I had an experience with garlic which I would like to share. I am not an expert on garlic, and this may be a bit inconclusive or anecdotal, but I think that garlic can be a very powerful medicine and that we should learn more about it. I am hoping to prevent colds and flus from now on by eating garlic.
Every year I get sick with a flu or cold once or twice, maybe even three times. Usually I get a vague sore throat which is the warning signal, and then I will be very sick for two or three days, and then I'll gradually get better over a couple of weeks. If its really bad, I might take off work the first few days. While it is good to rest, a doctor once told me that you might as well go to work after you're over the worst of it - you can be miserable at home or you can be miserable at work. So its no fun getting sick, but no big deal, nothing to worrry about, its going away soon. Colds and flus are called "self-limiting" illnesses, since they go away by themselves (presumably as the immune system overtakes them). Well, in February of 2008, I got sick with a flu, but it seemed a little different, and it keep getting worse. After a couple of weeks I was getting scared and finally went to see a doctor. The assumed diagnosis was bronchitis, which for reason was rampant at that time. There was a sign on the door at the clinic: "If you have - flu, cold, bronchitis - antibiotics will not help." The doctor was sharp and I quizzed him good. He said that brochitis can be bacterial or viral, most likely viral, in which case the antibiotics don't help (they work only on bacterial infections). I paid extra for a chest x-ray to rule out pnuemonia. Once you have bronchitis, it can progress to pnuemonia. And he prescribed anti-biotics on the chance that it was bacterial. There are ways to test, but it can be expensive and take some time. I had not been to the doctor in ten years (and not for ten years before the last time - one visit in the last 20 years!). Against my better judgement, but in desperation, I took the antibiotics. Later, 3 weeks from the start, I got better, no telling if it was the antibiotics or not. Anyway, this is all just the background story.
Near the end of this ordeal, but still very sick, I happened to be talking on the phone to a guy I was working for, and he revealed that he used to have a radio show in OKC called "Ask the Herb Doctor". So he gave me a lot of info. He said that the dynamic duo for fighting infections is echinacea and garlic. He said that this pertains to all infections - bacterial, viral, and fungal. He said that most people don't know how to dose herbs. He recommended several dropperfuls of echinacea extract a day. He said that if this stuff is good, it will make your mouth numb. And he said to eat 1 to 3 bulbs of raw garlic a day. That's BULBs, not cloves. And if you're having trouble keeping that down, he said to take some ginger, as it is the "downward energy" herb. (You can easily make ginger tea by steeping a few slices of raw ginger in some hot water, or you can even chew a bit of it). I just happened to be on my way to get a bowl of pho (Vietnamese chicken soup), so as soon as I got off the phone I chopped up a few cloves of garlic and took it with me. I dumped this into my soup. Well I'm usually pretty lazy, and who wants to eat raw garlic, so I did not continue with this. I got over the illness pretty soon - either the antibiotics helped or it had run its course. But somehow just hearing about this had made me less scared of this type of illness. Note that 3 bulbs a day is a radical prescription for someone who is already sick and who really wants to get over it. The preferred way to use garlic and echinacea would be in smaller amounts as a prevention. (Also - in case you are really sick - this guy told me to call him back if I needed to and he would tell me how to induce a 104 degree fever with the "cold sheet treatment" to "burn it out" - so there is always a way).
Well like I said, I usually get sick every winter, and of course that often hits around the holidays. Stress is a factor in getting sick and usually we have some increased stress at end of the year. So around Christmas of 2008, I started to feel like I was about to get sick. Now that in itself can be a stress factor. Yikes, I can't be sick, I have to travel to visit the family for Christmas! So I started thinking about garlic. It did not seem appealing to eat large amounts of raw garlic. But then I tried it. I chopped up 5 or 6 cloves, threw a handfull into my mouth, washed it down, threw in another handful and washed it down. Not so bad. And then I started doing that once or twice every day. I also had big plans for New Years Eve and it would not work at all for me to be sick then. So I kept on this for a couple of weeks over the holidays. And I did not get sick. I slacked off on it later. But I now felt confident that I could use garlic to prevent or get rid of a flu.
