Garlic is an herb that we always have on hand, usually in several different forms. From garlic powder, salt and minced for culinary uses to fresh for cooking and health uses- this herb has a plethora of uses.
History of Garlic Use
According to Mountain Rose Herbs:
Garlic has been used medicinally, and as a culinary ingredient, for over 5000 years. World folklore is littered with references to its ability to protect us, such as in ancient Greece, where mid-wives hung cloves on the windows to ward off evil spirits during childbirth. Ancient Koreans ate it pickled before passing through the mountains to keep tigers away as it was believed that they hated the smell. The Egyptians used to swear on cloves of garlic in the same way we swear on the Bible today as an act of indicating an honest testimony.
The Greeks also used it extensively: These health promoting benefits may be experienced by using it as both a food ingredient and a dietary supplement. Garlic is odiferous, tasty, and medicinal. The first medical textbook known to have discussed its use in medicine was the Collection of Commentaries on the Classic of the Materia Medica (Ben Cao Zhing Zhi Ju), written over 1,500 years ago.
Practical Herbalism elaborates:
Probably because of the strong sulphury odor associated with it, garlic was given mixed reviews by historical herbalists. There is even a legend that “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.” According to Maude Grieve, “Many of the old writers praise it as a medicine, thought others, including Gerard, are skeptical as to its powers. Pliny gives an exceedingly long list of complaints, in which it was considered beneficial, and Galen eulogizes it as the rustics’ Theriac, or “Heal-All.
Uses and Benefits:
Practical Herbalism continues:
“Garlic was an important ingredient in the famous Vinegar of Four Thieves that protected looters that plundered the bodies and homes of Plague victims. In more recent times, it has gained the status of one of the few herbs universally recognized as a beneficial healer. Prior to the advent of antibiotics, and during wars when they have been in short supply, garlic preparations were used on wounds to prevent infection. Practical experience and scientific research alike has confirmed its abilities to strengthen immune function, improve circulation, lower blood pressure and cholesterol, quell infections and lower fevers. In laboratory studies, garlic has been shown to have direct anti-microbial actions equivalent to many anti-biotic drugs, but without those drugs’ tendency to create resistant strains of pathogens.”
Even mainstream medicine recognizes its benefits for various health conditions:
- Healthy Heart: Some evidence suggests that it may help promote heart health. It may slow down atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries) and lower blood pressure slightly, between 7% and 8%. Most of the studies on high blood pressure have used a specific formulation called Kwai. One study that lasted 4 years found that people who took 900 mg daily of standardized powder slowed the development of atherosclerosis. It also seems to be an anticoagulant, meaning it acts as a blood-thinner, which may help the fight against heart attacks and strokes. (Source: University of Maryland Medical Center)
- Hypertension: “A 2010 double-blind, parallel, randomised, placebo-controlled trial, involving 50 patients whose routine clinical records in general practice documented treated but uncontrolled hypertension, concluded, “Our trial suggests that aged garlic extract is superior to placebo in lowering systolic blood pressure similarly to current first line medications in patients with treated but uncontrolled hypertension.” (source)
- Hair Loss:”It could end your hair loss problems because of its high levels of allicin, a sulfur compound similar to that found in onions, which were found to effectively treat hair loss. Rubbing sliced cloves on the scalp may provide this benefit (though the smell won’t be pleasant!). You can also infuse oil with garlic and massage it into your scalp.” (source)
- Group B Strep– A local midwife suggest consuming a raw garlic clove or capsule of garlic daily, along with 2,000 mg of Vitamin C to help balance gut bacteria and avoid GBS. Anecdotally, this remedy worked for me in my past two pregnancies after testing positive during one pregnancy.
- Colds and Flu– There is some mainstream evidence on garlic’s ability to shorten the duration of colds and flu but most evidence seems to come from elderly friends and grandparents who swear by its effectiveness (and they were right on Cod Liver Oil…) so it is worth a try. We consume fresh cloves during illness as needed.
