Mother Earth Living

Ancient Herbs, Modern Uses: Garlic

The Herbrews have have relied on garlic for for centuries.
By James A. Duke, Ph.D.
December/January 2009
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The use of garlic to increase virility may be more than just an interesting bit of folklore or ritual.
Peggy Kessler Duke


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Allium sativum
—Numbers 11:5–6
Used for: Angina, cancer, colds, diabetes, flu, hypertension, infections

Believing that garlic increases virility, Hebrews have relied on the herb to be able to “be fruitful and multiply” as directed in Genesis. According to the Talmud, there are five properties to the garlic that many Jews consumed on Fridays (Shabbat).

1. It keeps the body warm.
2. It brightens the face.
3. It increases semen.
4. It kills parasites.
5. It fosters love and removes jealousy.

Why Fridays? After the women’s ritual Friday bath, or mikvah, the men could make love to their wives (with consent, of course).

The use of garlic to increase virility may be more than just an interesting bit of folklore or ritual. Garlic has a high content of free amino acids dominated by the amino acid arginine. Arginine is used by the cells that line the artery walls to manufacture nitric oxide, which facilitates blood flow to the penis. Without nitric oxide, erections are impossible.

Medicinally, garlic juice was prescribed to treat intestinal infections, respiratory ailments, snakebites, melancholy and hypochondria. Today, medical research has identified the phytochemicals that support many old wives’ tales. For example, garlic contains the active ingredient ajoene, reported to inhibit platelet aggregation in arteries. Garlic juice contains allicin, an antibiotic and antifungal compound. Around the world, folk remedies for headaches, tumors, and fungal and bacterial infections include inhaling vapors from the garlic stalk, applying a poultice made from the bulb or massaging with an ointment made from garlic roots.

Garlic’s anticancer and antitumor reputation is no less stellar. Allicin, a powerful antibiotic, has been isolated as the silver bullet that protects the body from carcinogens and bacteria. It also facilitates healing, lowers blood sugar and alleviates hypertension. If spinach gave Popeye the strength of 10 men, garlic gave 100,000 pyramid builders their strength for 30 years.


Click here for the original article, Ancient Herbs, Modern Uses.

James A. Duke, Ph.D., is one of the world’s foremost authorities on botanical medicine. He is author of  The Green Pharmacy (Rodale, 1997) and Amazonian Ethnobotanical Dictionary (CRC, 1994). 

Adapted with permission from Herbs of the Bible: 2,000 Years of Plant Medicine by James A. Duke, Ph.D. 








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