Later I started to want to research garlic. I got a book about it, and plan to get more. Garlic is easy to grow, and I hope to get around to growing it. I have always used fresh garlic and ginger in cooked dishes and I'm sure that they are healthy as well as tasty, but for medicinal purposes, probably garlic should be raw. One thing I sometimes do is to chop up some garlic and then sprinkle that on some hot food. Probably if you like garlic you can become more able to eat it raw. Some people tell me they just chew up raw cloves. There is no need to do that though, since you can just wash it down, but interesting to note that some people just eat it. I have read that it can be irritating or damaging to the digestive system to eat large amounts of raw garlic. So its good to take that into account.
One of the active healing ingredients in garlic - alicin - is only present if the garlic has been chopped up - this has something to do with oxidation. So this would be a reason not to just swallow whole cloves.
It is true that you might be smelling like garlic if you eat a lot of it. Myself, I'm not so concerned with that. But there are garlic pills which purport to be as effective as raw garlic, but without the smell. Might be something to look into, you can find these in health food stores. I tend to trust the raw garlic though, and that is what I recommend. Also it would be preferable to be getting organic garlic from a health food store or a farmer's market (or your own garden!).
Another thing to consider in all this is the effect of antibiotics on your beneficial microbes. I don't know how garlic figures in to this, whether it has similar effects, or whether it has the advantage of not disturbing beneficial microbes. Anyway, it is advisable to reintroduce healthy bacteria to the body using probiotics after using antibiotics. I have been amazed to hear that we actually have more cells in and on our bodies that are foreign to us than the number of our own cells.
Hopefully I can prevent myself from getting sick with small amounts of garlic. But if I was really sick I would probably try eating up to 3 bulbs a day. I've also heard of people wrapping cloths around their feet with raw garlic in it, so that it is absorbed through the skin.
Also I should note that I don't think it is "normal" to be getting sick on a regular basis and that most people probably are not eating the best diet. I'm not sure that we need to be as radical as to adopt a strict raw or vegan diet, but I think that anytime we get sick it indicates that we are not doing something right. So it can be good to explore diet and health in general. Also, unobstructed energy flow is a major factor in health. This is addressed by practices such as yoga, which works to deal with the allignment of the muscoloskeletal system.
Anyway, maybe I'll have more to say about garlic later. I definitely have the feeling that this is a magic ancient remedy that we need to learn more about and that it will be an important medicine in the future.
Excerpt From Herbal Antibiotics by Stephen Harrod Buhner
Garlic (Allium sativum)
Part Used: The bulb and cloves are used for medicine and food.
Collection: The plant is indigenous to Asia but is now grown throughout the world. The bulb is harvested in early fall when the leaves begin to wither.
Actions: Antibacterial, antiviral, antiseptic, antiparasitic, antiprotozoan, antifungal, anthelmintic, immune-stimulating, hypotensive, diaphoretic, antispasmodic, cholagogue.
Active against: Tuberculosis, Shigella dysenteriae, Staphylococcus aureus, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Candida albicans, Escherichia coli, Streptococcus spp., Salmonella spp., Campylobacter spp., Proteus mirabilis, herpes simplex, influenza B, HIV, and many others. Both gram-positve and gram-negative bacteria.
Garlic, a well-known culinary herb, is thought to have originated in the high plains of west central Asia and has been used medicinally for some five thousand years. This is the most powerful herb for the treatment of antibiotic-resistant disease (followed by grapefruit seed extract). No other herb comes close to the multiple system actions of garlic, its antibiotic activity and its immune-potentiating power.
