A.� Garlic has been taken since time immemorial for a variety of medical problems. Garlic was originally a simple country remedy for treating coughs, including whooping cough. It was reputed to have anti-microbial powers against bacteria and viruses, and useful to treat sore throats. Norflok patients swore it cured worms, and it was even used to treat piles. Recently, the effect of garlic on the cardio-vascular, including cholestrol, and the role of the blood platelets in clotting, as well as on blood pressure, has been well publicised.
Q.� What evidence is there - and how can you increase your overall intake
A.� A recent study in America has confirmed what many health experts have long believed. There has been a report published about the blood pressure of the inhabitants of Framingham, Massachusetts, USA, whose residents have been closely observed for a generation. The study confirms the importance of reducing blood pressure, both the systolic - the upper figure recording the pressure in the arteries when the heart is contracting, and the distolic, the lower figure, registering the arterial pressure when the heart is relaxing - to safe limits, under 140/90. The feature of the Framingham statistics is that an important factor seems to be the pulse pressure - the difference between the upper and lower figures.
Scientists, led by Professor Gustav Belz, from the Centre for Cardiovascular Pharmacology at Mainz in Germany, believe that by maintaining, or even improving the elasticity of the aortic walls, garlic can both reduce blood pressure and pulse pressure.
Garlic has long been an important part of the Mediterraean diet and is widely used in France and italy. In Germany more than seven million people regularly take garlic tablets, and garlic there is very much part of the mainstream pharmacy.
Medicines derived from plants are prescribed by German doctors as enthusiastically as those nurtured in test tubes and vats. At Lichter Pharma the garlic bulbs are grown and harvested to rigourously maintained rules to ensure quality control, and thereafter the active ingrdeients are carefully standardised to ensure uniformity in the production of Kwai garlic tablets.
In this country, garlic supplements (and the odour-free variety) are widely available, and doctors believe there is medical evidence now to prove the plant's importance. High blood pressure is a major risk to patients, who suffer strokes, heart failure and heart attacks. Government guidelines say reducing salt consumption can also safeguard health.
Garlic cloves can easily be added to everyday meat and pasta meals, and can be used to give salads and vegetables more flavour.
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By Katharine MacColl