Other: common garlic, rocambole, serpent garlic, Spanish garlic, ajo,1 rasoon or lasunam (Ayurveda)3, da-suan (Chinese)4
Allium sativum L.1
Plant Family: Liliaceae
One of the single most popular herbal medicines and seasonings of all times, garlic with its intense odor, has a strong reputation that precedes it. It has been used literally all over the world to flavor foods, to ward off evil spirits, as offerings to ancient deities, and for its medicinal bounty. Garlic is commonly used to help maintain healthy cholesterol levels.
Garlic is a perennial that is often grown as an annual and is a member of the Lilly or Liliaceae family.1 It has grayish-green foot long leaves and flower stalks which support whimsical globular clusters of small white flowers that are very similar to those of other members of the Allium genus such as onion or chive.4 The generic name Allium is Latin for garlic and the specific name sativum refers to the fact that garlic is highly cultivated.4 The common name, garlic, is Anglo-Saxon in origin, and is derived from 'gar' (spear) and 'lac' (plant), and was related to its leaf shape.5
Cultivation And Harvesting
Garlic is thought to have been cultivated for at least 5,000 years in the Middle East.4 In fact, it has been cultivated for so very long that determining its origin is complicated. Quite possibly it may have originated in the Kirgiz Desert of west-central Asia4, but at any rate, it is now very easy to come by the world over. China is the leading producer, by far, followed by India, South Korea, Egypt, Russia and then the U.S. Within the U.S., the state of California produces the highest yield.6
History And Folklore
Garlic has been employed as a food and medicine for thousands of years and was mentioned by Virgil (70-19 BCE) in his book of mythic poetry, The Eclogues. Its virtues have also been praised by the ancient Greek physician Hippocrates,7 the ancient Greek philosopher and botanist Theophrastus, and then later the ancient Roman philosopher and naturalist, Pliny.5 It was used medicinally and was utilized in ritual offerings and invocations as well.
Magically, garlic was believed to impart the powers of protection, healing, and could be used to protect one from theft and even to exorcise evil spirits.2 It was associated with the ancient Greek deity Hecate, was eaten at festivals in honor of her, and also left at crossroads, on a pile of stones, as a offering to her.8 It was one of several plants that was worn to guard against illness, and is utilized even still to absorb negative energies.2 Garlic is considered to be one of the more protective natural substances available and thus sailors would often carry a clove to protect against accidents at sea.2 In the Middle Ages, soldiers would also wear a protective clove. It was advised to put a clove over the door of a home to repel thieves, envious people, and evil in general.2 It was also thought that garlic incites lust; in Ayurveda (ancient Indian healing system) celibate yogis are discouraged from eating garlic for this reason,2,3 and in fact, Pliny mentioned garlic's aphrodisiac qualities as well and suggested mixing it with wine and coriander for these purposes.5,8
Galen, a Greek physician and philosopher practicing in Rome around 162 CE, considered garlic to be a cure-all.5 In the twelfth century, it was suggested that field laborers who had too much sun exposure try garlic. Eventually, herbals from the sixteenth century on began to consistently mention its healing qualities.5 Garlic was employed in the field in World War I for wound care.8
It has been cultivated for thousands of years and used throughout many cultures. It is extensively utilized in both Ayurveda and traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). In Ayurveda, it is referred to as 'rasoon' or 'lasunam' is considered to be energetically hot and drying and pungent in taste, bringing balance to the cooler vata and kapha constitutional body types.3 In TCM, it is called 'da-suan' and is used to support healthy digestion.
Flavor Notes And Energetics
Energetically hot and drying with a pungent taste. (Khalsa Foster)
Diuretic, diaphoretic, carminative, hypotensive, hypocholesterolemic3
Uses And Preparations
Fresh bulb for juicing, cooking, or making an infused oil
Dried and powdered bulb for cooking or encapsulation
The bulbs contain 65% water, 28% carbohydrates, 2.3% organosulfur compounds, 2% protein (mainly alliinase), 1.2% free amino acids (mainly arginine), 1.5% fiber, 0.15% lipids, and a minute amount of phytic acid (0.08%), saponins (0.07%), and b-sitosterol (0.0015%). Garlic contains about 1% alliin (which converts to one of the more active constituents, allicin, upon disruption of the cells by bruising or crushing the bulb).9
The German Commission E approved the use of garlic to support balanced cholesterol levels and to support a healthy vascular system.9 Several studies on garlic date back into the 50's and even before.
Consult a qualified healthcare practitioner if using in higher doses used for therapeutic purposes and taking any medications. Garlic may cause gastrointestinal disturbance in sensitive individuals or in persons with acute or chronic stomach inflammation.
- United States Department of Agriculture Agricultural Research Service, Beltsville Area Germplasm Resources Information Network (GRIN). Accessed at http://www.ars-grin.gov on September 25, 2014.
- Cunningham, S. Cunningham's Encyclopedia of Magical Herbs. Woodbury: Llewellyn Publications; 2000.
- Khalsa Singh KP, Tierra M. The way of Ayurvedic herbs. Twin Lakes: Lotus Press; 2008.
- Foster, S., & Chongxi, Y. (1992). Herbal emissaries: bringing Chinese herbs to the West: a guide to gardening, herbal wisdom, and well-being. Inner Traditions/Bear & Co.
- Grieve M. A Modern Herbal. New York: Dover Publications, Inc. Accessed at http://botanical.com/botanical on September 21, 2014.
- "Commodity Highlight: Garlic". Economic Research Service, United States Department of Agriculture. Vegetables and Melons Outlook, October 19, 2006, p. 25.
- Wills, E. D. (1956). Enzyme inhibition by allicin, the active principle of garlic. Biochemical Journal, 63(3), 514.
- D'Andrea J. Ancient Herbs. The J. Paul Getty Museum. Malibu: 1989
- Blumenthal M, Goldberg A, Brinckmann J, eds. Herbal Medicine: Expanded Commission E Monographs. Austin, TX: American Botanical Council; Newton, MA: Integrative Medicine Communications; 2000.
For educational purposes only This information has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration.
This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.