Legendary (and real) Uses for Garlic July 02 2015, 1 Comment

The French chef Louis Diat is said to have once claimed, “Without garlic, I simply would not care to live.”

While we could accuse Diat of a little bit of exaggeration, his claim isn’t too far from what physicians and health enthusiasts have been saying for centuries. The pungent herb has been heralded as a health enhancing – even lifesaving – food since long before we used it as an ingredient in our pasta sauces.

The ancient Egyptians ate garlic regularly and believed that it enhanced strength and productivity – so much so that they fed it to their Hebrew slaves. In the bible, the wandering Hebrews complained about missing the Egyptian delicacy while in the desert (Numbers 11:5). Preserved garlic was even found in the tomb of King Tutenkhamen (c. 1330 B.C.), no doubt for his use in the afterlife.

The ancient Greek historian Hippcrates, often called the Father of Medicine, prescribed garlic as a solution to pulmonary issues, intestinal disorders, and abdominal growths. In the Greek Olympics, garlic was employed as a performance enhancing herb.

Garlic was viewed favorably on a global scale – like in Greece, Egypt, and Rome, garlic was used for lung disorders and digestive issues in ancient Asia as well.

Garlic’s medicinal function was upheld through the Middle Ages and into the New World era. The fascinating part is how widespread the claims about garlic were – across continents, garlic was believed to have similar benefits. This of course raises the question: Is there some credibility to these beliefs?

In fact, modern science has shown that garlic has some major health benefits. Garlic contains a key ingredient called allicin, which has major anti-bacterial, antioxidant, even anti-cancer effects.

Here are a few of our favorite uses for garlic (besides garlic marinara). 

  • Cancer: According to Medical News Today, those who eat raw garlic a couple times a week have a lower risk of lung cancer. A component of garlic has also shown promise as a brain tumor fighting agent. Vegetables with allicin are also known to decrease the risk of prostate cancer.

  • The Common Cold:Garlic has been shown to reduce your risk of developing a cold (though it doesn’t decrease symptoms once you have one). This can be especially beneficial to those who suffer with asthma, as the common cold can trigger asthma attacks.

  • Heart Health: A component of garlic oil (diallyl trisulfide) has shown potential as a treatment for heart failure. It’s already used by medical practitioners during cardiac surgery. Garlic oil has also been shown to reduce blood pressure and to lower cholesterol.

While perhaps the most famous use for garlic as a repellent for vampires doesn’t quite hold up, even that claim isn’t entirely without substance. Garlic has long been claimed as a repellent for mosquitoes (The Wall Street Journal published a piece debating the claim). You can’t really blame Bram Stoker, author of Dracula, for expanding on the idea of garlic's repelling power in his famous novel. If we could, we’d come up with a legend for every food (talk about getting kids to eat their vegetables).

Other Sources:

www.allicinfacts.com/garlic-history

http://authoritynutrition.com/11-proven-health-benefits-of-garlic

http://jn.nutrition.org/content/131/3/951S.abstract