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Keep a Cold Away with a Clove a Day?

We've all heard, and probably personally experienced, the effects of garlic on the elusive cold virus. Mysteriously, it had always been associated as a cross between herbal wisdom and the likelihood that serious allium-eating kept many a guest at least a few feet away from actual contact. An article in the Sept./Oct 1993 issue of Natural Health helps clarify the issue.

In general, it seems that garlic, onions and hot peppers help thin out and move mucous through the body's system so that it does not clog air passages and therefore allows it to be coughed up. This is called a mucokinetic effect. In garlic, Alliin, a compound most known for giving the characteristic flavor we all love, is converted in the body to a drug similar to S-carboxymethylcysteine (Mucodene), a classic European cold medicine that regulates mucous flow. When spicy foods hit the mouth, throat and stomach, they stimulate nerve receptors that send messages by the vagus nerve to the brain and back to secretion-producing glands that line the airways. The glands instantly release waves of fluids that make the eyes water and the nose run while, at the same time, there is a similar effect on the bronchial passages of your lungs.

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