When the herb is bruised or crushed, garlic produces a byproduct compound called allicin. The odorless, sulfur-containing amino acid in garlic, aliin comes into contact with an enzyme, allinase, and produces a conversion to allicin, which is the primary compound responsible for garlic's strong odor. Allicin, diallyl disulfide, diallyl trisulfide, ajoene (the combination of allicin and diallyl disulfide), and several additional compounds in garlic have all shown antibiotic activity. Extracts made from the whole clove of garlic or separate individual compounds have consistently shown a broad-spectrum antibiotic range effective against both gram-positive and gram-negative bacteria and most major infectious bacteria. Garlic juice diluted to as litte as one part in 125,000 has been found to inhibit the growth of bacteria. Clinical studies, such as one in 1984 by Singh and Shulka, have repeatedly shown that garlic is active against strains of bacteria that are highly resistant to antibiotics. Unlike many herbs, garlic is directly effective against viruses. Garlic is perhaps the most extensively tested herb in the world: in vitro, in vivo, and human trials have shown its powerful effectiveness against bacterial and viral infectious agents.
For stimulating immune function and for lowering blood pressure and cholesterol counts, garlic works well either raw, cooked, or encapsulated. For treating active bacterial infection, it should be consumed either in uncooked form or as juice.
Raw garlic or its juice kills bacterial infection in the gastrointestinal tract as soon as it comes into direct contact with the organisms. When used as a douche, the garlic juice (or even a clove inserted into the vagina) will kill bacterial infection. When used in nose drops, the garlic covers the surface of the nasal passages and sinuses and kills off infections, its action is sure and rapid.
In just a few of the many trials, researchers have used garlic in both humans and animals to successfully treat the four strains of bacteria that cause most of the world's dysentery. Chinese physicians have found garlic exceptionally effective against cryptococcal meningitis and viral encephalitis. African physicians have used it as a primary medicine successfully against amebic dysentery, toxoplasmosis, Cryptosporidium spp., and pnuemocystis spp. American researchers have shown that garlic activates the immune system to help protect the body from infection and when infection occurs, to stimulate the immune system to attack invading bacteria more effectively. Beyond these potent actions, garlic has also shown repeatable and impressive clinical results in the treatment of heart disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, cancer, stress, fatigue, and aging.
If only one herb could be used to combat an epidemic spread of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, this would be it.
Preparation and Dosage
May be taken fresh (as juice or as cloves), in capsules, as tincture, or in
Fresh Cloves: Eat 1 clove up to 3 times a day for prevention. The cloves may be diced and mixed with honey for palatability and to reduce nausea. During acute episodes, 3 to 9 bulbs a day are reportedly being used by some clinicians. (They report that the best way is to juice the bulbs and drink with carrot or tomato juice. Caution: See Side Effects and Contraindications)
Fresh Juice: Juice the bulbs as needed: take 1/4 to 1 teaspoon (1 to 5 ml) as needed.
Capsules: 3 capsules 3 times a day as preventative. During acute episodes: up to 30 capsules a day.
Tincture: Fresh bulb 1:2, in 95 percent alcohol, 40 drops up to 6 times a day.
Food: Lots in everything. Increase during acute episodes.
Side effects and Contraindications
Nausea, vomiting. Many practitioners believe that garlic is most effective as an antibiotic when used fresh, either raw or as juice. Garlic is, unfortunately, exceptionally pungent and acrid in any quantity as a raw herb or as juice. Care should be taken in consuming it in quantity. Though an entire bulb produces little juice, it is exceptionally potent and is, actually, quite a strong emetic even in small quantities. The best approach is to start with 1/4 teaspoon (1ml) in a full glass of something like tomato or carrot juice and work up from there. The juice from one bulb of garlic combined with even 24 ounces (710 ml) of carrot juice causes, at least in me, almost immediate vomiting. From this rather unpleasant beginning I found that frequent doses, from 1/4 to 1 teaspoon (1 to 5 ml) in 16 ounces (473ml) of carrier (tomato juice is pretty good) each hour is a good way to get a large quantity of garlic juice into the system. Caution must be exercised: the quantitites used should be small and increased only as the body shows no signs of adverse reactions. You won't die if you take too much, but you will want to. When you finally do vomit, it will be with exceptional vigor. A growing number of practitioners feel that garlic in capsule form is as effective as fresh or juiced cloves.
