Garlic - the ancient herb have a modern mission against cancer!
Scientists have never actually got around to testing the ability of garlic to ward off vampires because scientists generally work day shift while vampires work night shift.
But we may soon see a trial against something a lot more serious than vampires: cancer.
At least, that is the suggestion of two researchers who have looked long and hard at all the early experiments that face off garlic against cancer.
Now, they think, the time has come to take the wraps off garlic (so to speak) and see what it can do beyond the realm of test-tubes and laboratory animals. We just might discover, in this ancient folk-healers' remedy, a new weapon against one of our toughest health adversaries.
These researchers should be listened to thoughtfully, we think. First of all, they wrote their study as members of two major health organizations - the US National Cancer Institute (Judith Dausch, Ph.D., R.D.) and the American Cancer Society (Daniel Nixon, M.D.).
Second, they have come up with an even 100 references to previous work exploring the health potential of garlic, especially as an anti-carcinogen (a cancer fighter).
What we mostly have so far is a 40-year-long series of lab experiments, showing that when garlic is mixed with cancer cells, fed to mice, or injected directly into induced tumours, cancer is either blocked or weakened.
What we don't have so far is work showing that garlic can help human beings keep free of cancer, or help muster enough immune response to destroy an established cancer.
But there is some intriguing indirect evidence that garlic might exert an anti-cancer effect in people. And that's come only recently. Earlier, a Chinese study found that in regions where garlic consumption is high (about 20 mg per day) the gastric cancer rate is only one-tenth as high as in areas where garlic consumption is low.
Another report from China - this one co-sponsored by the National Cancer Institute in the US - found much the same effect. Comparing stomach-cancer rates in a region where that disease is very common, scientists found a 40 per cent lower incidence among people who ate the most garlic or related vegetables, such as onions and scallions.
Dr. Nixon also reports that, "Liberal consumption of garlic and onions has also been associated with a decreased incidence of colorectal cancer in Japanese Hawaiians." And in Belgium, higher consumption of onions has been linked to lower risk of rectal and colon cancer.
The scientific community has been taking a serious look-see at the garlic-cancer connection as far back as the late '50s when research from Western Reserve University, in Cleveland, showed that a chemical manufactured to resemble allicin, a key constituent of garlic, had strong anti-cancer effects in mice.
Also, work from a Florida clinic found that people who ate two to three heads of garlic a day for three weeks showed large increases in activity of white blood cells known as natural killer cells. When placed in a lab dish with a variety of cancerous tumour tissues, those cells wiped out more than twice as many tumour cells as cells taken from people who hadn't eaten garlic.
As garlic's anti-cancer properties are established, it is a major step forward - especially since it's natural and relatively free of side-effects. Garlic, by the way, can set off allergic reactions in some people, and too much can cause a tummy-ache, not to mention an interesting breath condition. On the whole, though, thousands of years of culinary history show that garlic is a companionable addition to the table, and an unlikely cause of serious trouble unless abused.
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