separate cloves of the garlic are enclosed together to form a single bulb. There could be anywhere between six and thirty-five cloves in one bulb of garlic.

It is called as lahsuna in the Indian language and its binomial name is Allium sativum. It contains all the vitamins necessary in the human diet, such as thiamin, riboflavin, niacin (B complex vitamins) and ascorbic acid (vitamin C).

Garlic contains minerals such as calcium, phosphorus and iron. It also contains iodine, sulfur and chlorine in trace amounts. Besides all these, garlic contains allicin, allisatin I and allisatin II, all of which have been identified to be agents helpful in bringing down high blood pressure.

Garlic is known for the following curative properties:-

(i) Garlic contains antiseptic properties. Hence it is used in preventing infections.
(ii) Garlic is hypotensive, i.e. it has capacity to bring down blood pressure.
(iii) Garlic is a stimulant for appetite.
(iv) Due to its rich vitamin and mineral content, garlic is very good for the hair.
(v) Garlic increases the inner body strength and vitality.
(vi) Garlic can reduce cholesterol accumulated in the arteries. That explains its widespread use in the treatment of heart problems.
(vii) The strong juices of the garlic dissolve the mucus content in the respiratory tract.
(viii) Garlic increases perspiration, which helps in the removal of the toxins from the sweat pores.
(ix) Garlic is anti-inflammatory and antispasmodic in nature.
(x) Garlic has notable aphrodisiacal properties. It is used in the treatment of many sexual problems.

Garlic is almost worshipped in Ayurvedic medicine since it is a single treatment for a wide variety of diseases. The following are the diseases in which garlic proves to be very beneficial.

(i) Acne

Garlic is used in the treatment of acne. If the pimples are rubbed with a cut clove of garlic several times a day, then they will disappear without leaving a scar behind. Garlic must also be included in the diet since it is a blood-purifier and can treat acne from within.

(ii) Asthma

Garlic is a sure remedy for asthma patients. Each night before retiring to bed, asthmatic patients must drink a glassful of milk in which three cloves of garlic have been boiled. Another remedy is very popular in making asthmatic attacks less severe. It is as follows: Peel a clove of garlic, crush it and boil it in 120 milliliters of pure malt vinegar. Cool it, then strain it and add an equal quantity of honey in it. Preserve this syrup in a clean bottle. Take one or two teaspoons of this syrup with a decoction of fenugreek twice each day, after darkness sets in.

(iii) Digestive Problems

Garlic is unanimously considered by all Ayurvedic doctors to be the best herb in the treatment of digestive problems. Daily consumption of garlic in the food helps in the proper movement of the intestines, which helps in digestion. Due to its antiseptic properties, garlic is also good remedy for preventing the inflammations of the gastric canal. Garlic aids in the treatment of colitis, dysentery and diarrhea.

(iv) Heart Problems

Garlic has only recently been proven in the west to be a suitable remedy for heart ailments. It can disintegrate the cholesterol that collects in the arteries, and hence treat the problem of atherosclerosis. It is clinically proven that the chances of a heart attack are significantly lowered if a person who has suffered a minor heart attack begins taking three cloves of garlic on a daily basis.

(v) High Blood Pressure

Due to the rich chemicals present in it, garlic is taken as an effective treatment for high blood pressure. Garlic reduces the spasms of the arteries and reduces the pressure. In addition, it also modifies the heart rhythm and dizziness, shortness of breath and flatulence.

(vi) Parasites

Garlic is an excellent worm expeller. It is also used in treating bacterial infections in the alimentary canal. The best thing about using garlic as a remedy for bacterial parasites is that it kills the harmful bacteria without harming the useful ones.

(vii) Pneumonia

A decoction of garlic is boiled in milk. This is prepared by mixing one gram of garlic in 250 milliliters of milk and one liter of water. All this is boiled till it reduces to one-fourth of the amount. This is to be taken thrice a day. This is a wonderful remedy for pneumonia.

(viii) Ringworm

Garlic is rubbed over ringworm. This burns out the infection and the skin falls off, leaving healed skin behind.

(ix) Rheumatism

Garlic is used in rheumatism treatment due to its anti-inflammatory properties. In addition to rheumatism, garlic is also used for the treatment of lumbago and arthritis.

(x) Sexual Problems

Garlic has aphrodisiac properties. It is used to enhance libido in men and women. It is used as a sex rejuvenator, i.e. it can improve sexual activity that has been damaged due to accident or disease. It is important for people who overindulge in sex to protect them from nervous exhaustion.

(xi) Tuberculosis

Garlic is used for tuberculosis in the form of a decoction boiled in milk.

(xii) Whooping Cough

In cases of whooping cough, syrup of garlic is given in doses of five drops sweetened with some sugar. This is given thrice a day, and the dosage must be increased if the problem becomes more violent.

(xiii) Wounds

Due to its antiseptic properties, garlic can be effectively used in the treatment of wounds and ulcers. A good antiseptic lotion can be prepared for washing wounds by dissolving one part of garlic juice in three parts of distilled water. When the wound is washed with this lotion, there is marked improvement in a very short time. This also relieves the pain that is associated with wounds due to damage to the nerves.

Sexual stimulant

In the times of Homer, Greeks ate garlic daily - with bread, as a condiment, or added to salads. It was the main ingredient in a garlic paste (a forerunner of today’s skordalia?) containing cheese, garlic, eggs, honey, and oil. Then, between the forth and first centuries B.C.E. many medical doctors, including Galen, the one stated earlier, and Hippocrates agreed that ingesting garlic would contribute to sexual potency. Fifteen centuries later Maimonides added his voice to this bit of folk wisdom. Although this theory is laughed at by most contemporary medical researchers, garlic remains the most popular aphrodisiac of modern day Greeks, especially those who inhabit the Ionian Islands. On Corfu, for example, widowers who marry are feted before the wedding with an assortment of dishes, all of which are heavily seasoned with garlic. There is even a priest living in the village of Kourkabedes who promises barren couples that chewing six raw heads of garlic each day will produce a child for them.

One research has also proven that garlic supplementation in rats along with a high protein diet has been shown to boost testosterone levels (of the rats, that is).

Basically, since it improves blood circulation and shows antibiotic properties, it has been generally accepted to be a potent aphrodisiac; but now it appears that an enzyme called nitric oxide synthase (NOS) is primarily responsible for the mechanism of erection. Studies have recently shown that garlic in certain forms can stimulate the production of NOS particularly in individuals who have low levels of this enzyme.

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