Garlic supplements give benefits of garlic extract without the taste

Garlic Supplements: Benefits, Uses and More

Garlic, scientifically known as Allium sativum, is a member of the lily family (although it sure doesn't smell like a flower!). It is used in the culinary world as fresh garlic cloves, garlic powder or garlic oil. Because of its strong taste, garlic is typically used in small amounts to enhance the flavor of a dish. From garlicky pasta to savory stir-fries and stews, garlic adds a flavorful touch to countless recipes. It pairs particularly well with fresh ingredients like tomatoes and is often used in soups, stews and curries to add rich flavor to a dish. Raw garlic can also be used to infuse olive oil.

Did you know this kitchen staple is not just a flavor enhancer, but also a nutritional powerhouse? It turns out that garlic is a particularly rich source of organosulfur compounds. These compounds are responsible not only for the flavor and aroma of raw garlic but also for its health benefits, which include supporting heart health, maintaining already healthy blood pressure and encouraging immune system response.

You don't have to wait for Italian night to enjoy these benefits. Garlic supplements and aged garlic extracts are harnessing the remarkable properties of this plant.

What are garlic supplements?

Garlic supplements are concentrated forms of garlic designed to deliver the health benefits of garlic consumption outside of daily meals. Since not everyone likes the taste or lingering odor of raw garlic or garlic oil, garlic supplements are a great way to increase your garlic intake in an odor-free, single-dose form. These supplements come in various forms, including capsules and tablets, garlic powders and garlic oils. Garlic is also used in topical products like creams, gels and pastes.

Garlic supplementation helps to support heart and blood vessel health. These supplements have been shown to help maintain already healthy blood pressure and cholesterol levels and to help promote immune health.

Supplements with garlic and aged garlic extracts are beneficial because they are packed with active ingredients, like allicin, that are responsible for garlic's health benefits. Optimized garlic supplements provide plenty of allicin thanks to the garlic extract taken from the bulb of the plant. The key is to choose a formula standardized to the allicin content, so you can match your garlic intake to clinically studied doses. Because organic garlic is available as a raw material, you should be able to get a non-GMO garlic supplement as well, if that is your goal.

Garlic Extract vs. Aged Garlic Extract: What Is the Difference?

While garlic extract is made from fresh garlic, aged black garlic extract is made by storing raw garlic bulbs at controlled temperature and humidity. The aging process gives the garlic cloves a dark color, soft texture and sweet, molasses-like flavor. It also transforms allicin into different bioactive compounds, such as S-allyl-cysteine (SAC), also known as S-allylcysteine.

What are the benefits of garlic?

Garlic supplements are often taken to support heart health and to maintain healthy levels of blood pressure and cholesterol. Dietary supplements with garlic also promote immune system health and detoxification.

One of the most beneficial (and smelliest) components of Allium sativum is allicin. Allicin is a sulfur-containing compound that forms when garlic is crushed or chopped. However, allicin is short-lived and rapidly breaks down into other sulfur-containing compounds, including S-allyl-cysteine and diallyl disulfide (DADS).

These organic sulfides, as well as saponins, phenolic compounds and polysaccharides, work in tandem to provide a range of health benefits:

  • Cardiovascular health.

    Research has found that garlic helps support a healthy inflammatory response and promotes heart health, thanks in part to its effect on maintaining already-healthy blood pressure and cholesterol levels. A meta-analysis of seven randomized controlled trials found that garlic can help support healthy blood pressure. Another meta-analysis found that garlic powder tablets and aged garlic extract supplements had a significant effect on heart health.

    Studies have turned their attention to black-aged garlic extract. Compared with fresh garlic, black garlic has higher levels of polyphenols and flavonoids, as well as superior antioxidant properties. In a clinical study, 500 mg/day of aged black garlic extract (providing 2.5 mg S-allyl-cysteine) was found to help support already-healthy blood pressure, cholesterol levels and triglyceride levels.

  • Antioxidant defense.

    Garlic has antioxidant properties. Antioxidants act as protective agents in the body. They fight free radicals and support overall health by inhibiting oxidative stress in cells.
  • Immune system health.

    Research indicates that garlic supplementation also supports the immune system. Clinical studies suggest that garlic extract can be effective in supporting human immune function.

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Are garlic supplements as good as fresh garlic?

Research shows garlic dietary supplements can be as beneficial to your health as fresh garlic and, in certain instances, may provide an even higher concentration of active ingredients compared with eating garlic. Also, if you don't enjoy the taste of garlic, supplements may be a more appealing alternative to eating fresh garlic or garlic oil, with fewer social side effects. (Garlic breath, anyone?)

The History of Garlic

Today, garlic is most well-known as a nutrient that supports heart health and healthy blood pressure, but the notion that garlic is "healthy" is hardly breaking news! For thousands of years, garlic has been used for its potent flavor and because it was presumed to be beneficial in a variety of different ways.

In cultures spanning the globe, from ancient Egypt, Greece and Rome to China and India, garlic preparations have been used for everything from supporting healthy digestion and immune system health to promoting male sexual response. Hippocrates, often considered the founder of modern medicine, recognized its potential and used garlic to encourage a diverse range of health benefits.

In ancient Egypt, garlic was used to encourage performance among laborers. It was also an integral part of the military diet in Greece, given to soldiers gearing up for battle. At the first Olympic games, athletes were given garlic to promote their performance before stepping into competition.

Is it good to take garlic supplements every day?

You can take garlic supplements every day to support healthy cholesterol and already-healthy blood pressure, and it is generally considered safe for many people. However, individual responses to supplements can vary. It's important to always follow the dosage recommendations on the product label.

As with raw garlic, large amounts of garlic consumption through supplements may contribute to a garlic-derived odor in your sweat and breath, thanks to the organosulfur compounds like allicin. Garlic supplementation may also contribute to discomfort in those with sensitive stomachs.

Garlic can interact with certain medications. As with any vitamin or supplement, be sure to consult your doctor before incorporating garlic supplements into your daily routine.

How to take garlic supplements

To promote comfort, take your garlic supplements with food and a full glass of water. Some people may experience stomach discomfort with garlic, especially when taken on an empty stomach. Be sure to follow the instructions on the product packaging.

Some garlic supplements come in an enteric-coated form. These supplements are made to dissolve in the intestine rather than the stomach and can help minimize potential stomach discomfort while giving you the support you need to maintain healthy cholesterol and blood pressure levels.

Vitamins and supplements are an excellent way to support your immune system health, but there are so many to choose from! Take our health needs quiz and get a nutrient recommendation personalized to your lifestyle and concerns.

About the Author: Sonali Ruder, DO, is a board-certified emergency medicine doctor, classically trained chef, cookbook author and founder of the popular website, TheFoodiePhysician.com. Dr. Ruder is a contributing writer, recipe developer, spokesperson, and health and wellness expert for several national magazines, websites, and organizations. Her passion is giving people the tools to take control of their health, starting in the kitchen!

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