ALLIUM is the generic name given to a group of vegetables like onions, garlic, leeks, chives and shallots. Allium is a Latin word for garlic and, along with onion, they are the commonly found and used members of this group in this part of the world. I am therefore going to be writing more about onion and garlic as representatives of the allium vegetables.
These vegetables contain organosulphur (allylsulphides) and flavonoids. Onion is especially rich in quercitin and together they contain numerous vitamins and minerals. Apart from these, onion and garlic also contain proteins, carbohydrates, fats, dietary fiber etc. The following vitamins and minerals are found in onion: Thiamine Vitamin B1, Riboflavin Vitamin B2, Niacin Vitamin B3, Vitamin B6, folic acid and Vitamin B12. Others are, Vitamins C, E and K. Minerals in onion are iron, magnesium, phosphorous, potassium, sodium and zinc.
There is a slight difference with garlic in all these contents. Apart from the B complex vitamins, the only other vitamin in garlic is Vitamin C and additionally it contains calcium and selenium. All of these constituents give onion and garlic their medicinal properties and uses.
Onion has been proven to have anti-inflammatory, anticancer, anticholesterol and antioxidant properties.
Garlic is a more versatile member of this group. It improves the flow of blood through the blood vessels and reduces the tendency of the blood to clot; it breaks down clots in the blood stream. Garlic is, therefore, a preventive against heart attack and stroke. It is also a vasodilator; it expands the blood vessels and lowers the blood pressure as a consequence. Furthermore, garlic is known to lower cholesterol, triglycerides, and non-beneficial LDL. On the other hand, garlic increases the beneficial HDL cholesterol in the body.
Garlic also has anti-tumour properties. Studies have shown that garlic reduces the risk of stomach cancer by as much as 50 per cent and colon cancer by 34 per cent. Garlic inhibits the formation of nitrites (a chemical that triggers the formation of cancer) in the stomach. There is also sufficient laboratory evidence that garlic can shrink cancers of the breast, lungs and skin.
Other mechanisms by which these allium vegetables carry out their preventive effects against cancer may include the following: their effect on enzyme activities to inhibit production of carcinogens, their ability to stop mutation of cells and their antioxidant action on free radicals. There is also laboratory evidence to show that they slow down, if not inhibit completely, cell proliferation and tumour formation and growth. Apart from these effects against cardiovascular disease and cancer, the allium vegetables also have antimicrobial, anti-arthritic and hypoglycemic properties. In other words, they can also be effective against infections caused by bacteria and viruses and joint inflammation and pain. They have also been proven to have blood sugar lowering abilities and it is advised that when used with the synthetic hypoglycemic drugs, a lot of caution must be exercised. Indeed, reducing the dose of the drug may be considered.
In conclusion, allium vegetables should be part of our daily diet. I know it is to some extent but the way we cook our food destroys all the healing properties of these vegetables. The best way to eat and get the full benefits of the vegetables is to eat them raw in salads and so on.
Finally, this article will be incomplete without a mention of the “holy trinity” of nature for healing. Generally speaking, a lot of other herbs including honey have been combined with the allium vegetables for wonderful healings and a lot of people have their home based recipes against conditions like common cold and cough. The “holy trinity” of nature consists of garlic, honey and lemon in the following measurements; 6 cloves of garlic, peeled, 3 lemons and 2 tablespoons of honey. Juice the lemon, add to the other ingredients in a blender and blend for one minute and put in the refrigerator. Take 2 tablespoons of the mixture every two hours until the symptoms disappear. This is a good remedy for colds, sore throat and cough.
Eat correctly always and stay healthy.
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