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Garlic has been used as both a medicine and a spice for thousands of years. Ancient Egyptians considered garlic to be a potent medicinal food.
The Common Garlic a member of the same group of plants as the onion, is of such antiquity as a cultivated plant, that it is difficult with any certainty to trace the country of its origin.
Garlic was placed by the ancient Greeks on the piles of stones at cross-roads as a supper for Hecate, and garlic and onion were invocated as deities by the Egyptians at the taking of oaths.
There is a Mohammedan legend that reads as follows.
‘When Satan stepped out from the Garden of Eden after the fall of man, Garlick sprang up from the spot where he placed his left foot, and Onion from that where his right foot touched.’
There is a curious superstition in some parts of Europe. If a morsel of the bulb be chewed by a man running a race it will prevent his competitors from getting ahead of him. Hungarian jockeys will sometimes fasten a clove of garlic to the bits of their horses in the belief that any other racers running close to those thus baited, will fall back the instant they smell the garlics’ odor.
Garlic as an Herb for Many Medicinal Uses
Many marvellous effects and healing powers have been ascribed to Garlic. It possesses stimulant and stomachic properties in addition to its other virtues.
Garlic has been used as food and medicine since the age of the Egyptian pharaohs. The Greek historian and traveler Herodotus (484-425 B.C.) wrote that inscriptions on an Egyptian pyramid recorded the quantities of garlic consumed by the laborers. The Roman naturalist Pliny the Elder (A.D. 23-79) declared, “Garlic has powerful properties, and is of great benefit against changes of water and of residence.” He recommended it to treat asthma, suppress coughs, and expel intestinal parasites, but noted some drawbacks (other than garlic breath): garlic dulled the sight, caused flatulence, injured the stomach if taken in excess, and caused thirst.
In olden days, Garlic was employed as a specific for leprosy. It was also believed that it had most beneficial results in cases of smallpox, if cut small and applied to the soles of the feet in a linen cloth, renewed daily.
In China, garlic was traditionally used for fevers, dysentery and intestinal parasites. Its antibacterial activity was first recognized in an 1858 study by the French microbiologist Louis Pasteur.
Garlic Can Relieve Athlete’s Foot
Garlic kills all sorts of fungi-including the one that causes athlete’s foot. Drop a few freshly minced cloves of garlic into a cotton sock, and then wear the sock overnight. (Just be sure to wash your feet in the morning with something that has a more pleasant scent!) Repeat the treatment nightly until the fungus disappears, usually within 7 to 10 days. Garlic can also fight arterial plaque, improve the elasticity of arteries, and reduce blood clotting and slightly lower cholesterol, triglycerides and high blood pressure.
Syrup of Garlic
Syrup of Garlic is an invaluable medicine for asthma, hoarseness, coughs, difficulty of breathing, and most other disorders of the lungs. It is of particular help with chronic bronchitis due to its powers of promoting expectoration.
Make syrup of garlic by pouring a quart of boiling water onto a pound of the fresh root. Cut into slices, and allow to stand in a closed vessel for twelve hours. After the 12 hours, add sugar to make it of the consistency of syrup. Vinegar and honey greatly improve this syrup as a medicine.
Add a little bruised and boiled caraway and sweet fennel seed to the water to cover the pungent smell. Prepare the fennel and caraway by boiling in vinegar for a short time.
Bruised and mixed with lard, garlic has been proved to relieve whooping-cough. Rub on the chest and between the shoulder blades.
An infusion of the bruised bulbs, given before and after every meal, has been considered helpful in epilepsy.
A clove or two of garlic, pounded with honey and taken two or three nights successively, is good for rheumatism.
If sniffed into the nostrils, garlic will revive an hysterical sufferer. Amongst physiological results, it is reported that garlic makes the eye retina more sensitive and less able to bear strong light.
Wine of Garlic – made by macerating three or four bulbs in a quart of proof spirit – is a good stimulant lotion for baldness of the head.
Early Southern folk medicine used garlic placed in the ear as a treatment for deafness (Moss 1999). Herbalists have used garlic in one form or another to treat ache, colic, gout, sore throat (called “quinsy”), typhus, asthma, bronchitis, and a variety of other ailments (Heatherley 1998).
