Garlic breath could be the key to slashing blood pressure

Is there anything better than the smell of garlic cooking in the kitchen at dinnertime? I sure can't think of it right now -- and garlic brings more to the table than that terrific smell and the power to perk up any meal.

It's also a potent health-booster, able to fight off bacteria and viruses and slash inflammation.

And now, the latest research finds it can even lower your blood pressure.

Supplements with allicin, the active compound in garlic, can cut your systolic blood pressure ("top number") by an average of 6.71 mmHg and the diastolic blood pressure ("bottom number") by an average of 4.79 mmHg, according to the analysis of seven randomized, controlled trials.

That's not quite the benefit you'd expect from a blood pressure drug, but it's not that far off, either. And if you combine garlic with other natural therapies, you can bring your BP levels down to right where they need to be without touching a drug.

I prefer not to prescribe those meds myself. And when I have a new patient who's on one, I work to get him off -- because BP drugs are known for serious risks and may not even improve outcomes.

Compare that to the risks of garlic. Beyond "garlic breath," there aren't any.

And along with cutting your blood pressure and fighting infection, garlic can lower your levels of cholesterol by 5.4 percent and triglycerides by 6.5 percent, according to a recent study out of China.

The best way to unlock the benefits of garlic is to crush it, and then let it sit for about 15 minutes. That stimulates an enzyme reaction that brings out the allicin responsible for most of the health benefits.

Add it to your food raw, or use it in the last minutes of cooking.

That said, you won't get the levels used in many studies from diet alone unless you eat plenty of garlic at every meal. And if you do that, you could enjoy some pretty good health... and some pretty bad breath.

Fortunately, you can also get garlic from a supplement. Just make sure it's a quality formula from a maker you trust.