Longevity logo

Health Benefits of Garlic

by James Porterson 4 years ago in list / diet

Allium sativum, commonly known as garlic, can be used to stimulate the metabolism and provide a wide array of health benefits.

Family: Liliaceae

Names: ail commun (French); kinoblauch (German); knoflook (Dutch), ai aglio (Italian); alho (Portuguese); ajo commin (Spanish); vitlök (Swedish), tschesnok (Russian; suan da suan (Chinese); rasona (Sanskrit); lasan (Hindi); ninniku (Japanese); toum (Arabic); ail de cuisine, bawang poetih, bawang puteh, cropleek, cultivated garlic, hsiao suan, lai, lasan, poor man's treacle, rosina, samersaq, sarimsak, suan, thum

Description: Grows in grasslike clumps with a height of 1' and a width of 6". The flowers are small, rose-white, or green-white, clustered in 3-4" globes on tall stems rising from the underground bulb. The leaves are thin, narrow, flat, gray-green, straight, and pointed. The fruit are small black seeds, although small bulbs may also develop and can be planted. The bulbs are globe-like, containing 8-20 individual cloves, surrounded by a white, sometimes pink, paper-like covering. Blooms from June to July.


Garlic is an annual plant germinating in 1-3 weeks. Space 6-10" apart. Prefers rich soil with a pH of 4.5 to 8.5 and full sun. Heat develops the best flavor. Plant seed in the fall. Plant individual cloves with pointed ends up, in early spring or fall in areas where the ground does not freeze. Outer cloves produce the best quality. Planted in March, they will be ready to harvest in July or August. Harvest after the blooms die down, then sun-dry for a day. Hanging on the wall is an attractive and handy way to store garlic. Soak the long stems in water for a few hours, then tightly braid a few bunches together. Flowers that hold their shape when they dry (like statice) can be braided in too for decoration.


Garlic's common name describes its leaves and use from the Anglo-Saxon gar (lance) and leac (leek or pot-herb). Grown in the Mediterranean and central Asia for centuries, garlic was widely used as medicine by the ancients. It was found in King Tut's tomb and was eaten for endurance by the slaves who constructed the great Cheops pyramid. Garlic was placed by the ancient Greeks on the piles of stones at crossroads as a supper for Hecate while garlic and onion were invocated as deities by the Egyptians at the taking of oaths. Among the ancient Greeks, persons who partook of it were not allowed to enter the temples of Cybele.

The East Indian herbalist Charaka said in the first century A.D. that garlic would be worth its weight in gold, if it weren't for its smell. Garlic has been used by rich and poor alike through the years to keep away disease, evil spirits, moles, and racing competitors. It was a main ingredient in the “Four Thieves Vinegar” used by four Marseilles thieves who confessed that "garlek" protected them while they robbed plague victims’ bodies. There is a superstition in some parts of Europe, that if a morsel of the bulb be chewed by a man running a race it will prevent his competitors from getting ahead of him and Hungarian jockeys will sometimes fasten a clove of garlic to the bits of their horses in the belief that any other racers running close to those baited will fall back the instant they smell the odor.

In the early 18th century, it was used by French priests to protect themselves from a highly contagious fever in London's poor sections. European doctors in World War I and World War II applied sterilized swabs of sphagnum moss and garlic to dress wounds and prevent gangrene.

Properties and Uses

Constituents: allyl sulfide, allicin, allin, enzyme allinase, Vitamins A, B1, B2, and C, nicotinic acid, thiamin, riboflavin, minerals (magnesium, phosphorus, potassium)

Properties: yang tonic and a stimulant, diuretic, alterative, digestant, carminiative, expectorant and parasiticide, antiseptic, anti-microbial, diaphoretic, hypotensive, anti-spasmodic, anthelmintic, anti-catarrhal

Meridians/Organs Affected: stomach, colon, lungs, kidney, spleen

Medicinal Uses: It stimulates metabolism and is used both for chronic and acute diseases, has both tonic and alterative properties, counteracts lower back and joint pain, arthritis, and rheumatism. It also treats weak digestion, genito-urinary diseases, lung and bronchial infections, and mucous conditions. In Ayurveda it is considered rejuvenative for both kapha (water) and vata (air).

Garlic cloves may be taken internally both as a preventative and as a treatment for all intestinal worms. Blended with a little sesame or olive oil, it may be used externally. However, its strong odor may repel humans as well as parasites. A single dose is three to five cloves in infusion or taken raw. This is repeated three to six times a day until the problem is resolved. Garlic is good for amoebic dysentery. It is an effective antibiotic for staphylococcus, streptococcus, and salmonella bacteria and is effective against bacteria that are resistant to standard antibiotic drugs. It is a good antifungal for the treatment of candida albicans yeast infections.

