Garlic: A Savory Super Power in Your Health Arsenal
“Oh, honey! You ate garlic......” Such a whine is heard in our home when my husband eats something containing garlic and I do not. Basically having a major olfactory overload forces me to go grab something with garlic in it myself, with the added benefit that I can then kiss my honey without gagging.
Odor =Power! Garlic contains sulfur compounds including thiosulfinates, sulfoxides, and dithiins, which can only be excreted through the lungs and pores - thus causing the much railed-upon “garlic breath”. (But this aspect also makes it an amazing healing agent for bronchitis and other respiratory infections.) Back in ancient times, the battlefields must have reeked of garlic because the Romans and Greeks used it before battles for its fortifying properties. Garlic is something I try to add to just about every dinner I make. Cooking garlic changes the format of health benefits you get, but it is all good. I add it to my medicinal tinctures and oils and tonics, realizing that each medium draws out different properties of this amazing superfood.
Proven Through the Ages
History is full of evidences of the value of garlic for healing and health being known for millennia. People who lived in the times of the pharoahs, ancient Greek and Roman athletes, Hippocrates, and Louis Pasteur all used garlic for its healing virtues and support of body systems and function. Galen called it poor men’s treacle. The graves of the dead during the Great Plague of the 14th century were cauterized with garlic to keep them from breeding contagion. During WWI it was also used to hold back epidemics of typhus and dysentery.
Grow Some of Your Own
Harvesting garlic, from Tacuinum sanitatis, 15th century (Bibliothèque nationale) the lily family and was supposedly first cultivated in Siberia. It's a plant that is easy to cultivate and with each harvest you can save more bulbs to plant the next year. Celebrate late autumn by putting the treated* bulbs in a deep furrow(deep enough to avoid freezing and thawing) in full-sun, well-drained organic soil, pointy side up, and then watering and covering them well with dirt, compost and a thick layer of straw to protect from frost. In the spring they will continue the growth that they started in the late fall and put out wispy, flower-topped sprouts (scapes) which must be pinched off to allow the bulbs to fill out. (These sprouts are very savory for use in cooking.) Then, when the summer comes around and the leaves turn yellow-brown, you dig up your harvest and hang the fresh bulbs to dry. Voila. *Treating garlic bulbs before planting entails soaking them for a couple hours just before planting in a quart of water with a tablespoon of baking soda and a tablespoon of liquid seaweed added. This will help protect the growing bulbs from fungal infections.
What a Little Bulb Can Do! Garlic has a long list of actions - antifungal, antiseptic, antimicrobial, diaphoretic, cholagogue, hypotensive, anti-spasmodic, alterative, anthelmintic, anti-catarrhal, carminative, expectorant, pectoral, rubefacient, stimulant, tonic and vulnerary. Phew! Is there anything garlic canNOT do? Garlic is the mortal enemy of every bacteria, virus and parasite - they simply cannot thrive in its presence. Be aware though, that not all of these actions are found in the raw bulb. When you cut into a bulb, you are initiating a biochemical reaction that produces the wonder-compound, allicin. Leaving the bulbs then to sit for a day at room temperature enables the allicin to start forming other medicinal compounds and if you leave it two days, there’ll be even more as the allicin resolves. As I mentioned earlier, soaking raw garlic in different mediums also brings out different aspects of its healing capabilities. Soaking in alcohol or water are best for pulling out the allicin, a powerful antibiotic. Crushed garlic in oil releases ajoenes and dithiins - blood-thinners which don’t exist in raw garlic, but are produced from the allicin after the clove is cut/crushed. Here’s a recipe for a garlic “cocktail” taken from Paul Bergner’s The Healing Power of Garlic.
Refreshing Garlic Tonic Blend in a blender: 3 cloves garlic with 1 Tablespoon each of red wine, oil and vinegar. Add 1/4 cup of hot water. Let stand for 3 hours without straining. Add 1/3 of this mixture to a cup of hot water. take another dose every 3-6 hours until it is all gone.
Some of the ways I have used garlic include: *as a poultice on my feet or on the chest to get rid of flu symptoms, *added to olive oil along with mullein flowers and soaked for at least a month for earache relief, *eaten raw for its strongest benefits when coming down with something (usually I’ll put it on a salad or something to help cut the heat from it.), *as a suppository to eliminate candida albicans (which eating lots of it helps with as well!) *soaked in a tincture with other herbs for a month to use during flu season for healing and relief.
My Garlic Goals: The ways I want to try are to use it in a foot bath which is supposed to be an excellent tonic for fatigue. You blend 6 or so cloves into a pint of hot water and let it sit for an hour. Then soak your feet in a small tub up to the ankles in water that’s as hot as you can tolerate - then add the garlic water and soak at least 15 minutes. This is also a great way to treat a foot fungus! And I recently learned that you can make a garlic syrup by layering sliced or chopped garlic with raw local honey. After sitting for a day, the honey will draw out the garlic juices and mix with the honey. Then you just take teaspoonfuls of this as needed for coughs, sore throats and chest congestion. One more great healthful idea is to dehydrate your own garlic slices at low heat to keep the allicin content intact. Then you can grind into your own garlic powder to use on breads, etc. for a delicious way to stay healthy!
A Caution: Be aware that the allicin in raw garlic is strong and can burn your skin, so if you use garlic for a compress or poultice be sure to put a layer of cheesecloth or light fabric between the garlic and your skin. And never leave a poultice or compress for longer than about 20-25 minutes, checking frequently for any burning of skin. I hold no stock in the tales of garlic used to ward off evil spirits and such but I am entirely convinced of the capability of garlic against any marauding infectious forces of destruction. Through the millennia its benefits have been proven over and again. It seems like magic the way garlic works such wonders, but it’s really an example of another amazing provision from the hand of God for our good!