The Benefits of Black Garlic

The health benefits of black garlic have been known for centuries. It was part of the daily diet of the ancient Egyptians and ancient Chinese, famously given to Roman soldiers to increase their strength and stamina, and its medicinal uses were codified in ancient Egyptian and Indian medical texts.

Black garlic shares the same benefits as regular garlic, but with some additional bonuses that make it a must-try. The flavor and texture of black garlic also make it an attractive ingredient you may want to experiment with in your future culinary adventures.

This specific type of garlic is created by aging regular garlic heads, with the peel on, until the inner cloves turn black and become a little sticky and soft. The garlic heads are usually kept in a warm and humid environment for a few weeks, while they undergo the Maillard reaction or blackening process. This process ferments the amino acids and sugars in garlic cloves, and as you may already know, fermented foods are packed with probiotics –good bacteria that helps keep your gut microbiome balanced and healthy.

When garlic cloves undergo fermentation, they produce melanoidin, which is what gives black garlic its color and distinct flavor. Melanoidin is a compound produced during the later stages of the Maillard reaction and is an anionic compound, which means it is negatively charged.

The health benefits of melanoidins, found in certain foods, are not yet fully understood and because the Maillard reaction produces other compounds along with melanoidin, the health benefits of black garlic cannot be attributed to one specific compound alone. These benefits may turn out to be the result of numerous compounds working together or a combination of various active substances.

Garlic is part of the allium family and contains allicin—the active ingredient. As part of the onion family, garlic has antiviral, antibacterial, and antifungal properties and is high in sulfur, which supports faster wound healing and may also improve certain skin conditions, such as cold sores and acne.

Garlic is rich in vitamins and minerals, including vitamins B1 and B6, vitamin C, manganese, calcium, copper, selenium, iron, and phosphorus, rendering it a nutrient powerhouse. The high antioxidant content may help prevent certain diseases, lower oxidative stress, and improve immune system function. Some studies have shown that daily garlic consumption can reduce the duration of cold symptoms up to 70%.

Garlic has also been found to balance hormones, improve cardiovascular health, fight cancer, bring down weight, improve bone density, and may even remove heavy metals from your body.

This makes it helpful to the functions of every single circuit of your NeuroEndoMetabolic (NEM) stress response system, composed of various organs and circuits—the hormonal, bioenergetics, inflammation, detoxification, cardionomic, and neuroaffect circuits—working together to counteract stress.

Garlic and the Bioenergetics Circuit
Black garlic contains allicin in higher concentrations than regular garlic. Bioavailability of allicin increases with heat, which is part of the blackening process, making it easier for your body to absorb the compound and thus providing more powerful health benefits.

Higher concentrations of allicin in black garlic may help regulate your blood sugar levels even more so than regular garlic. Black garlic can also slow the release of insulin, which can have a huge impact on your metabolism, especially your bioenergetics circuit. Two of the biggest stressors affecting this circuit —mainly comprised of the thyroid, pancreas, and liver—are an imbalance in your carbohydrate metabolism and insulin resistance.

If your blood sugar levels are unstable, this can lead to hypoglycemia, one of the symptoms of adrenal fatigue. When you’re hypoglycemic, your system goes into panic mode because there isn’t enough glucose to power your organs and bodily functions, especially your brain. You may experience anxiety, shakiness, weakness, sweating, and sugar cravings.

Sugar craving is your body’s way of prompting you to refuel, but when you eat something extremely sugary—simple carbohydrates—your blood sugar levels spike. This causes your pancreas to secrete a large amount of insulin required to transport this sudden rush of sugar from your bloodstream into your cells. However, too much insulin will cause your blood sugar levels crash, leading to another hypoglycemic episode. If you continue to eat sugary foods, the cycle will continue, placing a lot of stress on your body, especially your adrenal glands and your bioenergetics circuit.

In order to balance your blood sugar levels, eating frequently and limiting yourself to certain kinds of foods can help interrupt this spike-and-crash cycle. Since black garlic can help stabilize your insulin and blood sugar levels, it can be an excellent addition to your Adrenal Fatigue diet and is also highly recommended for diabetics.

As a detoxifier, garlic can support liver function, which is involved in both the bioenergetics circuit and the detoxification circuit. The liver is your body’s detoxification organ, and if it’s not functioning optimally, toxins and metabolic by-products can build up, thereby affecting your entire system and increasing the level of toxins in your body.

Thus, helping your liver out by eating detoxifying foods can keep things clear and is also useful for ensuring a highly functional inflammation response that can isolate, attack, and clear out pathogens and other harmful substances.

A clogged-up liver and detoxification circuit will worsen food and drug sensitivities, increase inflammation, create leaks in your gut, and may lead to unbalanced hormone levels. This can also place massive stress on your adrenal glands and immune system, as they will have to constantly fight your body’s increasing toxicity.

Incorporating garlic into your daily meals can be a great idea in most cases and can help you to regularly detoxify your system. However, if you suffer from advanced adrenal fatigue, you may want to first start out with a smaller and less frequent intakes before working your way up to a daily dose of this potent detoxifier. Taking garlic supplements without supervision is not advised if you suffer from an autoimmune condition since it could worsen autoimmune attacks.

Garlic and AFS
Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome (AFS) is a condition that develops when your body is exposed to chronic stress. Your adrenal glands—part of the NEM’s hormonal circuit—secrete cortisol to help you cope with and neutralize the negative effects of stress, whether physical or psychological in nature. Cortisol is a powerful anti-stress hormone, but although necessary, it can be harmful if your cortisol levels are not balanced.

