The Strength of Garlic

Most people know garlic as a popular ingredient in many delicious dishes, some people know garlic as a way to ward off vampires, but not many people know the power and folklore behind this flavorful bulb.

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Although garlic seems to have originated in Central Asia there are now wild varieties worldwide and it has been grown, used, and consumed for some 5,000 years. For those 5,000 years, it seems it has been a prominent element of folklore and spells. For example, in Indian, it is said the garlic came from a drop of amrita (similar to ambrosia) left behind by the Garuda, a giant bird, while he was sleepy and a little careless. Garuda is said to drive away black magic, negative spirits, evil incantations, and even has the power to remove all poisonous effects in one’s body. The Bowers Manuscript featuring Buddhist medical treatments states that the first garlic in the world appeared where a demon’s blood fell, which seems to give the food a strange power.

And, according to the ever-prolific Pliny the elder garlic and onions were invoked as deities by the ancient Egyptians when they took oaths. This was later supported when archaeologists often found clay garlic bulbs placed in Egyptian tombs and pyramids for the dead to use in the next life.

The Ancient Greeks also treated garlic with an elevated sense of purpose. Those going on long journeys or passing crossroads at night would place or bury garlic at crossroads. Why? As a dinner for Hecate, the goddess of witchcraft, ghost, and necromancy, to gain her trust and protection. They also believed that garlic could use to ward against the gaze of the evil eye. Many ancient Greeks would wear a triangle-shaped amulet containing coal, salt, and garlic to keep the gaze off of them.

As you can see garlic has a long and storied history of being so much more than simply  a ward against vampires. But, of course, it is most well known in the magical world to ward off vampires. The link between garlic and warding off vampires is likely because of garlic’s power against general evil. In addition, garlic is believed to repel bloodsucking insects. Perhaps when rubbing garlic on themselves or putting it around their homes people realized fewer mosquitoes and other bloodsuckers were hanging about. So, if they covered themselves in garlic and it work against mosquitoes...perhaps it could work against much bigger bloodsuckers.

But, perhaps people were onto something when it comes to garlic and its ability to ward off evil. During plague years, many people used garlic to ward off the evil of the disease.  A team of scientists from Washington State University, Pulman, realized that when people believed they were protecting themselves from an evil they really were protecting themselves from disease.

Coauthor Xiaonan Lu writes, "While previous studies have validated that volatile thiosulfinates, a group of intermediate, unstable and volatile bioactive sulfur-containing compounds, have antimicrobial activity against Helicobacter pylori, our result demonstrated that the garlic-derived organosulfur compounds have the potential to be used as antimicrobial agents."

The focus of this study was on Campylobacter jejuni, which is known to be the most prevalent cause of bacterial food-borne illness in the world. It caused symptoms that often been linked to vampirism such as abdominal cramps, fever, diarrhea, and leukocytes. So, the history of using garlic to fight “evil” which was linked to disease actually has a grounding in science

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