Glorious Garlic...Nature's Antibiotic
"The role of Garlic as an antiviral and antibacterial agent is unsurpassed. There are no...repeat, NO...modern antibiotic drugs in the entire arsenal of medical science that even come close to doing what Garlic can do."
-- John Heinerman (medical anthropologist)
Perhaps one of the best-known and most-loved medicinal foods, garlic (Allium Sativum) has been valued throughout history for its potent broad-spectrum antibiotic properties. The "stinking rose," as it were, has innumerable benefits and can be used to successfully treat disorders and illnesses without negative side-effects or toxicity (unless you call garlic breath a negative side-effect, LOL...frankly, that's nothing considering the havoc wreaked on your body by the pharmaceutical alternatives). Garlic's medicinal properties and its uses have been documented in ancient Chinese, Egyptian and Roman literature.
Nutritionally, garlic is high in chromium, phosphorus, protein, selenium and thiamine.
Garlic can be used for disease prevention and to fight all kinds of infection. Much of garlic's healing power comes from its allicin content, which is a sulfur-containing compound. The allicin gives garlic its pungent odor. But that smell heralds miracle medicine, so if you don't already, you should learn to love it. It is important to note that when using garlic medicinally, the best form to use is the raw cloves...and they must be crushed or sliced. This is the action that releases (activates) the allicin and garlic's healing potentials. Let's examine some of garlic's wonderful properties and abilities:
- antimicrobial, antibiotic, anti-fungal, antibacterial, antiviral, antiparasitic, antispasmodic, immune-stimulating, cholagogue (stimulates contraction of gallbladder), diaphoretic (promotes perspiration, detoxification, reduces fever), hypotensive (lowers blood pressure)
- blood thinner = garlic exerts a "normalizing" effect on blood viscosity; its reputation for blood-thinning is accurate, but it must be noted that unlike synthetic chemical agents (drugs), garlic has never been shown to make the blood too thin. It would be wise, however, to not consume large medicinal amounts of garlic if using blood thinning drugs; garlic works so well as a natural blood thinner that it should be used instead of drugs.
- blood pressure reducer = garlic is used in China and Germany as a blood pressure medicine; garlic's ability to lower blood pressure mostly likely comes from its adenosine content, which is a smooth-muscle relaxant; researchers believe garlic relaxes the smooth muscles of blood vessels, effectively lowering BP.
- cholesterol reducer = this, too, has been established by about 20 published human studies. Up to three cloves of garlic a day have been shown to lower serum LDL cholesterol levels by 15%.
- garlic is superbly effective against intestinal parasites; it destroys harmful bacteria and combats viruses; garlic is a potent detoxifying agent. Taking garlic with cayenne and vitamin C at the onset of cold symptoms can keep you from getting sick.
- garlic is highly effective against fungal (ie yeast/Candida) infections and irritations. Garlic can be used in various ways to treat such infections (see below).
- garlic is anti-carcinogenic = researchers have found certain garlic compounds that destroy aflatoxin, one of the leading causes of stomach and liver cancer. In animal studies, garlic consistently blocks cancer, including 75% lower colon tumors and 70% blocked breast cancers. Human studies have shown that people who consume three ounces of garlic (and onions) daily are 40% less likely to get stomach cancer. These are merely a few published examples of garlic's prowess in preventing and fighting cancer...information on the topic abounds.
- garlic's broad-spectrum antibiotic properties are effective against gram-positive, gram-negative, most major infectious bacteria, and antibiotic-resistant (of the drug variety) bacteria; garlic even kills viruses. For active infections, garlic is most effective when consumed raw.
- garlic is likely the most tested herb in the world...research trials worldwide have proven garlic to activate the immune system and to successfully destroy the bacteria that cause dysentery. Chinese and African doctors have found garlic to be effective against such microbial infections as cryptococcal meningitis, viral encephalitis, toxoplasmosis, and more.
"If only one herb could be used to combat an epidemic spread of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, this would be it." -- Stephen Buhner, author of Herbal Antibiotics
Before looking at how to use garlic medicinally, I would like to briefly discuss why a food/herb like garlic (and many other herbs as well) will continue to be an effective antibiotic agent while drugs will continue to fail and produce antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria. It's actually quite simple. [The following summary is derived from Buhner's excellent book, which I highly recommend. It clearly documents the issues of drug-resistant bacteria and instructs in the use of medicinal plants that will triumph as drugs continue to fail.]
Bacteria learn. And they communicate information to one another rapidly and frequently; they also pass along this information to their offspring. Bacteria are highly adaptable and have the uncanny ability, through a kind of "trial and error," to create chemical responses to antibiotic agents...allowing the bacteria to survive or even disable an antibiotic. By doing so, these bacteria are able to grow even stronger; they pass on this ability as they reproduce. Even worse, bacteria learn how to resist multiple antibiotics from encountering only one.
So why does garlic succeed where penicillin fails? Garlic contains 33 sulfur compounds, 17 amino acids, and 12 other compounds, all of which provide garlic with 28 known active constituents (and around 35 other "unknowns")...allicin, for example. How many active constituents does penicillin have? One...that's it...just penicillin. The bacteria, as it encounters and learns, must "unlock the code" to each constituent it faces. The answer, my friends, is simple arithmetic. As Buhner writes, "Faced with this complex chemical makeup, invading bacteria find it much more difficult to develop resistance or avoid the medicine's impact."
