That wonderful stinky and flavoursome herb is full of goodness to an ailing body; a fabulous defender of the realm, helping you to stay healthy and one of the most effective and powerful natural anti-biotics you could ever use to fight off infection.
Allium sativum (to give it the botanical name) is a perennial plant widely cultivated as a kitchen herb. 80% of all garlic comes from China yet it is perfectly happy in most soils and hardy to around -10oC. Frankly, nothing tastes better than home grown food and at least this way I can be sure its organic. It also does the amazing job of being a perfect companion plant to roses, carrots, beetroot and chamomile - fending off little unwanted critters.
Why do I love it so?
It is anti-biotic, anti-septic, Anthelmic (anti-parisitic), Blood cleansing, Expectorant, Diaphoretic, Hypotensive (reduced high blood pressure), anti-thrombotic, hypoglycaemic (reduces blood sugar), antispasmodic, a digestive, carminative and cholagogue. What's not to like? In fact before taking an anti-biotic for an ear infection I strongly suggest putting a clove of garlic behind the ear (finding a way to keep it there) and keep in on during the night. You will be amazed at how effective this little clove is at fighting off infection!
Garlic can be indicated for everything from a cold, bronchitis, diabetes, blood pressure, whooping cough and asthma. It can be used against fungal and bacterial infections, aids digestion; and can be used to fight of intestinal worms or as a vermifuge (its even perfectly shaped as a suppository for such purposes). It will promote detox, help skin problems, reduce cholesterol and can be used against arterioslcerosis. I've some garlic honey on hand for bites and stings which my boys regularly complain of.
There is of course much science to explain why garlic is so effective and such a potent little herb. It helps to know this to ensure you are using it effectively to support your body both stay well and help itself.
Garlic contains sulphur compounds known as alliin. On crushing the cells of garlic the bulb releases two chemicals known as allicin and ajoene. Allicin is very unstable and reacts quickly. It will dissipate over the course of a day and is destroyed when cooking. So it needs added to food just after crushing it. A significant amount of alliinase and alliin can be preserved by freeze drying the garlic; hence the garlic capsules you get in health food shops. A word on this however; Alliinase is inactivated by low Ph (such as that in the stomach) enteric coated capsules are necessary for alliinase to survive in the stomach and make its way further down into the digestive tract. Whilst this isn't essential for respiratory conditions or indeed for using it as a pre-biotic it does become important to know this if using the garlic purposefully against some conditions.
It may be helpful to think of it this way. Plants have chemical properties to help them survive that go above and beyond living and growing. They were created with inbuilt mechanisms to fend of disease, resist drought, fight bacterial or fungal infections. As static organisms. They can't operate on a fight or flight mentality. They must proactively work to defend themselves against the onslaught of preditors and disease. These very self-preserving skills are the very things that herbalists (and pharmaceuticals) are able to use to the benefit of humankind. Garlic relases chemicals once crushed in the same way it would if it was bitten or eaten by an insect or microbe. It makes an excellent companion plant because certain insects recognise the smell and know to stay clear. Those that don't bite into it at their peril.
A word on the stink.... The volitile oil of garlic is excreted through the lungs. Give thought as to how it gets there. It has to be absorbed into the system to be excreted. It must travel through the body, the arteries, veins, and heart before the lungs get to breath out that garlicy aroma. This very fact makes it an excellent remedy against respiratory disorders.
If you find the after-aroma very off-putting you can always eat apples, coffee beans or parsely to diminish the smell.
Garlic has a long history as food and as medicine. It was given to labourers building the pyramids to keep them strong and healthy. According to Pliny it had a semi-divine status and was known to clear the arteries and open up the veins. Turns out he was right!
There is even a 9th century recipe containing a garlic eye salve recipe containing leek, wine and cow bile that was recently tested and found to kill 90 of the MRSA superbug. Eating a clove a day is good prophylaxis (prevention against disease).
There are a few ways to have garlic to hand for when you need it.
Infusion: Put a few cloves in 100ml of cold water for 6-8 hours or as a hot infusion with 3 cloves to a cup of boiling water (remember though that heating the garlic compromises some of its properties).
Freshly grated cloves and mixed with honey or syrup for coughs. You can just press the garlic and drink with water.
Garlic oxymel can be taken by adding 1 bulb to 150ml apple cider vinegar and 150g honey. Macerate in the fridge for a week, shake daily and strain into a clean bottle. It should keep in the fridge for about 6 months and you can take 1tsp daily.
As a hand/foot bath you can take 3 bulbs to a litre of warm water and bathe two times a day or mash fresh cloves and spread onto a thin cloth to make a compress.
Now, on to that first aid essential:
Crush the galric well with a mortar and pestle until the garlic becomes transparent adding honey little by little as you go. After the garlic becomes transparent it is ready. Store in sterilised jars.
This is a great way to take garlic. To stop a cold getting into the lungs take a teaspoon every 2 hours as soon as you notice the symptoms. To prevent a cold or cough during the winter take 2-3 tsp daily but don't do this for children - it is much better to use onion syrup for them. It can however be used on bee stings, insect bites and grazes as required.