Garlic – Herbal Workhorse

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Sprouting garlic, covered with wire to keep cats out of the bed.


Garlic, in my opinion, doesn’t get nearly the respect it deserves. While pretty much everything that grows on the face of the earth has some sort of constituent that is useful to humans, I think garlic is pretty much at the top of the list. It’s easy to grow, it stores well on the shelf, it comes in different flavors/varieties and even if you have to buy it at the store, it’s inexpensive.

The Basics

A member of the allium family, garlic contains several volatile oils: allin, allinase and allicin. When crushed, allinase (an enzyme) converts allin to allicin. In addition, this onion relative is high in various sulfur compounds. It’s the combination of the volatile oils and the sulfur compounds that give garlic both its pungent odor and its medicinal properties. Organically-grown cloves are much higher in these constituents than conventionally-grown cloves. Garlic is also a source of selenium and vitamins A,B,C and E.
Allium sativum is an immune stimulant and antioxidant. It has anti-inflammatory effects and is directly antibacterial, antiviral and anti-fungal. It can also have anticoagulant effects, as some folks who take medicines like Coumadin have found out the hard way. There are some studies that show garlic can help lower blood sugar. However, others show no effect, so the jury’s still out on this one. Not to mention that it really enhances the taste of a wide variety of foods. The only disadvantage to cooking the humble clove is that it is much less effective medicinally.
Garlic was one of the ingredients in the infection remedy found in Bald’s Leechbook. Pasteur was the one who proved garlic’s antibacterial effects. In 1858, Pasteur placed cloves in Petri dishes of bacteria. Each clove subsequently developed a clear ring around it where the bacteria had died. In both WWI and WWII, doctors applied garlic to soldier’s wounds to prevent infection. Unlike antibiotics, this herbal “antibiotic” does not seem to produce resistant organisms. It can also be used for ringworm (although I think tea tree oil works faster and better), vaginal yeast infections, urinary tract infections and respiratory infections.

Garlic is an important ingredient in Fire Cider.

Medicinal Preparations

You want fresh, uncooked, crushed cloves. Organically grown are preferred. You can also buy powder and granules or capsules, but they are not as effective.

  • Fresh Garlic Juice
    Juice only enough cloves to produce ¼-1 teaspoon juice. Mix with raw honey or fruit juice to taste. Take every four to six hours.
  • Garlic Tea
    Boil four cups of water (rain, spring or filtered water is preferable) and cool slightly. Add four to five cloves of finely chopped or crushed garlic, some fresh lemon juice and raw, unprocessed honey to taste. Drink three or four cups daily, either warm or cold. Heat just a little; do not bring it to a boil. Good for internal bacterial, viral and fungal infections.
  • Garlic Tincture
    Chop enough garlic to make one cupful. Pour into a mason jar. Add 2 cups vodka or grain alcohol (or vinegar) and screw the lid on. Write the date on the jar. Shake the jar daily for 2 weeks. After 2 weeks, strain out the chopped cloves and store the tincture in brown or cobalt glass bottles. Store in a cool dark place. Use five drops, four times daily.
  • Honey Garlic Syrup
    Crush a clove and place on a tablespoon. Pour raw, unprocessed honey onto the spoon. Swallow a spoonful of honey garlic syrup every four to six hours. Good for internal bacterial, viral and fungal infections.
  • Useful Applications

    For topical treatment of wound infections, use any of the above. Wash the area well with soap and water as soon as possible after the injury. Apply the garlic remedy and cover with a sterile dressing. Reapply dressing and remedy once or twice a day.
    For ringworm, apply fresh chopped garlic under a dressing for one or two hours a day. Repeat daily for two weeks. Or use garlic tincture – apply and leave on under the dressing until the next day. Continue the treatment for at least one week after the skin looks clear.
    Apply a fresh slice of garlic to a wart and cover with a band-aid. A little olive oil on the skin around the wart can prevent irritation.
    Peel a clove of garlic, wrap in gauze and place it in the vagina like a tampon to clear a vaginal yeast infection. Leave in eight to 12 hours before removing; repeat the following day.
    Warm a mixture of garlic oil with mullein oil; put a few drops in the ear canal for ear infections. You can put a cotton ball over the ear and tape in place to prevent the oil from running out.
    Then there are the garden uses. For example, plant it among your roses to help keep down aphids or make your own bug spray with garlic and hot peppers.
    Let’s hear it for the humble clove.