For the treatment of pinworms, it should be made into a paste with olive oil or the bruised clove inserted directly into the rectum. For vaginitis and leucorrhea, one or two bruised cloves wrapped in muslin are inserted into the vagina. As an oil or vinegar, it can be used to treat ear and mouth infections. Researchers noted some success in treating deep fungal infections, whooping cough, lead poisoning, and some carcinomas. Even appendicitis was improved in a number of studies.

Studies of factory workers found that garlic not only detoxified harmful levels of lead from the blood, it seemed to prevent its accumulation in the first place. Subjects who ate garlic for six months found that their “bad” LDL cholesterol and triglyceride levels went down, while their "good” HDL cholesterol levels increased. Garlic also helps normalize systolic blood pressure levels and can sustain them up to 24 hours. Many cultures turn to garlic to control mild diabetes. The natural killer cells of the immune system are dramatically activated by garlic. The fresher the garlic, the better it works. Garlic oil capsules work better than dried garlic powder.

Нomeopathy: Homeopaths use Allium sativum for colitis, tuberculosis, painful constipation, bronchitis, painful breasts, and skin eruptions during the menses. The remedy is more effective for meat eaters than for exclusive vegetarians.

TCM: Expels internal cold and internal dampness.

Indications: Hookworm, pinworm, diarrhea and dysentery, tuberculosis, coughing fits, external application to early stages of abscesses and ringworm on the head; internal cold and internal damp symptoms.


  • Fresh cloves: 3-5 per day, taken raw in food, or in capsules.
  • External: Puree of fresh garlic cloves can be applied to abscesses as an antiseptic and healing agent, also to ringworm on the head, for athlete's foot, apply liberally to infected area and wrap well with a clean, dry cloth for 1-2 hours, then remove and wipe away excess garlic with dry cloth.

Flower Essences: For those who are fearful, weak, or easily influenced, prone to low vitality. Garlic flower restores wholeness for such souls, helping them to consolidate and unify the astral body, and to bring it into greater harmony with the physical and etheric bodies and the spiritual ego.


  • Extraction: Essential oil by steam distillation from the fresh crushed bulbs.
  • Characteristics: A colorless to pale yellow mobile liquid with a strong, unpleasant, familiar garlic like odor
  • Use: Due to its unpleasant and pervasive smell, the oil is not often used externally. However, the capsules may be taken internally for respiratory and gastro-intestinal infections, urinary tract infections such as cystitis, heart and circulatory problems, and to fight infectious diseases in general. The oil is made into capsules and also included in many health food products mainly to help reduce high blood pressure and protect against heart disease. Extensively employed as a flavor ingredient in most major food categories.

Toxicity: Pregnant women should use in small amounts as garlic is a mild emmenagogue. Large doses occasionally cause indigestion and some reports claim they make the eye more sensitive to light.

Ritual Uses: In the home, braids of garlic guard against evil, repel thieves, and turn away the envious. And of course, garlic protects against vampires. It is a very effective blessing for new homes. Garlic cloves were once placed upon cairns, small piles of stones heaped at the intersections of paths and roads, in order to give honor to Hecate. Garlic was treated by the Egyptians as divine, and was included in oath-taking. Homer believed that Ulysses used garlic when he and his men escaped from Circe's anger. It may be included in ritual breads eaten in Hecate's honor.

Cosmetic Uses: Rich in alkaline salts and sulphur compounds, garlic is a blood purifier and keeps the skin clear of spots and pimples. The juice added to warm lard or olive oil and applied to a spotty skin or where there is soreness, will bring about rapid healing.

Break up a bulb into several cloves and place in a saucepan with 1 lb of lard and heat gently for 30 minutes. Leave for several hours after turning off the heat, then add 4 oz beeswax and slowly reheat. Remove the garlic cloves and pour into screw-top jars to solidify. Use as a night cream.

Other Uses: Research shows that garlic sprays kill cabbage white and ermine moth, onion fly larvae, mole crickets, pea weevils, and field slugs and deter aphids and Japanese beetles.

Bug Formula: 3 oz garlic, chopped, 2 tsp mineral oil, 1 pint water, 1 oz oil-based hand soap, water to dilute. Soak garlic in oil for one week. Then dissolve soap into water and mix in the garlic oil. Strain out garlic. When ready to use, dilute one part in 20 parts water and spray on plants. The soap can be replaced with 4 oz of liquid all-purpose, biodegradable soap.

