This flavorful herb may help reduce heart disease
Garlic, an herb, is actually the edible bulb from a plant in the lily family (Wow! We learn something new every day in this job!). It has been used to flavor food and as a medicine for centuries. Some folks swear by it to reduce high blood pressure and lower high cholesterol.
Some of the science supports those folks. Research shows eating garlic may slow the development of atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries), a condition that can lead to heart disease. There is also evidence that garlic may lower blood pressure slightly (about 7 percent), especially in people who already have high blood pressure. It is less clear whether garlic works as a cholesterol-lowering agent. A number of studies have measured the effectiveness of garlic in treating high cholesterol, and though the results have produced conflicting evidence, the general consensus is that the herb does not significantly lower cholesterol or triglyceride levels.
How it works: Garlic contains a chemical called allicin, which seems to make it work on certain medical conditions. (Allicin is also what gives garlic its distinctive odor, by the way.)
Words of caution: Garlic can act as a blood thinner, so it’s best to avoid it before surgery. It also interferes with the effectiveness of saquinavir, an HIV medication. And some birth control pills interact with garlic in a way that might decrease their effectiveness. Talk to your doctor about your garlic use if you’re about to have surgery, are HIV-positive or take birth control pills.