- Allium sativum L.
- Lily family
suan (Chinese name)
Parts Usually Used
Description of Plant(s) and Culture
Garlic is a perennial plant; the bulb is compound, consisting of
individual bulbs, or cloves, enclosed together in a white skin. The
stem is simple, smooth, and round and is surrounded at the bottom
by tubular leaf sheaths from which grow the long, flat linear leaves.
The leafless stem is topped by a rounded umbel of small, white, usually
sterile flowers, among which grow 20-30 small bulbils. The entire
umbel is at first enclosed in a teardrop-shaped leaf (pointing upward)
which eventually falls off.
Other varieties: Bear's garlic (Allium ursinum) used much
like regular garlic; Serpent garlic (A. sativum var. ophioscorodon)
cloves are milder flavored; Elephant garlic (A. ampeloprasum)
also called wild leek, great-headed garlic, and Levant garlic; Round-headed
garlic (A. sphaerocephalicon) has large rounded heads;
the Shoshone name, "Padzimo" is given to a garlic plant (A.
falcifolium) that grows in the high mountains on dry rocky
plains as a dwarf pink garlic. It has blue-green sickle-shaped leaves,
flat, and a pretty flower. The bulb is also a deep pink color and
is very strong in taste.
Widely cultivated as one of the most common kitchen herbs. Occasionally
found growing wild. Found along roadsides and fields from New York
to Tennessee, Kentucky, Missouri.
Alterative, anthelmintic, antispasmodic, carminative, cholagogue,
digestive, expectorant, febrifuge, antibiotic, antiseptic, stimulant
Unsaturated aldehydes, allicin, allyl disulfides, calcium, copper,
germanium, iron, magnesium, manganese, volatile oils, phosphorus,
phytoncides, potassium, selenium, sulfur, vitamins A,
B1, B2, and C, and zinc.
Legends, Myths and Stories
In ancient times, the Chinese, Romans, Egyptians, Hindus, and Babylonians
all believed that garlic cured intestinal orders, infections of the
respiratory system, relieved flatulence, treated skin diseases, wounds,
worms and delayed the signs of aging.
Garlic is even mentioned in the Calendar of the Hsia, a book of 2,000
years before Christ. It is called Hsiao-suan to distinguish it from
Allium scorodoprasum which is called Ta-suan.
The odor of garlic is so powerful and penetrating that if applied
to the feet, its scent is in the breath and when garlic is eaten,
it is communicated through the pores of the skin, even to the fingers.
It may be detected in the flesh of animals that have eaten garlic;
or even in the eggs of fowls that have eaten it.
In Egypt several thousand years before Christ, garlic was given to
laborers. The Bible records that the Israelites who lived in Egypt
at the time of Moses also ate garlic before their exodus out of that
country. The Romans gave garlic to their laborers; and their soldiers
ate it in the belief that it inspired courage. Thus it was dedicated
to Mars, the Roman god of war.
"When Satan stepped out from the Garden of Eden after the fall of
man, Garlick sprang up from the spot where he placed his left foot,
and Onion from that where his right foot touched". Such is the legend
some herbalists attributed to the Mohammedans.
Since the ancients believed that many diseases were the result of
evil spells, garlic with its effective medicinal qualities was thought
to possess magical power against evil; thus it was used in many charms
and countercharms. In Greek legend, Odysseus used moly, a mild garlic,
as a charm to keep the sorceress Circe from turning him into a pig.
In the Middle Ages, garlic was considered strong against the evil
eye, witches, and demons. Another tradition still held in rural New
Mexico is the use of garlic as a charm to help a young girl rid herself
of an unwanted boyfriend. She first puts a piece of garlic and two
crossed pins in a spot where two roads intersect, and then she must
get the boy to walk over the charm without noticing it. If the task
is accomplished successfully, the boy will miraculously lose all interest
During the time of the Pharoahs, when Egypt was at its peak of power,
garlic was given to the laborers and slaves. The common people had
garlic included in the diet to help protect them from disease. The
Ebers Papyrus, an Egyptian medical papyrus dated sometime around 1500
BC, mentions garlic 22 times as a remedy for a variety of diseases.
