Tuesday, 8 February 2011

Garlic as Medicine in the 18th Century.

I am always looking for tried and true herbs and remedies that I can carry in my knapsack when historical trekking. My 18th century gear is also my survival kit so what I carry in foods and medicines is important to me. This article will be in at least two parts, this is part one.
The uses of garlic go back a long way, and dispite not being liked by some and seen as being "unclean" by others, its use as a food and a "cure all" has been recognised by country dwellers and still remains in use as such today.

Pliny's Uses of Garlic

• Keeps off serpents, but after they have bitten, the cloves and leaves are roasted and added to oil to be applied as a liniment
• Repels scorpions and other beasts
• Good for shrew bites and dog bites (as an ointment with honey)
• Effective for healing hemorrhoids "when taken with wine and brought up by vomiting"
• Neutralizes the poisonous qualities of aconite and henbane
• Excellent for bruises, even after they have swollen into blisters
• Useful taken with vinegar for relieving tooth-ache
• Garlic mixed with goose-grease is placed into the ears
• Relieves hoarseness, checks phthiriasis and scurf if taken boiled with milk or beaten up with soft cheese
• Cooked in oxymel (vinegar and honey) it removes tape-worms and other parasites in the intestines
• Mixed with fat, it cures suspected tumors
• Epilepsy may be cured when garlic is taken in food
• Garlic brings sleep
• It improves circulation, making the body of a "ruddier color."
• Garlic acts as an aphrodisiac when taken in wine with coriander  

Garlic. The Pungent Panacea
© 1998 Christopher Hobbs

Gaius Plinius Secundus (23 AD – August 25, 79 AD), better known as Pliny the Elder, was a Roman author, naturalist, and natural philosopher, as well as naval and army commander of the early Roman Empire, and personal friend of the emperor Vespasian. Spending most of his spare time studying, writing or investigating natural and geographic phenomena in the field, he wrote an encyclopedic work, Naturalis Historia, which became a model for all such works written subsequently.

"Garlic is an important medicinal herb that is readily available everywhere, unlike some of the other herbs mentioned on these pages. It is one of the safest herbs, and as such can be taken often. It does, however, have its drawbacks, as we all know. Bear this in mind when using remedies (especially internal ones), and cut back when family and friends start avoiding you.

Garlic does indeed have scientifically-proven medicinal properties. It contains a substance called Allicin, which has anti-bacterial properties that are equivalent to a weak penicillin. It appears that cooked garlic weakens the anti-bacterial effects considerably, however, so don't count on cooked garlic with meals for much in the way of a curative.

Garlic appears to have anti-bacterial and anti-viral properties. The list is long when it comes to its uses as a remedy. This list includes wounds, ulcers, skin infections, flu, athlete's foot, some viruses, strep, worms, respiratory ailments, high blood pressure, blood thinning, cancer of the stomach, colic, colds, kidney problems, bladder problems, and ear aches, to name a few. It is believed to cure worms in both people and animals - try giving the dog a clove of garlic daily (but he's not gonna like it).

For most internal problems, eating garlic raw is probably the most potent way to take it. However, due to the obvious lingering odors associated with this, a tincture can be made by soaking 1/4 pound of peeled and separated garlic cloves in 1/2 quart of brandy. Seal tightly and shake every day. Strain and bottle after two weeks of this, and take in drops - 25-30 a day, if desired.

For cough, flu, and respiratory ailments, make a cough syrup out of garlic. Slice 1 pound of fresh garlic and pour one quart of boiling water over it. Let sit for 12 hours, then add sugar until you reach the consistency of a syrup. Add honey for better taste, if desired.

For sore throat, make a garlic tea by steeping several cloves of garlic in half a cup of water overnight. Hold your nose and drink it.

Externally, garlic is a known anti-bacterial and anti-infection agent. An interesting use for ear aches is to slice a garlic clove, heat briefly in a small amount of virgin olive oil, and let cool. Then use a drop of two in the affected ear (strain the mixture beforehand, of course).

Make an Ointment out of garlic (use cloves instead of leaves, stems, or flowers as described in Ointments) for wounds, cuts, athlete's foot, or any other external skin irritation, fungus, or infection. Also, try a few drops of Oil on a toothache for pain relief."

This is garlic chives which we pick fresh from our garden as we need it. We only use the leaves.

This is garlic that I have just dug up and washed for use in the dinner tonight.

The same garlic with some of the skin pulled off showing the bulbs inside.

Here two of the bulbs have been stripped of the outer skin and washed ready for use. The three above still have the skin on.

PS: Author's Note: DO NOT store garlic in oil for any length of time, as ingestion can lead to botulism poisoning


Hutch said...

I'm always curious as to how to plant garlic. I've bought it at the store before, and planted once the green sprouts started coming, and it has ALWAYS died shortly thereafter. I think the longest it kept alive was about a week. Is it something that's ok to let die, and it just comes back?

Mayo said...

Here's a page that gives natural and home remedies for athletes foot that also work for ringworm and jock itch, which are very closely related. http://www.best-mens-skin-care.com/jock-itch-home-remedy.html

Le Loup said...

Hi Hutch. I can't remember ever having bought garlic for planting. If you leave it in the ground it is said that it rots, but if we do not dig it all up, it just comes back each year.
We save the biggest bulbs for planting, and have never had any trouble with them not growing. I suggest you get on YouTube and search for "growing garlic" and see if there is anything that may help you.


afootinthehills said...

A fascinating post. Thanks