Garlic's distinctive flavor makes it a popular ingredient in many recipes, but this edible bulb may have health benefits, too. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, garlic's benefits come from its high antioxidant content, which gives it the power to fight off free radicals that cause infections and cellular mutations. Garlic supplements are safe for most people, but the University of Maryland Medical Center warns that taking garlic supplements can cause stomach problems, bad breath and body odor.
There's good scientific evidence that garlic supplements can lower low-density lipoproteins, or LDL, the type of cholesterol that can build up in your arterial passages to cause serious cardiovascular problems over time. Medline Plus, the online health information resource maintained by the U.S. National Library of Medicine and the National Institutes of Health, says that garlic can lower LDL and total blood cholesterol levels over a period of less than 12 weeks, but more research is needed to determine whether the benefits are long-lasting ones.
Taking garlic supplements can reduce your risk of catching colds and help you get well faster when you do get sick, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. Though the study cited by the Medical Center only included 150 people, the participants who took garlic supplements caught significantly fewer colds than those who didn't and recovered from their colds more quickly, too.
Improved Immune Function
According to the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, claims that garlic can prevent some forms of cancer by improving the effectiveness of the immune system haven't been supported by clinical evidence. But the University of Maryland Medical Center reports that some studies that follow people over a period of time show a correlation between regular consumption of garlic and reduced risk of certain cancers--the Medical Center specifically cites colon and stomach cancer--so further research may confirm that garlic causes the reduction in risk.
Other Potential Benefits
According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, early research suggests garlic may have additional benefits, too. Garlic's antifungal and antibacterial properties may help treat conditions like ringworm, fungal skin conditions and stomach ulcers. Garlic may also boost energy levels to reduce fatigue. More research is needed to determine whether these benefits are scientifically supported.