Garlic is more than a zesty vegetable; it offers numerous health benefits as well. In fact, the University of Maryland Medical Center reports that garlic has been used medicinally for thousands of years. High blood pressure, or hypertension, is one medical condition for which garlic is sometimes recommended -- but not everyone likes fresh garlic. Garlic supplements are available; however, differences between odorless garlic pills and fresh garlic could affect how well garlic works for high blood pressure.
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Garlic and Health
Garlic contains numerous natural antioxidants that provide its various health benefits. In particular, chemical compounds known as organosulfurs and an enzyme called allicin seem to exert positive influences on health, reports the Tang Center for Herbal Medicine Research at the University of Chicago Hospitals, although the exact biological and metabolic mechanisms are not fully understood. Proponents of garlic as a health food say that it helps prevent heart disease, lower cholesterol and decrease your risk of certain types of cancer, in addition to helping lower high blood pressure.
Opinions conflict over the evidence for garlic as an effective treatment for high blood pressure. The University of Maryland Medical Center notes that research has supported the idea that garlic can reduce blood pressure. This view is validated by the National Institutes of Health, which report that research on garlic has shown a 7 to 8 percent decrease in blood pressure in individuals with hypertension. The Tang Center for Herbal Medicine Research, however, deems the current evidence insufficient to support the claim that garlic reduces blood pressure.
Fresh vs. Supplement Form
It's difficult to fully determine garlic's effectiveness for treating hypertension because so many formulations of garlic may be used. In addition to fresh garlic, garlic supplements are available in the forms of powdered garlic tablets, garlic oil capsules and aged garlic extract, none of which is standardized in terms of the amount of beneficial organosulfur compounds included, according to the Linus Pauling Institute. Supplement preparations may differ from fresh garlic in their amounts of organosulfur compounds as well. However, much of the research done on garlic and health has used garlic supplements, according to the National Institutes of Health. This could suggest that odorless garlic supplement pills are considered useful in addition to fresh garlic, although more research is clearly needed.
At present, there are conflicting opinions and mixed evidence for the use of garlic -- in any form -- to treat high blood pressure. If you have high blood pressure, consult your physician for a full evaluation and treatment recommendations. If you choose to try garlic, obtain your doctor's approval and advice regarding recommended formulation and dosage. Your physician may advise other interventions for high blood pressure as well, such as a healthier diet, more exercise or weight loss.