Garlic (Allium sativum)

Garlic (Allium sativum)

Allium sativum, commonly known as garlic, is a species in the onion genus, Allium.

Its close relatives include the onion, shallot, leek, chive, and rakkyo. With a history of over 7,000 years of human consumption and use, garlic is native to central Asia, and has long been a staple in the Mediterranean region, as well as a frequent seasoning in Asia, Africa, and Europe. It was known to Ancient Egyptians, and has been used both as a food flavoring and as a traditional medicine.


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Ancient medical texts from Egypt, Greece, Rome, China and India each prescribed medical applications for garlic. These cultures/civilizations that never came in contact with one another came to many of the same conclusions about the role of garlic in the treatment of diseases. Garlic was use for labourers for it was believed to be able to help improve their work capacity. Garlic was also recommended for pulmonary and respiratory complaints. Its efficacy in treating dropsy is compatible with known cardiovascular treatments. In ancient Greece, soldiers were fed garlic to provide them with more courage, and garlic was part of the military’s daily diet. During the first Olympic Games, garlic was taken by athletes before they competed presumably to enhance performance. In ancient Rome, the chief physician of Nero’s army recommended garlic to “clean the arteries” i.e. use garlic to improve cardiovascular status. Garlic was also recommended for gastrointestinal tract disorder, treatment of animal bites and for alleviation of joint disease and seizures. In China or Japan, garlic was prescribed to aid respiration and digestion, diarrhea and worm infestation.
During the European middle ages, medicinal use of garlic was featured prominently in The Hortulus manuscript, a leading medical reference text in that time. Garlic was believed to alleviate constipation when consumed with beverages. Workers outdoors were advised to consume garlic to prevent heat strokes. During the Renaissance (mid 1300s), garlic was one of the major plants grown in the “Physic” gardens in leading universities for medical research purposes. The English included garlic in their medicine chests, and it was used for toothache, constipation, dropsy and plague.

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