Garlic in History

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Garlic plays an important role in our nutrition. I add garlic as a flavouring agent to most of our dishes, including: pasta sauce, stuffed peppers, baked fish, cabbage rolls, etc. Very rarely do we eat it as a vegetable, unless with our all time favourite red pepper salad. If you haven’t combined fresh garlic with roasted red peppers, give it a try and see if you like it. I find it delicious, but maybe that’s just me. I like the pungent taste of garlic.  

Red Pepper Salad Recipe Here is a quick recipe for those that are interested: roast and peel Carmen (sweet, bull’s horn type) peppers. Garnish them with olive oil, vinegar, salt, and fresh, minced garlic! And that’s all there is to it! If you want to add some Feta cheese and a slice of whole grain (or corn flour) bread to your salad, you’ll have a complete meal!

Back to my topic: 

Have you ever wondered how garlic was used throughout history? Did you know that a lot of medical research links garlic to a number of health benefits?

This morning, while making a beef and vegetable pasta sauce, I noticed that I’ve added a lot of garlic to my recipe. Suddenly it hit me: I always use a lot of garlic in my cooking! So what, I thought, there can’t be any harm in that! Garlic has been around for thousands of years and we often hear about the benefits of consuming it. But, really, when did we start consuming garlic? How was garlic used in the past? As soon as I was done working on my pasta sauce, I was on my computer researching my topic of interest and here’s what I found:

  • Garlic is incredibly nutritious. It’s rich in vitamin C, B6, and Manganese.*
  • It’s a natural antibiotic against MRSA infections (Jundishapur Journal of Microbiology)
  • Garlic has been used as an antiseptic, antibacterial, and antifungal agent. (Stanford Children’s Health)
  • Garlic can help you effectively fight cold and flu symptoms.*
  • Garlic is known to reduce blood pressure.*
  • Garlic contains antioxidants and is believed to reduce cholesterol levels.*
  • Finally, my own research suggests that garlic (if consumed raw) can, and very effectively, be used as a social distancing tool, when you’re in a desperate need of one (especially nowadays!). 😃

*Various Sources

Garlic throughout history: (source: The Journal of Nutrition)

  • Working class in ancient Egypt consumed garlic for increase and maintenance of strength. 
  • According to the Bible, the Jewish slaves in Egypt were also fed garlic to give them strength and increase their productivity.
  • In ancient Greece people also associated garlic with strength and well being. Some research suggests that the Olympic Games athletes consumed garlic before their competitions. Also the founder of modern medicine, Hippocrates (460-370 BC), recommended garlic for treatment of various illnesses, including sores and abdominal growths. Cooked garlic was also used as a remedy for asthma.
  • In ancient Rome, as in Greece, garlic was used as an aid to strength and endurance. It was given to soldiers and sailors. Leading medical authorities recommended the use of garlic for artery cleansing. This was one of the first findings to suggest that the use of garlic may help treat cardiovascular diseases! 
  • In ancient China and Japan, garlic was prescribed for treatment of digestive disorders and respiratory illnesses.  Sometimes, it was used to treat depression and anxiety.
  • In ancient India, garlic was used to treat arthritis and heart disease. It was also used as an ointment to help heal cuts, wounds, and infections.
  • In Middle Ages garlic was used to treat constipation and for prevention of heat stroke.
  • During the Renaissance, garlic was prescribed for digestive disorders and to mothers during difficult childbirth. Before this period, garlic was mostly consumed by the working class, but the Renaissance marked some important changes in garlic consumption. The wealthier population of England also began using garlic for various reasons, including: constipation, toothache, and cardiovascular diseases. 
  • To this day various cultures have continued using garlic as a remedy for asthma, cardiovascular diseases, lung diseases and infections. Earlier in history, mostly working class consumed garlic, but that’s not the case anymore. Today, many people, regardless of social status, eat garlic. It is used as a flavour, but also to treat various conditions including those linked to the blood system and heart.

*This is my blog. The information in this blog is brief and intended for quick reading. It is based on my readings and observation notes.  This is not a research paper. 

Written and illustrated by Vedrana Vodopivec
September, 2021