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Garlic--Stinking Rose or Revered Medicine

Garlic at a Glance

Some love it--some hate it! Countless disciples praise its merits, while its denigrators reject it in disgust. Poor, innocent garlic is the victim of a love/hate relationship throughout history.

While one person wrinkles his nose up at the mere thought of consuming an offensive smelling food like garlic, others praise its mystical healing powers. Henri Leclerc, a French writer who publicly scorned the herb, referred to garlic as rose puante, French for stinking rose, in a 1918 magazine article. In support of garlic, the ancient Egyptian medical papyri, Codex Elsers, dated about 1500 BCE, contained 22 formulas for medicinal remedies prescribing garlic as a cure for heart disease, worms, and tumors. The Egyptian remedies may have actually originated as early as 3500 BCE before written forms existed.

Before the era of pharmaceuticals, beginning in the late 1800s, foods and herbs were the common health remedies. Herbalists through the ages compiled texts listing numerous plant foods and herbs they prescribed even for matters of life and death. People understood the value of garlic and its cousins in maintaining their vigor and curing their ills.

Egyptian tombs may have the oldest visible records of garlic's existence in burial chambers in El Mahasna. Archeologists discovered clay sculptures of garlic bulbs dating about 3700 BCE in one tomb, while paintings of garlic were found in another tomb dating about 3200 BCE.

Egypt's youngest pharaoh, Tutankhamen (1350 BCE), was sent on his journey into the afterlife accompanied with garlic, considered the protector of the soul and guardian of his riches in the afterlife. Archeologists found garlic remnants when poring through many items found in the pyramid. According to a translated papyrus, Ramses II had abundant quantities of garlic sent to the great temples. The Egyptians buried their dead with food offerings that frequently included garlic so their relatives would have sustenance on their journey into the afterlife. Sometimes garlic was employed in the process of mummification.

The Sumerians, using clay tablets, created the first written forms called cuneiform. The first written mention of garlic may have appeared about 2600 BCE when the Sumerians described the staples of their diet that included the herb along with grains, legumes, some root vegetables, leafy greens like lettuce and mustard, cucumbers and a variety of fish. The Sumerians also used garlic for healing as noted in the medical texts of King Ashurbanipal's library dating 688 to 826 BCE.

During archeological excavation of the palace of Knossos on the Greek Island of Crete, workers found evidence of garlic dating from 1850 to 1400 BCE. Early Greek military leaders employed garlic to embolden their warriors at the outset of battle. Perhaps, breathing on their enemies helped to insure victory. While some athletes of today resort to dangerous remedies like ephedra as a stimulant, the early Greek Olympic athletes chewed on garlic to ensure a boost in performance.

Garlic Rejection
The Greek citizenry, especially the aristocracy, firmly rejected garlic and found its smell repugnant. Anyone smelling of garlic was considered vulgar and was prevented from entering the temples. However, in Aristophanes' play Wives at the Feast of Thesmophores, the women who were cheating on their husbands found garlic the perfect cover-up for a night of indulgence. Contrasting the negative Greek attitudes, Aristotle listed garlic among the foods he considered aphrodisiacs.

Garlic Like the Greeks, the early Roman nobility did not embrace garlic in their own diets but considered the herb worthy only of being fed to the laborers and slaves, to give them strength and vigor. Any man smelling of garlic was considered of low breeding. Horace, Roman lyric poet and satirist (65 to 8 BCE), said of garlic in his Epodes, it is "more poisonous than hemlock." Yet, Julius Caesar, Roman general, politician, and writer (100 to 44 BCE) was said to indulge his love of garlic without hesitation.

In spite of all the rejection garlic endured by the early Greeks and Romans, the herb did have its place as a revered medicinal remedy. Hippocrates, along with later ancient physicians such as Galen and Dioscorides, considered garlic a panacea for a host of ailments from digestive discomforts and intestinal infections to high blood pressure, senility, and impotence. However, Hippocrates did warn that garlic "caused flatulence, a feeling of warmth on the chest and a heavy sensation in the head; it excites anxiety and increases any pain which may be present. Nevertheless, it has the good quality that it increases the secretion of urine."

Dioscorides , who was chief physician to Nero's army, included garlic to remedy coughs and colds, expel intestinal worms, clear the arteries, eradicate skin rashes, and make bald mens' hair grow. His and Pliny's medicinal formulas were translated and used in Europe until the seventeenth century.

Pliny the Elder, a first century Roman scientist and physician, said, "Garlic has such powerful properties that the very smell of it drives away serpents and scorpions." Among the 61 ailments he claimed could be cured with garlic were respiratory and tubercular maladies along with digestive problems, dog, snake, and scorpion bites, asthma, arthritis, ulcers, and convulsions.

The ancient Hebrews credited garlic for its ability to satiate hunger, give color to the complexion, improve blood circulation, kill parasites, cure jealousy, keep the body warm, and encourage love. The Talmud, a book of ancient Hebrew rabbinical teachings, encourages eating garlic on Friday because making love on the Sabbath is considered a good deed. Even fifth century Sanskrit medical documents found in India mention garlic as treatment for heart disease and rheumatism, as well as coughs, colds, fatigue, hemorrhoids, worms, digestive upsets, epilepsy and leprosy. When the British colonized the country, they noticed that lepers were peeling and consuming garlic non-stop. The British began referring to leprosy as the "peelgarlic disease." Today Hindus and Brahmins eschew garlic and onions, believing they are too stimulating and interfere with the ability to reach a high spiritual plain in meditation and self-reflection. However, Brahmins will allow the medicinal use of garlic.

Ancient China welcomed garlic into its cuisine as far back as 2700 BCE with master chefs incorporating the herb into a banquet of dishes. Later the Chinese employed garlic as an effective food preservative. Garlic was one of 365 plants cultivated in the Far East by about 200 BCE. Chinese culture divides many aspects of life into nature's forces of yin and yang. Garlic falls into the yang category for its pungent, warming, and stimulating effects and is prescribed for patients suffering from depression.

