Here’s to Your Health – Garlic Anecdotes – Part Three

Garlic has traditionally been used to enhance the flavour of our food. It has also enjoyed a centuries-long reputation as a medicinal herb with some interesting tales attached to its aromatic tail. Stories of garlic’s involvement in a variety of events are surfacing even now to the amazement of those who hear about them for the first time, and written accounts dating back 5,000 years talk about garlic as a food and a highly sought-after herbal remedy.


Records show that garlic has been used medicinally for at least 4,000 years. The Egyptian Codex Ebers dating to 1550 B.C. recommends garlic for insect bites, heart conditions, headaches and tumours – even worms. The pharaohs thought so highly of the herb that they had garlic entombed with them to accompany them to the afterlife.


Athletes at the first Olympic games at Olympia in Greece used garlic as a stimulant. By today’s ‘standards’ this would surely be viewed as drug-taking. Does this mean that all the ancient Grecian athletics records should be considered null and void?


Mohammed, the founder of Islam, recommended that garlic be used for various ailments.


Pliny the Elder (Gaius Plinius Secundus), naturalist, author and militarist referred to over sixty therapeutic uses for our under-rated aromatic herb.

In ancient times garlic was used by the Greeks, Romans, Egyptians and the Israelites to ward off evil. Greek midwives strung cloves of garlic around the birth room shouting “Garlic in your eyes”! to the newborn child to protect it from evil.


In the Middle Ages garlic was used throughout Europe to ward off the killer bubonic plague. In the English town of Chester in 1665, as the plague was sweeping through the area wiping out the residents wholesale, the only people saved were those who lived in God’s Provident House, a storehouse with cellars filled with garlic; no one living in the house died.

In 1721 in Marseilles, France as yet another plague spread through Europe, survivors were terrified to move the bodies of the dead. Four convicts, sentenced to death anyway, were singled out to do the job and, amazingly, not only did they all survive, but each retired handsomely on his ill-gotten gains acquired from the corpses. It is said that they survived due to their habit of drinking large quantities of red wine in which garlic had been soaked. If you visit Marseilles even to this day you can still buy garlic-laced ‘Four Thieves Vinegar’.

As with most things dating back centuries there is an ‘old wives tale’ from the Middle Ages concerning garlic. According to some medics of the day garlic could cure whooping cough if rubbed on the soles of the feet. It is interesting to note that if you rub garlic on the soles of your feet the herb’s distinctive aroma can be detected on the breath within ten minutes. Who is to say what is an old wives tale, and what isn’t?