You all know about the photography, but my background is originally biochemistry.   I'm really into food, nutrition, and that sort of thing.  So here's an installment in what may become a series.  Actually, these articles are going to serve as my own notebook of recipes and such, but hopefully you'll find them useful too.

Today's food subject is garlic...

Recently my wife said she couldn't hear out of one ear.  Actually she wondered aloud if she had suddenly gone deaf in it.   Evidently it felt like congestion and was rather uncomfortable.  Both of us had been reeling from allergies to the Asian ladybug, Harmonia axyridis.  These little beasts are all over the place in the fall and spring.   Have you ever seen thousands of ladybugs in one place?  We have.  Every year. 

My wife said to me, "What can I do about this ear?"

This might seem unconventional, but here was my response.  I went into the kitchen and made some toast with my homemade bread, minced up two fresh cloves of garlic, and spread them on the buttered toast.  I poured some organic olive oil over the whole thing. 

I said, "Here, eat this."

"What's that gonna do?" she said. 

"Go ahead, try it," I said.  "Just give it a couple hours."

"What, you mean this will help my ear?  How??"

"Just try it."

Three hours later, she walked in and said the ear had cleared up.  "This is so amazing!" she said.  "I want to tell the world about garlic."

"I think we can arrange that," I replied. 

So here I am, to tell the world about it (please read the Disclaimer).  I'm not saying the results would be the same for other people, but garlic is worth talking about for a lot of reasons.

Garlic is an interesting plant.  It may be that the beneficial compounds are actually the plant's attempt to keep from being eaten. 

The best-known compound in garlic is alliin.   This transforms into allicin when you chop or crush garlic.  The allicin is often said to be the most important beneficial compound in garlic, although there are others.  These include S-allyl cysteine, diallyl disulfide, and probably other compounds we don't even know about. 

Alliin is changed to allicin by an enzyme called alliinase.  This enzyme is not released until you crush or break open the plant cells.  That's because normally, it's stored in special vacuoles in the plant cells.  In other words, the alliinase is kept separate from the alliin.  That has practical significance, because it means that as long as you store the garlic in whole form, it can last for a while.  I'd expect it to be good for several months, at least.  (If you store garlic too long, it does dry out, though.)

Just so you know, though, dried or aged garlic is not necessarily useless.  It may actually be almost as good as raw garlic, depending on whom you ask.  There's some evidence that S-allyl cysteine and other compounds are actually hugely beneficial, even when there's no allicin.   That's why I'd feel pretty confident in the bio-availability of something like this stuff.  (A very good friend of mine took that and is recovering from a very stubborn case of Lyme disease when nothing else helped.    Amazingly enough, his physician was the one who recommended it to him.  That's the kind of doc to have.)  I'm sure the Reishi in there has something to do with it as well.

Now, back to fresh garlic. 

I used to hate garlic.  Hated it.  In fact, I wondered why or how anyone could stand it. 

Once, when I was younger, the local pizzeria accidentally sold me someone else's pizza, and that person had ordered fresh garlic underneath the cheese.  I was so grossed out that I thought the owner had played a joke on me.  Now, I love garlic because I've been acclimated to it.  If that can work for a former garlic hater like me, it can probably work for you.

Some people do get nauseated from raw or fresh garlic, and maybe that's a separate issue, but if you can stomach the stuff, the raw garlic is the best way to go.  If you can't deal with the raw stuff, though, aged garlic seems to be a lot less upsetting to the stomach.  (Garlic capsules in the stomach can still be pretty rough, though... I open the capsules and sprinkle them on bread.)

Some Interesting Benefits

Garlic has been found in numerous studies to have activity against cancer cells.  It also has antiplatelet activity, meaning it suppresses clot formation and thins the blood.  In fact, garlic has been found to be helpful against a wide spectrum of diseases ranging from hypertension to ankylosing spondylitis (disclaimer, again.)