Because of its stimulating qualities, garlic was never part of Buddhist tradition in China or Japan, whose practitioners felt it would upset one's spiritual balance. Garlic was never adopted into traditional Japanese cuisine and was shunned by Zen masters. On the other hand, legend tells of a Japanese Buddhist priest who hid in the mountains and secretly cured himself of tuberculosis by ingesting large amounts of garlic.

Those following the Jain religion do not eat garlic or onions as well as potatoes because they practice ahimsa, the philosophy of non-violence. Concern that they might be destroying potential life forms or souls, they recognize that a bulb of garlic, with its many individual cloves, could possibly produce many more plants. Potatoes, too, develop many eyes, each one a potential plant.

When the Romans conquered Northern Europe, they introduced many vegetables new to Europe such as the allium family: garlic, leeks, and onions. After the Roman empire fell, the European Christian monasteries became the libraries that preserved the medical texts of plant remedies. The monks cultivated medicinal plants on the grounds of the cloisters and gained the attention of Charlemagne who decreed that garlic must be grown in the royal gardens.

During the ninth century Baghdad flourished as the center of the Moslem culture and science. Philosopher and scientist al-Kindi created the medical text Medical Formulary in which he describes the treatment for ear infection that begins with eleven cloves of garlic that are prepared in an elaborate process with lovage, pine oil, and Persian verdigris.

Dr. W. T. Fernie, an old-time Irish physician, mentions in his book Meals Medicinal that some physicians used garlic to treat whooping cough and tuberculosis as well as gall bladder problems. Dr. Fernie also recommended using garlic as a suppository to cure the body of thread worms and prescribed garlic by mouth for eliminating round worms. During the Middle Ages, the Irish cure for constipation was garlic smothered in hen broth.

While there was much disagreement among nineteenth century botanists and historians about the exact country of garlic's origin, some speculated it may have its roots in Asia, others said Europe. Today's botanists believe garlic first appeared in West Central Asia and Southwest Siberia and migrated both east toward China and west into Europe. USDA researcher Dr. Philip Simon discovered garlic's closest wild cousin, Allium longicuspis, growing in the region of Afghanistan's northern border neighboring Turkistan and Uzbekistan. Even today, wild garlic can be found growing in the southern portion of the Ukraine, towards the east into China, and southward into Turkey, Iran, and Afghanistan.

In Shakespeare's Midsummer Night's Dream, the character Bottom tells the other actors not to eat garlic or onion, "for we are to utter sweet breath." When the British Admiralty learned that the French navy was giving its men garlic and brandy to keep them warm and prevent scurvy, the British also took up the practice.

The seventeenth century British view of garlic was solidly negative, with expressions like, "not fit for Ladies' Palates, nor those who court them," or that eating garlic "was part of the Punishment for such as had committed the horrid'st Crimes." When famous poet Percy Shelley visited Italy with his friend Lord Byron, he was shocked and appalled to see his friend eating the garlic that was served at a social gathering.

British army doctors created a juice of raw garlic diluted with water and applied it directly to wounds to control infections during World War I. The garlic juice was so successful in treating infection that Russian army physicians employed the same technique in World War II along with garlic and onions given internally to increase resistance to infections.

Reaction in the Americas
Garlic was brought to the Americas by the Spanish during the late 1400's and through mid 1500's. The explorer Cortes planted garlic in Mexico and noted even the Indians of Peru took a fancy to the herb.

Native Americans used wild garlic, along with its wild shallot, onion, and leek relatives for food and medicine. Eaten raw, the green shoots were their cure for scurvy.

During the early 1800's, the Shakers, a communal religious sect that lived in upstate New York, grew, packaged, and sold herbs, including garlic, for medicinal use as a stimulant, expectorant, and tonic for cough, asthma, and respiratory infections.

Though garlic was consumed with passion throughout the world, Americans considered its odor offensive and socially unacceptable. During the early part of the 20th century some cooks would season their foods with only minute amounts of garlic salt or garlic powder. Even the well-respected Fannie Farmer, who created The Boston Cooking School Cookbook, omitted garlic in her Italian and Provencal dishes, substituting onion instead.

In the early 1900's America experienced a changing population with the influx of Europeans. Garlic slowly acquired an acceptable reputation when the Jews and Italians introduced their garlicky cuisines to the East Coast states. Along with their traditional foods were their strange folk remedies, many that relied on garlic to cure everything from colds to stomach aches. However, it wasn't until the 1960's that cooking with fresh garlic became the norm, prompted by the popularity of ethnic cuisines that have now become mainstream.

During World War II, the U.S. government appealed to farmers to produce dehydrated garlic and onions that could be shipped overseas with food supplies for the troops. A small group of California farmers responded and planted a few acres of garlic. That was the beginning of what was to eventually become a huge, successful commercial venture.

Garlic Most of the present U.S. supply of garlic is grown in California, though some is grown in Mexico. A large percentage of the garlic grown today is incorporated into sauces, pickles, spices, condiments, and sausages. Estimates on fresh garlic consumption note that each adult ingests approximately two pounds of garlic a year.

About two-thirds of the garlic grown in the U.S. is dehydrated and formulated into a variety of products such as garlic flakes, garlic powder, garlic salt, or garlic and herb blends.

In Asia, garlic is important to today's medical community that is formulating it into antibiotic remedies either alone or in combination with pharmaceuticals. In some cases the garlic-based antibiotics are replacing drugs. Latin America, too, is employing garlic for its medicinal effects. Native healers and midwives encourage its use to treat vaginitis, and worm infection.

Garlic's Hidden Weapons
Garlic's secret armory consists of more than 33 active sulfur-containing substances that do battle with enemies such as bacteria, viruses, and fungi. Some of the more familiar compounds are allicin, alliin, cycroalliin, and diallyldisulphide. Allicin, garlic's warrior against bacteria and inflammation, is also the culprit behind its offensive odor. Garlic's antibiotic effect is attributed to alliin, the sulfur-containing amino acid responsible for the manufacture of allicin.

