Bernard O'Shea: I swallowed 42 bulbs of garlic, then I tried garlic water 

Of all the online trends and influences, garlic is one of the rare few that has abundant scientific evidence to back up its extensive health benefits. But Garlic water? Garlic water? Peter Kay would have a field day with that one, writes Bernard O'Shea
Bernard O'Shea: I swallowed 42 bulbs of garlic, then I tried garlic water 

I hate synonyms and I hate garlic. Hate is a strong word but no other word comes close as a replacement. I especially hate garlic bread particularly the smell of it. 

But of all the online trends and influences, garlic is one of the rare few that has abundant scientific evidence to back up its extensive health benefits. But Garlic Water? Garlic Water? Peter Kay would have a field day with that one.

Have you ever wondered why Dracula was so afraid of garlic? If you’ve ever shifted someone outside Supermacs on a Saturday night who’s just wolfed down garlic and cheese chips you might begin to sympathise with our Transylvanian friend. 

Studies have shown that when we digested garlic we produce hydrogen sulphide (H2S), which relaxes blood vessels and increases blood flow. Therefore, eating garlic may reduce the risk of heart disease and improve your blood. I’m presuming Vampires don’t like that.

Garlic has also been traditionally used as a medicine for a vast array of ailments including erectile dysfunction, inflammation and kidney health. Again all based around improving your blood but most definitely not your breath.

According to a study carried out by Ankara University in Turkey, they concluded that “garlic extract supplementation improves blood lipid profile, strengthens blood antioxidant potential, and causes significant reductions in systolic and diastolic blood pressures”. 

That's according to The Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry Volume 15, Issue 6, June 2004.

They should have carried out extensive research as to why so many people including myself are repulsed by the smell of it. 

I have moved out of rented accommodation before because one of my housemates kept baking garlic bread in the evening when he returned home from work. Brian if you're reading this I’m talking about you.

When my granny was alive she used to tell my then-teenage sisters to rub garlic onto a spot if they got one. 

I’m pretty sure they didn’t take her up on that advice. It's bad enough being a conscious teenager without smelling like a small french brasserie.

So I was surprised when researching online to come across an article written for Cosmopolitan Magazine in 2016 titled “Why are women rubbing garlic on their faces?” 

Journalist Laura Capon wrote about beauty blogger Farah Dhukhai and how she rubbed a garlic clove onto a spot on her chin. To think my granny was doing that in the 1930s!

People have also been known to insert garlic cloves into the rectum for anal fissures and digestive health. 

As much as I’m grateful to the Irish Examiner for letting me write for them, that experiment was a step too far for me. Warning! Rubbing garlic onto your skin or inserting it anywhere apart from your mouth is not recommended by any accredited medical professional. 

When I told my wife this absorbing slice of information she said,“I don’t care what you put up there but I’m not driving you to the hospital.”

So why has garlic so many health benefits? The answer lies in the chemical allicin. Allicin is the compound that holds all the good antioxidants and reduces inflammation. It is also what gives it its smell.

You're either in two garlicky camps regarding its odour. You instantly salivate once the aroma rouses your nostrils or it makes you move out of a spacious double room that had its own en-suite right beside a bus stop that goes straight into the city centre that you were paying really low rent for (Again I’m talking about you, Brian.)

So because I cannot stand the taste or smell of the stuff I decided that I’d just swallow three garlic cloves a day for a few weeks to see if it improved my general well being. After a fortnight my wife asked me, “Are you sure that’s going to do anything for you? Do you not have to cook it or crush it to get the benefits?” 

I assured her that I had done extensive research on the topic prior to my bulb swallowing odyssey. 

Later that night I googled ferociously under the duvet and was woebegone to discover that my garlic-infused fingertips were for nothing. She was right.

To extract the allicin the bulbs need to be crushed or heated. The yellow oily liquid you see when you chop it beholds the beneficial elixir. For 14 days I swallowed 42 bulbs of garlic for no reason at all whatsoever. I might as well of have inserted it elsewhere.

So what do people do if they hate the stuff? Well, you have two options. You can buy garlic or allicin tablets or you can make garlic water.

To make garlic water is simple. Your crush and chop garlic and then put it into boiling water until it goes cold. 

The rationale that the allicin is agitated and you then get the benefits. I’m already drinking my own homemade turmeric tea every night that I don’t “hate” and although it has stopped me binge eating once the sun goes down it tastes putrid. 

So I decided I'd have my garlic water at lunchtime to space out my self-inflicted dietary purgatory.

Sometimes when you combine two ingredients together they take on a completely different life or complement each other brilliantly like pear and almond or rhubarb and custard. Garlic and water is not one of those combinations it tastes like water that's been passed through a sieve made of regrets.

My wife was the only person who benefited from my weeks of guzzling garlic water. Every lunchtime she’d watch me fling it down my oesophagus and be flush with self-admiration as she’d whisper, “I told you so”. 

In fairness, she has some pity on me when it comes to my aversion to its smell.

Last Wednesday she told me, “I’m ordering a pizza for the kids and I’m getting garlic bread so now would be a good time to go for your walk.”

I walked a half-mile to our nearest chemist and stood in the queue outside it for over forty minutes. Eventually, I bought a jar of “Odourless Garlic Capsules with enriched Allicin”. I was done enduring my fetid liquid lunchtimes.

Then I took a two-mile detour home. Why? Because unlike the house I moved out of all those years ago there’s a few little people that were expecting me back. 

I also knew that the smell of garlic bread would be gone by the time my 5k circumnavigation of Dublin 15 was done. 

I still can’t stand the smell of garlic bread. Some habits die hard but thankfully some new ones can be bought in odourless capsules.

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