Originally published on Herbal Medicine from Your Garden
(A video containing the main points outlined here is available here)
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Garlic, Allium sativum, is extensively used all around the world as an ingredient in cooking, although when I was a child in the UK, many people wouldn’t touch the stuff. I don’t know if this had anything to do with Britain’s love-hate relationship with France, where it sometimes seems to non-garlic fans that the locals bathe in it, but it certainly seems to be more accepted now that Britain is part of the EC.
Talking of France, health experts have long been baffled by the health of the French people, given their diet rich in saturated fats and the fact that many of them drink copious quantities of wine and smoke the strongest cigarettes known to man. Recent research has found significant benefits in red wine (as resveratrol), and the value of garlic is well known. Perhaps this accounts for it, or perhaps we have yet to find the real cause.
Garlic is a hardy bulb, usually treated as an annual, and a member of the onion family, many of which have medicinal properties. It’s very easy to grow from individual cloves off a bulb bought at the grocers, planted individually (without removing the skin) either in Autumn or early Spring. It’s best to put it at the back of the garden, because of the strong garlicky smell if the leaves are crushed. While it’s growing, you can take a few of the leaves for use in the kitchen.
Garlic is pregnancy-safe.
For medicinal use, peel one or more cloves and crush very thoroughly, then leave it to develop for at least 20 minutes. By doing this, you allow the component chemicals (alliinase and alliin), which are held in different cells, to mix together and react to produce allicin, the most important active constituent. You can then use it as an addition to your cooking, as it will survive some conventional cooking – but don’t cook it in the microwave, or it will be destroyed. You can also use it raw (in France, raw garlic is eaten with ripe Camembert and bread – perhaps the taste of one cancels out the other)!
In addition to its antibacterial, antiviral and antifungal properties, recent research has shown that allicin is helpful in treating or preventing atherosclerosis, thrombosis and high blood pressure, and as an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory.
An excellent remedy to fight off a cold or sore throat, as soon as the first symptoms occur, is a garlic and chicken broth, simply made by boiling a couple of portions of chicken in a small amount of water with the addition of 1-2 cloves of crushed and developed garlic. Take a cupful of the hot broth every couple of hours. The chicken can also be eaten.
If you prefer to take the garlic on its own, it can be mixed with honey to remove some of the bite and make it more palatable. Garlic is used as a general tonic and an excellent heart tonic, to fight infections of all kinds, for coughs and colds and gastro-enteritis. It can also be applied externally to treat skin infections, including fungal infections (wrap the crushed garlic in a fine cloth, squeeze tightly and rub over the affected area).
Alternatively, if you prefer I offer a range of garlic products in my online shop.
Because it is a type of root, it is doubly important that garlic is grown organically if intended for medicinal use, to avoid high concentrations of toxic chemicals. To find out more about growing organic garlic, visit the Gardenzone. For more detail on the science between garlic’s properties read my article Garlic Health Benefits are Awesome. You might also like: Garlic – on top of everything else, now it’s linked to Weight Loss!
Garlic is not used in aromatherapy, which is no surprise – it stinks!