Alexandra Hicks, food writer and avid gardener, reveals garlic's magic best:

Renowned for his revelation that microscopic germs caused infection, French microbiologist and chemist Louis Pasteur was first to recognize garlic's antibacterial properties. To demonstrate garlic's amazing strength, imagine that one milliliter of raw garlic juice can be compared to a milligram of streptomycin or sixty micrograms of penicillin.

Before the introduction of antibiotics during World War II, garlic was the favored treatment for whooping cough and tuberculosis. During World War II, chemist Chester Cavallito reported in the Journal of the American Chemical Society that in his laboratory research at the Sterling-Winthrop drug company he found garlic more effective than penicillin in combating some varieties of bacteria. He also noted that garlic was effective in killing fungus.

Garlic's ability to lower serum cholesterol is attributed to diallyldisulphide-oxide. The high level of selenium in garlic is believed to prevent sticky platelets and ward off atherosclerosis and clot formation in the arteries.

The Naming of Garlic
Botanically known as Allium sativum, garlic's name is derived from two sources, the Celtic word allium, meaning "hot or burning," and the Latin second name sativum meaning "cultivated." Our familiar word garlic is from the Anglo-Saxon word garleac, a combination of gar meaning spear and lac that means leek.

Around the globe garlic is known by many names: In China it is called da suan; in Korea, taesan; in Japan, taisan; in Thailand, kratiem; in India it may be called lassan or vellay poondoo depending on dialect. The Russians say chesnok, the Greeks call it scorodon, the Polish refer to it as czosnek, the Romanians call it usturoi. The French say ail, the Germans call it knoblauch, the Italians aglio, the Spanish ajo. In Israel the Hebrews say shoum, while in Arabic it is thoum.

Folklore and Oddities - Garlic's Mystical Powers
For centuries garlic was believed to ward off the dark forces of demons, evil spirits, and vampires. It may be possible that 8th century BCE Greek poet Homer, who wrote the Iliad and the Odyssey, set the stage that elevated garlic's powers. During Odysseus's long journey, he encounters the goddess Circe, who uses sorcery to turn men into pigs. Hermes warns Odysseus not to eat the Moly, a plant in the garlic family, saving him from the porcine fate of his companions. Garlic

A 300 BCE Greek custom used by travelers for protection from evil spirits was to place garlic at a crossroads to confuse the demons and cause them to lose their way.

Garlic's reputation as protector from evil touches nearly every continent. In Mohammed's writings, he equates garlic with Satan when he describes the feet of the Devil as he was cast out of the Garden of Eden. Where his left foot touched the earth, garlic sprang up, while onion emerged from the footprint of his right foot.

In Greece, midwives would prepare the birthing room by crushing a clove of garlic. Then, after delivering the baby, a midwife would place a necklace with a clove of garlic around the baby's neck.

Illness was often considered a manifestation of the evil spirits or supernatural forces. Along with ceremonial magic, herbal remedies were linked to good spirits. Garlic, with its antibiotic properties, was often the remedy of choice. Because it was frequently successful in healing, garlic was considered the ideal weapon to battle the dark forces.

European peasants of the 1700's would attach braids of garlic to the entrance of their homes to assure evil would not enter.

As indicated in ancient Egyptian records, the pyramid builders were given beer, flatbread, raw garlic and onions as their meager food ration. Upon threatening to abandon the pyramids leaving them unfinished, they were given more garlic. It cost the Pharaoh today's equivalent of 2 million dollars to keep the Cheops pyramid builders supplied with garlic. In the ancient Middle East, bartering was common practice where a male slave in good health could be bought for 15 pounds of garlic.

Because the Roman generals believed that garlic gave their armies courage, they planted fields of garlic in the countries they conquered, believing that courage was transferred to the battlefield.

Though many ancient cultures recognized garlic's curative abilities, they were unable to comprehend its components. The "cure" was attributed to garlic's magic.

Legend has made Transylvania the home of the vampires, and what better way to keep them away than with garlic--lots of it. When diseases caused by mosquito bites were considered "The touch of the vampire," garlic came in handy as a mosquito repellent. Recent research reveals garlic is quite effective in keeping mosquitoes at bay.

In Palestinian tradition, if the bridegroom wears a clove of garlic in his buttonhole, he is assured a successful wedding night.

Among practitioners of Auryvedic medicine, garlic is held in high regard as an aphrodisiac and for its ability to increase semen.

Garlic is a deceitful little herb. Most plants in the herbal world reveal their fragrance as soon as they are held to the nose. But garlic is a rather sneaky fellow. Hold a bulb of garlic to the nose and nothing registers--sniff again--still no odor. Seems innocent enough until it is sliced open or crushed and delivers a reeking wallop of "garlic breath" released by a host of sulfur containing plant chemicals, about 30 of them.

Garlic Festivals
While garlic festivals are celebrated in community events all across the U.S. and Canada, the grandest of them all is the Gilroy Garlic Festival held the last weekend in July in Gilroy, California, the "Garlic Capital of the World." In 2004, Gilroy observed its 27th annual event that noted a headcount of 122,675 garlic lovers gathered to devour over 2 tons of garlic in every form from appetizers, soups, salads, entrees, and baked goods to the almost unimaginable garlic ice cream.

The weekend event features music and entertainment, arts and crafts, special activities for children, a garlic cook-off, and recipe contest. Amateur chefs compete for the top prize of $1,000 and a coveted crown of garlic.

Also sporting a crown of garlic, is the Queen of Garlic or Belle of the Bulb, fragrant titles bestowed upon the lucky women who won the beauty pageant at the festival.

