We have all either heard stories about the health benefits of garlic or experienced those benefits first-hand. For thousands of years this spice has bolstered the flavor of food and the health of those who ate it. Garlic is known to reduce blood cholesterol, fight infection, strengthen the immune system, and can be taken in supplement form by those seeking good health without halitosis (bad breath). Although there are over 600 species of the Allium (garlic) genus spread over 4 continents, only a few are cultivated for use as health supplements. Of those few that are cultivated, only the bulb is used in the manufacture of health products and powdered spices. While the bulb of the Allium sativum variety is rich in nutrients, sulfur compounds, and allicin (garlic’s antibacterial component), it is still only half the plant. The other half, the leaves, are allowed to dry and brown while the garlic bulb develops underground, maturing to peak potency. But these leaves are equally rich in a set of nutrients all their own. When harvested while still green, before all the nutritional value is transferred to the bulb, the resulting green food is rich in sulfur, adenosine, ajoenes and minerals. In fact, certain strains of the garlic leaf are richer than the cultivated garlic bulb in total sulfur content.
So, why are the leaves discarded? Why don’t we see them in garlic supplements or in green food products? Because, the commercial crop for garlic is for the bulb, and in order to grow robust garlic bulbs, the plant must mature to the point that the leaves dry up. That bulb is then processed into garlic supplements that are generally rich in allicin, but lacking in adenosine and other natural garlic compounds. Since there is no economic motivation to grow garlic jut for the leaves, we forgo half of garlic’s benefits.
Let’s examine these allium cousins and compare nutrient content and medicinal action. Alone, they each have many health benefits; together they make up one of the most potent herbal tonics available to human-kind.
COMPARISON OF CULTIVATED GARLIC AND WILD GARLIC*
Cultivated Garlic (Allium sativum) Wild Bear’s Garlic (Allium ursinum)
Total Sulfur 6,100 mg/kg 7,800 mg/kg
Allicin 6,000 mcg/gm 1,500 mcg/gm
Alliin 15,000 mcg/gm 4,500 mcg/gm
MATS 1,800 mcg/gm 3,000 mcg/gm
Adenosine 70 mg/kg 1,300 mg/kg
Manganese 14 mg/kg 240 mg/kg
Phosphorous 6,800 mg/kg 11,000 mg/kg
Iron 100 mg/kg 125 mg/kg
Ajoenes YES YES
Vinyldithiins YES YES
Y-glutamyl peptides < YES
Y-glutamyl cysteine YES <
*Comparison based on average numbers from a variety of research sources. References available upon request.
When the entire garlic plant is taken into consideration, it is easy to see the full wealth of nutritional components found in the bulb and leaves. The sulfur compounds in garlic, to which mot of the therapeutic benefit is attributed, vary greatly and are in a constant state of change during the growing cycle of the plant. Since no single garlic plant can be harvested when both the leaves and the bulb are at their nutritional peak, the best of both species must be used to insure a complete garlic product.