Herpes refers to more than 90 different types of viruses that fall under the Herpes virdae family, according to Phyllis Balch, author of "Prescription for Nutritional Healing." Many types of herpes viruses do not affect humans. Herpes viruses most commonly cause cold sores, vaginal herpes, shingles and chickenpox in humans. Although there is no known cure for herpes infection, garlic may help reduce the frequency and severity of outbreaks.
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Check with your physician before using garlic to treat a herpes infection.
Garlic has been used for medicinal purposes for about 5,000 years -- the earliest known prescription for garlic was written in cuneiform on a clay tablet dating back to about 3000 B.C., according to Michael Castleman, author of "The New Healing Herbs." Egyptians regarded garlic as a remedy for fatigue, and ancient Greeks considered it a cure for leprosy. American and Russian physicians in the early 1900s discovered the antibacterial and antiviral properties of garlic and used it to prevent wound infection and dysentery.
Garlic contains two primary chemical compounds: allinase and alliin. Although they offer no medicinal value on their own, they combine to form allicin, a chemical compound that may provide antiviral properties. Allicin might help destroy herpes virus cells, which might control outbreaks of cold sores, vaginal herpes or shingles, according to Balch. Garlic is also a rich source of vitamin C, which stimulates your body's production of interferon, a natural virus-fighting substance.
Alliin and allinase form allicin when you crush, dice, chop or slice fresh garlic cloves. Use one of these methods to prepare garlic before adding it to main entrees or side dishes, and let the prepared garlic sit for 10 to 15 minutes to activate allicin. Add prepared garlic cloves to stir fry dishes, soups, stews, omelets and casseroles, or add to vegetable side dishes such as asparagus, broccoli or steamed carrots.
Although the FDA considers garlic generally safe, it may cause skin rashes in rare cases. Also, the chemical compounds in garlic may thin your blood and prevent wound clotting. Avoid using garlic as a herpes treatment if you take blood-thinning medications, or if you have a malabsorption disorder that causes vitamin K deficiency.