Garlic is a commonly utilised culinary herb that has been consumed and used for medical purposes for over 5,000 years. It is native to central Asia, Southwestern Siberia and South Asia and is one of the world’s oldest cultivated crops and it is believed the crusaders brought garlic to Europe and the Spanish, French and Portuguese settlers introduced garlic into the Americas.
It has been revered as an offering only fit for the Gods. It has also been used as a food, medicine, an aphrodisiac and as a component of ‘magic potions’. It was quite often utilised to ward off evil spirits and the evil eye as well as hung over doors to protect medieval occupants from evil. Greek athletes and warriors consumed garlic as they believed it provided them with increased strength, endurance, and courage.
It was worshiped and used as currency by the Ancient Egyptians and was placed in the tombs of the deceased. In other cultures, garlic was deemed too pungent to use during religious ceremonies and was only consumed by the poorer individuals. Quite often, those who consumed garlic were denied entry into temples and other places of worship. In England, ‘garlic breath’ was deemed unsuitable for refined young adults. Many Americans adopted the English attitude and didn’t embrace garlic until the 1940’s.
Garlic was believed to inflame passions and was forbidden for Tibetan monks, widows, and adolescents to consume, as it was believed to be too stimulating to the reproductive organs.
The aromatic herb is mentioned in ancient Egyptian, Greek, Indian, Chinese writings as well as the Talmud, Bible, and Quran. Many ancient medical texts cited garlic as a cure for many ailments including impotence, heart disease, lack of energy and the black plague.
During the first Olympic Games in Athens, athletes consumed garlic before they competed to assist with enhancing performance. Hippocrates, the father of modern medicine, used garlic to improve respiratory complaints and as a cleansing and purging agent. Traditionally, it was also used to treat worm infestation, diarrhoea, digestive complaints as well as improve heart health.
Today, garlic isn’t just utilised as a delicious component of a meal, it has also been researched for its beneficial effects on the cardiovascular system. Certain garlic extracts have been proven to lower blood pressure as well as positively influence cholesterol levels and reduce clotting. This beneficial role of garlic is mostly attributed to aged garlic extracts and not merely just dietary consumption of this delicious herb. As well as this, today, garlic is also utilised for its anti-parasitic activity. Although the evidence is looking promising, there is still much research required to further justify the therapeutic benefits of garlic.
Adding garlic to your daily diet may not only benefit your heart, it may also act as an antioxidant and aid with improving your immune function.
If you suffer from cardiovascular disease such as elevated blood pressure and cholesterol levels, please contact our friendly naturopathic team to determine what extract of garlic may be beneficial for you.
Written by Annmarie Cannone
M.Hum Nut, Grad Dip Naturopathy, B.App Sci
- Rahman K, Lowe G. Garlic and Cardiovascular Disease: A Critical Review. J.Nutr 2006. 136; 736S-740S.