Garlic Garlic (Allium Sativum) is not only one of the oldest herbs but one of the most valued plants. It has been used extensively not only in cooking but it has been prized for at least 5000 years for it's medicinal, healing properties. In fact in ancient civilisation the strong potent qualities of garlic were thought to have supernatural powers. Garlic has long been known to reduce blood cholesterol levels and that possibly the plant can reduce the risk of further heart attacks in cardiac patients. It is also a stimulant for the immune system and used as an a powerful antibiotic. One of the main characteristics of Garlic is it's strong odour. Allicin gives the characteristic smell. This is largely due to sulphur containing compounds which also accounts for many of it's medicinal properties. These compounds are excreted through the skin and lungs, eating fresh parsley is often recommended to eliminate this odour from the breath after consuming Garlic. If new to using Garlic it is best to use it sparingly to start with. Medicinal Uses of Garlic Before modern medicines and antibiotics Garlic was commonly used to treat wounds and is still widely used to treat antibiotic- resistant infections. Today Garlic is commonly used in the treatment of infections, such as: chest problems, digestive disorders as well as fungal infections like athlete's foot. As already mentioned it is widely believed to be a good long-term remedy for cardiovascular problems, helping to reduce blood cholesterol levels and the risk of thromboses. Garlic can also help to dilate peripheral blood vessels resulting in the lowering of blood pressure. It can also help to regulate blood sugar levels, therefore being helpful with those suffering with late onset diabetes. If used topically, the cloves can be used to treat acne and other skin infections. Extracts from Garlic are also often used in remedies to prevent colds, flu, catarrh and bronchitis and to reduce nasal congestion. For medicinal purposes, Garlic is always best used fresh. How To Use For treatment of acne, warts or verrucas, rub fresh garlic cloves directly onto the affected area. It can also be mashed to make it easier to apply. To reduce high cholesterol, lower blood pressure, regulate blood sugar levels and improve the cardiovascular system, the cloves should be added to the diet on a regular basis. For intestinal parasites, steep 3-4 cloves in water or milk overnight and drink the next day. If the idea of using fresh Garlic does not appeal to you because of the odour, commercially bought Garlic pearls can be taken. However, the less odour they contain, the less effective they are. A word of warning, Garlic is very heating and can irritate the stomach. While safe to use in cooking, do not take Garlic for therapeutic reasons during pregnancy or while breast feeding as it can cause digestive problems such as heart burn. How To Grow Your Own Garlic Garlic is extremely easy to grow and produces numerous bulbs that can transform your cooking as well as be used for medicinal purposes. To successfully grow your own Garlic a warm sunny location is needed to ripen the bulbs. The bulbs need to be grown in rich water-retentive soil, but with good drainage. It can be planted any time from mid-Autumn to late winter, but to get the best yields, planting before Christmas is recommended. Buy a head of Garlic from your local store and split it up into individual cloves. Just before planting, thoroughly rake the top of the soil and add a general fertilizer. Plant them directly into the soil 2 inches deep and 6 inches apart using a trowel or dibber to plant each one with the pointed end upper-most. The tips of the cloves should be hidden just below the surface. Firm the cloves in gently. As Garlic is shallow rooting it cannot compete with other plants such as weeds, so the ground around them should be regularly weeded. An occasional watering during dry spells will improve the yield of your Garlic crop. However, do not water once the bulbs are large and well formed as this could cause them to rot. The earliest varieties are ready from late spring to early summer. You can tell they are ready to harvest when the stems begin to yellow and bend over. Loosen the bulbs from the soil with a fork and spread them out in the sun to dry. They should be stored in a net bag in a cool dry shed. Apart from Garlic's culinary enhancing flavour, it has many medicinal uses and has recently been the study for it's anti-cancer properties. A diet rich in Garlic appears to lower the incidence of stomach, colorectal, breast and prostate cancers. Perhaps the 'old wives tales' about the supernatural powers of Garlic were not so far fetched as people once thought after all.