“What is garlic?” A woman in a cooking class I attended asked.
I was surprised that someone didn’t know what it was.
Garlic (allium sativum) is an herbal bulb from the lily family of Southern European origin used as a seasoning to flavor food.
The Oxford University Press defines garlic as “a strong-smelling pungent-tasting bulb, used as a flavoring in cooking and in herbal medicine.”
Garlic’s nutritional aspect and its herbal medicinal benefits are the two things I will discuss below.
Garlic – Herbal Medicine
When I was a teenager I heard someone say that garlic was like a natural antibiotic.
Every time I felt I was about to get sick I would mince a garlic clove and chew it. I didn’t care about garlic breath — I just didn’t want to get sick. Then one day my mother purchased a juicer for me. When I was starting to feel sick I juiced everything I found: carrots, apples and lots of garlic. It never failed to amaze me that I would abort whatever cold was assailing me.
There are many historical findings and scientific research on the benefits of garlic. In ancient times the Egyptians, Greeks, Israelites, Mediterranean, Chinese and Japanese all believed in the importance of garlic. For example in the Codex Ebers, an Egyptian papyrus with medical formulas, mentions the health benefits of garlic. The first strike ever registered in history was among Egyptian slave workers whose garlic allowance was reduced. Egyptians trusted garlic’s medicinal benefits. Garlic was valued so high in Egypt “that 15 pounds of garlic would purchase a healthy male slave,” according to LE magazine.
Research reveals that garlic may help with cardiovascular disease, tumors, potency, depression, arthritis and skin problems. It is also antifungal.
When I visited the Hippocrates Health Institute in 1993 and in 2002, garlic had a whole different meaning. Guest at the institute had garlic and wheatgrass as a staple food and beverage. Their bodies reeked of garlic, but they claimed garlic was their medicine; some guest claimed it lowered their cholesterol and cured other illnesses after several weeks on a garlic and raw food regimen.
Years ago I would fast on vegetable juices a few times a year. Garlic was one of the ingredients in my juice fast. One day while shopping at Whole Foods Market in California my dear friend Marlene saw me across the store and yelled out,
“Margie, I can smell the garlic all the way here.” That didn’t faze me, and we had a good bellyful laugh.
As a food according to the Journal of Nutrition aged garlic “may have a role in protecting against loss of brain function in aging and possess other antiaging effects, as suggested by its ability to increase cognitive functions, memory and longevity … reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease, stroke, cancer and aging, including the oxidant-mediated brain cell damage that is implicated in Alzheimer’s disease”.
Garlic, which is also in the same family as onions, chives, leeks and shallots, has many trace minerals, vitamins and phytochemicals. This herbal bulb has selenium, manganese, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, zinc, calcium, sulfur, iron, copper, C and B vitamins.
“A clove of garlic contains upwards of 200 known chemical compounds, roughly split between over 100 sulfur compounds—some of them water-soluble, others oily—and a balance of saponins, proteins, and carbohydrates,” wrote David Pacchioli in a Research/Penn State.
There are two things to remember about garlic: It has medicinal and nutritional benefits – no wonder why the Egyptian slaves were not happy when their garlic allowance was reduced.
As for me, I still drink my vegetable juices with lots of garlic when I know others are getting sick or I’m about to get sick. And at home we don’t care if we reek of garlic, we just want to be well. I have even planted garlic with my roses because I heard that roses, like me, love garlic.
Bibliography and additional information:
- Research/Penn State
- Garlic [Allium sativum]: A Review of its Potential Use as an Anti-Cancer Agent
- Journal of Nutrition http://jn.nutrition.org/content/131/3/1010S.full
- Love that Garlic: http://www.hippocratesinst.org/2012-05/love-that-garlic
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