I have always had the utmost respect for garlic. Even so, I was surprised when I fell in love with it.
The romance began several years ago when I ordered a whole baked garlic for entree in a New Orleans’ restaurant. Every night for a week I insisted on going back to the same place, and ate the same entrée. I can dimly recall the music and architecture of that wonderful city, but mostly I remember falling in love with a vegetable.
If an apple a day keeps the doctor away, eating garlic should ward off your naturopath. Apart from being an indispensable ingredient in any tasty meal, garlic is one of the most therapeutic foods you can eat. The lower incidence of heart disease of the good burghers of Italy and Spain is thought to be as much due to their love of garlic as to red wine consumption. Garlic is valuable in the treatment and prevention of heart disease. The constituent, allicin, decreases blood fats (triglycerides), reduces clot formation, lowers cholesterol and some studies even show a lowering of blood pressure - all major risk factors in heart disease.
Garlic reveals it’s glorious aroma (remember, I’m in luuurv!) only when crushed or cut, this is due to the release of an enzyme (Alliinase) which converts one non-smelly substance (Alliin) to a smelly one (Allicin). Although there are other therapeutic substances in garlic, allicin is the most prized.
Garlic is part of the lily or Allium family and other edible relatives include; shallots, leeks, chives and onions. The oldest record of using garlic as medicine date back 5,000 years to ancient Egypt, but most cultures use garlic in their pharmacological repertoire. As if helping prevent heart disease is not enough, Garlic is also wonderful in improving immune function, and is as effective against bacteria as worms and fungus. I have fond memories of one of my die-hard mung-bean patients, hearing of garlic’s antifungal powers, walked around for a week with sliced garlic between her toes. A bad case of tinea cured!
Herbalists classify garlic as a ‘mucolytic’ herb, meaning it reduces the viscosity of mucus which makes it easier to cough up or blow out, making it an ideal remedy for fruity coughs and sinus infections. If you feel a cold coming on, eat this high-octane garlic bread. Place 3-4 crushed cloves of garlic on top of a piece of toast smothered with olive oil. Garlic’s other attributes include protecting against the effects of radiation, so it is often recommended for radiotherapy cancer treatments (in combination with kelp). Garlic also helps in eliminating heavy metals including lead from the body.
For the very best effect, raw garlic is recommended, but there are still many health benefits when it is cooked. For antimicrobial (bacteria, fungal infections) benefits, eat raw but for heart disease benefits, cooked garlic is fine. Eating three cloves a day is sufficient for an improvement to an existing health problem, and as little as three cloves a week is preventative. Some people find eating raw garlic too strong, and in some cases it can irritate the stomach lining. If this is you, don’t persist, but you can still get some therapeutic value from eating garlic’s weaker cousin, the onion.
Despite all its extraordinary qualities, garlic breath is the one reason why many people don’t use garlic as food or medicine. Sadly, mints just cover up, and garlic-mint breath is even worse. Many of my patients comment that the more regularly they eat garlic, the less complaints of garlic breath. Perhaps they just have good friends. For my part, it will take more than garlic breath to end this love affair.
Growing your own garlic is very rewarding. You can do it in a pot or garden. Traditions says the best time to plant is the shortest day of the year (Winter solstice around June 22), and harvest on the longest day (Summer solstice around December 22). Take a clove(s) of garlic (preferably organic) and stick them in the soil, waiting until the cylindrical flower appears before harvesting. Roses and garlic are good garden companions, and a spray made from stewed garlic will keep thrips away.
Learn more about garlic and other plants in Grow Your Own Medicine. Buy it here