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Garlic (allium sativum)


Description & Habitat

Garlic is a perennial plant with long narrow grass-like leaves and a main bulb which consists of numerous bulblets (cloves). It is topped with white flowers that group together in a globular head. It's a member of the onion family Alliaceae, and related to shallots, leeks, chives and cloves. Garlic is cultivated worldwide, some of the most popular growers are China, India, S. Korea, Russia, Egypt and the United States.

Constituents & Actions

Garlic bulbs contain volatile oil which consists of sulfur containing compounds including allicin (active compound), enzymes which include allinase, B-vitamins, minerals and flavonoids.

This herb acts as an antioxidant (prevents free radical or oxidative damage to body tissues and cells), anti-microbial (destroys or prevents growth of micro-organisms), diaphoretic (causes perspiration and increases elimination through the skin), cholagogue (stimulates bile flow from gall bladder and bile ducts into the duodenum).

It also has the actions of hypotensive (reduces blood pressure), anti-spasmotic (prevents or relieves spasms), stimulant (increases internal heat, strenghtens metabolism and circulation), diuretic (increases the secretion and flow of urine) and expectorant (encourages loosening and removal of phlegm from respiratory tract).

Medicinal Uses

Garlic has been used worldwide throughout history. It is well respected and recognized as the most anti-microbial plant available, known for its action on bacteria, viruses, and alimentary parasites. It combines well with echinacea for microbial infections.

Volatile oil is the effective agent of Garlic that is largely excreted via the lungs. It is therefore valuable when used for infections such as chronic bronchitis, recurrent colds, influenza and other respiratory problems. It's also a popular treatment for whooping cough and bronchial asthma.

Garlic is extremely beneficial for infectious conditions related to both the digestive and respiratory systems. To aid digestion, it supports the development of natural flora, while also killing pathogenic organisms. Forms that can be used are fresh, dried, freeze-dried, oils or extracts.

This herb is used by many to lower blood pressure and blood cholesterol levels. It improves the general condition of the cardio-vascular system. It has been helpful to cancer patients in easing the side-effects of chemotherapy such as fatigue and lack of appetite. It also aids in the healing of heart and intestinal damage resulting from chemo agents.

Externally, when used as a poultice, it can be applied to the spinal column and chest of infants suffering from pneumonia. It can also be applied to the skin for treatment of ringworm.

Culinary Uses

Garlic is enjoyed in all areas of the world as a spice in many dishes. It's very popular in Greek, Italian and Asian cuisine. As a spice, it has filled many a kitchen with delightful aroma, and is commonly prepared alongside onions. It's an important ingredient in many recipes including sauces, salads, soups, etc. It is frequently combined with other spices and used as a dry rub for poultry and meats, particularly lamb. It is used either fresh, dried, chopped, crushed, or in a Garlic salt.

Interactions & Side-Effects

Garlic is generally safe to use, with a very low toxicity. Mild effects may be upset stomach, bloating and bad breath.

Since it's an active blood-thinner, it shouldn't be used by those taking medications such as warfarin or aspirin as it may result in bleeding.

Some people may have skin sensitivity when handling Garlic, and experience a stinging sensation, rarely skin lesions may occur.

Related Discussion

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