Garlic - an ancient food
7,000 years of history
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Garlic, allium sativum, part the onion family, was mentioned as far back as 7,000 years ago in the ancient writings of Mesopotamia, Egypt, China, and the Indus Valley. Garlic originated in central Asia, where it grew wild. The ancient Sumerians cultivated it as a crop in the city of Ur. Ancient Babylonians warehoused thousands of bushels of garlic. It was an important commodity for the ancient traders, the Phoenicians, who probably introduced the pungent bulb to the Egyptians.  The Egyptians fed garlic to the slaves who built the pyramids. They believed it gave greater strength. Heroditus, the ancient Greek historian, reported that the Egyptians revered garlic as a god. The Indians thought it was an aphrodisiac.
Garlic as medicine
Its use in herbal medicine
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Garlic has been used since 2000 BCE as medicine. In Chinese medicine, it has been used as a sedative, for respiratory illnesses, and as a blood thinner. Hippocrates, the ancient Greek who is called the Father of Medicine, used garlic to treat cuts, infections, and digestive troubles. Pliny in his Natural History listed more than 60 medicinal uses for garlic. The Romans issued it to soldiers to shore up strength.  Medieval monks used it to treat leprosy and baldness. In 1858, Pasteur showed its antibacterial properties. It was used in both World Wars I and II as an antiseptic to disinfect open wounds and prevent gangrene in the soldiers.
Garlic's benefits are confirmed
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Modern scientific studies confirm many of garlic's touted benefits. Garlic contains a whole slew of nutrients: vitamins A, B, C, and folate; minerals such as calcium, zinc, magnesium, potassium, phosphorous, and selenium; and biologically active sulfur-containing compounds. Studies have shown that it lowers total cholesterol, specifically lowering LDL (the bad cholesterol) and raising HDL (the good cholesterol) within 12 weeks of regularly taking it. Thiosulfanates, the sulfur-containing compounds in garlic, are the active ingredients - as antibacterial agents, in inhibiting blood clots, and in lowering blood lipids. The NIH's National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine states that garlic slows atherosclerosis. Garlic is as effective as some pharmaceuticals in lowering lipids. Population studies show that garlic may even reduce the risk of stomach and colon cancer. To get some of these health benefits, especially the heart-protective ones, one or two cloves of raw garlic each day seems to do the trick.