First, garlic is easy to obtain and widely available. Whether you live in the middle of a thriving metropolis or out in the sticks, obtaining a head of garlic is not a complicated process. Health food stores and mega-supermarkets alike carry it all the time regardless of the season.
Garlic is also one of the most inexpensive herbs on the market. I buy an entire head of high quality, organic garlic from my local health food store for about $1.
Thirdly, garlic is one of the simplest herbs to grow as well. Just plant a few cloves with papery covering remaining in rich soil. Water about once a week (warning; do not overwater as garlic does not grow well in overly moist soil) and fertilize regularly and watch them grow like crazy. The bulbs are ready to harvest ideally after a hot dry summer when the long green stalks, called scapes, turn yellow or brown.
Perhaps it is no coincidence that one of nature’s most useful remedies for human health is not only easy to obtain and inexpensive to buy (even if organic), but also super simple to grow even for novice gardeners.
Garlic: Ancient Medicine Come Full Circle
Before the use of pharmaceutical antibiotics became all the rage post World War II, garlic was regularly used to treat infections and wounds. This herb is one of the oldest recorded remedies used by many ancient civilizations. It is specifically named in ancient texts of the Greeks, Hebrews, Babylonians, Romans, and Egyptians.
Chances are, you already have a head of garlic in your pantry right now. So how to harness it as a powerful natural antibiotic when necessary?
Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride MD, author of Put Your Heart in Your Mouth and creator of The GAPS Diet gives the simplest and most effective how-to I’ve personally used over the years. Read on for all the garlic-y details!
The great thing about garlic is that it can be safely used as a preventative or to resolve an existing illness.
To use garlic preventatively, take one clove a day for as long as you like. While you can take the clove anytime during the day that suits you, I’ve found that just before bed seems to work the best.
Using a clove of garlic per day starting a few days before overseas travel and continuing until your return is a helpful tip for the prevention of food poisoning.
Incidentally, eating a clove of garlic every day is a great way to slowly improve intestinal health. Garlic very effectively kills off a wide variety of gut pathogens including candida while simultaneously serving as a prebiotic food to encourage the growth and survival of beneficial microbes.
Note that pharmaceutical antibiotics only work for bacterial infections. Garlic, however, helps resolve an illness no matter what type of microbes are causing the problem. Hence, it is not only anti-bacterial, but also highly antiviral and works as a very strong antifungal.
When used therapeutically to heal a bacterial infection or viral illness, Dr. Campbell-McBride recommends consuming an entire head of garlic every day until healing has occurred.
The average head of garlic contains 10 cloves! You don’t consume the entire head at once, however.
You consume one clove every couple of hours from waking until bedtime.
If the raw cloves are too hot for you to consume, I would suggest making this recipe for pickled garlic. Naturally fermenting garlic preserves all the therapeutic value while eliminating the heat and odor potential on breath and sweat from eating raw cloves.
The most common mistake people make when using garlic is consuming cloves that have been sitting around in the pantry for too long. Stale garlic may not be potent enough to resolve an infection, so be sure you use a fresh head if at all possible.
Fresh softneck (white) garlic like the kind typically sold at the supermarket has a green shoot running through the middle of the cloves. If the shoot in your garlic head has turned brown or dried out, discard and purchase a fresh head, organic if possible.
Types of Garlic to Use as Medicine
You have no doubt noticed that there are several types of garlic available at the market. All work wonderfully well for antibiotic purposes with the exception of elephant garlic (Allium ampeloprasum).
Elephant garlic heads are large, covering the entire palm of an adult’s hand in some cases. However, the garlic flavor is very bland tasting more like a leek. Due to the less powerful flavor and aroma, elephant garlic has inferior healing properties to other types of garlic. Hence, bypass the elephant garlic and go for the small white, red or purple garlic heads instead when using garlic as medicine.
How to Prepare Garlic Cloves for Swallowing
When consuming a garlic clove for use either preventatively or therapeutically, you can swallow it whole just like a pill. Be sure to remove the papery covering on each clove first. Follow this approach only if the thought of tasting pure garlic is too overwhelming. If taken this way, consume the clove with a glass of milk or with food to prevent the possibility of indigestion.
If the taste of garlic doesn’t bother you, the most potent method for taking a clove is to crush it with a fork or garlic press. Then, let the crushed clove sit for about 15 minutes at room temperature on a small plate or cutting board. This allows the enzyme alliinase to interact with alliin to produce a maximum amount of allicin – the active ingredient in garlic.
Then, scoop up the garlic bits on a spoon and swallow it down chased with water, juice or fresh milk.
The book Healing With Whole Foods suggests other ways to utilize garlic as a natural antibiotic both internally and externally.
Garlic Oil for Ear Infections
If an ear infection is the problem, prepare the garlic clove in a slightly different manner.
Crush the clove and mix with 1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil. Let the crushed garlic sit in the oil for 30 minutes. Strain out the garlic pieces and discard.
Warm the garlic oil in a cup placed in a small pan of warm water. Take care not to overheat the oil else the beneficial properties of the garlic infused oil will be destroyed!
Drizzle a few drops of the garlic oil every hour into the ear that is infected. This is an extremely safe remedy for children. It also serves the dual purpose of softening ear wax buildup for easy removal.
Garlic Tea for Use Internally or Externally
Garlic tea is easily made by simmering 4 cloves of chopped garlic in one cup of water for 20 minutes. This garlic tea can be used topically on the skin for relieving poison ivy and poison oak. It can also be used to heal boils on the skin.
Garlic tea can also be sipped to help resolve internal infections. Please note that garlic tea will not be as strong or effective as eating whole raw, crushed garlic cloves. Cooking garlic reduces its medicinal properties.
Garlic for Colds, Sore Throats or Sinus Headaches
For colds, sore throat, or sinus headaches, hold a clove of raw garlic with the peel removed in the mouth for at least 15 minutes. If this is too hot, use a clove of fermented garlic instead. You can suck on it a bit during that time if you like. Then, chew the clove up and swallow.
Do you use garlic as medicine in your home? If so, what is your favorite way to harness its power?
Sarah Pope has been a Health and Nutrition Educator since 2002. Her work is dedicated to helping families effectively incorporate the principles of ancestral diets within the modern household. She is a sought after lecturer around the world for conferences, summits, and podcasts.
Her work has been covered by major media including USA Today, ABC, NBC, and many others.