Cardiovascular diseases are among the main reason for more than half of all deaths in industrial nations. In 1996, 7.2 million people perished throughout the world from coronary heart disease (CAD).
The circulating system comprises of the heart and blood-vessels. The heart is a muscular organ that pumps blood to all parts of the human body by the process of contraction. Pure or oxygenated blood is carried by the arteries and impure or deoxygenated blood is carried by the veins.
Coronary arteries are those blood vessels which supply blood to the heart. Coronary artery disease, commonly abbreviated as CAD is among the commonest diseases of the heart. The underlying pathology is that fat substances including cholesterol and triglycerides start accumulating in the cells lining the wall of the coronary arteries.
Medically, this process is known atherosclerosis, which leads to hardening or narrowing of the coronary arteries, supplying blood to the heart muscle. This leads to is ischemia, which is defined as inability to supply adequate amount of oxygen to the tissue i.e. heart muscle in this context. Ischemia leads to damage to the myocardium (heart muscle). If there is complete occlusion or blockage of the blood vessels, it leads to a heart-attack (medically known as myocardial infarction).
Angina pectoris, commonly referred to as chest pain on exertion, is the major complaint. The pain originates from the chest and there is radiation to the left arm, neck, jaw, or shoulder.
Following are the risk-factors associated with the coronary artery disease:
- Elevated cholesterol
- Family history of coronary artery disease, diabetes, high blood pressure or atherosclerosis.
- High blood pressure or hypertension.
- Low level of HDL (short form of high-density lipoprotein).
- Obesity or overweight.
- Poor nutritional status, especially too much fat in the diet.
- Previous history of myocardial infarction or heart attack or heart-stroke.
Some heart ailments
- Angina pectoris (chest-pain) is a heart condition marked by episodes of chest pain due to reduced oxygen supply to the heart. Angina pectoris is the sensation of chest pain, usually brought on by physically or emotionally stressful situations. Angina has usual relationship with hypercholesterolemia (high levels of cholesterol in the blood or serum – type of hyperlipidemia).
- High Blood pressure in medical terminology is known as hypertension. 120/80 mm of mercury (Hg) is considered to be the normal value of blood pressure. According to experts, because of the current stressful work scenario, values like 130/90 are considered to be normal. Hypertension is considered to be a silent killer. Today hypertension is encountered in young patients in the age group of 25-35 years. In obese patients hypertension is usually associated with diabetes mellitus and hyperlipidemia (excess levels of cholesterol and triglycerides in the blood).
Why is Garlic Good for Heart Health?
Garlic (Allium sativum ) is one of approximately 600 known species of the genus Allium.
- Garlic is beneficial for the heart as it reduces the high plasma cholesterol and triglycerides and their oxidation,
- Garlic reduces calcium accumulation within the vascular smooth muscle cells.
- Garlic reduces the incidence of arterial hypertension and serum fibrinogen.
- Garlic reduces aggregation of platelet and hence the viscosity of the plasma.
- Garlic, as a traditional herbal medicine is well-tolerated and effectiveness in curbing heart diseases has been documented in pre-clinical and clinical studies.
- Most efficacious results have been documented in cholesterol reduction.
- The compound responsible for beneficial effects of garlic is allicin (see diagram), a compound responsible for characteristic flavour and odour of garlic.
Structure of allicin
Structure of allin
Garlic and high blood cholesterol
If you have symptoms like chest pain on exertion, high blood pressure and difficulty in breathing, the physician may recommend a blood test known as lipidogram. Two types of fats are found in our body, cholesterol and triglycerides. A high level of lipids in your blood is known as hyperlipidemia. High levels of cholesterol in your blood are known as hypercholesterolemia. High levels of triglycerides in your blood are known as hypertriglyceremia.
- Garlic significantly reduces cholesterol synthesis in hepatocytes (liver-cells).
- In several randomized controlled trials in hypercholesterolemia adults, garlic powder supplements lower cholesterol by an average of 10%.
- Numerous randomized clinical trials have shown that garlic lowers total cholesterol 10% (approximately), thereby altering HDL/LDL ratios in favorable manner.
- Garlic powder supplements are more efficacious as compared to garlic oil.
Garlic and blood pressure
- Garlic has natural vasodilatation property, thereby helping in reducing the blood pressure.
- In randomised controlled trials in hypertensive adults, garlic lowers blood pressure by an average of 7%.
Garlic and blood thinning
- Aspirin is the blood-thinning agent prescribed by your physician. The action of garlic on the heart is similar to aspirin; hence it is popular as natural aspirin.
- In randomized controlled trials in adults over 50 years old, garlic reduces arterial plaque volume and enhances vascular elasticity. In case series and randomized, controlled trials in healthy adults and in those with vascular disease, garlic supplementation (600-800 mg daily) reduces platelet aggregation and enhances fibrinolysis.
- Garlic has been shown to be as effective as bezafibrate in lowering cholesterol levels
Chemistry of garlic
- Garlic contains volatile oil containing allyl-propyl sulphide, allicin, alliin and ajoene).
- Allicin is produced when garlic is crushed for medicinal or culinary use. It is produced by enzymatic reduction of allicin in the presence of an enzyme allinase.
- Allicin is a highly unstable compound.
- When allicin is cooked in water, it produces diallyl sulphide. This change is considered to be useful as allicin is known to cause gastritis.
Pharmaceutical preparations of garlic
- Garlic can be eaten fresh, cooked or as a powdered supplement in capsule form.
- Garlic is available commercially in the form of tablets, dried powder, oil maceration, and extract (solid extract, water-extract and fermented (odorless extract).
- Garlic pearls supplying garlic oil in soft gelatin capsules are a famous over the counter (OTC) remedy.
- Aged garlic extract is available commercially.
- Homeopathic tinctures are supplied by Homeopathic pharmacies.
- Lashunadi vati is time-tested Ayurvedic formulation based on garlic.
- In case of atherosclerosis, daily doses of 600-800 mg of garlic powder and dried garlic have been shown to be efficacious.
- In case of hyperlipidemia, a daily dose of 600-900 mg of a standardised garlic extract containing 0.3% of allicin is highly beneficial.
- In cases of high blood pressure (hypertension), garlic powder at a dose of 200-300 mg three times daily has shown positive response.
Garlic and Ayurveda
Synonyms: Lasuna (Hindi), Lashuna, Rasonaka, Ugra gandhi, and Yavanesta.
Rasa (Taste): Madhura (Sweet), Lavana (Salt), Katu (Pungent)*, Tikta (Bitter), Kshaya (Astringent).
Guna (Physical property): Guru (Heavy) and Snigdha.
Virya (Potency): Ushna (Hot).
Vipaka (Post digestion effect): Katu (Pungent).
Effect on Tridosha: Pacifies Vata and Kapha.
Karma (Specific action): Vedna sthapana (Analgesic).
Therapeutics: A. sativum is used in flatulence, mild hypertension, rheumatoid arthritis, and peripheral vascular disorders. A. sativum is used in sciatica, paralysis, chronic bronchitis and dysmenorrhoea. A.sativum is use as prophylactic aid in diphtheria and typhoid.
Contraindications: Pregnancy and persons with Pitta constitution.
Parts used: Bulbs and oil.
Dose: Mass preparation (3-6 G).
Formulations based on A. sativum: Lashunadi vati and Lashuna paka.
Note: Coriander (Coriander sativum L.) juice is used as antidote for preventing unpleasant effect of garlic.
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