It turns out that garlic does more than keep away
vampires! Garlic is a natural anti-inflammatory,
antibiotic, antifungal, and anti-parasitic agent with
benefits ranging from slowing collagen depletion
and battling cancer cells to preventing hair loss
and providing relief for a cold. Backed by the
latest research, holistic nutritional consultant Susan
Branson provides 101 useful and unexpected
reasons to add garlic to your diet and daily life.
Garlic, The Beloved herb
Garlic is an herb closely related to onions, chives, leeks, and shallots. It grows underground as a bulb and is covered in papery skin;
the bulb is divided into sections called cloves. The cloves are creamy
yellow in color, and they are the part of garlic used in cooking and
for medicinal benefits. You can't mistake the odor of garlic, and
once you smell it, you never forget its uniquely wonderful aroma.
When chopped, minced, or pureed, the essence is strong, pungent,
and spicy. When cooked, the flavor mellows and sweetens.
Garlic contains over two thousand biologically active compounds, but its flavor and aroma come from the sulfur compound
alliin. This compound constitutes up to 1.15 percent of whole, fresh
garlic cloves, but dried garlic can contain even higher amounts.
Alliin is unstable, so as soon as the garlic clove is cut or crushed, the
enzyme allinase is released from cells and acts on alliin to convert
it to allicin, the odor-forming compound. The characteristic garlic
odor can linger on the breath for hours. To reduce the intensity
of the odor, immediately consume mint leaves, raw lettuce leaves,
or raw apples. These foods have chemicals that can neutralize the
odor-causing compounds in garlic.
The sulfur-containing compounds and their derivatives are
thought to be primarily responsible for garlic's array of biological
activity, but other compounds present may also have therapeutic
functions. Garlic exhibits antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, and
antioxidant activity. It improves circulation, lowers blood glucose
levels, targets cancer cells, and protects the liver and nervous systems. Garlic has been and continues to be extensively researched
in the hope of determining the full and far-reaching potential this
herb has on human health.
The Universal Appeal of Garlic Over Time
Garlic is one of the oldest cultivated plants and originated in Siberia
or central Asia more than five thousand years ago. After discovery,
its popularity quickly spread to different lands and cultures. Over
the centuries, it was used as food, medicine, and money. It even
turned up in mysticism and enchantment practices. Egyptians
placed clay garlic bulbs in tombs, presumably to be used as gifts
for the gods or as funds for the afterlife. This was done in the tomb
of King Tutankhamen, for instance. The living relished garlic, too,
and used it to pay slaves building the pyramids. These slaves ate
the garlic, believing it gave them strength and sustenance. Not so
for the upper class. They preferred to use garlic for medicinal and
mystical purposes. One of the oldest Egyptian medical documents,
Codex Ebers, mentions using garlic for general malaise, parasites,
and circulation disorders. They also used garlic as currency. Fifteen
pounds would get them a healthy male slave.
The ancient Greeks followed the Egyptian use of garlic to increase
vigor, feeding it to their soldiers before going off to battle. Athletes
competing in the early Olympics used it to enhance their performance. Not surprisingly, Hippocrates was well aware of garlic and
prescribed it to treat lung issues and abdominal growths and to
detoxify the body, Even though garlic was a frequent ingredient
in the Greeks diet, the smell was not tolerated everywhere. If anyone wishing to enter the temples to worship had garlic breath, they
were forbidden access. The Romans adopted many Greek medical practices and continued the tradition of feeding garlic to their
soldiers and sailors. Dioscorides, the Romans leading medical
authority, proposed garlic be used for animal bites, joint problems,
and circulatory issues.
In China, garlic was a staple in their daily diet and was used as
a food preservative. Chinese medicine records show an early use
of garlic for mental and emotional disturbances like depression,
insomnia, and fatigue. Ancient Indian medicine-Ayurvedic,
Unani, and Tibbi-all used garlic extensively, although the upper
Brahmin classes avoided it. The lower castes, however, made full
use of garlic's healing properties to treat infections and wounds
and as an aphrodisiac to stimulate the libido.
When garlic made its way to Europe, it was the monks who
grew the herb and maintained knowledge of its therapeutic uses.
Like their predecessors, garlic was given to those with physically
demanding jobs in order to boost their strength and productivity.
Here also the upper classes felt garlic was not fit for consumption.
They may have changed their minds during the Great Plague, how-
ever, when garlic was used by many to ward off infection. Doctors
took to carrying around cloves to mask the smell of disease and
decay. The use of garlic for medicinal purposes grew over time,
and it was recommended for a variety of health issues. Even the
wealthy came to recognize and value garlic's benefits, despite continuing to avoid it in their diet. European folklore professes garlic
to have the power to ward off the "evil eye" and was used to keep
vampires at bay. To this end, garlic was carried on the person, hung
over windows, and rubbed on keyholes and chimneys.
Garlic made its way to North America with the French and
Portuguese explorers, although the Native Americans were already
using a similar bulb that grew in the wild. Today, the fascination
with garlic and its purported benefits have led researchers to
attempt to validate the centuries of anecdotes and folk tales and
to lend credence to the multitude of cases demonstrating garlic's
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