The garlic bulb is familiar in cooking and herbal circles as a source of flavour and odour. Each bulb is subdivided into cloves. Digesting garlic gives the characteristic smell on your breath. "Odourless" garlic still gives some mild breath odour.
Its reputation is as an aid to a healthy heart and circulation. It lowers blood pressure and LDL (bad) cholesterol.
Garlic can also lower blood sugar levels and thin the blood.
It contains antioxidants and is a natural antibiotic, anti-fungal and anti-viral.
Garlic could stop you getting a cold and may help shorten recovery time if you get one.
It may have a beneficial effect on cancer of the stomach and colon - research is continuing.
Garlic is made up of more than 200 compounds. Its complexity and the many ways of preparing it mean that its activity varies. For example, one trial got a 20% lowering of cholesterol, while another found no effect. The first used garlic oil and the second used garlic powder.
Eat one or two cloves a day for maximum health protection. Converted to garlic tablets or capsules this is between 600 and 900 mg. In any case follow manufacturer instructions on dosage.
Garlic has few undesirable effects. Raw garlic can irritate the digestive tract and burn sensitive skin.
Don’t take garlic if you are also taking aspirin or anti-coagulant drugs such as warfarin, since they all make the time for blood to clot longer.
Stop taking garlic at least two weeks before surgery, as excessive bleeding could be a problem.