In the south of France, Le Grand Aioli is the awaited event that celebrates the garlic harvest. Bowls of aioli, a rich mayonnaise laced with garlic, are the featured stars of the celebration that attracts large crowds for a traditional meal of baby new potatoes, fresh vegetables, salt cod, and plenty of good French wine.

Why Garlic Stinks
Blame it on alliin that is converted to allicin by the action of the enzyme allinase. When raw garlic is cut, broken, or chewed, the "fragrant" allicin releases its powerful essential oil. When cooked, garlic loses its strong odor because the enzyme allinase is destroyed, preventing its conversion to the smelly allicin.

Because the enzymatic action is so important in garlic's therapeutic value, the herb is consumed either in its raw state or in the form of garlic extract.

Those distressed about the social aspects of consuming garlic do have genuine concern. Garlic's most beneficial properties are contained in its raw state that prevents one from being kissing sweet. Chewing parsley and sunflower seeds may help a little, but won't quite cover up garlic breath. Some odorless garlic pills may help, but even they cannot promise to make one's breath kissing sweet. If everyone ate garlic, no one would be able to detect it on anyone else's breath. But making garlic the next big "in" thing is still a hard sell.

The Japanese developed a method of curing raw garlic that retains its medicinal properties and its nutrients. Canadians can purchase Leopin, while U.S. residents can find Kyolic (kyo-Leopin) in health food stores. The organically grown garlic, cured for 20 months in large vats without the use of heat, ferments naturally and loses its odor. The aged garlic is sold in liquid or tablet form and leaves no bad breath or body odor.

Garlic Cuisine
Today, the aroma of fresh garlic emanating from the kitchen evokes nods of approval. Equated with fine cooking as well as comfort foods, garlic is today's favorite child. No pantry is complete without it.

The affinity for garlic is evidenced in nearly every cuisine around the globe. Some countries include garlic in dishes that are cooked while others create condiments with the raw herb.

Garlic Caution: Olive oil infused with fresh, raw garlic should not be left at room temperature to cure. While it may produce an awesome flavor, botulism threatens its safety. Commercial garlic infused oils are subject to strict regulations to prevent contamination from botulism. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration deems it necessary for manufacturers to add a preservative, conduct inspections of the processing, create the product according to specific guidelines, and state on the label that once opened, the garlic oil must be refrigerated. Garlic

Garlic infused vinegar, on the other hand, is safe because the high acidic level of vinegar prevents spores of botulinum bacteria from incubating. Homemade infusions are simple preparations that add delightful complexity of flavor to gourmet cuisine. Cut several cloves of garlic in half and add to white vinegar that has been heated almost to the boiling point in a non-metal pan. To the pan, add heady herbs such as thyme, basil, dill, rosemary, or tarragon. Cover, then set aside to age for several days to several weeks, depending on the intensity of flavor desired. Finally, strain off the garlic and herbs using fine cheesecloth, and pour the infusion into a clean glass bottle.

Curry, the mixture of spices that seasons Indian cuisine, often includes garlic; however, recipes of the past did not include garlic as part of the curry paste or powder. Garlic, ginger, and onion are the triad of seasonings that arrived with the early Moghuls, the Muslims that came from Turkey and Iran and settled in Northern India.

Pickled garlic called Kratiem Dong is a favorite in Thailand, while in Laos Sousi Pa, a dish of fish and coconut sauce includes five cloves of garlic per serving.

In Turkey and the Balkan region garlic is enjoyed as a side dish rather than as a seasoning. First, whole heads of garlic are pickled, and then roasted. Finally, the garlic is pureed and seasoned with salt and olive oil.

Similar to the Turkish dish is the Greek skordalia, a well-seasoned combination of mashed potatoes, several heads of roasted garlic, bread, and olive oil. Another skordalia-like version is the Romanian dish Mujdei, made by blending bread, garlic, and olive oil together.

In Azerbaijan whole heads of garlic are pickled in red wine vinegar and served with a combination of cucumber pickles, fresh tomatoes, and watercress.

During the Middle Ages, English cookery was awash in recipes that employed garlic in sauces for meats, poultry, and even salads. King Richard II dined on an elaborate salad made with garlic, parsley, sage, onions, looks, borage, mint, greens, fennel, watercress, rue, rosemary, and purslane.

Eat a clove of garlic right after harvesting and you may not even recognize it as that zesty, bracing herb you've always known. But give it time to dry and "cure," about a month, and you'll be sharing that old familiar garlic breath with anyone who stands within three feet of you.

Throughout the Middle East hummos, a garbanzo-bean-based appetizer that includes plenty of fresh minced garlic, makes its appearance in almost every household.

Condiments of many cuisines throughout the globe include garlic--Eastern European Jews favored garlic pickles, the Spanish chop several cloves into their Romesco sauce, and Moroccans include garlic in their spicy harissa sauce.

In Southern Italy, garlic finds its way into almost every classic dish from tomato sauce and pesto, to minestrone and caponata. Imagine a pasta dish without garlic! It does exist--but only in Northern Italy.

Aioli by Many Other Names
Though aioli, a revered garlic-infused mayonnaise served with baked potatoes, had its origins in Provence a few centuries ago, chic restaurants presently offer it as an elegant sauce for fish. The Spanish version, ali-oli, is an eggless mayonnaise made from olive oil, lemon juice, and a generous measure of garlic. Among the many beloved Italian foods Catherine de Medici brought to her new home in France was a bean that came from the West Indies. French chefs incorporated the bean into the aioli and named it grand aioli.

If there were a contest to create a dish containing the most garlic, the prize would go to the chef who prepared Poulet Bernais, roasted chicken with a kilo of garlic, about 150 cloves, served as a side dish.

With the exception of Buddhists, the Chinese consider garlic and onions a necessity in their diet as preventives from disease. Many of their traditional dishes feature a garlic sauce made with at least two heads of garlic sautéed with peanut oil, sherry, rice vinegar, soy sauce, and black bean chili sauce.

