Garlic was worshipped by the ancient Egyptians, chewed by Greek Olympian athletes, an aphrodisiac, currency, food, medicine, vampire repellent – garlic has had many uses throughout the ages. But it is also good for zapping bacteria, keeping your heart healthy, warding off coughs and colds.

Garlic is an excellent source of vitamin B6 (pyridoxine). It is also a very good source of manganese, selenium and vitamin C. In addition, garlic is a good source of other minerals, including phosphorous, calcium, potassium, iron and copper, selenium and other antioxidants (notably allicin).

Garlic has a varied history of use and has been applied in numerous ways to benefit the health. Its innate composition make it an effective remedy for a variety of conditions, yet the herb can also be used to prevent a number of health problems as well.

Many of the perceived therapeutic effects of garlic are thought to be due to its active ingredient allicin. This unique sulphur-containing compound present in garlic gives it its distinctive pungent smell and taste. Luckily for us foodies, the action of chopping or crushing garlic supposedly stimulates the production of allicin, however it is thought that cooking garlic inhibits the formation of some of the perceived medicinal properties.

As such, garlic is considered a “superfood” capable of treating a range of conditions. The herb effectively treats high blood pressure, high cholesterol, respiratory infection, sore throat, bacterial vaginosis and a variety of other conditions. The treatment is also effective for preventing a range of conditions including cancer, cardiovascular disease and diabetes.

With its wide range of applications, garlic has purposes that extend far beyond culinary creations. Garlic is a potent herb with a variety of active compounds that reduce inflammation, fight infection and regulate the cardiovascular system.

Packed with antioxidants, a daily dose of garlic in your recipes could benefit your immune system. According to studies, garlic can boost immune function by stimulating white blood cells. This then increases the antibody functions. If a cold does sneak by, try sipping garlic tea: steep chopped or minced garlic in hot water for several minutes, then strain and drink. As an antioxidant, garlic has been said to minimise free radicals in the blood. These antioxidant properties can also help to clear the skin and give it a nice glowing complexion. Our skin can benefit a lot from antioxidants.

Garlic benefits your body too through antibacterial as well as anti-fungal and antiviral properties that allow them to stop bacteria, fungi, and virus in its tracks. Studies have shown that it resembles a one percent of the antibacterial penicillin’s effectiveness. Diseases that are triggered by fungi, bacteria, or viruses could be combated by these garlic benefits as garlic has a long history of use as an infection fighter – against viruses, bacteria and fungi. It has been referred to as ‘Russian penicillin’ to denote its antibacterial properties.

Research has focused on garlic’s potential to reduce the risk of heart disease, cholesterol levels and cancer. Several studies suggest that garlic makes platelets (the cells involved in blood clotting) less likely to clump together and stick to artery walls, therefore acting as an anticoagulant and so reducing the risk of heart attacks. The sulphurous compounds have also been studied for their ability to inhibit cancerous cells and block tumours by slowing DNA replication. The ability of these compounds to depress tumour cell proliferation is still being studied extensively.

Whether or not you choose to believe that this herb is as such a “superfood”, it has to be said that garlic is particularly useful in cooking as it provides an alternative to salt in adding flavour to meals, along with lemon juice, chilli, herbs and spices and in turn less salt is important for avoiding high blood pressure. And if you don’t like the “smelly after breath” just chew on a sprig of parsley to eliminate the smell.