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Issue No 98
Spring 2004 
page 21

Roman soldiers ate garlic for fortitude and endurance as they marched into battle. They also fed garlic to their horses for strength.

We remember the fish, which we did eat in Egypt freely; the cucumbers, and the melons, and the leeks, and the onions and the garlic.
- Children of Israel, complaining to Moses in the desert King James Bible, Numbers 11:5

 

 
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Preventive medicine has long proven its worth as a pound of cure. Without the benefit of modern scientific research, our ancestors recognized garlic's protective benefits. The plant was a staple in the Sumerian diet, and it appeared centuries later in early Sanskrit testimonies. Egyptian laborers, who received a daily ration of garlic for strength as they built the pyramids, went on strike when their allotment of garlic grew scarce. Roman soldiers, too, ate garlic for fortitude and endurance as they marched into battle, and they also fed garlic to their horses for strength. The Chinese have used the bulb since at least 2,000 BC.

Just as the medicinal uses for garlic have spanned centuries, so have the beliefs surrounding its magic. Folk wisdom long considered garlic a protection from the "evil eye" and powerful spells. The sorceress Circe couldn't turn Ulysses into a pig because he had eaten garlic for defense. Folks in the Middle Ages believed it a deterrent against vampires, hanging braided garlic in their homes and wearing cloves of garlic around their necks for protection.

An old European tale noted that if a runner chewed garlic cloves as he raced, his victory was assured. In a similar vote of confidence, farmers fed garlic to your pullets to increase egg production. As soon as the hens began to lay, the garlic was removed from the diet for fear the eggs would have a disagreeable garlic odor and taste.

In the Middle Ages, Charlemagne grew garlic for medicinal purposes in his herb garden at Aixla-Chapelle, and in the sixteenth century, Parisians ate garlic with butter every Mary to keep healthy for the rest of the year. In 1722, during the plague in France, garlic figured as the main ingredient in the famous Four Thieves’ Vinegar that kept robbers alive and well as they plundered and stole from the dead. Later, in Victorian England, French priests living in London ate ample amounts of garlic, avoiding disease as they worked with the poor and downand-outs. In contrast, the English clergy, with no garlic in their diet, contracted all sorts of illnesses as they worked in the slums.

More recently, scientific research has confirmed garlic’s attributes. Humble garlic fights bacteria, harbors antiseptic and antibiotic properties, regulates intestinal flora, and acts as an excellent vermifuge. Feeding your dog garlic will help ward off worms, ticks, and lice. Garlic appears to regulate blood sugar and to lower and stabilize blood pressure—not to mention cutting through and dissolving cholesterol, preventing arthritis, detoxifying the body, strengthening the immune system, fighting asthma, and quelling nervousness. Some even consider garlic an aphrodisiac.

The Stinking Rose
Of course, garlic has not only won fans for its prevention and curing of illnesses, but also for the pure pleasure of its taste. Its flavor comes from its oil, which contains a sulfur compound called "allin." When cut or crushed, the garlic

 
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