Garlic is one of the most useful and versatile plants, both in cooking and medicine. Both a vegetable and an herb, garlic is in a class off of its own. Closely related to the onion and the leek (if you couldn’t tell by the smell), it’s been used for over seven thousand years by humanity. Originally from Asia, it’s a staple in the Mediterranean and Ancient Egyptians used it both in medicine and food. There are many different types that grow all over the world now, from the wild and crow garlic that grow in Britain to the meadow garlic in America and the single bulb, or pearl garlic that is native to the Yunnan province in China.
Culinary wise, garlic is used all over the world to help flavor dishes. The bulb is the main part of the plant used in cooking, which are normally divided into multiple sections known as cloves (except for the single bulb varieties). Cloves can be used either raw or cooked and have a very distinct flavor. Some people eat the flowers and the leaves of the plant, though the flavor from these is not nearly as strong as the bulbs. Green garlic that is picked prematurely and used in cooking, while it has the same flavor, lacks the spiciness. In Southeast Asia and China, green garlic is commonly used in stir-fry, hotpots, and soups. A papery skin covers the bulb and this should be thrown away rather than eaten. Oils within the garlic are also used in flavoring everything from vegetables to meat.
Medically, garlic is extremely useful and has been used by humans for thousands of years. Nutrition wise, garlic is chalk full of vitamins and minerals, including manganese, vitamin B, selenium, fiber, calcium, vitamin C, copper, iron, and potassium. It’s also used to help with blood pressure and heart issues, including heart attacks, cholesterol issues, and hardening of the arteries. Some people also use it to treat different types of cancer, such as breast and colon cancer, and it’s also used to treat enlarged prostates. Garlic can also be used to treat fevers, colds, menstrual issues, stomach and joint point, and whooping cough. Used externally, garlic oil has been used to treat fungal infections, corns, and warts. In 2015, scientists also discovered that garlic was an integral ingredient in an Anglo-Saxon eye remedy that is actually capable of killing antibiotic resistant MRSA. The eye remedy was created by finely chopping garlic and another allium (onion or leek), crushing them in a mortar and pestle for two minutes, and then adding 25 milliliters of English wine (for the sake of the experiment, wine from a historic vineyard near Glastonbury was used). Then bovine salts are dissolved in distilled water and added to the mixture. The final step to create this remedy was found to be chilling it for nine days at four degrees Celsius.
Perhaps the most famous supernatural power that garlic has is the ability to keep vampires away, therefore falling into the protection category. While Bram Stoker was the first author to use garlic’s repelling powers in a book, the belief is an ancient one. Yet the question is, why would this simple vegetable turn away an undead terror? There are a couple different beliefs about how this little herb gained its reputation. The first being comes from garlic’s use as an insect repellent. People believed that since mosquitoes drank blood and didn’t like garlic, that vampires, who also drank blood, therefore wouldn’t like garlic. Since garlic is an extremely powerful antibiotic, the belief could also stem from the fact that in a lot of mythologies, the vampire infection was spread through a bite. Garlic is also known throughout the world to repel evil, so vampires naturally fall into that category.
Outside of vampires, garlic has other magical properties. Drawing from it’s vast medical properties, garlic is good for health and healing spells. It’s also used to invoke the goddess Hecate and as a charm for protection and purification. It was used by the Ancient Egyptians as an offering to gods and the Roman soldiers ate it before a battle for strength and bravery (anyone who can eat a whole garlic clove is strong and brave to me). If hung in the home, it will bring the family together, ward off evil, and keep your willpower strong. It is also believed that if fresh garlic is rubbed across an ailing body part, it will absorb the illness, and then should be tossed into running water.
Anglo-Saxon Eye Remedy Source: