Pioneer Thinking: Medicinal Uses of Garlic

Autumn has fallen upon us once again. The garden is largely put to bed, but one of the things I’m out planting at this time of year is garlic. Garlic is, of course, a delicious food staple. In addition to being a food source for thousands of years, garlic has been used as a medicinal plant for nearly as long. It’s medicinal uses have been recorded by the ancient Egyptians, the ancient Greeks, ancient China and Japan, and in India’s two thousand year old Charaka Samhita medical text. So, if you weren’t think about garlic already, get out and plant some!

The following excerpt is from an older article by Pioneer Thinking: 14 Medicinal Uses of Garlic

Garlic and Health

Garlic (allium sativum) is a member of the onion family which has been used for culinary purposes for millennia and in recent years has been labelled a super food.

Unsurprisingly in the four thousand year history of this little vegetable or herb, it has been found to have numerous uses for medicinal purposes.

Open Wounds and Infections

Wounds and infections can be cleansed and treated with a garlic solution. After the wound has been cleaned, grate or pound twenty or so cloves of garlic, being careful to use only clean utensils. Mix it with a little water to make a paste which can be spread over a sterile gauze dressing and applied to the wound. Keep in place with a bandage and leave for two days when the process should be carefully repeated. During World War II, when antibiotics were scarce, garlic was often used in this way to treat wounded soldiers and protect against gangrene and septic poisoning. During the first war, garlic was also widely used to treat dysentery and typhus.

Throat and Ear Infections

Because garlic kills bacteria it works both externally and internally and many people use it to treat throat infections, colds etc. More often than not nowadays, garlic is taken as a supplement in capsule form, but making your own linctus could not be easier. Simply boil a head of garlic gently in water for 2 hours to make a light tea, adding syrup or honey to sweeten if necessary. Strain this and allow it to cool slightly before sipping. Garlic is also soothing and beneficial in ear infections if garlic infused oil is gently massaged around the ear area.

Oral Thrush and Digestive Tract Disorders

For a more palatable flavor, garlic can be mixed with apple cider vinegar and sweetened with honey. This can be sipped, used as a gargle or administered with a teaspoon like cough medicine. The combined properties of garlic and vinegar help to destroy harmful bacteria in the mouth and digestive tract. It can therefore be used to cure mouth ulcers and oral thrush.

Boosting the Immune System

Taken little and often, garlic can help to boost the immune system. The allicin in garlic is similar to penicillin, though not as strong. It is produced when the garlic is finely chopped or crushed, which increases its strength. For internal problems, chewing on a clove of garlic can release the antibiotic properties. However it is important to use only white cloves as the green thread which is sometimes found in the center of a clove of garlic is not only indigestible but is also what causes the notorious and lingering garlic ‘pong’ on the breath.

Athletes Foot and other Fungal Infections

For external fungal infections, such as athlete’s foot, a garlic foot bath is both refreshing and effective. You can make this by crushing 4 cloves of garlic with salt or rubbing alcohol into a foot spa or bowl large enough to hold the feet and soaking the feet in this for half an hour. After thoroughly drying the feet, you can rub the infected area with cotton wool swabs soaked in little garlic oil. A twice daily application should help to clear up the fungal infection.

Counteracting ‘Bad’ Cholesterol

The other ingredient of garlic is diallyl sulphide. This is widely believed to be beneficial in combating LDL (low density lipoprotein) or ‘bad cholesterol’ – that scourge of modern society. The phytochemicals in garlic appear to work in the same way as statin drugs which are often prescribed to lower cholesterol. The benefit of using garlic is that, being completely natural, it has no side effects. Studies have shown that garlic can be as beneficial as a low fat diet in reducing cholesterol and by combining both, levels can be reduced by 20%. 800 mgs of dried garlic or 5-10 cloves of fresh garlic should be consumed daily for best results.