Hippocrates, the father of modern medicine, used garlic as a laxative,
a diuretic, for tumors of the uterus, leprosy, epilepsy, chest pains,
toothaches, and for wounds incurred during battle. Aristotle also
mentions the value of garlic and Aristophanes used garlic as a treatment
The yogis used garlic as a medicine, but did not recommend it as
a food or spice because of its irritating properties.
The juice of garlic is said by the old-timers to be the best and
strongest cement that can be adopted for broken glass and china, leaving
little or no mark, if used with care.
In the 1950's, Dr. Albert Schweitzer used garlic to treat cholera,
typhus, and amebic dysentery while he was working in Africa as a missionary.
The Soviet army relied heavily on garlic during World Wars I and II,
it earned the name "Russian penicillin."
During the Great Plague epidemic, some herbalists avoided the deadly
disease by eating large amounts of garlic and wearing garlic strands
around their necks. To date, it has not been determined whether the
garlic's antibiotic properties protected these people against the
plague, or whether the foul stench of the herb discouraged others
from getting close enough to spread their infection.
Since 1979, Gilroy, California, known as the "Garlic Capital of the
World," has hosted the Annual Garlic Festival in celebration of the
annual garlic harvest. Held the last weekend of July each year, the
event is a 3 day gourmet food and wine tasting party drawing more
than 140,000 garlic fans. 90% of the United States garlic crop is
grown in Gilroy and its environs. American humorist Will Rogers once
said of Gilroy "the only town in America where you can marinate a
steak by hanging it on the clothesline."
A natural antibiotic. Protects from infection, detoxifies
the body, promotes sweating, strengthens blood vessels, lowers
blood pressure. Aids in treatment of arteriosclerosis,
hysteria, edema, asthma, arthritis,
good against all venom, spider
bites, and poisons, tuberculosis,
circulatory problems, colds,
headache, earache, digestive
genito-urinary diseases, heart disorders, reduces
cholesterol if eaten raw, insomnia,
liver disease, jaundice, sinusitis,
diabetes, gastritis, rheumatism,
ulcers, and yeast
infections. Good for all diseases, infections,
fungus, earache, some
cancers, and bacteria. Taken internally it will destroy worms
(used as an enema or made into a paste with olive oil inserted into
the rectum), and used externally, blended with a little sesame or
olive oil, it will rid the skin of parasites. However, its strong
odor may repel humans as well as parasites. Doesn't do much for halitosis
though, unless the odorless tablets are used. Externally, helps old
sores, bruises, falling hair, wounds.
Garlic's strong aromatic compounds are excreted via the lungs and
the skin; eating fresh parsley may eliminate odor on the breath. According
to one reference, by eating baked beet-root the offensive smell is
entirely taken away.
It is an effective antibiotic for staphylococcus, streptococcus and
salmonella bacteria and it is effective against bacteria that are
resistant to standard antibiotic drugs.
Plant cloves of garlic near fruit trees, cabbages, beans, berry canes
or any other susceptible crop to keep away aphids or Japanese beetles.
(Might taint underground crops).
Formulas or Dosages
Gather bulbs in the fall.
Juice: take 1/2 tsp. of the juice pressed from the bulb, thinned
with water, 2-3 times per day.
Cold extract: let several cloves of garlic stand in 1/2
cup water for 6-8 hours.
Cloves: for coughs, take grated garlic mixed with honey.
Tincture: let 1/2 lb. peeled cloves soak in 1 qt.
brandy for 14 days at a temperature of 85 degrees
F. in a bottle with an airtight seal. Shake several times a
day. Strain when the time is up to get a tincture which will keep
for about a year. Take 5-25 drops, several times a day,
Stir-frying the cloves of garlic for a few minutes will help eliminate
the garlic breath and aftertaste. 2 or 3 cooked
cloves daily will reap maximum benefits.
Calcium, copper, germanium, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus,
potassium, vitamins A, B1, B2, and C, and zinc.
Fresh in the grocery
Pregnant women should use in small amounts as garlic is a mild emmenagogue
(encourages menstrual flow); also therapeutic doses during pregnancy
and lactation can cause indigestion problems such as heart-burn, and
nursing babies may dislike the taste of breast milk.
The essential oil extracted from the bulbs is extremely concentrated
and can be irritating. Eating 10 or more raw garlic cloves per day
can be toxic and in some cases can trigger an allergic reaction.