Earlier I mentioned S-allyl cysteine.  This compound, unlike allicin, can be found in aged garlic.  S-allylcysteine has been found to protect against DNA strand breaks and other kinds of oxidative damage.  Certain metal ions generate reactive oxygen species in our cells, probably through the Fenton reaction.  (Fenton's Reagent is used to destroy organic compounds through this same mechanism.  Metal + hydrogen peroxide = free radicals & broken bonds.) 

S-allylcysteine can offer some degree of protection to cells. 

In another food article I talked about making beef bone broth.  Some people have expressed concern that maybe bone broth could release lead, because lead tends to accumulate in the bones of an animal over its lifetime.  I don't know that it's really a huge concern, but if I were worried about it (and still wanted to eat bone broth), here's what I would do.  I'd eat some raw garlic before eating the broth.   Garlic has been shown to protect against lead in the bloodstream.  It seems to act by chelating the lead, protecting against lead buildup in the kidneys, bones, and ovaries [1, 2].   Because it acts in the bloodstream, I'd guess that garlic probably protects against buildup of lead everywhere else, too.

Two of the most unhealthy things a person can probably eat are french fries and fried potato chips.  (French fries made in re-used oil are probably the worse of the two.)  One of the health concerns, but not the only one, is acrylamide.  There's more acrylamide when the potato products are crispy and browned... which a lot of people find appetizing.  (Can't say I disagree with them.)  Well, it just so happens that garlic has even been found to protect against acrylamide.[3

Here again, if I couldn't resist the tasty french fries, at least I would eat some fresh garlic right before indulging.  Sometimes I think that's what makes a lot of Americans able to survive with all the bad food that's on the typical menu.  It's those saving things-- like garlic, carrots, broccoli, and tomatoes-- that offer some protection.  

An Easy, Tasty Snack

Earlier, I talked about how to make the fresh garlic toast that I prepared for my wife.

I wanted to mention that the bread is important.  Find a good bakery that uses unbleached flour, or use some to make your own.  Slice the bread into 1-cm-thick pieces, lightly toast it (because dark toast forms acrylamide...).  Butter the toast if you like, or use a good butter substitute.  We stay clear of hydrogenated oils, and many of the butter-substitute products are starting to do that, as well.

When you crush the garlic cloves, just use the flat side of a chef's knife.   After you crush the garlic, peel off the papery coating on the broken cloves.  Cut the ends off each clove and discard, and then mince the cloves with the chef's knife. (Forget those ever-dull ones that are always being advertised on TV.  Try one of these).  

It helps if you use a cutting board that you don't use for anything else but garlic and onions.  (Don't roll out pie crust dough on this.  Voice of experience here.)  I like these cutting boards a lot.

An easier way to mince garlic is just to use a garlic pressThis one is about the best one available.  Then you don't even have to peel the cloves.  (Pick yours up through that link and you can show your support for my website.)

Spread the minced garlic on the toast.  Drizzle with organic EVOO and serve.   Simple! 


This has been a very brief look at garlic, one of the best plants on earth. 

If you purchase any of your stuff through the Amazon or Ebay links on here, it helps me keep this site on-line.  Then I can keep supplying you with informative articles about everything from photography to technology to food and health. 

As always, thanks for visiting this website! 

Article References

[1]  Aslani MR, Najarnezhad V, Mohri M.  "Individual and combined effect of meso-2,3-dimercaptosuccinic acid and allicin on blood and tissue lead content in mice".  Planta Med. 76(3):241-4 (2010 Feb). doi: 10.1055/s-0029-1186141. Epub 2009 Sep 17.

[2]  Najar-Nezhad V, Aslani MR, Balali-Mood M.  "Evaluation of allicin for the treatment of experimentally induced subacute lead poisoning in sheep".  Biol Trace Elem Res. 126(1-3):141-7 (2008 Winter). doi: 10.1007/s12011-008-8185-9. Epub 2008 Aug 22.

[3]  Zhang L, Zhang H, Miao Y, Wu S, Ye H, Yuan Y.  Protective effect of allicin against acrylamide-induced hepatocyte damage in vitro and in vivo.  Food Chem Toxicol. 50(9):3306-12 (2012 Sep). doi: 10.1016/j.fct.2012.05.060. Epub 2012 Jun 13.

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