Garlic: Beyond good smell and taste

LOS ANGELES Along with cranberry juice, garlic helps fight urinary tract infections with its powerful antimicrobial properties. The more you consume in your diet, the more help you'll get naturally.

Naturopathic physicians swear by garlic as a treatment for itchy athlete's foot. The suggestion is to boil several cloves -- uncrushed is just fine -- in hot water, and when the water is cool enough, soak feet.

When a cold is trying to catch you, eat some garlic to boost immunity. Microwave two unpeeled cloves for 25 seconds. After cooling, peel and put in your food to fight back.

Much like the way penicillin fights infections, garlic contains a host of sulfuric compounds that destroy germs' ability to grow and reproduce. Which is why garlic is effective in preventing the development of cancer cells and also reducing the risk of heart attack, stroke and high blood pressure.

"They have compounds in them that affect little hormone-like compounds called 'thromboxine' that affects the spasming or elasticity of your arteries," said dietitian Elizabeth Somer. "They lower the blood cholesterol, lower the risk for heart disease."

As it turns out, garlic counteracts a substance that causes arteries to spasm, so blood passes more easily through blood vessels.

Experts suggest consuming up to three cloves of garlic a day. So your best bet is to get your whole family gung-ho on this so-called "stinking rose" for obvious reasons.

Finally if you're a home gardener and you're putting in your new spring crop, put it near plants that are prone to critters, because -- no surprise -- the smell repels the pests.

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