Uses and applications As I said above, the most potent form of medicinal garlic is raw crushed cloves. Powder can work, but does not exert the same strength. Administering garlic to children can be a bit tricky because of its acrid qualities. I will give below guidelines that I like to use with garlic treatments:
- For illness prevention or for treating blood pressure and/or cholesterol imbalances, eat 1-3 fresh cloves daily. Adding fresh garlic to salad dressing is an excellent way to eat it. Spreading fresh, crushed garlic on buttered toast is another. It is important that the garlic releases its juices, where its strong medicine resides...it is a good idea to crush/squeeze the cloves over a small bowl to catch these juices.
- If you struggle with the oral burning of fresh, raw garlic, and/or you encounter stomach upset (which is a possibility with large amounts), try mixing the crushed garlic in a small amount of raw honey, which is protective of mucous membranes. You can add the garlic + honey to water and drink the mixture. This is helpful when ingesting frequent doses for acute illness.
- During serious infections (viral/bacterial, etc), consume the juice of 3-9 heads (bulbs) daily...this guideline is a wide swath; start with the lower amount and work up as you feel necessary. Clinicians advise adding the juice to carrot or tomato juice. The juice of a head of garlic is extraordinarily potent in small amounts. Start with 1/4 tsp. garlic juice to mix in a glass of carrot or tomato juice (water works if you have no juice; it just doesn't mask the garlic) and work your way up to more potent doses if needed. This can cause vomiting, but is NOT harmful. Says Buhner, "You won't die if you take too much, but you will want to." So start small. If you do not have a juicer, look at this link for how to make garlic juice.
- In my experience, eating the crushed cloves (including the juices) of one head of garlic throughout a day is effective at healing UTIs and Mastitis (use as long as is needed, generally two to three days...don't quit until the infection is conquered...watch in future for full posts on those ailments).
- For normal internal use, Philip Fritchey, in Practical Herbalism, recommends garlic juice at 1/2 to 1 tsp, 3-4x/daily; whole raw cloves at 1-3 daily; powder at 4-8 large capsules, 3-4x/daily; tincture 1/2 to 1 tsp, 3-4x/daily; syrup 1-2 tsp, 3-4x/daily; and oil 1/2 to 1 tsp, 3-4x/daily or every hour for acute conditions.
- James Duke in his Green Pharmacy Herbal Handbook agrees that using garlic whole is better than any processed supplement available and recommends eating 1-5 cloves daily to treat various ailments; juice and syrup in the same amounts as Fritchey above.
- To use for fungal infections, internal consumption and external applications are often necessary. Especially useful for the ladies is garlic as a vaginal suppository to deal with yeast flare-ups. Nick a peeled clove and insert before bed...it can help to coat with coconut oil first; remove in the morning. Do as often as symptomatic.
- To make an herb oil, place 3-4 cups chopped fresh herb...in this case, garlic bulbs, in a saucepan (NOT aluminum or teflon-coated) and cover with extra virgin olive oil, just enough to barely cover the herb matter in the pan. Simmer slowly and stir frequently (just keep checking to make sure it isn't boiling or burning) until the herb material is crisp, anywhere from 4 hours to a full day depending on moisture content of herb. Strain and bottle. Keeps best if refrigerated.
- To make garlic honey syrup, follow method above, but replace oil with honey and simmer for an hour or two. Find other recipes here: garlic syrup recipes, miracle of garlic syrup and garlic syrup.
- To make a garlic poultice, which is great for treating children, place a few cloves of crushed garlic in a small piece of thin muslin or cotton (an old t-shirt works well)...even a paper towel works; fold into a little square packet, moisten with hot water, gently press excess water out, and apply. It helps to tape on the poultice packet with surgical skin tape (this can be acquired at medical supply stores or drugstores). The best application place for a poultice when fighting infection is the bottom of the feet. The pores there are larger than other parts of the body; the medicine is more quickly absorbed through the skin and passes into the bloodstream. These poultices may also be used on the chest and back for respiratory illnesses; garlic is a useful expectorant and can help expel phlegm from the lungs while it works to combat the infection. Rub a bit of olive oil on the skin first to prevent any possibility of burning; check the skin every few minutes to be sure the garlic juice is not causing any irritation. Keep the poultice on for 10 minutes if possible and do this procedure throughout the day...every 1-3 hours depending on severity of infection. Garlic poultices are also effective on acute, localized skin infections...apply where needed.
- Garlic is excellent for drawing out infections and toxins, and promotes healing. Slices of garlic can be applied directly to the skin for treating such things as warts, infected wounds, skin cancers, etc. To avoid burning yourself, be certain to apply a thin layer of oil to the skin before the garlic.
Heinerman's Encyclopedia of Healing Herbs & Spices by John Heinerman
Food: Your Miracle Medicine by Jean Carper
Herbal Antibiotics by Stephen Buhner
Practical Herbalism by Philip Fritchey
The Green Pharmacy Herbal Handbook by James Duke
Nutritional Herbology : A Reference Guide to Herbs by Mark Pedersen
Herbs for Health and Healing by Kathi Keville