Medicinal uses of garlic
By Joseph Alton, M.D. and Amy Alton, A.R.N.P.
Issue #134 • March/April, 2012
Up until about 50 years ago, nature was our medicine chest. Nearly every community had a natural healer or midwife who had studied plants and their use in healing. Medicinal gardens were part of the landscape. The healer knew which plants that grew naturally around the community had medicinal properties.
One of the greatest gifts of natural medicine that can be found on this earth is garlic, or Allium sativum. It has been used as a natural remedy for thousands of years. It has antibacterial, anti-fungal, and anti-viral properties. It is also an antioxidant and an immune stimulant.
Medicinal uses for garlic
Garlic contains volatile oils of allin, allinase (the enzyme that converts allin to allicin when garlic is crushed), and allicin, sulphurous compounds (like diallyle disulphide), selenium, and vitamins A, B, C, and E. The volatile oils and sulphurous compounds are responsible for both its pungent odor and its medicinal properties. Organically-grown garlic tends to have a higher sulphur level, and therefore, a stronger medicinal effect. Garlic has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects that fight a variety of ailments.
Garlic has been used to help combat cardiovascular disease. It may decrease and prevent atherosclerosis by inhibiting the stickiness of platelets and blood clot formation, and by lowering cholesterol. Garlic decreases cholesterol and thins the blood flowing through already narrowed vessels. It’s this action that may lower the incidence of strokes or heart attacks in people who eat garlic daily. A word of caution to those taking daily aspirin or anti-coagulants: Because garlic can increase clotting times, do not add too much garlic to your diet.
Garlic may also decrease triglyceride levels while raising good cholesterol levels known as HDL. Again, there are both positive and negative studies regarding garlic’s influence on the levels of cholesterol, triglycerides, and HDL. Diet and exercise are your primary tools for the prevention of heart disease.
There are conflicting studies regarding the issue of garlic’s effects on blood sugar levels. Type 2 diabetics are known as “diet-controlled” and may or may not be taking additional glucose-lowering oral medications. The addition of garlic to the diet may help type 2 diabetics gain better control of their fasting blood glucose levels and offer other health benefits with its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects.
Garlic is known to be antibacterial, and was even studied by Louis Pasteur in 1858. In an experiment he placed cloves of garlic in a petri dish of bacteria and later noted that the bacteria were killed in the areas surrounding the garlic. Garlic is a broad-spectrum antibiotic alternative for many bacterial infections and will not lead to “super bugs” like MRSA (Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) that are now rampant, especially in hospitals. Before antibiotics were readily available, wound care for victims during both World Wars included the use of garlic application. Garlic is still effective for the treatment of lacerations and cuts, and infected wounds.
The effect of garlic on fungal infections is possibly even stronger than against bacteria. Extracts of garlic have a strong suppressive effect on fungi in the soil. Yeast infections in humans, such as Monilia, are also eliminated or greatly reduced. This makes garlic especially useful to the healer since there are fewer antifungal alternatives than antibacterial. There is also a lack of significant side effects.
Unlike most herbs, studies have shown garlic to have a direct effectiveness against viruses. There are no known antibiotics that will destroy a viral infection. Colds and influenzas can cause miserable symptoms, and some flu cases can be fatal. Garlic probably works in a two-pronged attack on viruses, both directly and by stimulating your own immune defenses to fight harder. Ingesting fresh garlic may decrease the duration of a viral illness. It is thought that taking garlic before exposure to a virus will lessen your chance of getting the infection in the first place. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
How to use garlic as a medicinal remedy
The best garlic remedy uses fresh, uncooked, crushed, organic cloves — used in a warm tea or mixed with raw, unprocessed honey. Fresh garlic juice may also be utilized. Garlic also is found as a powder and a pearl or capsule of garlic oil. There are also garlic extracts or tinctures. For use of garlic in small children, it is best to simply rub raw crushed garlic on the bottoms of their feet and then apply socks.
