The use of garlic for both culinary and medicinal purposes dates back centuries and spans different cultures around the globe. Garlic is said to prevent and treat a variety of health conditions from the common cold to high blood pressure. Many health benefits of garlic are supported by clinical research and data. However, there are few clinical studies on garlic and multiple sclerosis (MS).
Garlic, scientifically known as Allium sativum L., is an allium vegetable like onions, shallots, and leeks. Common garlic preparations include aged garlic extract (AGE), garlic oil, and garlic powder. AGE is garlic that is soaked in ethyl alcohol for several months. Garlic can also be eaten uncooked.
Around 40 different bioactive compounds have been identified in garlic. Scientists are still discovering the compounds that can benefit health. The main bioactive compounds found in garlic are amino acids, enzymes, minerals, and sulfur (organosulfur compounds).
Several types of fresh garlic are commonly used in cooking. Garlic contains bioactive compounds. These are chemicals that can have a positive impact on health and the body. Different types of garlic have different flavors — ranging from spicy to sweet — and they have various bioactive compounds at different concentrations.
Garlic can be consumed as a supplement, in which the active compounds are taken from fresh garlic cloves. Different extraction processes can change garlic compounds and their effects. Extraction can change the concentration and function of garlic’s various bioactive chemicals, make chemical compounds hard to measure, and have an impact on the garlic supplement’s health benefits.
Dietary supplements are not held to safety and effectiveness standards by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Talk with your health care provider before adding a garlic supplement (or any supplement) to your routine.
Research about garlic’s impact on MS is limited. Garlic may offer health benefits to people with MS through its neuroprotective effects, which help prevent cognitive damage, improve learning, and increase memory retention. AGE in particular is thought to boost brain health.
In otherwise healthy individuals, when neurons become infected, inflamed, or injured, they undergo a process of self-destruction called apoptosis (cell death). It has been hypothesized that issues with apoptosis play a role in MS. Garlic may help prevent dysfunctional apoptosis in people with MS. This mechanism may also help prevent or slow neurodegeneration (damage to neurons) due to MS.
Garlic has anti-inflammatory properties that help reduce inflammation and may protect the central nervous system from inflammation due to MS.
Garlic’s antioxidant effects have been thought to help protect neurons from toxicity, oxidative stress, the natural effects of aging, and central nervous system conditions. Garlic may play a protective role in neurodegenerative conditions like Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, and possibly MS. In animal model studies, garlic was shown to improve impaired cognitive function and memory, both common MS symptoms.
People with MS may be at an increased risk of comorbidities (other conditions). Garlic may help prevent and/or manage some conditions that people with MS may be more susceptible to, such as:
Garlic is generally considered safe to eat and is an essential ingredient in many cuisines. However, there is a lack of safety data on garlic consumption or supplementation. Some people are sensitive or allergic to garlic, particularly when eaten in large quantities.
Garlic has anticoagulant properties that could contribute to bleeding problems. This risk is of particular concern to people taking blood-thinning drugs to prevent clotting.
Some research suggests that garlic boosts the functioning of the immune system. Other research suggests that it normalizes the immune system. For people with MS, whose immune systems don’t function normally, increased activity of the immune system may not be helpful.
The most common side effect of consuming garlic is breath and body odor. Mild side effects reported in clinical studies include gastrointestinal or stomach irritation that causes symptoms like bloating, diarrhea, gas, heartburn, nausea, and vomiting.
There is currently no research on the interaction between garlic or garlic supplements and MS medications. Always talk to your doctor about all the medications and supplements you take.
Here are a few tips to maximize the potential health benefits of garlic:
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