In the beginning stages of AFS, your cortisol levels increase in order to meet the high demands of your body. This can increase your blood sugar levels, blood pressure, and create a pro-inflammatory environment. Symptoms of adrenal fatigue include excessive tiredness, weight problems, sleep disturbances, anxiety, mild depression, brain fog, hair loss, dizziness, heart palpitations, low immunity, low libido, infertility, PMS, and many more.

Symptoms are more noticeable in the later stages of AFS, as your adrenal glands become so overworked that your cortisol levels actually drop. Whereas high cortisol levels can be harmful, allowing stress to wreak havoc on your body without neutralizing it via the effects of cortisol can lead to even bigger health problems.

Adrenal fatigue can create excess oxidative stress, which occurs when the number of free radicals exceeds the number of antioxidants required to combat them. Allicin is a powerful antioxidant that can help you stave off oxidative stress, as well as the chronic diseases that come with it.

Another compound found in black garlic is S-allycycteine, also formed as a result of the Maillard reaction. This compound can inhibit cancer-cell formation more effectively and directly than white garlic.

The lowered immunity that comes with adrenal fatigue can make AFS-sufferers more prone to catching colds and flus. These can aggravate your condition by piling even more stress onto your system and you may also take much longer to heal than normal. Therefore, colds and flus can totally knock you out if your body is already weak. But you’ll need all the energy you can get to recover from AFS.

Adding garlic to your diet can help support your immune system so you can fight colds and flus or recover from the symptoms faster. More importantly, black garlic has antiviral, antibacterial, and antifungal properties that can prevent you from becoming ill in the first place, which is something you should definitely aim for if you’re recovering from adrenal fatigue.

If you’re suffering from AFS, you may be more vulnerable to inflammation—usually beginning in the gut and traveling to other parts of the body—which can increase your risk of cardiovascular illnesses as well, especially if your cardionomic circuit is negatively affected.

The level of homocysteine—an amino acid that can damage blood vessels—in your body indicates the level of inflammation you may be experiencing, in fact, it is one of the most important markers of inflammation to look for. Garlic can help reduce homocysteine levels, thereby helping to decrease your risk of cardiovascular disease.

Moreover, because black garlic is fermented, it contains probiotics that can help your microbiome flourish, which can, in turn, fight off inflammation in your gut.

Should You Use Black Garlic?
Not all natural herbs are harmless, and anything that has medicinal properties should always be taken with care. This includes garlic. Garlic supplements come with their set own precautions for this specific reason.

Garlic is a blood thinner, especially when eaten fresh, so it’s is not a good idea to consume garlic if you have a wound, have recently undergone surgery, or suffer from any other issue that involves bleeding of some sort. Since garlic lowers blood pressure, it’s best to avoid it if you already have low blood pressure, which is usually the case if you are suffering from advanced AFS.

Fresh garlic can be an irritant. If you chew a fresh clove, you may feel the sting, which can give you an idea of how it may affect other sensitive areas of your body. Although garlic’s sulfur content makes it an excellent remedy for skin problems, it may not be a good idea to apply it directly to your skin, particularly if you have sensitive skin. It can also irritate your gastrointestinal tract, especially if you have digestive issues.

Garlic is generally safe to eat for almost everyone, but if you’re pregnant or breastfeeding, you may not want to suddenly increase your garlic intake without the go-ahead from your doctor. Also, certain medications can have negative interactions with garlic, including HIV/AIDS medications, the contraceptive pill, and medications that contain saquinavir.

Black garlic tastes much milder than regular garlic and is still packed with plenty of flavor and umami. But it does have a high, sometimes even higher, concentration of active ingredients. So, although there have been no specific studies on the possible harmful effects of consuming black garlic, for now it’s safe to assume that the same precautions should apply as those of regular garlic.

Due to the many benefits, such as clearing out your digestive tract and respiratory system, increasing your circulation and oxygenation, and even stimulating your libido and blood flow—all things that can be affected by AFS and a dysregulated NEM stress response—you may want to give it a try and see how it goes.

If you’d like to try making black garlic at home yourself, there are several online resources, including videos, that can show you how. The simplest way is to use a rice cooker. All you need is a few heads of fresh garlic, without any rot or sprouting. Wash them and let them dry completely in a cool place that is free of moisture, then place them in a rice cooker on the “Keep Warm” setting. After three days, remove the lid of the rice cooker to let the steam out, move the garlic heads around a little, then put the lid back on.

Depending on the rice cooker you have, this process will take between one and two weeks. You’ll know the garlic is ready when the cloves are totally black and should be able to see part of them as they will shrink away from their peel.

The process can be lengthy, so if you’re short on time you could also just look for black garlic in specialty stores. You can eat it on its own, use it to infuse your dressing oils (though you should limit your consumption of oils, especially if you have AFS), add it to sauces, or chop it up and add it to some steamed vegetables for a bit of extra flavor. In some stores, you may even find powdered versions that you can sprinkle on salads or meat.

Whatever way you decide to use it, you’ll probably find it packs a milder punch than regular garlic, but even so, don’t be tempted to go overboard and use too much. You still need to assess how it will eventually affects your digestion and your overall health before deciding to incorporate it into your diet daily.

With AFS, autoimmunity, or any chronic health condition, moderation is key. And because diet is central to recovery from or regulation of these types of health issue, you don’t want to mess with it too much. Better still, ask an experienced professional before making any big changes to your eating habits.