Grey Duck Garlic sells organic gourmet seed garlic

Garlic and Medicine

 

Something about garlic has inspired belief in its healing abilities for centuries.  Here is a brief historical summary of garlic’s use in medicine.  Please remember that not all ancient medical and/or herbal remedies worked and a few were actually harmful!  However, some of the ancient uses for garlic are supported by current research.  Recent studies have shown that this humble herb may treat MRSA and combat food poisoning. Garlic is also been shown to lower blood pressure and alleviate symptoms of metabolic disorders.

Garlic is considered a GRAS (Generally Recognized as Safe) food by the USDA. For more on modern uses for garlic see our how garlic enhances health section.

Egyptians:

  • The Egyptian medical text, the Codex Ebers (1500 BC), prescribed garlic for abnormal growths, parasites, circulatory ailments, insect infestation and general malaise (a vague feeling of being out of sorts or unwell physically or mentally). In all, 22 different treatments included garlic.

  • Garlic was paid to pyramid workers and was believed to improve worker’s strength and stamina.

  • Garlic was considered important by the Egyptians. Cloves of garlic were found in King Tutankhamen’s tomb, which dates from 1500 BC (Kahn 1996).

  • Copts (Egyptian Christians) prescribed garlic macerated in oil for skin diseases and to new mothers after childbirth to stimulate milk production.

 

Assyrians:

  • Garlic was used as an antibiotic and to pack in rotten teeth cavities.

Greeks:

  • Athletes and workers used garlic to increase strength. In fact, early Olympians chowed down on the fragrant herb before they competed.

  • The founder of modern medicine, Hippocrates (460-370 BC), recommended garlic for pulmonary ailments, to aid in the release of the placenta, to treat sores, as a cleansing or purgative agent, and for abdominal growths, especially uterine.

  • Cooked garlic was prescribed to treat asthma.

  • The Greek alchemist, Theophrastus (371-287 BC), reported that garlic was used by workers harvesting roots of the poisonous plant hellebore to prevent the ill effects of the toxic plant.

  • Excavations of ancient Greek temples and the palace of Knossos in Crete revealed preserved garlic (Moyers 1996).

 

Romans:

  • Garlic was used by sailors and solders for strength and courage.

  • Dioscorides (40-90 AD), the chief physician for Nero’s army, prescribed garlic because it “cleans the arteries and open[s] up the mouths of the veins.”  At the time, arteries were thought to carry air and vein to carry blood throughout the body. In his well respected medical text, Materia Medica, Dioscorides recommended garlic to thin mucus and relieve coughing, to expel worms, for protection against viper and dog bites, to stimulate menstrual flow and to heal ulcers, leprosy and tooth aches.

  • The Greek physician Pliny the Elder (23-79 AD), who wrote the medical text, Historica Naturalis, recommended garlic for 23 different ailments.  Ailments treated by garlic included toothache, hemorrhoids, consumption, animal bites (including shrew and scorpion), bruises, ear aches, tapeworms, epilepsy, insomnia, sore throat, poor circulation, lack of desire and neutralizing the effects of the poisonous plants aconite and henbane.  Pliny also prescribed garlic for infections; a use that has been supported by modern research!

  • Garlic was also used for gastrointestinal tract disorders, joint disease and seizures.

 

Chinese:Grey Duck Garlic, hand grabbing hardneck garlic bulbs

  • Garlic was used as a food preservative.  It was believed to eliminate the noxious effects of putrid meat and fish and to treat unwholesome water.

  • Garlic was prescribed to remove poisons from the body, prevent plague, support respiration, aid digestion, treat diarrhea, and control worm infestations.  The fragrant herb was used to treat fatigue, headache and insomnia.  It may have been used as a treatment for depression and to improve male potency (Moyers 1996).

 

India:

  • The medical text, Charaka-Samhita (written somewhere between 400-200 BC), recommends garlic for the treatment of heart disease and arthritis.

  • The Bower manuscript (300-550 AD) advocated garlic to treat weakness, fatigue, infections, infestations, worms, and digestive problems.

  • Garlic is extensively used in the three leading medical or healing traditions, the Tibbi, Unani and Auryvedic.

  • Garlic was applied externally to help heal cuts, bruises and infections.

  • Garlic was used in aphrodisiacs.

