Benefits of Garlic for the Brain

Garlic on wood
Cloves of garlic on a wooden cutting board. (Image: bochimsang/iStock/Getty Images)

If you're a fan of garlic, there's good news for you -- and your brain. Garlic, also known as Allium sativum, is full of healthful benefits. This pungent herb has been used in cooking and for medicinal purposes for thousands of years. While you may choose to obtain garlic's health benefits through the use of fresh garlic, similar benefits are also contained in powdered garlic extract, garlic oil macerate and aged garlic extract.

Brain Cancer Protection

A compound found in garlic and known as dilly trisulfide, or DATS may play an important role in reducing tumor growth in patients with glioblastoma, the most deadly form of brain tumor. A study published in the "Journal of Neuro-Oncology" in August 2013 noted that studies involving DATS clearly demonstrated that it could be an effective therapeutic agent in preventing tumor progression and in inducing apoptosis -- cell death -- in active human glioblastoma, without impairing liver function.

Improved Memory and Learning

With age, memory and cognitive changes may occur. Parts of the brain linked to learning, memory, planning and other cognitive functions may shrink as you get older. In addition, decreased blood flow to the brain because of narrowing of the arteries, free radical damage to cells and increased inflammation in the brain may occur, all of which affects cognitive functioning. Garlic's inflammation-reducing properties may be beneficial for your brain. An article published in "The American Society for Nutritional Sciences" in 2001 noted that aged garlic extract, known as AGE, may play a part in protecting against brain function loss, as indicated by its ability to increase memory, cognitive functions and longevity.

Blood Flow Regulation

Blood clots are masses that develop when liquid blood hardens into a solid. A buildup of cholesterol can narrow an artery, which may change or slow the flow of blood, making blood-clot formation more likely. A blood clot can then block an artery or vein in the heart, which may affect the neck or brain and result in a stroke. Garlic is an effective blood thinner, similar in action to aspirin, and can help stabilize your body's blood flow.

Alzheimer's Disease Prevention

Alzheimer's disease occurs when brain neurons die. As the disease progresses, patients suffer cognitive problems, such as memory loss, and experience difficulty speaking, making decisions, and recognizing family and friends. A review published in "The Journal of Nutrition, Health and Aging" in November-December 2005 shows compelling evidence of the health effects attributed to aged garlic extract on neuronal physiology and brain functions. Such evidence supports the potential of dietary garlic as an alternative treatment for Alzheimer's disease, although additional studies in humans are warranted.

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