Garlic (whose taxonomic name is Allium Sativum), is a herb of the lily family.
Shallots, leeks and chives belong to the onion family. Cooks around the world love garlic for the special flavor it imparts to their cuisine.
But the root has a far more important contribution to make than mere flavor, though. It possesses powerful health benefits. These have been known of in Asia for thousands of years.
Research has thrown up several medicinal uses for garlic. Lately, there has been a lot of research done on the anti-cancer properties of garlic. In particular, garlic has been found to have a role in lowering the incidence of lung cancer.
Garlic contains over 100 biologically useful compounds. They contribute to lowering cholesterol, preventing blood clots, protecting the endothelial linings of arteries, bringing down blood pressure and protecting against infections. In particular, Garlic helps immune cells like macrophages and T-cells in their fight against cancer cells.
Garlic and Lung Cancer
According to a study available in the Cancer Prevention Research journal, consuming garlic twice a week may bring down the risk of lung cancer by about 50%. Research scholars from the Jiangsu Provincial Center for Disease Control and Prevention in China, recently completed a population-based study to find and analyse a link between the consumption of raw garlic and the incidence of cancer. The study was carried out over 7 years from 2003 to 2010 and included 1424 patients afflicted with lung cancer and 4543 healthy individuals serving as controls.
Their research revealed that participants who included raw garlic regularly in their meals – at least twice a day – saw the incidence of lung cancer among their group fall by 44%. The researchers behind the study have found a protective association between the intake of raw garlic and the incidence of lung cancer. They have suggested that garlic could be a potential chemo-preventive agent in the battle against lung cancer, which is the second most prevalent form of cancer among both men and women. The researchers found that even smokers saw a 30% reduced risk of lung cancer when they regularly ate garlic. In a country such as China, where smoking accounts for around 90% of lung cancer cases, the findings are significant.
What is it in garlic that works this well?
Earlier research has shown evidence that eating garlic may have preventive influence for some types of cancer, too. While some studies indicate that a selenium compound in garlic may be responsible for its anti-cancer properties, there are others who hold that the organo-sulphur compounds present in garlic get sole credit.
According to new studies, diallytrisulfide (DATS), a compound found in garlic, is the real active ingredient believed to reduce the spread of human lung-cancer cells in culture. Two other compounds present in garlic – S-allyl-cysteine and di-allyl-di-sulphide – have known anti-carcinogenic properties, as well.
Both raw and cooked garlic are equally effective at combating cancer. If you plan to cook your garlic, it is important that you chop the garlic before you use it. You also need to let it stand for 10 or 15 minutes before you use. This allows the anti-cancer compounds soak into the food.