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    Pandemic – the Cassandra Factor

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    I hate being right about COVID-19. I expect Cassandra probably regretted being right about the Trojan War. Mind you, I don’t expect that I’ll be raped and murdered as she was (which might have been another reason for her regrets at her accuracy). But I digress.
    OK, COVID-19 is here. There is at least one confirmed case in my own county. We have three possible exposures among patients at our clinic, two of whom are in quarantine or self-isolation. If you want to see what it looks like in the world today, check this map. In particular, look at Europe – we are where they were three weeks ago.
    The thing you need to know about this virus is that it’s exponential spread. That means one person infects at least two more, those two infect at least two each: 1-2-4-8-16-32 and so on. It is unquestionably spreading in communities. Many people think they have a cold or the flu, so they aren’t self-isolating. Big gatherings are continuing. Mexico just made the unutterably stupid mistake of allowing a big music festival. People can spread the virus without having symptoms (asymptomatic spread).
    Here’s what I think you can expect, in no particular order:

  • 1. Depleted store shelves, particularly for things like hand sanitizer, bleach, rubbing alcohol, food and toilet paper. Of all those, toilet paper seems to be the one in most demand. Seems a little silly to me. Go to the Salvation Army store and buy about three dozen old tee shirts. Cut into large rags – probably about four per shirt. Put a covered bucket in the bathroom filled with a solution of one gallon water to one cup vinegar (don’t use bleach, it’ll destroy the fabric). Use the rags to wipe, flush the toilet. Put on a rubber glove (keep them in the bathroom and don’t use for anything else). Rinse off solids with another flush and put the rag in the vinegar bucket. Every other day or so, wash the bucket in hot soapy water in the washer. This is how us oldsters handled cloth diapers, which I suppose the younger generations thinks an antiquated practice. But it works.
  • 2. Difficulties in getting COVID-19 tests, ranging from minor to severe. There simply aren’t enough tests – I don’t care what the politicians are telling you. Not to mention that many people in the medical profession aren’t going to order one unless you meet specific criteria, which vary by county and organization. In my own county, public health is only testing health care workers. Since people aren’t getting tests, no one has any real idea how many infected people are walking around. That’s why infections are exploding all over the world.
  • 3. Cancellation of various gatherings and activities – church, seminars, rodeos, meetings, concerts, local and national events.
  • 4. School shutdowns at all levels (and the sooner the better in my opinion).
  • 5. Travel restrictions within the US and probably your town – certainly in cities. I expect New York and Washington to be the first states to lockdown, probably followed by California. Did I hear someone say, “They can’t do that!”? Oh yes, they can. The formal declaration of a pandemic and the emergency declarations being made by states and counties legally confer some pretty sweeping powers on the local and national authorities to control the spread of an infectious disease.
  • 6. Expect that you will be ordered to stay home unless you work in a vital field: health care, fire protection, law enforcement.
  • At the same time, spring is bursting out all over (except for the several feet of snow that just got dumped in the Sierra Cascades near me). My fruit trees are blooming, I have daffodils out and the early potatoes, lettuce, asparagus and such are above ground. Since so much of the rest of my life right now is filled with not-good things, I’m trying hard to focus on the good stuff. Be careful out there – take precautions like wearing a mask even if people laugh at you or say they aren’t necessary. We’ll get through this, but there will be a cost.

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    COVID-19 – Anatomy of a Pandemic

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    Oh, but wait, it’s not really a pandemic because WHO hasn’t made the official declaration. This despite confirmed COVID-19 infections in 62 countries, with infectiousness and lethality higher than the annual flu that is supposed to be so much more serious. I would not be a bit surprised to find that WHO delays on the official pandemic declaration until July, when the “pandemic bonds” mature. There’s about $425 million at stake there. If WHO declares before then, it’s probably going to be because even an idiot can see that they are playing politics, and the pressure will be too much for them. And no, I’m not really all that cynical, but I am realistic.
    So is it a pandemic? The official definition (found on WHO’s website) is “an epidemic occurring worldwide, or over a very wide area, crossing international boundaries and usually affecting a large number of people.” Transmissibility and disease severity don’t enter into this definition, although it’s clear we have both with COVID-19. By the way, as of this writing, the US has had its first death (Washington state).
    How good is the data? Mind you, it’s pretty clear there are plenty of people who have the disease and have not been tested, so they aren’t included in the official numbers. It’s also clear that the infections are spreading in the general population among people who have not traveled or been in contact with anyone who has been officially diagnosed. Another safe bet: the numbers in the US are way under-reported because so little testing is being done. Yet another: since several of those either confirmed or being tested worked or lived in places like schools or university dormitories, we can expect to have outbreaks in those institutions. There’s one “under observation” in Washington, a nursing home in which staff and patients have a respiratory illness. And yet one more: The US health care system cannot handle the kind of pandemic occurring in China – we don’t have enough hospitals, enough beds, enough equipment or enough care providers. And we are already facing shortages of supplies and medications.
    At this point, you should be prepared for lock-downs – especially in cities – home quarantines, school closures, travel restrictions (already happening), cancellations of events with lots of attendees and shortages of food, medicine, basic supplies. Oh, and let us not forget the economic impact on a society and world already deeply in debt.
    But COVID-19 is not really a pandemic…

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