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Another Medicinal Herb

Another Medicinal Herb

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For many of us, garlic is that wonderfully smelly herb used to flavor some of our favorite foods. But garlic has medicinal qualities as well. In fact, a study of the use of complementary and alternative medicine suggested that garlic extracts or powders may be among of the most commonly used over-the-counter supplements. But as with most medicinal substances, supplemental garlic is a mixed bag of both potential benefits and serious cautions. Garlic has been touted for its ability to reduce blood cholesterol levels, but outcomes from studies in which subjects received between 600 and 1,000 milligrams of garlic powder (the equivalent of one half to one clove of fresh garlic) showed generally mixed or weak results. However, garlic might have another effect that could improve cardiovascular health: increased elasticity of arteries. When we lower blood pressure caused by hardened arteries, there is less chance for artery damage and thus reduced risk for heart disease. Researchers have also explored the possibility that garlic can reduce the risk for blood clots. These studies have shown mixed results as well, with one group suggesting that it might take high doses of garlic extract to achieve the desired result. Even so, garlic supplements probably should not be taken with anticoagulant therapy. High doses of garlic are associated with gastrointestinal distress and pain. And even with the use of some odor-free garlic supplements, some subjects noted changes in body odor. Unfortunately, supplemental forms of garlic can create more serious problems as well. Most important, there is a potential for a medication-herb interaction with protease inhibitors. Test tube studies have shown the active component of garlic can interact with both ritonavir and saquinavir. In human studies the interaction of garlic supplements on saquinavir included a decrease in levels and potential decrease in effectiveness. In addition, the effect might last several days after discontinuing supplement use. At this point no studies have looked at the interactions of fresh garlic or garlic in cooking with antiretroviral medications, and there are not any reports of food uses of garlic causing other problems. It has been suggested that the garlic supplementation studies used levels of garlic that could be incorporated into the diet, although cooking may alter the active compounds. The overall recommendation is caution with garlic supplement products, especially when taking protease inhibitors. However, there is no contraindication about enjoying fresh garlic to flavor food. For those of you who are into cooking, here is a recipe for a healthy winter soup. It is fantastic served with heated crusty or sourdough rolls. The recipe makes two hearty servings. Souped-Up Carrot Puree With Croutons 1 tablespoon olive oil 2 cups frozen sliced carrots 1/2 cup frozen chopped onions 1 clove garlic, finely minced 1/2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice 2 cups canned vegetable stock or vegetable broth salt and pepper to taste sprigs of fresh parsley or cilantro garlic croutons Put oil in a large saucepan and add carrots, onions, and garlic. Cook slowly over low heat for five minutes. Add spices to the cooked carrot-onion mixture and cook for an additional minute. Add vegetable stock or broth and cover to simmer on low heat for 20 to 30 minutes. While the soup is good in its chunky form, you can also pour it into a blender to puree until it is smooth. But be very careful if you try this, though, because the steam released while blending heated liquids can cause the blender top to 'explode' off, and the hot contents will spray everywhere. It is best to wait until the soup has cooled before blending, then return it to the saucepan and reheat for serving. Pour into bowls and garnish each portion with a sprig of parsley or cilantro and top with your favorite croutons. Fields-Gardner is the director of services for Cutting Edge, an HIV nutrition company in the Chicago area. She is a member of the International AIDS Society and the American Dietetic Association's Dietetic Practice Group on HIV and AIDS. She has written a book on HIV medications and a guide to nutritional management of HIV for clinicians.

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Cade Fields-Gardner

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Ryan is the Digital Director of The Advocate Channel, and a graduate of NYU Tisch's Department of Dramatic Writing. She is also a member of GALECA, the LGBTQ+ society of entertainment critics. While her specialties are television writing and comedy, Ryan is a young member of the LGBTQ+ community passionate about politics and advocating for all.

Ryan is the Digital Director of The Advocate Channel, and a graduate of NYU Tisch's Department of Dramatic Writing. She is also a member of GALECA, the LGBTQ+ society of entertainment critics. While her specialties are television writing and comedy, Ryan is a young member of the LGBTQ+ community passionate about politics and advocating for all.