The stinking rose. Italian perfume. Bronx vanilla. I’m speaking, of course, about garlic, the bringer of strong breath, the preventer of vampires. All joking aside, garlic is used in virtually every type of cuisine from every culture on earth. But did you know that it has also been used for medicinal purposes, for over 5,000 years?
It’s all about the allicin.
The ingredient that makes garlic such a potent plant is a compound known as Allicin. This the juice which emerges from garlic when it’s cut or crushed. It’s Allicin which produces the most unpleasant effect associated with this herb: garlic breath. But it also has a number of other beneficial effects, making garlic a powerful antiseptic, antibacterial, antifungal, and antiviral agent.
As we talk about so much here at Coral West Dental, tooth decay and gum disease are caused by bacteria that reside in the mouth. So these properties of garlic make it extremely useful in the prevention and treatment of a number of oral health issues. There are actually more than 500 types of bacteria living in humans’ mouths. Some of these provide health benefits, and some are detrimental. Maintaining proper oral health, is, in some ways, a matter of managing a balance between the types of bacteria.
Allicin has been found to inhibit the growth of the “bad” bacteria living in our mouths. At the same time, it appears to encourage the development of the population of “good” bacteria. This is instrumental in preventing tooth decay and gum disease. Contrast this with the scores of products that claim to kill all bacteria. That approach is less helpful, and could even prove to be counterproductive. Though they may wipe out the bacterial population of your mouth, different bacteria will regrow at different rates, creating an imbalance which may be detrimental to your oral and general health.
Better than antibiotics
Garlic is actually a natural antibiotic, which, in many cases, is more useful than its pharmaceutical parallels. It’s a broad spectrum antibiotic, which is effective against a wide range of bacteria. Better yet, unlike pharmaceutical antibiotics, bacteria cannot develop an immunity against garlic.
How to Use It
There are a number of ways to reap the health benefits of garlic. Most involve applying it topically to affected areas in the mouth. Garlic can be crushed, and mixed into a paste with salt, and applied directly on a tooth that’s in pain due to infection. The Allicin in the garlic kills the infection, and relieves the pain. Mixing the garlic with peanut butter may help mask the strong taste, and also introduces resveratrol, another natural antibiotic and antioxidant found in peanuts. You can even cut a clove of garlic in half, and apply the cut end to the affected area. For a more general application, garlic can be ingested, in whatever foods you like, bringing other benefits, including shortening the length of common colds.