Garlic’s reputation has promoted more than 2,500 health studies, but most are for marketing, not medical science.

Garlic — the fight intensifies.

The health claims still fly, many on cable TV. Not long ago, garlic was acclaimed as a miracle drug, lowering cholesterol, preventing cancer and fighting any other disease of the moment. Some folks started taking a daily raw garlic clove like a pill. The gastric effects of that can be torrid.

Garlic’s reputation has promoted more than 2,500 health studies, but most are for marketing, not medical science. Overall, one effect is not debated: Raw garlic is a powerful antibiotic and has been used for this effect for centuries.

A study in Life Sciences reported garlic lowers harmful oxidant levels in blood. A German study in Toxicology Letters found garlic reduces plaque in veins and arteries, helping to prevent stroke and heart disease.

Nine respected studies show that garlic decreases your chances of cancer. Recent studies indicate it prevents blood clots and can lower diastolic blood pressure (the bottom number).

Now here’s the bad news. The garlic must be consumed raw. The heat of cooking decreases many of its health benefits, as it does in other foods.

Many users do not know garlic can pose a risk of botulism when stored in oil, even in the refrigerator. It’s a good idea to freeze the garlic and oil and chip off whatever you need for cooking.

Garlic can interfere with anticoagulants used in surgery, so tell your doctor if you take it. It can spark allergic reactions, especially skin reactions, resulting in severe irritation. It can irritate the digestive tract and cause heartburn, perhaps its most famous effect.

Garlic is not alone among herbs with side effects. Many herbs and spices, when eaten too often or too concentrated, can cause similar problems.

The suggested maximum daily fresh garlic dose is 4 grams or a half-tablespoon. Certainly garlic lovers would disagree.

If you enjoy garlic in foods, that’s the best reason to use it.

The Repository (Canton, Ohio)