Garlic is used widely today for its therapeutic properties
According to the National Library of Medicine, part of the NIH (National Institutes of Health), USA, garlic is widely used for several conditions linked to the
blood system and heart, including atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries), high cholesterol, heart attack, coronary heart disease and hypertension.
Garlic is also used today by some people for the prevention of
lung cancer, prostate cancer, breast cancer, stomach cancer, rectal cancer, and colon cancer.
Allicin is the most powerful medicinal compound derived from garlic and provides the greatest reputed health benefits.
Allicin does not occur in "ordinary" garlic, it is produced when garlic is finely chopped or crushed. The finer the chopping and the more intensive the crushing, the more allicin is generated and the stronger the medicinal effect.
The technically minded might be interested in the chemistry of allicin.
As well as having antibiotic properties, allicin is an excellent anti-fungal and has been used to treat skin infections such as athlete's foot. Be cautious: too much contact with crushed garlic can result in skin blistering. You should also be aware that a few people are allergic to garlic. Garlic is powerful and needs to be treated with respect - see the warnings page.
Allicin starts to degrade immediately after it is produced, so its medical effectiveness decreases over time. Cooking speeds up this degradation and microwaving appears to destroy allicin totally and eliminate any health benefits.
So for the most powerful medicinal effect, crush a little raw garlic and combine with the cooked food shortly before serving. Don't overdo it - too much can produce irritation of and possibly even damage to the digestive tract. Remember too that raw, crushed garlic also has the most powerful flavour!