Garlic

Garlic Herbal Monograph 

Nina Katz

The following article about dandelion appeared in the October, 2014 issue of Natural Herbal Living Magazine.

Common Name: Garlic
Latin Name: Allium sativum Family: Amaryllidaceae

Other Names: the stinking rose

ACTIONS:  anti-bacterial, anti-viral, anti-fungal, anti-protozoal, immunostimulant, antineoplastic, cardiotonic, anticoagulant, stomachic, hair tonic, skin tonic

Topically: anti-bacterial, anti-viral, anti-fungal, insect repellant, anti-septic

Chemical Constituents: sulfur compounds (over 33!), amino acids (arginine, glutaminic acid, glutamine, leucine, lysine, valine, aspartic acid, tryptophan, and others that vary with the variety of garlic), calcium, choline, vitamins C and A, phosphorus, potassium, magnesium, sodium selenium, essential oils, omega-6 and omega 3 fatty acids

Whether “Phew” or “Ahhh,” reactions toward garlic are often passionate. The “stinking rose” has lovers and detractors, but few are indifferent to its odor and flavor. Personally, I think it deserves its own place in the food pyramid. As a popular ingredient in cooking, it has gained more notice for its medicinal qualities than many medicinal herbs.

Many people know of garlic as an immune stimulant that helps fight off colds and flus, and indeed, it is a potent anti-viral, anti-bacterial, and anti-fungal agent. Folk traditions about its use abound. Known as the “Russian antibiotic,” garlic has adherents the world over, including among scientific researchers.

Garlic has traditionally been regarded as a respiratory remedy. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, white colored foods are associated with the lungs. It has been used for asthma, bronchitis, and pneumonia. Garlic infused in boiled, unpasteurized, fresh milk is a traditional Russian remedy for whooping cough.

Research has demonstrated that raw garlic extracts can inhibit all kinds of bacteria, including E-Coli and both gram-positive and gram- negative Staphylococcus bacteria.

Garlic’s potent protective powers and high sulfur content have inspired some research into its use in both prevention and treatment of cancer. Medical literature mentions garlic for preventing and treating colorectal, lung, breast, prostate, brain, liver, skin, and stomach cancers, but most studies have focused on colorectal, stomach, and lung. Studies show that colorectal and stomach cancer arises less often among those who down large quantities of garlic (either raw or cooked) regularly than among those who don’t; risk of colorectal cancer was reduced by 30%. Similarly, high intake of raw garlic seems to offer some protection against lung cancer to smokers and to those restaurant workers and others exposed to fumes from cooking oils heated to high temperature. In addition, a study of people with colorectal cancer reported a 29% reduction in both the size and the number of lesions among those taking an aged garlic extract.

Garlic is an excellent ally for the heart. It reduces blood pressure, particularly in people with elevated blood pressure, so it remains safe for those with low blood pressure. It relaxes the blood vessels, and may also lower cholesterol; studies conflict about this, but there is a clear correlation between heart health and garlic consumption. Garlic also acts as an anti-coagulant, reducing the risk of stroke by preventing excessive blood clotting. Studies conflict about how effective it is at lowering cholesterol.

Garlic also reduces the blood sugar level, and so is helpful in diabetes.

While some people find garlic a challenge to digest, others consider it a digestive aid. It is used specifically in the treatment of diarrhea and infant colic. Garlic aids in the production of digestive enzymes, and also helps to eliminate intestinal parasites. As an anti-bacterial, it helps the immune system fight off the bacteria that lead to ulcers.

Garlic is most potent when raw, fresh, and crushed and when not heated above room temperature; some of its sulfur compounds and enzymes are released only when crushed or cut, and some break down from heat, although they are fairly stable at room temperature. Garlic is also an ingredient in Fire Cider, the wonderful medicinal vinegar introduced by Rosemary Gladstar and commonly prepared with one crushed head of garlic, one chopped onion, a few inches each of ginger and horseradish, and a chili pepper or two, macerated in apple cider for a month, and then served to taste, neat or with water, sometimes with honey. Crushed garlic may also be infused in honey for a syrup. I also like to fill a small mason jar completely with crushed garlic and pour olive oil over it to use as a spread. Water-based preparations remain fully effective for up to 48 hours.

Topical Uses

Ukrainian schoolchildren were traditionally sent to school with garlic necklaces for protection during the flu season. Perhaps this is the origin of garlic’s reputation for keeping away vampires? Garlic slices in the sock, like cloves worn around the neck, really do enhance immunity and protect against infection, because when the garlic rests against the skin, some is absorbed. Some people find that if they wear garlic in their socks, their breath soon takes on the familiar aroma.

Whether or not it is effective against vampires, garlic does repel mosquitos and a variety of other insects, including ticks. Eating garlic may suffice to protect someone whom the bugs find mildly attractive, but if you’re one of their favorites, then please use garlic topically as well. A slice in the shoe or sock, some garlic oil, tincture, or liniment applied topically should do the trick.

Garlic also works topically as an anti-fungal for local fungal and yeast infections. Women sometimes make a garlic tampon to address yeast. As an anti-bacterial, it is used for trichomoniasis as well. If you are doing this, please make sure to remove it afterwards! Most people won’t experience burning if they don’t slice the garlic, but some women prefer to leave it wrapped in its skin. Make sure the skin is reasonably clean and doesn’t have fertilizer on it!

Garlic is also used externally for treating warts, psoriasis, pruritus, and for softening calluses. Both internal and external use of garlic can help with joint pains, including those caused by both osteoarthritis and rheumatoid. It helps with muscle pains as well. Externally, the garlic is applied directly to the joints as a liniment, vinegar, or oil. A heated garlic poultice works as well.

One of the most famous topical uses of garlic is for ear infections. In America, the standard herbal treatment is to dropper some garlic- mullein oil into the ear, holding the head at a tilt for a while so that it can drip into the inner ear. (Do not put it, or anything else, into the inner ear directly!!) Garlic oil or mullein oil solo will do the job as well. In Russia, the clove, or a piece of the clove, is inserted into the outer ear and allowed to permeate slowly.

Garlic has recently become popular for hair and scalp conditioning and shampooing. Its nutritional profile promotes hair growth, but it may also address some of the underlying issues in baldness, which can be caused by immune deficiency, fungal infections, or nutritional deficiencies. Garlic can help with dandruff if it is caused by either dermatitis or fungal infections, and it is also said to prevent split ends. The commercial garlic shampoos do not have a garlicky smell. For a homemade garlic shampoo, try including parsley and perhaps essential oils along with the garlic oil, and then report back to the NLM forum.

Additionally, cilantro, parsley, cloves, fennel, and cinnamon can all help prevent garlic from perfuming the breath.

Contraindications

Some people experience digestive distress from garlic.

Do not take garlic within seven days of surgery as it does have blood thinning qualities. Do not take in medicinal doses with blood thinning drugs or if you have a blood clotting disorder.

When used topically as a poultice, garlic has been known to cause skin redness and irritation. If this happens discontinue its use in this way.

References

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