Written by Harmony Zhao
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. 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.
Topically, raw garlic may be used to treat acne since it can reduce inflammation, 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."
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. 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. 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.
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 according to the Journal of Food and Chemical Toxicology. 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. 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."
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.
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),  several enzymes (allinase, peroxidases, myrosinase, and others), 17 amino acids (arginine and others), and minerals (including selenium).
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. Progressive renal damage and hypertension are associated with oxidative and nitrosative stress."
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. 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.
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This article is not intended to diagnose, treat, or cure. For educational purposes only.