Garden Lifestyle

Garlic as an Herbal Medicine

Well known as a kitchen staple, garlic also can contribute to good health

Photo: CarbonNYC under the Creative Commons Attribution License 2.0.

Garlic (Allium sativum) is recognized worldwide by its none-too-subtle odor and taste. Its unmistakable flavor is irreplaceable in sauces, roasting, and as a seasoning for countless dishes. Food preparers would probably be lost without it. I know I would; I adore garlic. Maybe it’s my Italian heritage, or maybe like dogs I love to roll in strong-smelling substances; whatever the case, garlic is my favorite seasoning hands-down.

But garlic has a more practical side that you may not be aware of, and this just might be what pushes you over the proverbial edge to plant some in your garden this year. An herb is a plant or plant part valued for its medicinal, savory, or aromatic quality. Good-old garlic covers all these definitions and then some.

Garlic contains selenium, scordinins, and vitamins A, B, C, and E. But perhaps its most valuable property is its high volatile oil content. Traditionally, garlic has been heralded through the ages as a treatment for various infections, from tuberculosis to typhoid. During World War I, garlic was even used to treat soldiers’ wounds.

Garlic as an antibiotic

Considered a powerful treatment for many health issues, garlic is especially well known for treating colds, flu, and ear and chest infections. It’s also excellent for infections in the intestinal tract and clears out intestinal parasites (worms) to boot. As a natural antibiotic, garlic may be taken with prescribed antibiotics; it supports the medication and helps with potential side effects. Take two 100-mg garlic capsules three times a day for bronchitis. The capsules or tablets can be purchased at nutritional centers and come in an odorless form as well.

Garlic for a healthy circulatory system

Despite extensive research in Japan, Germany, and the United States during the 1980s, there are still disagreements over exactly how garlic achieves such powerful results as an antibiotic. However, the fact that it reduces blood lipid levels and lowers blood pressure was confirmed during clinical trials.

Garlic is a natural blood-thinner; therefore, it aids in preventing strokes and other circulatory problems while lowering blood-pressure and cholesterol levels. Because it also lowers blood-sugar levels, garlic is a healthy addition to the diet of people with late-onset diabetes. Garlic can be taken in tablet form regularly for high blood pressure as well as bronchitis. Nutritionists suggest using chopped garlic in prepared food dishes regularly to promote good health. You don’t have to tell me twice; I’d eat it even if it gave me facial break-outs.

How to grow garlic

Garlic thrives in deep, rich, fertile soils, and full sun. As far as preparing the garlic bed, I just add some compost or composted manure and stir it all up like cake mix. You’ll need to purchase (or obtain from another gardener) a garlic head. Peel the papery skin off the garlic and separate the cloves. Plant the full and healthy-looking cloves only. Plant them 1 to 2 inches deep and 4 to 6 inches apart with the root end down. In most areas of the United States, plant garlic in the fall around Columbus Day, but if you live in the Deep South, plant it a little later.

Cover the cloves with loose soil, and mulch the bed with straw or some other organic mulch for the winter. Garlic bulbs are actively growing in the spring, so keep them watered well. Also, don’t start with garlic bought in the grocery store. Many times it has been treated with an antisprouting chemical.

The information in this article is for informational use only. It is not meant to be a substitute for advice from a medical professional. If you have an infection of any kind or circulatory problems, seek medical care immediately.

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