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Friday, April 27, 2007

Part 1: Garlic, that Odoriferous Lilly

The beneficial qualities of garlic have been described in many Western books and articles. Indeed, if not for the odors it generates, garlic could become as common a household drug item as aspirin.

Garlic is known scientifically as Allium sativum of the lilly family. It is known in Chinese as da suan and has also been called hu suan, with hu noting its Western origin. It is a strong-scented perrenial herb with long, flat, firm leaves that can be as broad as 2.5 cm (1 in.). Its flowering stem can reach 1.2 m. (4 ft.) high. Its bulb has several parts, or cloves, all enclosed in a thin, white or purplish membranelike skin, and measures up to 3 cm. (1.2 in.) or more thick. Garlic is a native of Europe and Central Asia and now also grows in North America and other parts of the world. It is cultivated worldwide primarily for use as a condiment. The bulbs are collected in the summer after the leaves have withered and are dried in the shade, if necessary.

Fresh garlic contains about 0.2% volatile oil (garlic oil), alliin, alliinase (an enzime that breaks down alliin), minerals (e.g. calcium, phosphorous, iron, and potassium), and vitamins (e.g., thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, and C), among other constituents. According to a report by the Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences, Chinese garlic contains 70% water, 23% carbohydrates, 4.4% proteins, 1.3% ash, 0.7% fiber, and 0.2% fats. By comparison, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture figures, American garlic contains 61.3% water, 30.8% carbohydrates, 6.2% proteins, 1.5% ash, 1.5% fiber, and 0.2% fats. The vitamin and mineral contents of American garlic are also generally higher than those of Chinese garlic.

Garlic oil contains allicin and other sulfur-containing compounds such as allylpropyl disulfide, diallyl sisulfide, and diallyl trisulfide. Allicin is responsible for much of the pungent odor and taste of garlic. It is generated by the action of the enzyme alliinase on alliin. Under normal conditions, alliinase and alliin are separated from each other inside the garlic bulb. However, when the bulb is cut or crushed, the two are brought together and alliinase turns alliin (a nonvolatile odorless sulfur amino acid) into allicin (a pungent volatile sulfur compound).

Garlic has long been used in Western folk medicine for treating various ills, including arteriosclerosis, high blood pressure, colds, coughs, chronic bronchitis, earache, toothache, hysteria, dandruff, and pinworms.

In addition to their use in cooking, fresh and powdered dried garlic, along with garllic oil, are used extensively in seasoning all sorts of processed food and drink products in the Western world.

Come back next week for our second installment of "Garlic, that Odoriferous Lilly", when we will be discussing garlic's effects on the body.

This material is excerpted from Dr. Albert Leung’s book, Chinese Healing Foods and Herbs. Here, Dr. Leung presents general information and home remedies using garlic as well as over 45 other herbs. Garlic information can be found on page 67 – 70. For more information about Dr. Leung and his writings, visit www.earthpower.com.

1 comment:

RENDAI said...

Sir thank you so much for your article i am going to use this for my reseach paper.Im form the Philippines.