A favorite Mexican dish is Garlic Soup made with a large onion and a whole bulb of garlic simmered together briefly in about a quart of water. The onion and garlic are then mashed, returned to the pot, and seasoned with vegetable broth powder, cayenne, and salt.

In Los Angeles and San Francisco garlic lovers can dine at The Stinking Rose Restaurant where every dish is prepared with as many cloves of garlic as the customer desires. Dishes like Garlic Hummos Cocktail, Garlic Walnut Dressing for their salad, and Baked Portabella Mushroom on a bed of garlic infused vegetables are only a small sampling of the offerings.

Paavo Airola, N.D., Ph.D., who considers garlic a miracle medicine, enjoys dark sourdough rye bread spread with a layer of chopped raw garlic and topped with cheese.

Koreans wouldn't enjoy their kimchee half as much without the garlic that provides its characteristic flavor.

Even garlic shoots are edible and offer the distinct flavor of garlic, though much milder. While Westerners tend to ignore the garlic shoots, Asians include them in cooking or in salads regularly.

Medical Benefits
An unknown poet of the 1600's writes, "Our apothecary shop is our garden full of pot herbs, and our doctor is a good clove of garlic." Considered the poor man's penicillin, garlic offers an exceptional range of antibiotic properties.

While garlic has been one of the most studied herbs, researchers have yet to discover the full range of properties that make it so effective as a medicinal remedy. To date, more than thirty separate components have been identified. Some of these constituents are effective in combating bacteria while others prevent blood clots. However, no single ingredient in garlic is as effective in fighting disease as the synergistic ability of its whole range of components.

Though there is decided controversy within present day medical practice regarding garlic's ability to lower blood pressure, ancient healers claimed garlic brought excellent results. They prescribed fresh garlic taken daily in hearty doses. Today, scientists believe garlic's blood pressure lowering ability is attributed to the compound allyl mercaptan, an ingredient that also lowers cholesterol, prevents atherosclerosis, and has anti-tumor and anti-diabetic properties. Garlic

Many cultures outside the United States rely on natural herbs for medical uses. In India, garlic and onions are consumed as a preventive against arteriosclerosis, high blood pressure, and heart disease. Paavo Airola, a nutritionist and naturopathic physician cites several studies conducted in India, Germany, and Libia where garlic therapy demonstrated considerable improvement in both systolic and diastolic blood pressure in patients with hypertension. In other studies he cites, garlic in a variety of forms such as liquid allicin extract helped to reduce cholesterol, treat anemia, reduce inflammation from arthritis and lumbago, and reduce high blood sugar levels.

Garlic's sulfur containing compounds offer many health benefits including the ability to regulate blood sugar metabolism, stimulate and detoxify the liver, and stimulate the nervous system and blood circulation.

Those who suffer from allergies may find garlic strengthens their immune system and reduces the effect of allergens. One of garlic's non-sulfur components, a flavone called quercetin, may be responsible for stabilizing MAST cells at the onset of asthma and allergy conditions. MAST cells, part of our immune system, help the body recognize potential invading organisims. Garlic also contains phenolic properties that provide antioxidant effects. Garlic has the surprising ability to retain its antioxidant properties for up to six months after it is harvested.

Russian Penicillin
Considered by Russians to be their "penicillin" because of its antibiotic properties, garlic is given in the form of an inhalant to patients during hospital stays. Russian public health education includes advising citizens to consume garlic and onions regularly as disease preventives. Russian doctors have used garlic extract to treat chronic colitis, gastritis, grippe, and whooping cough.

Ayurveda, the medical system practiced in India, relied on herbs and spices for centuries for their healing abilities. Ayurvedic practitioners consider garlic too strong for those with short tempers, fearing it could cause energetic imbalance and trigger anger. Instead, the doctors prescribe garlic only for those in need of energy. Medicinally garlic is prescribed as a diuretic and a decongestant.

Garlic is considered a stimulant that warms the body and improves blood circulation because it contains arginine, an amino acid that helps to relax blood vessels. Aged garlic extract contains high levels of arginine, a powerful antioxidant, that improves blood circulation. Garlic extract has even been hailed as a "veggie viagra."

Aged garlic is the end result of soaking slices of garlic in aqueous ethanol for up to 20 months. This laboratory process, that enhances garlic's amino acid content, is the subject of several studies in order to help patients with sickle cell anemia.

Paavo Airola employs garlic in his treatment of patients with metabolic diarrhea, parasitic diarrhea, intestinal putrefaction, intestinal worms, dysentery, dyspepsia, asthma, and high blood pressure. For arresting the onset of a cold, he advises cutting a large clove of garlic in half and holding it in the mouth for several hours.

Ingesting garlic on a regular basis along with onions, kale, and parsley may prove helpful for alleviating constipation. When the allicin in garlic enters the large intestine, it is decomposed by bacterial action. Allicin aids in stimulating peristaltic action of the intestines, promoting improved digestion and elimination. On the opposite end of the spectrum, garlic is effective in treating parasitic and bacterial diarrhea.

Proving the case for folk medicine, in Medical Monthly in March 1950, J. Klosa, M.D. published a study that showed common cold symptoms were all abbreviated by ingesting raw garlic as well as garlic preparations.

This old Welsh saying may indeed have merit as a health remedy:

Remedies and Cures
Garlic is a powerful detoxifier with the ability to neutralize toxins from the digestive tract, the large intestine, and the blood. Its anti-toxic effects strengthen the immune system, offering benefit to those with allergies, asthma, and hypoglycemia.

Because it is impossible to consume fresh garlic without wearing its strong odor for several hours and even days, many people are reluctant to eat it. St. Hildegarde von Bingen, Medieval Abbess of Rupertsberg, recognized that only the raw garlic contained curative powers, not the cooked herb. She wrote, "It gives health both to the well and the ill. It ought to be eaten uncooked, because if it is cooked, its strength is lost."

