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Friday, May 11, 2007

Part 3: Garlic, that Oderiferous Lilly

Happy Friday and now we resume our series on garlic. If you missed part 1 or part 2, you might want to check them out now. They dealt with general information and garlic's effects on the body. Today is our third and final installment on garlic, where we will discuss traditional and modern uses, as well as some simple historical home remedies.

The first recorded use of garlic in Chinese medicine dates back to the early 6th century. It has since been mentioned in most major herbals and is currently one of the official drugs listed in the pharmacopeia of the People's Republic of China.

According to Li Shizhen, garlic was introduced into China along with coriander about 2,000 years ago, during the Han Dynasty.

Garlic is considered to taste pungent, to be mildly toxic, and to have warming properties. It is said to act on and benefit the spleen, stomach, and lungs. Its most significant uses in Chinese medicine are as an antibiotic and anti-inflammatory agent in treating bacterial dysentery, amebic dysentary, enteritis (inflammation of the intestines), sores, carbuncles, and the common cold. Other conditions for which garlic is used include whopping cough, internal parasites, pulmonary tuberculosis, bellyache, nosebleeds, and snake and insect bites. The usual daily internal dose of garlic is 4.5 to 15 grams (0.16 to 0.5 oz.), taken as a decoction or eaten raw or cooked. Externally, it is usually mashed and applied directly to the affected areas.

During the past few decades, many clinical reports on garlic have appeared in Chinese national and regional medical or pharmaceutical journals. They have described the successful use of garlic and its preparations in treating numerous illnesses, including amebic and bacterial dysentary, pneumococcal pneumonia, whopping cough, diphtheria, icteric (jaunciced) infectious hepatitis, trachoma, suppurative middle-ear infection, hypersensitive teeth, candidiasis (a fungal infection), head ringworms, and acute appendicitis.

Allicin extracted from garlic is now available in China in capsule or injection form for treating bacterial and fungal infections. It is also used for lowering serum cholesterol and triglycerides for the prevention of atherosclerosis.

The northern Chinese use garlic quite often, but the southern Chinese seem to stay away from it because they don't like the odors it produces. I remember we used to envy the northerners' exceptional ability to resist colds, yet we used to joke about them, saying one could detect a northerner miles away by his garlic odor.

Certainly there is no lack of remedies using garlic. The following includes just a few of them.

For nosebleed that does not stop, a classical remedy calls for external use of garlic. After removing the membranous skin, one bulb of garlic is mashed to a paste, which is then formed into a patty the size and thickness of a U.S. silver dollar. This is taped on the middle of the right sole if the bleeding is from the right nostril, and on the left sole if from the left nostril. If bleeding is from both nostrils, then two garlic patties are used, one for each sole. It is said to produce fast relief, though there is no modern Chinese clinical report attesting to this claim.

To treat diarrhea, a 7th century herbal recipe calls for simply taping mashed garlic on the middle of both soles or on one's navel.

Some Chinese households prepare a garlic wine and have it handy for the cold season. The wine is prepared by soaking three peeled garlic bulbs about 28 g. (1 oz.) each in 180 ml. (6 fl. oz.) of rice wine for at least one month. Then, when one catches a cold, one takes 15 ml. (about one tablespoonful) of this wine before retiring. To minimize the undesirable flavor, sugar dissolved in boiling water can be mixed in with the garlic wine immediately before taking it. It is said to be an effective remedy.

For treating painful snakebites and insect bites, a clove of crushed garllic is gently rubbed on the bitten area.

When a child has a cough that prevents him from sleeping at night, a clove of garlic is cut in half and the cut ends are rubbed gently on his throat. His cough then subsides and this allows him to sleep. Presumably, this could apply to adults as well.

To treat corns, a modern remedy calls for use of garlic and green onion bulbs. One bulb each of garlic and green onion are mashed together to a mudlike consistency. A small amount, enough to cover the corn, is applied and is secured by taping or wrapping. It is replaced by fresh material every two to three days. Some corns are removed after two applications. This remedy should not be used for more than four applications, and it should be discontinued if irritations develop.

Garlic is readily available in grocery stores and supermarkets.

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