Is Garlic a natural cure for male impotence?
Garlic has been heralded as a wonder drug for thousands of years and has been used for medicinal purposes by the Babylonians, Greeks, Egyptians, Romans and Chinese. It has been used to combat the plague, prevent gangrene, treat hypertension and ward off evil spirits.
But is it the dietary equivalent of Viagra?
Having a problem maintaining an erection can be socially embarrassing – 2.3 million men in the UK are predicted to have erectile dysfunction but most are too embarrassed to admit it.
For most men erectile dysfunction is physiological and not psychological. In order to maintain an erection the arteries need to have an efficient blood flow. Erectile dysfunction indicates a hardening of the arteries, which means it could be an early biomarker of impending cardiovascular disease.
Garlic contains allicin, which improves blood flow. We took eight willing volunteers with erectile dysfunction and fed them four cloves of raw garlic every day for three months to see if we could improve their chances of maintaining an erection, and, in the long-term prevent more serious risks of disease.
Recently the medical journal Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy have confirmed the chemotherapeutic Effects Of Garlic. A molecular mechanism may be the basis for some of garlic’s therapeutic effects.
The researchers were able to study how garlic works at the molecular level using allicin, garlic’s main biologically active component.
One study, appeared a recent issue of the American Society for Microbiology’s Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy, explains how allicin fights infection. This research supports the notion that garlic is an excellent, although smelly, natural antimicrobial drug that can disable an unusually wide variety of infectious organisms.
The second study, reported in Biochimica Biophysica Acta, helps to clarify the role allicin plays in preventing heart disease and other disorders.
In the studies, the scientists revealed and characterized a molecular mechanism by which allicin blocks certain groups of enzymes. Allicin, created when garlic cloves are crushed, protects the plant from soil parasites and fungi and is also responsible for garlic’s pungent smell.
A natural weapon against infection, the research reported in Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy revealed allicin disables dysentery-causing amoebas by blocking two groups of enzymes, cysteine proteinases and alcohol dehydrogenases.
Cysteine proteinase enzymes are among the main culprits in infection, providing infectious organisms with the means to damage and invade tissues. Alcohol dehydrogenase enzymes play a major role in these harmful organisms’ metabolism and survival. Because these groups of enzymes are found in a wide variety of infectious organisms such as bacteria, fungi and viruses, this research provides a scientific basis for the notion that allicin is a broad-spectrum antimicrobial, capable of warding off different types of infections.
“It has long been argued that garlic can fight a wide range of infections and now we have provided biochemical evidence for this claim,” the authors write.
The role of allicin in warding off infection may be particularly valuable in light of the growing bacterial resistance to antibiotics. It is unlikely that bacteria would develop resistance to allicin because this would require modifying the very enzymes that make their activity possible.
Scientists found that allicin blocks the enzymes by reacting with one of their important components known as sulfhydryl (SH) groups, or thiols. This finding has important implications because sulfhydryl groups are also crucial components of some enzymes that participate in the synthesis of cholesterol. By reacting with and modifying the sulfhydryl groups in those enzymes, allicin may prevent the production of artery clogging cholesterol. “It has been suggested that garlic lowers the levels of harmful cholesterol, and our study provides a possible explanation for how this may occur,” the authors write. “However, more research is necessary to establish what role allicin might play in preventing the clogging up of arteries.”
Complicating the issue is the concern blocking sulfhydryl groups in proteins may sometimes be harmful because these groups are also present in enzymes involved in some of the body’s vital processes. However, unlike most bacteria, human tissue cells contain detoxifying molecules of a substance called glutathione, which helps maintain appropriate sulfhydryl levels. These glutathione molecules can reverse the anti-sulfhydryl effects of small amounts of allicin.
Measuring antioxidant activity while reaction with sulfhydryl groups appears to explain most of allicin’s activity, it has also been suggested allicin acts as an antioxidant. The study reported in BBA confirmed this antioxidant effect and for the first time provided its quantitative assessment.
Antioxidants gobble up harmful free radicals believed to contribute to tumor growth, atherosclerosis, aging and other processes. Producing pure allicin in large quantities in nature, allicin is created when garlic cloves are cut into or crushed. The cutting or crushing causes two components of garlic, alliin and the enzyme alliinase, to interact.
The pure allicin can be stored for months without losing its effectiveness. In contrast, allicin extracted normally loses its beneficial properties within hours because it begins to react with garlic’s other components as soon as the clove is crushed.
Garlic supplements have an important part to play in the treatment of high cholesterol and that this paper reviews all the published and unpublished data from around the world. Overall a 12% reduction in total cholesterol was shown over a placebo and that this reduction was normally evident after only 4 weeks treatment and that this was likely to persist for as long as the study was in progress.
The largest study so far was conducted in Germany where 261 patients from 30 general practices were given either garlic powder tablets or a placebo. After a 12 week treatment period mean serum cholesterol levels dropped by 12% in the garlic treated group and triglycerides dropped by 17% compared to the placebo group.
The Anti-fungal and Anti-viral effects of Garlic
The antibiotic properties of garlic have earnt it the popular name “nature’s antibiotic” but this incredible stinking rose can provide a “full house” of activity against fungi, yeast’s and viral infections. The antifungal properties of garlic have long been used in folk medicine for the treatment of Candida infections, especially those of the skin.
The first serious published evidence was produced by Schmidt and Marquardt in 1936 when they demonstrated the extraordinary fungistatic and fungicidal action of freshly pressed garlic juice and dried garlic with epidermophyte cultures. Later, American and Russian authors reported similar findings almost simultaneously, and since then, numerous studies have appeared in which the inhibition of fungal growth by garlic and/or its constituents, mainly allicin, is described.
Further evidence that allicin is responsible for the anticandidal activity of garlic has been demonstrated in a study where pure allicin was found to be highly active – with a minimum inhibitory concentration (MIC) of only 7 ug/mL. The study also showed that several varieties of onion had much less anticandidal and antibacterial activity than garlic (Hughes & Lawson, 1991).
Growth and respiration are also inhibited by garlic juice in Candida albicans, Trichophyton cerebriforme, and T.granulosum. At a dilution of 1:1000, garlic juice had no harmful effect on tissue cultures, such as chicken embryos or kidney cells; however, it completely inhibited the growth of yeast.
Currently relatively few publications exist to show the activity of garlic and its components against viral infections. However the evidence that does exist shows clearly that garlic, or more accurately, allicin, has significant in vitro and in vivo activity. Among the viruses that are sensitive to garlic extracts are the human cytomegalovirus, influenza B, herpes simplex virus types 1 and 2, parainfluenza virus type 3, vaccinia virus, vesicular stomatitis virus and human rhinovirus type 2.
It was reported that, during an influenza epidemic, the former Soviet Union once imported 500 tons of garlic for the acute treatment of the disease.
Garlic therefore acquired the name “Russian Penicillin”. Indeed it was also reported that Radio Stations in Moscow advised their listeners to go out and buy more garlic to eat during the epidemic! In eastern Europe and in the South and East Asian countries (India and China), garlic is used as a substitute for the probably more effective, but often much too expensive, western medications.
Before the development of vaccines against poliomyelitis, garlic was used successfully as a prophylactic against polio. It was also observed that garlic was very effective against viral influenza A.
Most erectile dysfunction is biological and can therefore be helped with medical or dietary intervention such as Viagra or garlic. If the problem is psychological a change in diet will not help. Our study was not large enough to show conclusively that garlic can help restore a man’s erection but six out of seven of our group did see an improvement just by eating four cloves a day