  • Dymock, in Pharmacographia Indica (1890), reports that garlic was used to treat many ailments.  These included coughs, mucus, gonorrhea, colic, fevers, swellings, rheumatism, worm infestation, hysteria, flatulence, sciatica, and heart disease.

 

Middle Ages:

  • Garlic was consumed with beverages to alleviate constipation.

  • Garlic was recommended to workers to prevent heatstroke.

  • The influential Medical School at Salerno classified garlic as a “hot food” to be consumed in winter to protect against pulmonary or breathing disorders.

  • The Abbess of Rupertsberg, St. Hildegard von Bingen (1098-1179 AD), who was a prominent medical writer, recommended raw garlic for many disorders.

  • Vikings and Phoenicians stocked their ships with garlic for medicinal and spiritual purposes.

 

Renaissance:

  • Garlic was widely considered a medicinal plant.

  • A leading physician, Pietro Mattioli of Siena (1501-1577 AC), prescribed garlic for digestive disorders, worms, kidney disorders, and to mothers during difficult childbirth.

  • Garlic was recommended for constipation, animal bites, toothache, dropsy, and the plague.

  • French grave diggers drank a crushed infusion of garlic which they believed to protect them from the plague.

  • Lewis’s Materia Medica (1791) prescribed garlic for loss of appetite, humoral asthmas, and dropsy (edema or fluid accumulation).

 

17th Century and Later:

  • The Shakers, a religious group known for their herbal medicines, used garlic as an expectorant, stimulant and tonic.

  • John Gunn (1795-1863) Home Book of Health recommended garlic as a diuretic, for treatment of infections, as a general tonic and for asthma and other pulmonary disorders.

  • In Health Remedies, a Complete Medical Work and Family Guide, garlic was recommended for lung diseases.

  • John King, American Dispensatory (1877) recommended garlic as a stomach tonic, for children’s diseases, coughs, hoarseness, catarrhs (inflammation of the mucus membranes especially sinuses), whooping-cough, and worms.

  • William Woodville, M.D, in the 18th century reported garlic’s use as an expectorant in asthmas and non-inflammatory pulmonary complaints, for ear complaints, as a diuretic in dropsies (edemas), as a wormer, and externally as a salve to remove tumors.

  • Louis Pasteur, the well known microbiologist, reported that 1 mm of raw garlic juice was as effective as 60 mg. of penicillin in killing bacteria (1858).

  • The 21st edition of the U.S. Dispensatory (1926) reports that garlic was used in pulmonary complaints such as bronchitis, whooping cough and asthma.  

  • British and Russian soldiers in WWI used diluted garlic solutions to prevent infections and gangrene. Garlic was actually known as Russian penicillin!

  • In the 1950's Chinese scientists used garlic to treat influenza.

  • Sandoz Pharmaceuticals formulated a garlic compound to treat stomach cramps.

 

Modern:

 

Cautions: Garlic consumption, especially in high doses or in garlic supplements, may interfere with some medications. Please be safe and see your doctor or pharmacist for advice if you are taking a medicine that may interact with garlic.  

For a complete list of medications that may interact with garlic supplements see Garlic Drug Interactions at Drugs.com. Drugs.com mainly discusses garlic supplements or garlic oil supplements not fresh garlic used in food.

 

References:

  • Rivlin. 2001. Historical perspective on the use of garlic. J. Nutr.131:951S-954S. Full text.
  • Kahn, G. (1996) History of garlic. Koch, H. P. Lawson, L. D. eds. Garlic: The Science and Therapeutic Application of Allium sativum L. and Related Species:25-36 Williams and Wilkins New York, NY.
  • Moyers, S. (1996) History of garlic. Garlic in Health, History and World Cuisine:1-36 Suncoast Press St. Petersburg, FL.

 

 

 

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We don't just say we grow organically, we are certified Organic. This means our farm and operating procedures are inspected, approved and certified Organic by Washington State's Department of Agriculture. Sure it takes us extra time and work to meet Washington's strict organic requirements, but we think it is worth it for our peace of mind. Growing organically requires more than not using pesticides and synthetic fertilizers. Grey Duck Garlic has sustainable growing practices that improve our soil, create habitat for wildlife, and leave the land better than when we started farming. We take the time to certify our farm so you know you are getting the very best organic berries and produce.