Garlic: Its History and Benefits

To an Italian, being asked to write about garlic is a joy.  Garlic is important for so many reasons.  It touches so many areas, from the warm social togetherness of sitting around the kitchen table talking with the family while peeling enough garlic for all the day's food to concerns of antisocialness because of the smell people who don’t eat garlic often get after eating it and a whole lot in between.

And it’s true that it can smell really bad because one of the first things garlic does is allow the body to throw off toxins like heavy metals which smell terrible.  If you smell after eating garlic it’s an indicationthat you need to eat a lot more of it and more often.  

The Smell of Garlic

The smell of actual garlic is not unpleasant at all.  But, I understand if  you might not want to smell like a delicious Italian dish.  The secret to eliminating the smell is chlorophyll.  That is why garlic is often paired with parsley. 

Parsley has a lot of chlorophyll and minerals of its own and it offsets the smell.  If you’ll notice, the taste of parsley is barely noticeable, but it does important things in the meal. But if you still have bad breath or body odor, a drop or drops of chlorophyll breath freshener under the tongue or teaspoon from a bottle of chlorophyll you get from the health food store  will do the trick or you could always chew on fresh raw parsley.

Incidentally, garlic does wonders when you hang it in your kitchen as you have probably seen done in Italian kitchens. That braid of hanging garlic is not just beautiful and convenient, it is said to keep down the germ population in the air even if you don’t smell it. In fact, with all the concern about the recent “world situation”, my Naturopathic doctor took to putting an onion in every room in her office.  Onions are in the same family as garlic and although not as strong they do a lot of  the same things. And it’s a whole lot easier getting your hands on an organic onion than on a nice braid of garlic.

Garlic bulbs in a white basket
It is important where you get your garlic and that it be from a relatively clean place. Organic is best because garlic picks up heavy metals and contaminants and it’s best to consume “empty”(clean) garlic so it can pick up these toxins in your body instead of carrying this in. It is worth the extra money to get organically grown. I would imagine that already contaminated garlic would cause one to be more smelly than the clean garlic because those contaminants would be eliminated from the body the same way on top of the person’s own toxic load. At Herbal Roots we get our garlic from certified organic farms.

The Origins of Garlic

Garlic is dear to Italians for sure, but you find it in almost every other culture as well.  It has been mentioned in literature since the very beginning of recorded history. Japanese, Chinese, Indian, Greece, Rome and Egypt to name the most known.  It was so valuable in Egypt that it was used as a currency. Fifteen pounds of garlic would buy a permanent live in worker for life.

Garlic and onions were fed to the laborers that built the pyramids to increase their stamina and strength and keep them from having to have any down time. The Greek historian Herodotus wrote that a description of the amount of garlic, onions and radishes that the workers consumed who built the pyramids was inscribed in Egyptian characters on the Great Pyramid.

Garlic was also put in the tombs of the Pharaohs because it was believed it would keep the evil spirits away protecting them on their journey in the afterlife.

More recently Liz Primeau in her book,In Pursuit of Garlic mentions that some ancient cultures mixed garlic with coriander seed saying it was the best and most effective aphrodisiac.  She suggests grinding the seeds with the garlic cloves and letting it soak in red wine and then “drink up!” That’s the first I heard of that, but Italians are not known for needing aphrodisiacs!

Sometimes there is the occasional earache or parasite worms. My pediatrician who was an old school Italian prescribed garlic to my cousins when they got worms and when I got an earache, and all the pharmaceutical drops did little, he told me to stick a clove of garlic in my ear.  And you know it helped immediately. 

Now I am not telling everybody to do this, but garlic has been used like this in folk medicine for centuries and for a lot more than that.  Its health properties regarding the blood and circulation are legendary. My mother always said garlic cleans the blood and helps you digest your food and get rid of toxins in the body. It suppresses appetite and makes you strong. You can extrapolate for yourself what maladies could be helped by garlic, but we are sticking to the positive aspects here.

I had forgotten that people even thought garlic was powerful enough to ward off vampires.  Some folklore I found suggested that this was because of some people that had a rare blood disorder which made their gums recede and make their teeth look bigger and they also had pale skin and these symptoms were made worse with garlic and sunlight. Sound familiar?  Well which came first?

It’s not too much of a stretch to think a writer could exaggerate that as the basis of a good story and take it to blood sucking to get good blood.  Another source said that Bram Stoker, the author of Dracula got the idea about bloodsucking from garlic’s use as a mosquito repellant since mosquitos suck blood.  Well the mind knows no limits as to where it can be inspired.

The word garlic comes from the Anglo Saxon word gar meaning spear and lic that means plant.  This describes what the plant looks like.  Its leaves are like spears coming straight up out of the ground.

Natural Benefits of Garlic

Garlic is loaded with good stuff. There is plenty of potassium, iron, calcium, magnesium, manganese, zinc, selenium, beta-carotene, zeaxanthin, and Vitamin C.  Zeaxanthin is a yellow carotenoid that gives garlic, corn, saffron and goji as well as many other plants their color and it is also found in the retina of the eye.

We don’t really talk about the properties of garlic in common with other plants like its antioxidant capabilities and vitamin content because they are overshadowed by garlic’s unique health properties. These prized properties are due to its sulfur compounds.  The most prevalent being allicin.

Garlic bulb with stems

Allicin was isolated in 1944 by Chester J Cavallito and John Hays Bailey. That is when Western Medicine started trying to create drugs to mimic the benefits of raw garlic.  This has proven difficult.  Allicin loses most of its effectiveness when cooked.  And probably like in most of Mother Nature’s recipes the isolated substance just doesn’t work as well as the whole.  I am sure there is quite a research path that needs to be traversed before a drug could do what garlic does. 


So in short, garlic has been used to flavor food, improve and safeguard vigor and health and ward off vampires and evil spirits.  I’d say it was a handy thing to have around.  It is a sad thing, but in these modern times many people rarely cook for themselves, but you can still benefit daily from garlic.  And our garlic is dried at low temperature so you will get the effectiveness of all the allicin.  The only ingredients are vegan capsules which are plant cellulose and dried organic garlic.  Click here to get yourself a supply.

Herbal Roots Organic Garlic Supplement


*This article is intended for informational purposes. The statements above have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.



Rosalie Roder got her Bachelors' degrees in Chemistry and Biology from Mary Baldwin University in 1983. After graduation, with that background, her real education on natural health and healing and human potential began. It is a never ending study and she is always happy to share what she has found out so far.