To combat high levels of cholesterol, triglycerides, and blood sugar, maintain a regular daily intake of one to three fresh cloves of garlic. To make the garlic more palatable, mix with raw honey or place the chopped garlic into capsules for swallowing. Watch for unpleasant digestive symptoms and decrease garlic intake as needed. Ginger tea is helpful to reduce gastric upset due to garlic use.
For internal bacterial (including bladder and kidney), viral, or fungal infections, parasites, or for respiratory congestion (to decrease tissue inflammation), consider fresh garlic tea or syrup with honey. You can also use the garlic tinctures or capsules; however, fresh garlic is always the best choice. Garlic is readily absorbed into the lungs, as evidenced by the odor of “garlic breath.” This action makes garlic a powerful treatment for respiratory infections. Sore throats are best soothed with a warm garlic tea and a spoonful of raw honey.
For prevention or treatment of wound infections, you can use cool compresses of garlic tea, honey garlic syrup, fresh minced garlic, or garlic oil in place of a triple antibiotic ointment. Cover the wound or laceration with sterile gauze dressing. Change the covering and reapply the garlic remedy once or twice daily.
Ringworm can be treated with the use of fresh minced garlic and a loose non-stick dressing for 1-2 hours only, daily for 14 days. If the fresh garlic is too painful, try applying garlic tincture daily and covering with a non-stick dressing for 14 days. The garlic tincture does not have to be removed after 1-2 hours. Ringworm infections can take a long time to heal, continue treatment for at least one week after the infection appears resolved.
Treating warts can be difficult at best. To combat a stubborn wart, use one slice of garlic and apply directly to the wart, rub some olive oil around the margins of the wart to decrease skin irritation, and cover the garlic with a dressing or Band-Aid type covering.
A single, peeled clove of garlic wrapped within gauze and placed inside of the vagina for 8-12 hours may cure vaginal yeast infections. Remove the gauze and garlic, and replace both with new ones. Repeat this for two days.
Ear infections have been cured with a slice of fresh garlic clove wrapped in gauze and placed just inside of the ear. Cover the ear with a cotton ball and secure gently with a piece of paper tape. Change the garlic and gauze every 6-8 hours, until the earache is gone. A couple of drops of warm mullein oil mixed with garlic oil and placed in the ear canal is also known to speed healing of an ear infection.
Boil 4 cups of filtered water, and cool slightly. Add 4-5 cloves of finely chopped or crushed organic garlic, fresh lemon juice and raw, unprocessed honey to taste. Drink 3-4 cups daily, either warm or cold, but do not re-boil the solution (it will neutralize the healing properties).
Honey garlic syrup:
Crush ½-1 clove garlic and place on a tablespoon. Pour raw, unprocessed honey onto the spoon. Ingest the spoonful of honey garlic syrup, every 4-6 hours, as needed.
Fresh garlic juice:
Juice only enough cloves to produce ¼-1 teaspoon juice. Mix with raw honey or fruit juice to taste. Take every 4-6 hours, as needed.
Chop enough garlic to make one cup full. Pour into a Mason jar. Add 2 cups vodka or grain alcohol (or vinegar) and screw the lid on. Write the date on the jar.
Shake the jar daily for 2 weeks. After 2 weeks, strain out the chopped garlic and store the tincture in dark labeled bottles, located in a cool dark area. Use 5 drops, 4 times daily as needed.
A working knowledge of medicinal herbs will be essential for anyone trying to stay healthy in these uncertain times. They are weapons in your medical arsenal; don’t hesitate to use every option available in your efforts to maintain your medical well being, and that of your loved ones.
Joseph Alton retired after more than 25 years as an Obstetrician and Pelvic Surgeon. Amy Alton is an Advanced Registered Nurse Practitioner and a Certified Nurse-Midwife. Dr. and Ms. Alton are both Master Gardeners for their state and grow extensive medicinal herb and vegetable gardens.
As “Dr. Bones and Nurse Amy,” they host a radio program called Doom and Bloom™. Their website is www.doomandbloom.net.