“Garlic…powerful blood cleanser, digestive stimulant, systemic cleanser, and diuretic”(1)
Garlic—the very name itself sounds as pungent and strong as its biting taste, and strong onion-like odor. It might seem strange, to some, that garlic is considered such an important herb, since one of its nick-names is the ‘stinking rose’. Nearly all of this plant is useful, such as the cloves of the bulb in the fall, and its garlic scapes, in the summer.
Garlic is an amazing herb, and as such has been one of the most important simples known to herbalists. Overall, this biting-herb’s use has been recorded since 3000 B.C. (3), and specifically in Egypt since 1000 B.C. (4), where it was primarily believed and used to “repel snakes, [and] to discourage tapeworms”, (5). In the
Middle East garlic was also taken
to promote endurance, speed and strength (3), and especially to prevent
infections, along with the use of onions, during the construction of the
Pyramid of Giza (5). In 450 A.D. in China,
manuscripts were written praising this allium’s medicinal properties, and in
it was referred to as the ‘wonder food (6). The Ayurvedic medicine system
traditionally used garlic for lowering blood pressure and cholesterol, as “a
blood cleanser, and for nervous disorders, such as headaches and hysteria…for
the lung[s] as an expectorant and powerful decongestant”(6),
no wonder why it is a main ingredient in
chutneys, and curries! India
garlic has become a staple ingredient in Italian and Greek cuisine. Also in the
same area, in ,
Hippocrates found garlic to be quite useful as a “cure for boils…and a dubious cure for
baldness” (7), and
was carried by Romans during their Empire expansion for circulation and high
blood pressure. Moving north to England, the British herbalist Maude Grieve’s
book the Modern Herbal states that
garlic syrup “is an invaluable medicine for asthma, hoarseness, coughs…and most
other disorders of the lungs…[including] chronic bronchitis on account of its powers of promoting expectoration” (8).
Also around Grieve’s time, this herb was highly valued throughout WWII as a
natural antiseptic for soldiers who spent lots of time in the trenches(7). Greece
Garlic’s current-day use is parallel to this pugent herb’s traditional uses, though with constant improvement of technology and scientific studies, even more amazing medicinal uses are being discovered! This herb is still used to purify blood, cholesterol and blood pressure, and very successfully reduces clotting because garlic “breaks down fibrin—[being] the substance that blood clots are made of” (9). Garlic also seems to greatly benefit atherosclerosis by “block[ing] the biosynthesis of cholesterol”, due to the presence of the compound allicin (10). Several other herbs, also know as spices, have excellent anti-clotting, anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory properties, which include: onion, cayenne pepper, turmeric, ginger and lemon grass. Additionally, a study was done using patients diagnosed with hypercholesterolemic who were given “a water extract of garlic…for two months during which time the patients experienced a 28.5% reduction in cholesterol”, and the dose was about 10 grams of garlic/day (11).
Besides cholesterol and heart-ailments, garlic also benefits the lympathic system by being a strong ‘cleaner’ “of the mucous membranes” (1), and is one of the “most popular…antibiotics…[which] fights the microorganisms responsible for many types of infections” (12). Both of the above medicinal benefits help to treat and prevent bronchitis, colds, whopping cough and tuberculosis. Garlic contains the compounds alliin and allicin, being “sulfur-containing compounds that act against a range of bacteria and fungi…Allicin is an antibiotic against bacteria such as Staphylococcus and Salmonella”(13), as well as “candida, cholera, …dysentery and typhus” (14), thus being helpful in yeast infections and urinary tract infections, and athlete’s foot. If you plan to use garlic for these medicinal purposes make sure you don’t cook it, because than the allicin becomes destroyed.
Beyond athlete’s food, staph and salmonella, garlic is also amazing at treating wound-infections, from rusty nails. An interesting story I found from Kathi Keville’s book Herbs for Health and Healing, is a story of a man who was mowing the lawn when a rusty nail punctured his leg. Even after he was administered a tetanus shot from the doctor, “the area around the hole had become swollen, red and painful, and the entire leg felt very hot” (15). Having recently learned about the infection-treating properties of garlic, he applied poultices of crushed garlic cloves every hour. After doing so for several hours, he fell asleep and woke up later to an infection-free wound, with no sign of there being a puncture! Lastly, Garlic has even been shown in studies to fight off more serious diseases, including stomach cancer. A study done in Washington D.C. in 1990 showed that if you ate at least “25 to 50 pounds of garlic over 20 years—[you] have fewer cases of stomach cancer” (16). Other helpful alliums for ones diet, include: onions, chives, and leeks.
Here are three recipes for fun, easy and delicious ways to take raw garlic!
Wicked Garlic Dip:
-3 medium sized red potatoes, peeled and diced
-3 medium cloves of garlic, peeled *I ususally use 8-12 *
-up to 1/3rd cp mayonnaise
-1/2 tsp salt
1) Boil the potatoes until cooked well, drain and put into a food processor.
2) While the potatoes are still warm, add mayonnaise, garlic cloves
and salt. Blend until smooth, keep refrigerated
*this recipe is adapted from the Moosewood Cookbook*
For another Garlic Recipe, see previous blog:
This is such a simple recipe! All you do is take peeled raw garlic cloves, and infuse it in honey for 1-6 weeks. A loose ratio I have learned is to add 3-6 garlic cloves per 4 ounces of honey. You don’t even have to take out the garlic, you can eat them because they will almost become candied. Yumm!
-The Healing Power of Garlic: the Enlightened Person’s Guide to Nature’s
most Versatile Medicinal Plant, by Paul Bergner
Naveen Patniak Ayurvedic book sharing traditional uses Garden of Life By
Bauman, Edward. The Holistic Health Handbook: a Tool for Attaining Wholeness of Body, Mind, and Spirit.
: And/Or, 1978. Print. Berkeley, CA
Bremness, Lesley. Herbs.
Dorling Kindersley, 2002. Print. New York
Brown, Kathleen, and Jeanine Pollak. Herbal Teas: 101 Nourishing Blends for Daily Health and Vitality.
: Storey, 1999. Print. Pownal, VT
Coon, Nelson. Using Plants for Healing, an American Herbal. [
]: Hearthside, 1963. Print. New York
"Herbalism." Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Web. 25 Oct. 2011. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Herbalism>.
Huson, Paul. Mastering Herbalism: a Practical Guide.
: Stein and Day, 1975. Print. New
Katzen, Mollie. The Moosewood Cookbook.
: Ten Speed, 1992. 102. Print. Berkeley,
Keville, Kathi, and Peter Korn. Herbs for Health and Healing.
Rodale, 1996. Print. Emmaus, Penn.
Mowrey, Daniel B. The Scientific Validation of Herbal Medicine.
Keats Pub., 1986. 10. Print. New Canaan, CT
Patnaik, Naveen. The
Garden of Life:
an Introduction to the Healing Plants of . India : Doubleday, 1993. Print. New York
Seymour, Miranda. A Brief History of Thyme and Other Herbs.
: John Murray, 2002. Print. London
Sumner, Judith. The Natural History of Medicinal Plants.
Or.: Timber, 2008. Print. Portland
1) Bauman, 124 2) Huson, 53 3) Brown, 122 4) Wikipedia, Herbalism 5) Sumner, 17
6) Patnaik, 112 7)
Seymour, 56 8) Coon, 70 9) Keville, 67 10) Mowrey, 11 11) Mowrey, 10
12) Keville, 219-220 13) Sumner, 173 14) Bremness, 142 15) Keville, 258 16) Keville, 109