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Garlic is the edible bulb from a plant in the lily family. It has traditionally been used for health purposes by people in many parts of the world, including the Egyptians, Greeks, Romans, Chinese, Japanese and Native Americans.

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Currently, garlic is used as a dietary supplement for many purposes, including high blood cholesterol, high blood pressure and the common cold, as well as in attempts to prevent cancer and other diseases. Fresh garlic, garlic powder, and garlic oil are used to flavor foods.

›  Health benefits

A lot of research has been done on garlic, but most of the studies have been small, preliminary or low-quality. There is conflicting evidence that garlic can lower blood cholesterol levels. If it does, the effect is small, and LDL cholesterol may not be reduced at all.

Garlic may be helpful to treat high blood pressure, but the evidence is weak.

Some studies have shown that people who eat more garlic may be less likely to develop certain cancers, such as stomach and colon cancer. Garlic in a supplemental form has not been shown to help reduce the risk of these cancers. The National Cancer Institute recognizes garlic as a vegetable with potential anticancer properties, but it does not recommend using garlic supplements for cancer prevention.

There is not enough evidence to show that garlic is helpful for the common cold.

›  How much do I need?

The dosage varies depending on age and what it is being used for. Be sure to follow relevant directions on product labels, and consult your pharmacist, physician or other healthcare professional before using.

Garlic is probably safe in the amounts eaten in food. Some side effects from garlic can include heartburn, breath and body odor, and upset stomach. Some people may have allergic reactions to garlic. Garlic may increase the risk of bleeding. It has been found to interfere with the effectiveness of some drugs, including saquinavir, a drug used to treat HIV infection.

›  Dietary supplements

Garlic dietary supplements are sold as tablets or capsules. Garlic oil may be used topically (applied to the skin).

Source: National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health

Please consult your health care provider before making changes to your vitamin/supplement regimen.

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