BBC NEWS Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific Arabic Spanish Russian Chinese Welsh

 You are in:  Health
Front Page 
UK Politics 
Background Briefings 
Medical notes 
Talking Point 
In Depth 

Commonwealth Games 2002

BBC Sport

BBC Weather

Saturday, 27 April, 2002, 23:05 GMT 00:05 UK
Even garlic can be poisonous
Garlic has many health benefits
test hello test
By Georgina Kenyon

Beverley Simmonds had no idea of the powers of garlic.

That was until she spent the entire night after an enjoyable Italian meal at home with her family, writhing around in agony with stomach cramps.

On presentation to her GP the next day, she was told she had a classic case of liver poisoning, caused probably by an over-sensitivity to garlic.

People can develop allergies to any food and even water

Professor Jeya Henry
A big fan of vampire and Dracula movies, Ms Simmonds, 54, of Richmond, London, should have learnt her lessons from the big screen.

She said: "I had always known I suffered from indigestion after eating garlic, as well as chives and also onions. But never had I suffered from cramps as severe as these."

Otherwise known as the stinking rose, raw cloves of garlic have been used for thousands of years in Asia to treat ailments ranging from high blood pressure, infections and high cholesterol.

And garlic is now widely accepted among the Western medical community as probably having these same health benefits.

Sulphur content

Now Western scientists even think garlic is a possible antidote to malaria.

However, many health professionals warn the high sulphur content in garlic can cause colitis and dermatitis by destroying the natural flora in the gut.

Garlic may combat malaria
High doses of garlic may even prevent blood clotting and interfere with proper thyroid function.

According to Jeya Henry, Professor of Human Nutrition at Oxford Brookes University in Oxford, "the key to allergies and adverse reaction to foods is the amount ingested".

"People can develop allergies to any food and even water," he said.

"The current attitude towards garlic in the medical profession is that it is more angel than devil but adverse reactions do occur."

Although there is a lot of scientific literature now on the benefits of garlic to treat infections and lower cholesterol and blood pressure, Professor Henry said Western methods of science may never be able to completely explain why traditional herbal remedies were beneficial or not.

Tough to prove

He said: "It is often difficult to apply the rigour of scientific study in the West to Asian medicine.

"To set up double blind control trials which the scientific community demand can be difficult when there are so many chemicals in foods.

"It is very difficult to set up a controlled situation to conduct such studies.

"But many people believe that if there are few adverse effects as well as benefits from a herb which has been used in the East for centuries or millennia, these remedies should be continued to be used."

But Ms Simmonds disagrees. "There is no way you are ever going to get me to go near the stuff again," she said.

Professor Henry has recently conducted studies into herbs and spices including chilli and ginger.

Chilli effect

His team has found that both chilli and ginger appear to increase a person's metabolic rate.

Similar studies were conducted 10 years ago but Professor Henry's team has used a bigger study group than the original study to verify results.

As many health professionals currently believe a high metabolic rate causes a person to burn up stored body fat more than a slow metabolic rate, these spices could be used in the future as a means of controlling weight.

The US National Council Against Health Fraud in Peabody, Massachusetts, publishes papers on the safety of herbal remedies.

They warn that consumers should be aware that not all natural products are safe and to be aware of overstated claims about remedies.

Garlic, otherwise known as allium sativum, is thought to have been used as a health remedy since 3000 BC.

It is a member of the Lilly family and contains sulphur and amino acids as well as minerals such as germanium, selenium and zinc as well as vitamins A, B and C.

See also:

03 Oct 01 | Health
Garlic 'prevents common cold'
01 Mar 01 | Health
Garlic tackles child infections
03 Oct 00 | Health
Garlic 'protects against cancer'
09 Jun 00 | Health
Researchers target garlic mystery
01 Feb 01 | Health
Mouthwash could tackle malaria
Internet links:

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Links to more Health stories are at the foot of the page.

E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more Health stories