Garlic is not suggested for nursing mothers, as it affects the taste of the milk and may interfere with nursing. It is excreted from the body through the lungs; this may irritate loved ones and strangers alike.
Alternatives to Garlic
Wild garlics, onions (though weaker they possess many of the same actions). and (within a certain range) grapefruit seed extract.
The above is excerpted from Herbal Antibiotics by Stephen Harrod Buhner. (pages 33-36). I highly recommend this book and any other books by this author. Among others, he has excellent books on Lyme Disease and Hepatitus C. See below for full bibliographic information. See my Plant Books page for info on some of his other books.
Some Garlic Links
Article on Garlic by Dr. John Christopher - www.herballegacy.com/Garlic_page1.html
Garlic by Gwen M. Porritt - www.herballegacy.com/Porritt_Garlic.html
Garlic by Tammy D. Motteshard - www.herballegacy.com/Motteshard_Garlic.html
A couple of small excerpts from The Book of Garlic:www.trivia-library.com/b/the-book-of-garlic-by-lloyd-j-harris.htm
Garlic Cures - earthclinic.com/Remedies/garlic.html
Ron Engeland - www.filareefarm.com
Some Garlic Books
Growing Great Garlic - Ron L. Engeland
Subtitled: The Definitive Guide for Organic Gardeners and Small Farmers
Garlic is Life: A Memoir with Recipes - Chester Aaron
1996 Ten Speed Press 224 pages (paperback) Out of Print ISBN:0898158060
The Book of Garlic - Lloyd J. Harris
3rd edition 1986 Aris Books 286 pages (paperback) Out of Print ISBN:0201116871
Garlic: The Science and Therapeutic Application of Allium Sativa L. and Related Species Heinrich P. Koch PhD
1996 Williams and Wilkins 329 pages (hardback $) ISBN10:0683181475 ISBN13:9780683181470
Herbal Antibiotics - Stephen Harrod Buhner
Subtitled: Natural Alternatives for Treating Drug-Resistant Bacteria
1999 Storey Publishing 144 pages (paperback $12.95) ISBN10:1580171486 ISBN13:9781580171489
Author's website: www.gaianstudies.org
Covers the top 15 anti-bacterial herbs - Acacia, Aloe, Cryptolepsis, Echinacea, Eucalyptus, Garlic, Ginger, Goldenseal, Grapefruit Seed Extract, Honey, Juniper, Licorice, Sage, Usnea, Wormwood. The author is one of the top herbalists in the world, and has written many other books. His special gift is researching deeply and presenting findings clearly. Garlic gets 3 pages here, and there is a lot of info on those pages.
Healing Power of Garlic - Paul Bergner
Subtitled: The Enlightened Person's Guide to Nature's Most Versatile Medicinal Plant
1996 Diane Publishing 289 pages (paperback $17.00) ISBN:0788167359
Garlic - Nature's Original Remedy - Stephen Fulder, John Blackwood
2000 Healing Arts Press 144 pages (paperback $8.95) ISBN10:0892817259 ISBN13:9780892817252
1991 Inner Traditions 128 pages (paperback) ISBN10:0892814365 ISBN13:9780892814367
And Last But Not Least - A Film About Garlic
Garlic is as Good as Ten Mothers - Les Blank (1980 - 51min)
Director's website: LesBlank.com
Not a very long film, but there is a lot packed in here. One of my top 3 food movies, along with Tampopo and Big Night. A very warm, human film with lots of music and lots of cooking and eating. All kinds of people talking about garlic. Very special. Can be purchased at the director's website (above). (and there might be a torrent around)
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This page revised 02/25/09. First posted 01/29/09. Links checked/fixed 02/25/09.