Culinary Use: One of the most popular flavoring herbs in the world, garlic is incorporated into butters, vinegars, salts, dried seasoning, salad dressings, soup,s and main dishes. The Chinese even prepare a honeyed garlic. Fresh cloves have the best flavor. Peeling garlic is a simple task. To peel just a few cloves, place the flat side of a heavy knife over a clove and rap your fist smartly down onto the blade. You can then easily slip off the skin. You'll learn quickly just how much force to use too much and the garlic is mashed; You just want to break the seal of the skin. To ensure ending up with a whole perfect clove, simply nip off the ends of the clove and strip away the peel with the knife edge. To peel several cloves at a time, drop the unpeeled cloves in boiling water for 30 seconds, rinse under cold water, drain, and peel the skins off easily.

One clove of garlic will yield approximately one teaspoon minced. To mince garlic peel the clove and then lay it on your working surface. Slice it into pieces and then chop until you have achieved the size mince you wish. When you want to soften cloves so they are easier to crush, sprinkle on a little salt. Avoid powdered garlic, which has rancid undertones. When you cook with garlic, the amount of medicinal properties left corresponds to how strong it taste.

Fresh garlic may be creamy white or have a purplish-red cast and it should be plump and firm, with its paper-like covering intact, not spongy, soft or shriveled. Fresh garlic keeps best in a cool, dry place with plenty of ventilation. It should not be refrigerated unless you separate the cloves and immerse them in oil, either peeled or unpeeled. If the garlic isn't peeled, the cloves will hold their firmness longer, but peeling will be more difficult. Fresh garlic, which is held in open-air storage for any length of time, will lose some of its pungency and may even develop sprouts. The garlic is still usable, but will be somewhat milder and more will be needed to achieve the same strength of flavor in a dish being prepared.

In India it is eaten by everyone except by very puritanical sects who fear its reputation as an aphrodisiac, or by strict vegetarians who believe that in uprooting a garlic bulb from the ground they may accidentally kill an insect.

Rosemary and Garlic Burgundy Recipe

  • 4 to 5 sprigs of rosemary
  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled and halved
  • 1 1/2 cups Burgundy

Place rosemary and garlic in a 1 pint jar. Pour wine over and cover. Store in a cool, dark place for at least two weeks before testing flavor. Use a cup with 3 Tbsp. olive oil, 1 Tbsp. lemon juice and 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper as a marinade for beef.

Garlic Rosemary Potato Chips Recipe

  • 3 lbs potatoes, scrubbed but do not peel
  • 8 cloves garlic, peeled & put through a press
  • 4 Tbsp. fresh rosemary leaves
  • 1/2 cup olive oil salt & coarse grind black pepper

Cut the washed and scrubbed potatoes into 4" thick slices. Into a food processor, put the garlic, rosemary and olive oil. Pulse on and off to chop the rosemary and garlic finely. Line a baking sheet with foil and brush lightly with the rosemary flavored oil. Then lay the potato slices in one layer on top of the foil. Brush again with the rosemary-garlic oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Turn and do the same thing to the other side. Bake in a 350 degree oven for 15 minutes—turn the potatoes and bake until they are lightly browned. Remove from oven and drain potatoes on paper towels. Serve while still warm.

Indonesian Chicken with Garlic and Peanut Butter Sauce

  • 3 to 4 lb frying chicken
  • 2 Tbsp peanut oil
  • 1 small onion
  • 3 large garlic cloves
  • l Tbsp soy sauce
  • Juice of 4 lemons
  • 2 tsp sambal oeulek
  • 1 cup warm water
  • 1/2 cup smooth, natural peanut butter

Cut the chicken into serving pieces. Sauté it in a large skillet, in the oil, over moderately high heat for 15 minutes, turning frequently. Remove the skillet from the heat and transfer the chicken to a platter. Finally mince the onion and garlic and sauté them in the chicken skillet, over low heat, for five minutes. Add the soy sauce, lemon juice, and sambal to the skillet. Stir well and cook for 55 minutes. Add the water and peanut butter to the skillet and stir well to make a Smooth sauce. Return the chicken to the skillet and cook, covered, over moderately low heat for 20-30 minutes. Stir occasionally to prevent the sauce from sticking. Transfer to a heated serving platter and serve immediately.

James Porterson
James Porterson
Read next: Best Running Shoes for Women
James Porterson

Former obese teen turned nutritionist. Enjoys writing about staying active and proper nutrition.

See all posts by James Porterson

Find us on socal media

Miscellaneous links