Herbal Monograph: Garlic

Posted by Emily Rubeo on

Garlic! Another great herb during cold and flu season (and all year round!). One I love to grow lots of every year in my garden. Garlic is a strong aromatic herb that combines very well with other herbs to combat bacterial and fungal infections and hypertension.
Common name: Garlic, Stinking Rose, Russian Penicillin
Botanical name: Allium sativum
Parts used: Bulb and scape
Energetics: Warming and drying.
Taste: Pungent
Key constituents: Amino acids (arginine, glutaminic acid, glutamine leucine, lysince, valine, aspartic acid and tryptophan), Alliin (converts to allicin when the bulb is crushed), volatile oils, sulfur compounds (over 33), selenium, potassium, magnesium, calcium, choline, phosphorus, vitamin A, B and C and omega 6 and omega 3 fatty acids.
Plant properties and actions: Anti-bacterial, anti-coagulant, anti-fungal, antiseptic, aromatic, alterative, decongestant, hypotensive, cholagogue, stimulating expectorant and diaphoretic, immune modulating and circulatory stimulant.
Plant uses & indications: Hypertension, fungal infections, athlete's foot, bacterial infections, optimizing cholesterol levels, ear infections and aches, cold, flu, bronchial congestion, small intestinal bacterial overgrowth, digestion, asthma, dysentery, cancer, parasites, type 2 diabetes, insulin resistance, gas, gum disease, ulcers
Medicinal properties:
    Infections and illness: Garlic aids and supports the body in ways that no other herb can match. Allicin is the most often cited phytomedicinal in garlic, however the bulb actually contains over 70 active constituents. The broad range of therapeutic benefits have been demonstrated in over 2000 studies. It is a very effective antimicrobial and acts on bacteria, viruses and parasites of the alimentary tract. Garlic is very useful for infections of the respiratory system such as chronic bronchitis, catarrh, recurrent colds and influenza. The volatile oil of garlic is largely excreted via the lungs. Generally, garlic may be used as a preventative against many infectious conditions, digestive as well as respiratory. One study compared children taking long release garlic extracts to those taking a pharmaceutical drug to ward off upper respiratory infection. Those using the garlic had two to four times reduction in illness. Garlic has even been found to be effective against some antibiotic resistant strains of bacteria. Unlike antibiotics, garlic doesn't indiscriminately wipe out all bacteria in the body.
Garlic breaks up lung congestion and addresses ear infections while also modulating the immune system. Studies have shown that it increases killer cells in the immune system, reduces inflammatory cytokines and decreases specific pathogens such as streptococcus and Candida albicans. Garlic's warming and pungent properties break up mucous in the body making it great for cold and flu symptoms that have feelings of coldness and congestion on the sinuses and lungs. Garlic also can be used topically to fight infections of all kinds. Infusing with honey is a great way to do this.
   Digestive Health: Not only is garlic delicious but it serves important functions for digestion. It is a wonderful carminative herb and helps with stagnant digestion, bloating, painful gas and constipation. Garlic contains inulin, an important prebiotic that feeds healthy flora in your gut. Garlic is thought to help the development of beneficial bacteria in the gut while killing pathogenic organisms. Disrupted gut flora has been linked to a wide variety of health issues. Do you notice how the scent of garlic lingers on someone's breath and body for quite some time? This is actually part of its medicine. Once crushed, Garlic produces alliin. When you eat it, your body metabolizes the allicin into other compounds and the only way to fully metabolize and eliminate them is through your bloodstream, which releases them through your sweat and lungs. Brilliant. 🙂
    Cardiovascular Health: As far as cardiovascular health, garlic has a wide range of effects. This stinky herb is likely the premiere plant for virtually any heart or circulatory condition. It lowers blood pressure, reduces serum cholesterol and triglyceride levels while raising high-density lipoproteins. It impedes LDL's ability to oxidize into plaque. Nine different substances in garlic also thin the blood and deter its tendency to clot.
Safety: Garlic is regarded as generally safe. Those with gastrointestinal sensitivities or ulcers may find garlic aggravates their condition. Use only culinary amounts if on blood thinners or during postpartum period. Avoid large amounts prior to surgeries.
Growing Garlic: Garlic is pretty easy (and fun!) to grow. It does well in well-drained, fertile and loose soil. Plant single cloves with their pointed ends up about 6 inches apart and 2 inches deep. Plant garlic in the fall for a late-summer harvest or in very early spring for a late-fall harvest. Harvest the bulbs when the blooms have died back and the leaves begin to fall over.

Adult Dose

Dietary use is the most common way to incorporate garlic into the diet. Chopped fresh garlic incorporated into hummus, guacamole, soups, stews, and any other delicious ways it can be fit into the diet is the best for daily use. If a person prefers to avoid the taste or smell of garlic they can use the following dosage instructions: Prophylactic: 1 clove a day, 3 cloves a day during an acute infection, or 1 capsule of dried powdered garlic a day, 3 capsules a day during active infection. Enteric-coated capsules: Capsules with a dosage of standardized garlic powder (6 mg allicin yield) are recommended 600-900 mg/day. Dosage information from Medical Herbalism by David Hoffmann (2003).

Given all these amazing applications, it now won't surprise you to find where we use garlic in our products at Handmade by Bumble and in our home.
 
References:
Hoffman, David. Medical Herbalism
Easley, Thomas and Horne, Steven. The Botanical Safety Handbook, The Modern Herbal Dispensatory: A Medicine Making Guide
De La Foret, Rosalee. Alchemy of Herbs
Gladstar, Rosemary. Medicinal Herbs
The Herbal Academy

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