Garlic has long been considered a natural healer. It is believed to help with a range of ailments, from high blood pressure to erectile dysfunction. However, it is garlic’s antibiotic properties that have recently caught the attention of researchers. One study found that a compound from the herb is about 100 times more effective than two types of antibiotics that are usually prescribed to treat certain intestinal infections.
Many instances of food-borne illnesses are caused by a bacterium called Campylobacter jejuni. Colonies of this bacterium form a protective slimy layer that makes it a 1000 times more resistant to antibiotics than other bacteria. Researchers at Washington State University (WSU) in the US found that a compound in garlic (diallyl sulphide) dissolves the bio-layer and kills the bacteria more effectively and in less time than the antibiotics erythormycin and ciprofloxacin, which are the common treatments for intestinal infections.
Previous research by one of the study authors, Xiaonan Lu, showed that this compound in garlic was also effective against other food-borne bacteria Listeria monocytogenes and E. coli.
This research focused on the specific compound in garlic, so it doesn’t tell us how it fares when garlic is cooked or how to consume it. However, other research says that crushing or chopping up garlic and letting it sit for 10 minutes before cooking protects one of the other main healthy compounds (allicin) in garlic.
So while consuming garlic raw would maximize its health benefits, if it has to be cooked, chop it up and let it sit for a bit.
If you like the taste of raw garlic, you could mix it in with soups, salads, on toast or in any other savoury food right before serving. On the other hand, if you don’t like the taste, there are garlic extracts and supplements that come in powder and tablet form.
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The WSU study was published in the Journal of Antimicrobial Chemotherapy.