IT'S been said to ward off vampires, cure colds and improve vitality. But now researchers believe garlic could benefit thousands of Australians with high blood pressure.
A daily dose of two pills containing high potency aged garlic extract seems to help lower blood pressure, according to a study of Adelaide patients published on Wednesday in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
The study leader, Karin Ried, said many people had difficulty with high blood pressure despite taking medication.
''What's exciting is that the garlic was able to reduce blood pressure in that medication-resistant group,'' she said.
The garlic extract could work by stimulating nitric oxide in cells, which dilated blood vessels, reducing blood pressure.
''But it doesn't just have one possible mechanism of action and that is probably what makes it superior to other medications, which only have one mechanism,'' said Dr Ried, who undertook the research while at the University of Adelaide and is now the research director at the National Institute of Integrative Medicine in Melbourne.
Her study, of 79 patients, compared the garlic extract to placebo pills, and found a reduction in systolic blood pressure over a 12-week period.
About a quarter of participants reported side effects such as bloating, ﬂatulence or a noticeable garlic taste.
The clinical issues director at the Heart Foundation, Robert Grenfell, said the early findings were interesting.
''The problem is many Australians who have high blood pressure do not know about it or are not taking treatment,'' he said.
He said most people who did not respond to treatment would do so if they added a second or third medication, but it could be difficult to encourage people to keep taking them, particularly if they did not understand the risks of going unmedicated.
The study was funded by a grant from the Royal Adelaide Hospital and the garlic capsules used were provided free by the manufacturer.