The stinking rose quells yet another ailment. Italians apply poultices of garlic to alleviate stomachaches. During the early 20th century they sent their children to school wearing necklaces made of cloves of garlic to prevent them from catching colds. Though this practice made them rather unpopular, it did keep them healthy.

Famous herbalist Nicholas Culpeper, author of the Complete Herbal written in 1653, said about garlic that it, "kills worms in children, purges the head, helps lethargy, is a good preservative against and remedy for any plague, and takes away skin spots." However, he never found an antidote for the offensive garlic breath. Despite its tendency for creating bad breath, garlic has even been employed as a mouthwash to destroy mouth bacteria

Dramatic results in treating animals infested with ticks showed that garlic was able to effectively kill the ticks within 30 minutes, while garlic proved to be a repellant toward new infestations. Garlic was also successful in treating cattle with hoof and mouth disease.

Considering the high price of prescriptions today, garlic is an attractive medicine at the mere cost of two or three pennies per clove.

    "Garlic. It's the clove with clout." --Miami News

The soil used for growing our food is heavily contaminated with pesticides, herbicides, chemical fertilizers and fungicides that threaten our health. Man-made chemicals enter our food in the form of preservatives, artificial colors, artificial flavors, and artificial sweeteners. Since we live in an environment where our air, water, and food supply are threatened with pollutants, we can turn to nature to offer us protection with a simple, detoxifying daily clove or two of garlic.

In a study conducted in Russia in 1955, garlic extract used therapeutically was found to bind with heavy metals in the body, aiding their elimination. Workers suffering from chronic lead poisoning while working in industrial plants were given daily doses of garlic extract and saw a decrease in their symptoms. Other experiments that took place in Japan using mercury and cadmium also found that garlic bound with the heavy metals.

Garlic, Allium sativum, belongs to the lily family whose relatives are onions, leeks, chives, and shallots. Once a wild herb, today's garlic is cultivated throughout the world, though some still grows wild. It consists of a bulb about the size of a child's fist. Covering the bulb are several layers of white or purplish papery membranes that protect the individual cloves inside that could number from six to two dozen in varying sizes.

Garlic's two growing seasons are spring and fall. Spring plantings will mature more rapidly, in about three to four months, because of the warmer climate and the longer sun exposure. Fall crops take about nine months to mature. Though there are many varieties of garlic, California's two main ones are the seasonal spring and fall kinds.

While garlic is not fussy about its soil, it does best in soil that is well-cultivated, rich, sandy, high in sulfur, and slightly acidic. The sulfur helps garlic to develop its flavor and aroma, so it's best not to plant garlic in soil where cruciferous vegetables have just been harvested. Because vegetables like broccoli and cabbage also draw sulfur from the soil, they deplete the soil of this element. An acidity level of 6.5 to 6.7 is ideal, but levels between 6 and 7 will be perfectly suitable. Soil with good drainage is important to avoid rotting.

Climate, it seems, is not an issue with growing garlic. Harsh climates in the northern U.S. produce perfectly good garlic as do the tropical areas in the southern regions like Florida. Wild garlic has been found growing in severely dry desert climates of Afghanistan and even the coldest regions of Alaska. Each climatic region produces strains of garlic that have adapted to that habitat.

Unusual in the world of horticulture, garlic, with the exception of the elephant variety, is considered sterile and does not grow from a seed. However, it grows readily from the individual cloves that cluster together to form a bulb or head.

Begin with garlic that is still plump, firm, and not dried out. The largest cloves will produce the more robust heads. Choose a sunny location for planting, though an area with a little shade is acceptable. Long days of sunshine, such as in northern areas, produce larger bulbs.

Separate the cloves from the bulb or head and place them vertically into the soil, root side down, about 2-inches (5 cm) deep. Garlic will also grow when planted sideways or inverted but will not develop properly and will take longer to sprout. Plant rows about 5 to 8-inches (12.5 to 20 cm) apart. Cover the area with mulch to retain moisture and water every day for about 2 weeks but be careful not to overwater.

Soon green shoots appear and continue to grow to a height of 8 inches to 2 feet (20 cm to .61 meters). The shoots stay green throughout the growing season. Eventually, tiny clusters of garlic cloves called bulbils will develop at the top of the shoots. These are not actually seeds, but when planted, they will mature after two years. Because garlic does not grow well when competing with other plants, keep the growing area weed-free.

As soon as flower stalks develop, they should be cut back to direct the plant's energy into the bulb that grows completely underground. Allowing the stalks to grow stunts the growth of the garlic bulb itself.

Garlic Harvesting: To allow garlic bulbs to dry before harvesting, refrain from watering for two weeks. When the stalks turn brown and fall to the ground, loosen the soil slightly and tug on the stalks to lift the garlic out of the ground. Don't shake the clinging soil too vigorously or it will damage the still moist garlic bulbs. Choose a shady area outdoors to dry the bulbs, a process that may take up to four weeks depending on climate. Well-dried bulbs will keep longer. Then store the bulbs indoors in a brown paper bag. Garlic needs to "cure" for a few weeks to develop its characteristic punchy flavor. Commercial farmers find that five pounds ( 2.3 kg) of planted garlic will yield about 40 pounds (18.1 kg) when mature.

Varieties Around the World
More than three hundred varieties of garlic are cultivated around the world. Most have a white papery skin, some have a purplish tinged membrane, others have a reddish tinged covering. One variety, elephant garlic, A. scorodoprasum, is considerably larger than the familiar type and consists of a cluster of two or three jumbo cloves that comprise the entire bulb. Elephant garlic is milder in flavor and more labor intensive to grow, requiring up to two years to mature.

Other varieties include Ramson, also known as bear's garlic that is very similar to the familiar common garlic. Head garlic is grown in Thailand and is planted so close together that the typical bulb is unable to develop, only small bulblets form. Garlic chives, another variety, are a perfect compromise for those who prefer preparing foods with milder flavors.

