Garlic (Allium sativum L.) has acquired a reputation in different traditions as a prophylactic as well as therapeutic medicinal plant. Garlic has played important dietary and medicinal roles throughout the history. Some of the earliest references to this medicinal plant were found in Avesta, a collection of Zoroastrian holy writings that were probably compiled during the sixth century BC. Garlic has also played as an important medicine to Sumerian and the ancient Egyptians. There is some evidence that during the earliest Olympics in Greece, garlic was fed to the athletes for increasing stamina.
Garlic Use in Ancient Chinese and Indian Medicine
Ancient Chinese and Indian medicine recommended garlic to aid respiration and digestion and to treat leprosy and parasitic infestation.In the medieval period, garlic also played an important role in the treatment of different diseases. Avicenna, in his well-known book, Al Qanoon Fil Tib (The Canon of Medicine), recommended garlic as a useful compound in treatment of arthritis, toothache, chronic cough, constipation, parasitic infestation, snake and insect bites, gynecologic diseases, as well as in infectious diseases (as antibiotic). With the onset of Renaissance, special attention was paid in Europe to the health benefits of garlic. Garlic has attracted particular attention in modern medicine because of widespread belief about its effects in maintaining good health. In some Western countries, the sale of garlic preparations ranks with those of leading prescription drugs.
There is appreciable epidemiologic evidence that demonstrates therapeutic and preventive roles for garlic. Several experimental and clinical investigations suggest many favorable effects of garlic and its preparations. These effects have been largely attributed to:
- reduction of risk factors for cardiovascular diseases
- reduction of cancer risk
- antioxidant effect
- antimicrobial effect
- enhancement of detoxification foreign compound and hepatoprotection