If you have a vampire problem and don’t have a silver cross handy, repel the evil fiends with strings of fresh garlic cloves hung around windows, doorways, and the necks of all would-be victims. Anybody who thrilled to read Bram Stoker’s “Dracula” knows this useful household tip.
But did you ever wonder why anyone would think that garlic could be useful in warding off blood-sucking predators?
If you never cooked with garlic, you might be unfamiliar with the small, sectioned bulbs available at groceries around the world. Garlic (Allium sativum) is a member of the onion genus which traces its roots – literally – back to Siberia over 5000 years ago. Today, garlic grows almost everywhere. It is the steady companion of its cousin the onion, and the two are often paired when cooking.
Many ancient civilizations cultivated garlic for both culinary and medicinal use. When cooked, fresh garlic imparts a strong, piquant flavor which wakes up the taste buds and livens up a wide variety of savory dishes. (However, some people can’t stand the smell or taste of it.)
The ancient Egyptians actually worshiped garlic as a god – and also used it as edible currency to pay workers and slaves. Grey Duck Garlic dishes out more details:
“The bulb was so popular with those who toiled on the pyramids that garlic shortages caused work stoppages. A garlic crop failure, due to the Nile flooding, caused one of the only two recorded Egyptian slave revolts.”
The Babylonians, Greeks, Romans and Chinese all enjoyed the benefits derived from planting and harvesting garlic bulbs. In the Middle Ages, Europeans believed that the potent properties of this every-day vegetable could ward off evil. Antioxidants-for-Health-and-Longevity reveals that “garlic was thought to combat the plague and was hung in braided strands across the entrances of houses to prevent evil spirits from entering.”
Nowadays, garlic remains a staple in many a kitchen. The complete bulb (or head) is sectioned into several cloves which cluster around the center:
Once the skin (or peel) is removed, the cloves usually split apart without much trouble, by hand. Trim the tip and base and – voila! – the garlic is ready for many uses.
Garlic really is a special plant: it changes after being chopped, crushed (pressed), or chewed. A sulfur compound known as allicin forms, imparting that distinctive smell which is absent while whole. Once ingested, allicin spreads a broad-spectrum of anti-bacterial activity throughout the entire body.
Healthline gives the nutritional breakdown for a 1-ounce (28 gram) serving of garlic:
• Calories: 42
• Protein: 1.8 grams
• Carbs: 9 grams
• Manganese: 23% of the RDA
• Vitamin B6: 17% of the RDA
• Vitamin C: 15% of the RDA
• Selenium: 6% of the RDA
• Fiber: 0.6 gram
• Decent amounts of calcium, copper, potassium, phosphorus, iron and vitamin B1
• Trace amounts of other nutrients, almost everything we need
As far back as 400 BC, “Hippocrates promoted the use of garlic for treating respiratory problems, parasites, poor digestion, and fatigue,” according to Medical News Today.
Today, people use garlic not only to fight bacteria, but also to treat hardening of the arteries (atherosclerosis), heart attack and disease, hypertension, high cholesterol, and to regulate blood pressure (high or low). Some believe it can prevent many types of cancer, including breast, prostate, stomach, and colon.
Among the continuing research to confirm or deny the health benefits of the common garlic plant, one study from the Jiangsu Provincial Center for Disease Control and Prevention in China gave this astonishing (and encouraging) finding: folks who ate raw garlic at least twice a week, over seven years, lowered their risk of developing lung cancer by a whopping 44%!
The list of garlic’s health benefits is impressive. In addition to treating “coughs, headache, stomach ache, sinus congestion, gout, joint pain, hemorrhoids, asthma, [and] bronchitis,” WebMD also gives these medical uses for garlic:
• Enlarged prostate
• Cystic fibrosis
• Traveler’s diarrhea
• Yeast and fungal infections
• Chronic fatigue syndrome
• Menstrual disorders
• Exercise-induced muscle soreness
Even the National Cancer Institute acknowledges that garlic has potential anticancer properties!
Garlic is affordable and available in grocery produce departments and farmers markets. Or grow your own in the garden or a pot.
Since the gain from eating some raw garlic on a regular basis is so great, why not keep a head or two of this miracle bulb within easy reach in your own home? And you never know, but it might just keep the vampires at bay, should it come to that.