Garlic works well as a garden remedy to discourage unwanted insects such as aphids and white flies. Before resorting to commercial chemical sprays, prepare a garlic spray by filling the blender with a chopped onion, a teaspoon of cayenne pepper, and three cloves of garlic along with four cups of water. Blend and allow to stand 24 hours before straining through a fine mesh strainer. Horticulturists make use of garlic's properties as an effective pesticide against larvae of some mosquitoes with distilled garlic oil. Home gardeners can prepare a raw garlic spray described above.

Organic gardeners worldwide use interplanting of rows of garlic between rows of vegetables and flowers such as roses, tomatoes, potatoes, and cabbage.

Nutritional Benefits
Garlic is a mini-storehouse of minerals. Manganese, copper, iron, zinc, sulfur, calcium, aluminum, chlorine, and selenium are all part of the minerals contained in garlic. One hundred grams, or 3 1/2 ounces, of fresh garlic will supply the following:

Garlic's sulfur content is highest of all vegetables and three times higher than those vegetables known for their sulfur content--onions and broccoli. It is beneficial as a source of selenium, an important trace mineral for antioxidant activity that helps to slow down the aging process. Some biologists attribute Russia's and Bulgaria's impressive number of centenarians to the abundant quantities of garlic they consume.

Three medium cloves of fresh raw garlic contain 13 calories, 1 gram of protein, 3 grams of carbohydrate and 2 grams of sodium. Garlic does not contain fiber or fat.

Those three garlic cloves comprise a surprising nutritional profile. For instance, they register trace levels of most B vitamins with the exception of vitamin B12. They have a vitamin C content of 2.8 mg and 16.3 mg of calcium. The magnesium and potassium content weighs in at 2.3 mg and 36.1 mg respectively.

Though garlic is a nutritionally endowed food, it is only consumed in small amounts. One shouldn't expect to gain large doses of vitamins from a clove or two of garlic.

Purchasing and Storage
Because our efficient system of global transport makes many foods available year round, no one has to wait for the fall harvest to enjoy garlic. All supermarkets and ethnic markets sell garlic year round. During the fall season, farm stands and farmers markets offer garlic in abundant quantities in areas where garlic is grown.

Though the garlic bulbs or heads are covered with several layers of a paperlike skin or membrane, the individual cloves are plump, moist, and firm when fresh. Avoid those that appear dried out, blackened, or have green shoots emerging from the tips. These are old and have probably lost their potency.

Look for garlic heads with large cloves--they are far easier to work with. Smaller garlic cloves are acceptable, but require more work since two or three of them are equal to one large clove.

For a tamer variety of garlic, try elephant garlic. Named for its exceptionally large cloves, elephant garlic may be available in upscale or specialty markets. Look for this variety wrapped in plastic netting.

Another way to purchase garlic is in the form of a long braid that can be hung in the kitchen. The garlic bulbs are tied individually in netting for easy access.

Garlic is best stored at room temperature in a container that allows ample air circulation, such as a basket or a clay garlic pot with holes on the sides. Stored in this manner, garlic will keep well for up to six months. Do not wrap garlic in plastic or store it in the refrigerator where it will mold quickly.

Preparing Garlic
To cook or not to cook garlic depends on the dish in progress. Raw garlic releases a more pronounced flavor and leaves little a doubt of its presence. Chopped salads, pasta salads, and soup garnishes welcome the verve raw garlic brings to a recipe. For dishes that involve longer cooking, such as sauces, soups, casseroles, and stews, cooked garlic is ideal. Cooked garlic is definitively subtle and may not even be noticeable in a dish, yet it contributes to the flavor by providing overall depth to the seasoning.

SEPARATING CLOVES: There is always more than one method to tackle any kitchen task. Ask five different chefs, and each will instruct on a different approach. One method of separating cloves of garlic from its head begins with removing some of the outer papery skins to reach the individual cloves. Then simply apply a little pressure to the inner portion of the tip of one clove, pushing outward until it pops off.

Another technique is to stand the whole head of garlic on the counter, root end down. Then place a flat, heavy object on top and press down firmly or pound sharply on the top of the head with the heavy object. Alternatively, a heavy skillet, a saucepan or a heavy metal platter could be used.

Garlic PEELING GARLIC: In recent years an ingenious tool called a garlic peeler became popular and is available in houseware shops. The device looks like a small, thin, flexible rubber cylinder about five inches in length. Place one clove of garlic inside the cylinder. Then apply pressure with the hand to the outside while rolling the cylinder back and forth. The peel falls away and the clove comes out clean. Use a paring knife to remove the tough knob that clings to the bottom of the clove.

If the garlic peeler is unavailable in your community, simply lay a clove of garlic on a cutting board. Place the flat side of a chef's knife on top of the garlic, and pound on the knife with a sharp blow. The pressure loosens the papery skin.

CHOPPING GARLIC: Some recipes direct the cook to chop or mince the garlic. While chopping may refer to a coarser cut, mincing requires a little more patience to turn out the tiny bits. Begin by slicing the clove lengthwise using a knife with a thin blade. Then place the tip of the knife on the cutting board while holding the handle firmly. Place the free hand on the top of the knife blade away from the cutting end. Keeping the tip on the cutting board, use up and down motions with the handle to make several cuts on the garlic while rotating the handle sideways back and forth until the garlic is finely minced.

For chopping several cloves of garlic at once, peel them first, and put them into a mini-chopper, a food processor, or a hand plunger-chopper.

CRUSHING OR PRESSING GARLIC: Garlic's powerful volatile oils emerge with glee when the clove is pressed or crushed. Put a clove into the garlic press and squeeze away. Catch the portions of the clove that attempt to escape and reinsert them into the press for another squeeze. Use crushed garlic when you want that potent punch to enhance a dish. For a briefly cooked fresh tomato sauce for pasta, use crushed garlic for that typical Italian flavor. To heighten the seasoning of any cooked soup, sauce, or stew, add a clove of crushed garlic just before serving.

