Quiz

Plants and Trees With Real Health Benefits

Albert B. Lowenfels, MD

Disclosures

May 30, 2017

Garlic

With more than 5000 citations in PubMed, garlic, a member of the allium family, continues to excite considerable interest as a benefit to health. Garlic has been suggested to be beneficial for overall health, for managing hypertension, and especially for preventing and treating cancer. The association with cancer is best explained by the doctrine of signatures—a belief that botanical products that resemble parts of the body or bodily disorders can be useful for treating illnesses affecting those organs. Garlic certainly does resemble certain forms of cancer, particularly breast cancer—a tumor that was easily visible to ancient health practitioners. This doctrine can be traced back to Greco-Roman medicine but has no current scientific validity.

Included in the thousands of publications about garlic is a large prospective trial that followed more than 2000 patients with gastric cancer but did not find a statistical benefit from garlic compared with placebo treatment.[15] In addition, the overall conclusion of the 5-10 Cochrane systematic reviews on the use of garlic as a preventive agent for various diseases is, "conclusive evidence is lacking."

Despite the lack of convincing evidence, many patients believe that garlic helps to prevent or treat many common conditions. Enteric coated pills are available to minimize the pungent odor of garlic on the breath. Another folklore belief is that garlic is an exceptionally strong deterrent to vampires. Although yet to be tested in a randomized trial, if you live in Transylvania or any other high-risk area for vampires—why not try garlic as a safeguard?

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