The garlic is one of the oldest cultivated plants in the world and has been produced in central Asia for 5000 years. The ancient Egyptians appear to be the first who cultivated garlic in Africa and apparently has played a pivotal role in their culture. The stimulating effect of garlic was also much appreciated by the ancient Greeks and Romans. Athletes and warriors of these cultures ate garlic before sports competitions and battles, respectively. Recently, garlic has become particularly popular among the scientific community as evidence of its health benefits is continuously expanding. While garlic is available all year round and in all forms (fresh, dried, powder), its optimal season is from June to December.
Garlic contains thiosulfinates (of which the best known compound is allicin), sulfoxides (of which the best known compound is alliin). While these compounds are responsible for the characteristically pungent smell of garlic, they are also the source of many of its health-promoting effects. The cardioprotective properties of garlic have been extensively studied. Specifically, the frequent consumption of garlic has been associated with benefits on blood pressure, triglyceride and cholesterol levels. It is also beneficial for blood platelet activity. Furthermore, garlic stimulates the production of nitric acid that can help expand and relax our blood vessel walls. Due to the above, garlic has been classified as a food that helps in the prevention of atherosclerosis, diabetic heart disease, myocardial infarction and stroke. A number of studies have shown that the consumption of garlic has an inverse relationship with the formation of atheromatous plaque. Finally, when individuals suffering from stomach ulcer or gastritis eat regularly garlic – cooked or raw – have lower levels of antibodies against Helicobacter pylori, the bacterium responsible for the above diseases.