- Foot Fungus: “With its anti-fungal properties, it could be a good way to get rid of itchy athlete’s foot. Soak your feet in a bath of warm water and crushed garlic. ” (source)
- Repel Mosquitos– It seems that researchers aren’t sure why but that regularly consuming and rubbing the skin with garlic was effective at keeping away mosquitos and other pests (source). (It would probably do a pretty good job of keeping people away too…)
- Cancer: “It may strengthen the immune system, helping the body fight diseases such as cancer. In test tubes, it seems to have anti-cancer activity. And population studies — ones that follow groups of people over time — suggest that people who eat more raw or cooked garlic are less likely to develop certain types of cancer, particularly colon and stomach cancers. In fact, researchers who reviewed 7 studies found a 30% reduction in risk of colorectal cancer among people who ate a lot of raw or cooked garlic. Supplements don’ t seem to have the same effect.
- A large-scale study, called the Iowa Women’s Health Study, looked at how much garlic, fruit, and vegetables were in the diets of 41,000 middle-aged women. Results showed that women who regularly ate garlic, fruits, and vegetables had a 35% lower risk of developing colon cancer.
- It may also help the immune system function better during times of need such as in cancer. In a study of 50 people with inoperable colorectal, liver, or pancreatic cancer, immune activity improved after they took aged garlic extract for 6 months.” (source)
- Prostate Cancer: “A study from the National Cancer Institute found that eating 10 grams (approximately two teaspoons) or more of garlic, onions or scallions a day was associated with a statistically significantly lower risk of prostate cancer for the participants in the study.” (source)
- Healthy Blood: “Many cancers are thought to be caused by damage to DNA, often induced by environmental toxins. A study conducted at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle found that eating a teaspoon of fresh garlic and a half cup of onions per day increases the levels of a key enzyme for removing toxins in the blood cells of healthy women. The authors of this study believed that men would require a higher dose on average for the same effect, because of their larger body size.” (source)
How to Consume
According to the University of Maryland Medical center, the following are considered generally safe doses, but check with a doctor or healthcare professional before using any herb as a remedy:
Whole garlic clove: 2 – 4 grams per day of fresh, minced cloves (each clove is approximately 1 gram) (I try to consume 3-4 cloves daily)
Aged garlic extract: 600 – 1,200 mg, daily in divided doses
Freeze dried capsules: 200 mg, 2 tablets 3 times daily, standardized to 1.3% alliin or 0.6% allicin. Products may also be found standardized to contain 10 – 12 mg/Gm alliin and 4,000 mcg of total allicin potential (TAP).
Fluid extract (1:1 w/v): 4 mL, daily
Tincture (1:5 w/v): 20 mL, daily
Oil: 0.03 – 0.12 mL, 3 times daily”
“The use of herbs is a time-honored approach to strengthening the body and treating disease. Herbs, however, contain components that can trigger side effects and that can interact with other herbs, supplements, or medications. For these reasons, herbs should be taken with care, under the supervision of a health care provider qualified in the field of botanical medicine.
Garlic is listed as Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS) by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
Side effects from garlic include upset stomach, bloating, bad breath, body odor, and a stinging sensation on the skin from handling too much fresh or dried garlic. Handling garlic may also cause skin lesions. Other, more rare side effects that have been reported by those taking garlic supplements include headache, fatigue, loss of appetite, muscle aches, dizziness described as vertigo, and allergies such as an asthmatic reaction or skin rash.” (source)
As with any herb, check with a health care professional before using as a supplement and check out this list of precautions and interactions.
How I Use Garlic
I use garlic daily in some form:
- I keep garlic powder, garlic salt and minced garlic in the kitchen for easy use in cooking.
- I finely mince 2-4 cloves a day or more and consume by taking a small spoonful at a time and washing down with water.
- I use fresh garlic cloves in salad dressings and fresh dishes.
- I occasionally take garlic capsules for an extra boost.
Do you take garlic? How do you use it? Share below!