Garlic has a reputation for being something of a cure all, used to help lower cholesterol and blood pressure as well as in the prevention of cancer, diabetes and infection. As a household remedy it can be a saviour. It is a potent antimicrobial – effective against many forms of bacteria, fungi and viruses.
Here are some practical tips to get the most out of your fresh bulb of garlic.
Early Intervention for Ear Infections
Common in early childhood, ear infections often coincide with upper respiratory tract infection. Catarrh, swollen tonsils or lymph glands block the small drainage tube from the ear, the eustachian tube, causing stagnation and middle ear infection – also known as otitis media.
In tests, garlic oil was shown to be more effective than pharmaceutical preparations against a fungal pathogen involved in some ear infections (e.g. Aspergillus) whilst demonstrating a lower toxicity1.
It also effectively inhibits Streptococcus pneumoniae and other common pathogens associated with the disease.
Providing the eardrum has not perforated, a garlic infused oil can be very effective for otitis media.
A few drops of the warmed oil can be dropped into the affected ear to reduce pain and inflammation whilst fighting the micro organisms that cause infection.
To make garlic oil:
- Crush 1 large clove of garlic and place in a small bowl with 2 tablespoons of olive oil.
- Sit the bowl in a pan of boiling water (turned down to simmer) and allow to infuse for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Strain the oil to remove the garlic and allow to cool to just above body temperature. You can add 2 drops of high quality lavender essential oil (ensure it is NOT a synthetic fragrance oil), which will add to the soothing and calming effects of this oil.
- With the head tilted on the side, (lying down on the side can make this easier) place 2 – 3 drops of the warm oil into the ear – test heat on wrist before application. Cotton wool plugs can be inserted into each ear.
Recurrent ear infections are often a sign of excessive mucus production – a defence mechanism of the body. Getting to the heart of the problem is always key.
Candida albicans is a type of yeast that forms a normal part of the gut microbiota. When the microbiota becomes imbalanced (such as following a course of antibiotics, chronic stress or poor diet) Candida can proliferate causing uncomfortable symptoms such as thrush, urinary tract infections and a thick white coat on the tongue.
Garlic has powerful antifungal properties, shown to inhibit and kill superfluous Candida albicans. For this purpose it is best taken raw – crushed and mixed with a little water then swallowed without chewing. Alternatively, blend garlic with a little coriander, lemon juice and olive oil and spoon liberally onto small lettuce leaves which can be eaten frequently throughout the day. Garlic toast would be a no-no for Candida – carbohydrates are its favourite food and studies have shown that it reproduces rapidly following a high carb meal!
Interestingly, Lactobacillus acidophilus – the beneficial gut bacteria – is not susceptible to anti bacterial effects of garlic, so you’re giving it the space to thrive by including raw garlic in your diet.
Chopping or crushing garlic releases an enzyme – aliinase which then converts to allicin. It is allicin that breaks down to form all the beneficial organosulphur compounds.
Heat from cooking can inactivate aliinase so the sulphur compounds can’t be formed. As little as 60 seconds of microwave heating totally destroys all aliinase activity2. To preserve the medicinal properties of garlic it is best crushed and allowed to stand for 10 minutes then added at the end of cooking – better still use raw.
A wild species of garlic called ramsons can often be found in shady woodland areas at this time of year and is easy to identify by its distinctly garlicky smell. It contains the same health promoting compounds as a typical bulb of garlic. The bulb of the wild garlic is very small and insignificant; only the leaves are used for culinary and medicinal purposes, leaving the bulbs to sprout again the following year.
IDENTIFICATION NOTE: Do not confuse wild garlic with Lily of The Valley – a medicinal herb which can be extremely toxic at the wrong dose. Wild garlic has star shaped white flowers and leaves that smell strongly of garlic when bruised.
CAUTIONS: Garlic should be avoided by those taking warfarin, statins or antihypertensive/anticoagulant/antiplatelet medications. Caution with surgery as garlic can thin the blood and encourage bleeding. Diabetics should monitor their blood glucose levels.
Neutralising Garlic Breath
The volatile sulphur compounds in garlic are responsible for the dreaded garlic breath.
Herbs such as fennel, parsley and cardamon chewed after your meal help to neutralise these odours as well as aiding digestion.
Although you can eliminate most of the smell from your mouth, one of the compounds in garlic isn’t broken down during digestion, causing it to be released from the body in the breath and sweat. Just ensure you share your favourite garlicky preparations with loved ones!
The Herbal Clinic, 32 King Edwards Road, Swansea SA1 4LL 01792 474356
- Anne McIntyre, Herbal Treatment of Children p227 Tillotson et al 2001, p417
- K Song & John A Milner, The influence of heating on the anticancer properties of garlic, journal of nutrition, 2001 vol 131 no 3, 10545-10575