Garlic, a well-known culinary ingredient, has been a topic of interest in alternative medicine and nutritional studies for years. But does it overstimulate the nervous system when consumed? Let’s delve into the roots of this claim and understand it from both traditional and modern perspectives.
The claim that garlic can potentially overstimulate the nervous system largely originates from Ayurveda, an ancient Indian system of medicine. In Ayurvedic texts, garlic is classified under rajasic and tamasic categories. These are believed to be foods that stimulate passion and ignorance, respectively. However, it’s essential to interpret these classifications within the context of Ayurvedic philosophy, which encompasses a holistic understanding of the body, mind, and spirit. These categorizations don’t directly translate to modern medical terminologies.
In contrast to these traditional beliefs, contemporary scientific studies don’t provide any conclusive evidence that garlic overstimulates the nervous system. In fact, it’s quite the contrary. Research over the past decade has revealed numerous health benefits of garlic. Notably, its role in promoting cardiovascular health stands out, which, by extension, plays a crucial role in brain health.
Furthermore, recent studies have linked garlic consumption with a reduced risk of neurodegenerative diseases, such as dementia and Alzheimer’s. The connection between cardiovascular health and brain health is undeniable, as several midlife risk factors for cardiovascular diseases, like hypertension, hyperlipidemia, and atherosclerosis, also pose significant risk factors for dementia in later years.
A comprehensive study highlighted that garlic is considered one of the best disease preventive foods, given its vast and varied beneficial effects. The study underscored garlic’s lipid-lowering and anti-atherogenic effects. The possible mechanisms through which garlic exerts these benefits include inhibiting hepatic lipogenic and cholesterogenic enzymes, boosting cholesterol excretion, and suppressing LDL-oxidation.
Moreover, oxidative stress, resulting from an accumulation of reactive oxygen species (ROS) in cells, is implicated in the onset of several neurodegenerative diseases, including Alzheimer’s disease (AD). Garlic, particularly in its Aged Garlic Extract (AGE) form, exhibits potent antioxidant properties. AGE and its component S-allyl-cysteines (SAC) have been demonstrated to protect neuronal cells against beta-amyloid toxicity, a hallmark of AD, and apoptosis.
In summary, while traditional belief systems like Ayurveda may have categorized garlic in a manner suggesting it could stimulate the nervous system, modern scientific studies don’t support this claim. Instead, the current body of evidence suggests that garlic is beneficial for both cardiovascular and neurological health. As with any food or medicinal herb, it’s essential to consume garlic in moderation and consult with a healthcare professional if any concerns arise.