Ever wonder what gives crushed garlic more pungency than chopped garlic? When garlic is completely crushed, more of its cells are exposed to the air and release sulfides that oxidize when exposed to the atmosphere.

Finely mince a clove of garlic and toss it into a salad of mixed greens. As an alternative, rub the inside surface of the salad bowl with a clove of garlic before beginning to prepare the salad.

Combine minced garlic, minced fresh parsley, and minced fresh dill weed to create a tasty garnish for soups or salads.

Heighten the flavor of bean salads with minced garlic.

Enhance homemade salad dressings with a clove or two of crushed or minced garlic.

Add minced garlic to bring zesty flavor to a refreshing gazpacho.

Since heat destroys the enzyme responsible for garlic's strong sulfur odor and pungent flavor, cooking garlic allows its mild, nutlike flavor to develop. Cooked garlic still has its wonderfully unique flavor, just in milder form than in its raw state.

Garlic Oil: To infuse olive oil with garlic, mince or crush a clove or two of garlic into a cup of extra virgin olive oil and cook over high heat just until the oil just begins to bubble. Turn the heat down slightly and cook for a few seconds longer. Remove the pan from the heat immediately or the garlic will burn, leaving an unpleasant flavor. For a delicious garlic bread, brush the garlic oil on thick slices of bread or rolls just before heating.

Roasted Garlic Spread: Begin with a whole head of garlic. Using your fingers, remove several layers of the papery skin covering the garlic cloves, but do not unwrap the individual cloves. Be sure to leave the head intact. Wrap the whole head of garlic in aluminum foil, shiny side inside. Put the wrapped head on a baking dish and roast in the oven at 375 F. (Gasmark 5) for 1 hour. Remove it from the oven and carefully open the foil to release steam. Cool a few minutes, then gently pull each clove off the root.

Make a delicious spread by squeezing the soft garlic from its paper covering. Put it into a bowl and use as is or season with extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper. A fun way to enjoy the roasted garlic is to bring the whole roasted head to the table and let each guest pull off a clove to squeeze onto a cracker or piece of whole-grain sourdough bread.

Begin a Soup, Sauce, or Vegetable Saute: The old standbys never lose favor--garlic, onions, and olive oil sautéed together until the onions are transparent infuses the oil with unbeatable flavor and gives body to a recipe.

To prepare oil-free dishes, saute the garlic and onions in water or vegetable broth and heighten the seasonings with wine, lemon juice, soy sauce, or a dash of vinegar. Add dried herbs for long cooking recipes and fresh herbs for dishes that cook quickly, adding them the last minute or two of cooking.

Prepare Your Own Aioli: Prepare this indulgent mayonnaise by combining a head of roasted garlic, olive oil, lemon juice, mustard, salt, and pepper in a blender until creamy. Vary the flavor with a touch of herbs such as parsley, basil, tarragon, dill, or thyme. Try adding rehydrated sun-dried tomatoes.

Following are two recipes that demonstrate garlic's versatility as well as its prowess as a flavor enhancer:

Garlic plays a key role in this recipe that can be presented as an appetizer or a side dish served either warm or cold. As the executive chef in your kitchen, you can decide how to incorporate the garlic in this recipe. Choose to roast individual garlic cloves along with the vegetables or add minced fresh garlic as part of the seasonings after the vegetables have roasted. Either way, garlic becomes the focus rather than the vegetables.


  1. Preheat oven to 375 F. (Gas Mark 5) while preparing eggplant, tomatoes, and onions. Spread vegetables out on a lightly oiled baking pan, layering them if needed. Add the 6 to 8 cloves of garlic to the pan if you are roasting them. Roast open for 25 to 30 minutes.
  2. Remove the vegetables to a bowl. Add the pine nuts and olive oil, and season with salt and pepper. Add the minced garlic if you are using the fresh cloves.
  3. Transfer to an attractive serving bowl, garnish with herbs, and serve with crackers or whole grain pita wedges. Serves 4 or 5.

Roasted garlic makes a robust sauce for whole grain pilafs, baked potatoes, polenta, and steamed vegetables. Not for the faint-hearted, this recipe leaves little doubt about its main ingredient.


2 whole bulbs of fresh garlic

1/4 C.(60 ml) macadamia nuts

1/4 t. salt
1/4 t. pepper
1/4 C. water
1 t. Bragg Liquid Aminos, Tamari, or soy sauce
3/4 C. (180 ml) soymilk

  1. Remove the outer paper-like skins from both heads of garlic, peeling down to the cloves. Do not remove the skins covering the individual cloves.
  2. Wrap both garlic heads together in aluminum foil, shiny side inside. Place the foil package on a baking pan, and roast at 375 F. (Gas Mark 5) for 1 hour.
  3. While garlic is roasting, toast macadamia nuts in a non-stick skillet over high heat, tossing nuts constantly for about 2 minutes. Cool the nuts and coarsely grind them in a hand-crank nut mill. Set aside.
  4. When garlic is done roasting, open the foil carefully, and allow the heads to cool slightly. Break off each clove and squeeze out its contents into the food processor, squeezing from the tip down to the opening at the base.
  5. Add salt, pepper, water, Bragg Liquid Aminos, and soymilk and process to a creamy consistency. Transfer to a 2-quart (2 liter) saucepan and warm over medium heat. Stir in ground macadamia nuts. Transfer to an attractive serving bowl and serve with a ladle. Makes about 1 1/2 cups (360 ml).

NOTE: Create variations by adding more soymilk for a thinner, more delicate sauce. For a delightful gourmet touch, add rehydrated sun-dried tomatoes when processing the roasted garlic. Add fresh herbs such as basil, tarragon, dill, or thyme. Dried herbs like cumin, coriander, and even a touch of cinnamon can add dramatic flavors.

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