Garlic has been used medicinally, and as a culinary ingredient, for over 5000 years. World folklore is littered with references to its ability to protect us, such as in ancient Greece, where mid-wives hung cloves of garlic on the windows to ward off evil spirits during childbirth. Ancient Koreans ate pickled garlic before passing through the mountains to keep tigers away as it was believed that they hated the smell. The Egyptians used to swear on cloves of garlic in the same way we swear on the Bible today as an act of indicating an honest testimony. It was so highly valued that 15 pounds of garlic could purchase a healthy male slave. The Greeks also used it extensively: Hippocrates recommended it for infections, wounds, cancer and leprosy; Dioscides for heart problems, and Pliny listed it in 61 remedies for a variety of ailments. Currently in the US and Western Europe, garlic is one of the most popular substances used to reduce various risks associated with heart disease.
Most of garlic's popularity is based on the herb's well-known folk uses and scientific research on the benefits of garlic for heart health. These health promoting benefits may be experienced by using garlic as both a food ingredient and a dietary supplement. Garlic is odiferous, tasty, and medicinal. The first medical textbook known to have discussed the use of garlic in medicine was the Collection of Commentaries on the Classic of the Materia Medica (Ben Cao Zhing Zhi Ju), written over 1,500 years ago.
The traditional use of garlic in herbal medicine has been to kill parasites. It is used by itself for hookworms and pinworms, and in combination with other herbs for other kinds of parasitic infections. Garlic is also antibacterial, antifungal, and cholesterol-lowering. Garlic has a very long folk history of use in a wide range of ailments, particularly ailments such as ringworm, Candida, vaginitis colds, flus, and bronchitis, where its fungicidal, antiseptic, tonic and parasiticidal properties have proved of benefit. The plant produces inhibitory effects on gram-negative germs of the typhoid-paratyphoid-enteritis group, indeed it possesses outstanding germicidal properties and can keep amoebic dysentery at bay. It is also said to have anticancer activity. It has also been shown that garlic aids detoxification of chronic lead poisoning. Daily use of garlic in the diet has been shown to have a very beneficial effect on the body, especially the blood system and the heart. For example, demographic studies suggest that garlic is responsible for the low incidence of arteriosclerosis in areas of Italy and Spain where consumption of the bulb is heavy. Recent research has also indicated that garlic reduces glucose metabolism in diabetics, slows the development of arteriosclerosis and lowers the risk of further heart attacks in myocardial infarct patients. Externally, the expressed juice is an excellent antiseptic for treating wounds.