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Written by Harmony Zhao

Allium sativum


Garlic is the edible bulb from a plant in the lily family. It was traditionally used for health purposes by people in many parts of the world, including the ancient Egyptians, Greeks, Romans, Chinese, and Japanese.[2] It was used as a remedy for those who were suffering from depression, and afflicted by the typhus, dysentery, cholera, and influenza epidemics.

Garlic today is often promoted as a dietary supplement for conditions related to the heart and blood vessels, including high blood pressure. But, you don’t need a capsule to see the effect, you can use the whole plant in cooking! The more garlic is cooked and processed, the milder the flavor as the chemical constituent allicin is decreased. Fresh garlic, garlic powder, and garlic oil (see ideas below to make your own infused oil) are some preparations used to flavor and enhance foods.

Be careful, eating raw garlic may cause stomach irritation, and applied raw topically can cause irritation.

Topically, raw garlic may be used to treat acne since it can reduce inflammation,[5] but use it with caution since it can irritate the skin and cause allergic reactions (best when used in formulation).


Garlic grows wild only in Central Asia (centered in Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan) today. Historically garlic grew wild throughout much of China, India, Egypt, and the Ukraine. Garlic was first used 5,000 years ago (well, at least first documented) by the Ancient Egyptians and Greeks. The Ancient Greek and "Father of Western Medicine," Hippocrates, often prescribed garlic for a wide range of illnesses such as respiratory problems, parasites, poor digestion, and fatigue; even Olympic athletes in Ancient Greece were given garlic as a “performance enhancer."[6]

Garlic has been used by every culture to ward off evil. Turkish myth says that when Satan left the garden, garlic arose on his left footprint and onion on his right footprint. It is stated that Mohammed did not like the smell of garlic and onions. To this day Muslims do not eat garlic before attending mosque as a courtesy to others, making sure their breath is fresh and not unpleasant. Buddhists, Hindus, and Jains consider garlic as capable of stirring desires, stimulating sexual drive as well as aggression.[10] Perhaps for that reason, the Ancient Romans ate it before battle to give them strength and stamina.

Garlic holds an important place in Chinese culture and medicine dating back thousands of years documented in early writings.[7] In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) garlic is called upon for its ability to prevent and fight infections, and counter the effects of toxicity due to germs, environmental factors, or poor dietary choices.

Primary Uses

Garlic is widely used to support the cardiovascular system and to protect against heart attack, coronary heart disease, and to reduce inflammation. It is also used to prevent cancers of the lung, prostate, breast, stomach, rectal, and colon[11] according to the Journal of Food and Chemical Toxicology.[12] In an article published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, it was found that garlic oil could protect diabetes patients from cardiomyopathy, which is the leading cause of death among diabetes patients.[13] Garlic and "its secondary metabolites have shown excellent health-promoting and disease-preventing effects through its antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and lipid-lowering properties, as demonstrated in several in vitro, in vivo, and clinical studies."[14]

Garlic has warming and circulatory benefits and is known as Da Suan In TMC.

Garlic is known as Da Suan in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). It is native to Central Asia with China being the largest producer. It is commonplace for TCM Practitioners to prescribe garlic to their patients to remedy parasites, diarrhea, and coughing. It also prevents influenza and colds, as it has warming and dispersing actions. These actions help move qi and blood in the body and reduce clotting while cleansing the blood. Garlic is also called upon for treating food poisoning from shellfish.

In cooking the scapes are often used, valued for their garlicky taste, and enjoyed as a vegetable [15] [16]. Garlic is even sipped in savory teas.


Garlic is best enjoyed in food. Supplemental doses/extracts (and long-extended use) of garlic should be taken under the supervision of an herbalist or healthcare provider. There isn't enough reliable information to know if garlic is safe when used in larger doses or for longer than eight weeks. It is not recommended to apply raw garlic to the skin since it can be an irritant or cause allergic reactions to the skin.


Garlic contains approximately 33 sulfur compounds (aliin, allicin, ajoene, allylpropyl disulfide, diallyl trisulfide, sallylcysteine, vinyldithiines, S-allylmercaptocystein, and others), [19] several enzymes (allinase, peroxidases, myrosinase, and others), 17 amino acids (arginine and others), and minerals (including selenium).[20]

As to the mechanisms of action: "Garlic-derived organic polysulfides are converted by erythrocytes into hydrogen sulfide which relaxes vascular smooth muscle, induces vasodilation of blood vessels, and significantly reduces blood pressure.[21] Progressive renal damage and hypertension are associated with oxidative and nitrosative stress."[22]

Garlic Infused Oil

This preparation can be used topically or internally for a wide range of health concerns - even fantastic in culinary dishes (think salad dressing). Simply take your fresh garlic cloves and warm them on the stove with olive oil for an hour or so, or place in a baking dish and warm at 200 degrees in the stove for a couple of hours; even just place minced garlic in a jar with oil for up to a day, then, enjoy!