In the past twenty years garlic has been the subject of more than 2,500 credible scientific studies. Well documented health benefits include reducing cholesterol (due to the ingredient selenium) and triglycerides in the blood (while increasing high-density lipoproteins, so-called good cholesterol), reducing blood pressure, improving circulation, and helping to prevent yeast infections, cancers, colds, and flu.
Garlic has good antibacterial, antifungal, antiparasitic, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and immunostimulant properties. At least nine epidemiological studies show that garlic significantly decreases the incidence of cancer, especially cancers of the gastrointestinal tract, among those who consume it regularly.
Garlic Aids Detox
Garlic helps cleanse harmful bacteria, intestinal parasites, and viruses from the body, especially from the blood and intestines. It also helps cleanse build-up from the arteries and lowers blood pressure. Garlic has anti-cancer and antioxidant properties that help detoxify the body of harmful substances. Fresh garlic helps cleanse the respiratory tract by expelling mucous build-up in the lungs and sinuses. Try to eat at least a clove or two per day. Raw is best but cooked garlic is often easier for those of us with sensitive stomachs.
Culinary Uses for Garlic
Garlic, the cousin of the onion, enhances the taste of many foods. When cooking, break apart the head of garlic and remove the skin from individual cloves before chopping.
The smaller you chop garlic, the stronger the flavor. Chopping or pressing releases more of its essential oils, giving the strong garlic aroma.
Garlic cloves can be eaten raw or cooked. They may also be dried or powdered and used in tablets and capsules. Raw garlic cloves can be used to make oils and liquid extracts.
Instead of adding raw garlic to sauces, saute the garlic first for a milder flavor.
Garlic leaves are edible and can be used like chives.
Store garlic cloves in clean, empty baby food jars and place in the freezer.
Used in cooking, garlic is a great aid to digestion, and keeps the coats of the stomach healthy. For this reason, essential oil is made from it and is used in the form of pills.
Garlic Honey: Slice 6 cloves of garlic and add to 4 ounces of honey. Let stand for 7 to 10 days. Use in medicinal teas for colds, flu, sore throats, cough or sinusitis. The cloves themselves may be eaten on toast or crackers, etc.
Garlic Oil: Slice 6 to 8 cloves of fresh garlic and cover in a jar with 4 ounces of olive oil. Steep for 7 days; strain and bottle. Combined with mullein oil for earache. Also used for colds and flu.
Garlic Syrup: 10 to 12 cloves of garlic (sliced) and 1 cup of raw sugar. Layer the sugar and the garlic in a glass jar. Let sit in a cool place for 1 to 2 days. Strain out the garlic and bottle in an amber jar. Use 1/2 to 1 teaspoon 3 times a day. Can be added to warm tea.
Shakespeare and Garlic
In his play, “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”, first performed around 1595, Shakespeare wrote, “Eat no onions nor garlic, for we are to utter sweet breath“.
Did You Know?
Garlic is October’s Herb of the Month.
Elephant garlic bulbs weigh up to one pound.
Slaves used garlic in a wide variety of ways. According to Kiple and King (1981: 164), slave children, on the first day of sunshine following the winter, received a dose of spring tonic to ward off illness. One tonic was a combination of garlic and rum.
Garlic was also worn around the neck as a prevention measure. Fontenot (1994) reported child slaves wore small bags of garlic around their waists to ward off worms and stomach infections. Garlic tea was used by adults to clean the bowels. Garlic wrapped in cotton and put in an ear was used to treat earaches.
Side Effects and Cautions for Garlic
- Garlic appears to be safe for most adults.
- Side effects include breath and body odor, heartburn, upset stomach, and allergic reactions. These side effects are more common with raw garlic.
- Garlic can thin the blood (reduce the ability of blood to clot) in a manner similar to aspirin. This effect may be a problem during or after surgery. Use garlic with caution if you are planning to have surgery or dental work, or if you have a bleeding disorder. A cautious approach is to avoid garlic in your diet or as a supplement for at least 1 week before surgery.
- Garlic has been found to interfere with the effectiveness of saquinavir, a drug used to treat HIV infection. Its effect on other drugs has not been well studied.
- Rare cases of allergic reactions to garlic have been reported. Some individuals experience heartburn or flatulence from consuming it.
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