Known for at least 5000 years in both Western and Eastern medicine, garlic (Allium sativum) is a great, nutritious health food and healing plant. It is anti-viral, anti-fungal and anti-bacterial. In the herbalist’s realm it is also used as a diaphoretic, diuretic, expectorant, stimulant, alterative (restores health), antispasmodic, cholagogue (helps the liver and gallbladder), vulnerary (external application as for wounds), and vermifuge (kills worms).
Garlic nutrition includes manganese, selenium, calcium, phosphorus and copper; vitamins B1, B6 and C; the amino acid tryptophan and protein. (A more complete nutritional profile of garlic may be found here.)
Famed educator and traditional naturopath, Paavo Airola, PhD (1918-1983) wrote the following: “In the controlled and reliable clinical studies animal as well as human, reported in major medical journals worldwide in the last couple of decades, garlic has been shown to have almost miraculous preventive and or therapeutic properties in the treatment of variety of diseases.”
Garlic has been used in animal health for many years as well, although there are some current articles suggesting not doing so. Please check with your vet for your animal companion’s best health.
Modern science has done extensive research, exploring the chemistry and pharmacology of garlic, proving that garlic is a valuable aid for numerous health conditions. A partial list includes: high blood pressure, atherosclerosis, tuberculosis, diabetes, arthritis, cancer, hypoglycemia, bronchitis, asthma, whooping, pneumonia, common cold, allergies, intestinal worms, intestinal putrefaction and gas, parasitic diarrhea, dysentery and insomnia.
One component of garlic, allicin, attacks more than 23 kinds of bacteria, including staph and salmonella, as well as 60 types of fungi and yeast, is effective against all of 17 most dangerous fungi (including C. albicans). Allicin can also expel tapeworm and restore sensation in areas affected by certain diseases. Allicin has shown in laboratory studies to immobilize 90% of a virus within 30 minutes. Allicin is known to destroy viruses that cause herpes and upper respiratory infections.
In addition to destroying viruses and bacteria, the USDA's Human Nutrition Center in Beltsville, MD, demonstrated that garlic can reduce levels of blood fat and blood sugar levels. It has shown to help raise insulin in the blood as well and protects vitamin B1. This is of course very good news for people with diabetes.
A relatively new form of allicin, made by a unique water extraction process that allows the equivalent of 38 cloves of garlic to be placed in to one capsule along with vitamin C and bioflavonoids, is available. This formula also has been established to be effective against MRSA.
Garlic is good to keep on hand at this time because of the flu and the unknown issues involving what is said to be a new strain. Garlic’s sulfur compounds boost the immune system and it also contains a series of natural antioxidants.
In 1950 the Medical Monthly reported that scientific tests proved garlic as a cold remedy, and established that common cold symptoms such as “sore throat, runny nose, fever, cough, and rhinitis were cut short in every case”. Less convalescence was noted, and both raw garlic and garlic preparations were found to be effective. A cold is also caused by a virus.
Popular garlic remedies include:
Raw Garlic - Peel and crush raw garlic cloves and allow them to sit for about 15 minutes to clear some of the chemistry. Raw garlic has been known to cause rash and burns if not handled properly. Eating fresh parsley along with your raw garlic cloves helps eliminate the ‘odor’.
Roasted Garlic - Immortal Black Garlic is made from a traditional process of roasting and the resulting food is health building.
Pickled Garlic and Vinegar - Using fresh garlic cloves, peel and place in a clean glass jar with a plastic lid. Cover with raw vinegar or wine vinegar and cap jar tightly. Let the jar sit in a dark place or in a cupboard for several weeks. Then you’ll have pickled garlic which you can eat a few cloves and have a bit of the vinegar each day. This is a popular Persian food and also when combined with beets, often used to improve digestion.
Garlic Oil -Making garlic oil is very similar, just cover peeled cloves with high quality extra virgin olive oil and steep for two weeks. Since olive oil does not react with metal, as does vinegar, you can use a clean glass jar with a metal lid when making this oil. Garlic oil is very good for earache and has no known side effects for this use.
Cooking Garlic -And of course garlic is one of the best foods to use when cooking. A culinary delight is Bear’s Garlic (Allium ursinum) which also has many medicinal properties and is quite good for reducing blood pressure.
Garlic Gardening -Planting garlic in your rose garden protects them from pests and disease, as well as enhancing the fragrance of the flowers. And slurry of chopped raw garlic deters slugs.
Garlic Toddy -My favorite garlic toddy is to take one large clove of fresh, raw garlic and chop or crush it. Place the garlic in a large shot glass and then add a spoonful of raw honey (dark honey contains more vitamin C). Let this sit for about 10 minutes to draw out the healing elements. Now add a spoonful of raw apple cider vinegar and a shot of cayenne tincture (or Tabasco). Mix well and chew thoroughly.
While garlic is on the FDA’s GRAS (Generally Recognized As Safe) list, it is best to seek the advice of a knowledgeable herbal practitioner and your own health care provider before using this or any other herb.
Gayle Eversole, DHom, PhD, MH, NP, ND, is a natural health educator and advocate. Celebrating 50+ years blending science and the natural healing arts. Visit: http://www.leaflady.org/
This article is for educational and informational purposes only and does not take the place of a consultation with a qualified health care professional. Always consult a physician or other qualified health care professional before taking any herbs or applying any therapies. The reader must assume full responsibility for verifying any information or therapies with a qualified physician or health care professional.