Growth and Harvesting

Garlic grows well under a wide range of climatic conditions. However, it cannot tolerate extreme hot or cold temperatures. It requires a cool and moist climate during vegetative growth and the bulb development stages require warm dry weather during maturity. Garlic should be planted under full sun with 5-10-10 complete fertilizer, bone meal, or fish meal into the soil several inches from where the base of the garlic will rest. The best time to grow garlic is during the fall or summer months between September and November.[25] Garlic can be stored in a dark dry and well-ventilated place for a few days and should be protected from humidity and freezing. It should not be stored in the refrigerator because the cool temperatures and moisture stimulate sprouting.


[1]“Garlic: Proven Health Benefits and Uses,” August 18, 2017. [2]NCCIH. “Garlic.” Accessed October 3, 2023. [3] Healthline. “Can You Eat Raw Garlic? Benefits and Downsides,” May 27, 2021. [4] Verywell Health. “What Is Allicin?” Accessed October 11, 2023. [5] Healthline. “Garlic for Acne: How Many Cloves a Day Keep Dermatologists Away?,” June 13, 2018. [6]Rivlin, Richard S. “Historical Perspective on the Use of Garlic.” The Journal of Nutrition 131, no. 3 (March 1, 2001): 951S-954S. [7]“Simon: Garlic Origins : USDA ARS.” Accessed October 3, 2023.,back%20as%204000%20years%20ago. [8] Pazyar, Nader, and Amir Feily. “Garlic in Dermatology.” Dermatology Reports 3, no. 1 (January 31, 2011): e4. [9]Tucakov J. Beograd: Kultura; 1971. Lecenje biljem - fitoterapija; pp. 180–90. [10] White Rabbit Institute of Healing. “Garlic.” Accessed October 16, 2023. [11]“Garlic: Proven Health Benefits and Uses,” August 18, 2017. [12] Shin, Jung-Hye, Ji Hyeon Ryu, Min Jung Kang, Cho Rong Hwang, Jaehee Han, and Dawon Kang. “Short-Term Heating Reduces the Anti-Inflammatory Effects of Fresh Raw Garlic Extracts on the LPS-Induced Production of NO and pro-Inflammatory Cytokines by Downregulating Allicin Activity in RAW 264.7 Macrophages.” Food and Chemical Toxicology 58 (August 1, 2013): 545–51. [13]“GARLIC: Overview, Uses, Side Effects, Precautions, Interactions, Dosing and Reviews.” Accessed October 3, 2023. [14] Rivlin, Richard S. “Historical Perspective on the Use of Garlic.” The Journal of Nutrition 131, no. 3 (March 1, 2001): 951S-954S. [15] The Woks of Life. “Fresh Herbs & Aromatics Used in Chinese Cooking,” June 19, 2015. [16] “Garlic (Allium Sativum) in Traditional Chinese Medicine | Acupuncture Training | Massage Training | Calgary,” June 10, 2022. [17] Healthline. “Garlic for Acne: How Many Cloves a Day Keep Dermatologists Away?,” June 13, 2018. [18]Pazyar, Nader, and Amir Feily. “Garlic in Dermatology.” Dermatology Reports 3, no. 1 (January 31, 2011): e4. [19]Newall C.A., Anderson L.A., Phillipson J.D. Pharmaceutical Press; London: 1996. Herbal medicines: a guide for health-care professionals, vol. ix. p. 296 [20]Omar, S.H., and N.A. Al-Wabel. “Organosulfur Compounds and Possible Mechanism of Garlic in Cancer.” Saudi Pharmaceutical Journal : SPJ 18, no. 1 (January 2010): 51–58. [21]Ginter, E., and V. Simko. “Garlic (Allium Sativum L.) and Cardiovascular Diseases.” Bratislavske Lekarske Listy 111, no. 8 (2010): 452–56. [22]Mikaili, Peyman, Surush Maadirad, Milad Moloudizargari, Shahin Aghajanshakeri, and Shadi Sarahroodi. “Therapeutic Uses and Pharmacological Properties of Garlic, Shallot, and Their Biologically Active Compounds.” Iranian Journal of Basic Medical Sciences 16, no. 10 (October 2013): 1031–48. [23] Naturology Studio. “Garlic Foot Poultice - Naturally Immune Boosting,” May 27, 2018. [24]Life at OSU. “Get Your Garlic on: A Primer on Planting, Growing and Harvesting,” September 23, 2021. [25] “Bulbil | Plant Anatomy | Britannica.” Accessed October 11, 2023. [26] “Growing Garlic in the Garden.” Accessed October 11, 2023. [27] Tattelman, Ellen. “Health Effects of Garlic.” American Family Physician 72, no. 01 (July 1, 2005): 103–6. [28]Khade, Yogesh, Arunachalam Thangasamy, and Kalyani Gorrepati. “Garlic Production Technology” 62 (October 31, 2017): 57–59. [29] Martha Stewart. “Garlic Can Stay Fresh for Up to 6 Months If You Store It Right—Here’s How.” Accessed October 11, 2023.

This article is not intended to diagnose, treat, or cure. For educational purposes only.

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