High Blood Pressure

There has also been a lot of scientific interest recently in using garlic to lower high blood pressure. Whilst studies are inconclusive, early signs seem to suggest that garlic can help to bring down blood pressure levels. Garlic can be taken as a supplement along with your normal anti-hypertensive medications or as an extract or distilled garlic oil; 600-900 mg daily is the normal recommended dose, which may sound high, but is relatively small in terms of raw garlic. Fortunately, unlike allicin, the health benefits of the diallyl sulphides are not destroyed by cooking, so including garlic in recipes is the easiest way to help lower your cholesterol and your blood pressure

Stroke

Another worrying lifestyle disease these days, which is often linked to cholesterol and blood pressure, is stroke and once again garlic has been found to be beneficial. This is because garlic is rich in anti-coagulant or blood thinning properties, similar to aspirin. Studies have shown that garlic reduces platelet stickiness which is responsible for hindering the circulation of blood around the body. Increasing your dietary garlic intake or taking garlic supplements (500 mg three times a day) can thin the blood and help prevent the onset of stroke.

Why Garlic Benefits Sufferers of Atherosclerosis

Atherosclerosis, or the build up of plaque in the walls of the arteries, is known to be alleviated by garlic. It works directly by reducing the lipid content in cells of the arteries and thus preventing their dangerous accumulation. Recent studies show that women may benefit more than men by increasing their intake of garlic to prevent thrombosis.

An Essential Role in Diabetes

Diabetes is a frightening disease which is growing in number in the United States. It currently affects between thirteen and fourteen million people. It is a metabolic disorder caused when the body is unable to break down foods properly, causing more sugar to enter the blood stream than the pancreas (which produces a hormone called insulin) can deal with. For diabetics, consuming garlic is invaluable as it reduces blood sugar levels, either by stimulating the pancreas to produce more insulin or by making existing insulin more available or more effective at its job.

The Kidneys and Bladder

The function of the kidneys is to filter the blood and help remove toxins from the body. When they become damaged due to diabetes, hypertension or other medical conditions, they become severely strained and serious problems can kick in. The anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory properties of garlic promote kidney health by eliminating free radical damage and purifying the blood. Garlic is a natural diuretic which means it helps to eliminate excess salt and water through the urine. Garlic therefore is an internal cleanser, helping to flush harmful toxins out of the body.

Respiratory Problems and Lung Disease

The combination of garlic’s antibacterial, antifungal and antioxidant properties, not to mention is high concentration of sulphur makes it extremely effective in combating all manner of respiratory ailments, from bronchitis to pneumonia. Because it acts as an expectorant and a decongestant to clear the lungs, sufferers of chronic bronchitis can benefit considerably from adding garlic to their daily diet.

Anti-Cancer Effects of Garlic

It has been observed for decades that in countries where garlic and onions form a regular part of the diet, the incidence of cancer is much lower, causing scientists to study the link between cancer and nutrition. The ability of garlic to stimulate the gastric juices and restore the intestinal flora is what accounts for its success as a detoxifier and cancer-preventing agent. In the most extreme cases, the best results seen from using garlic to prevent or treat cancer have been from drinking garlic juice or chewing fresh garlic cloves. Stomach cancers have responded particularly well to garlic medications but occasional successes with other forms of cancer, even in the advanced stages, have been claimed.

Worm Infestation

Intestinal parasites are relatively common but extremely distressing and potentially dangerous if left untreated in toddlers and children. Parasites like tapeworms, hookworms, roundworms and pinworms are tiny creatures that find their way into the gastrointestinal tract and sometimes burrow into the muscles. They can cause a whole host of distressing symptoms of varying severity and need to be eliminated. The natural sulphur in garlic helps to expel and eradicate them.

Sagebrush (Artemisia Tridentata) – Medicinal Uses

Recently researching the treatment of infections without antibiotics, my investigations meandered to the – ubiquitous in our area – sagebrush plant, artemisia tridentata. It is mentioned as a boundary medicine wash in Marjory Wildcraft and Doug Simons’ video Treating Infections without Antibiotics (transcript). The following article from the blog Celebrating Gaia’s Herbal Gifts summarizes most of the information that was available around the internet about the medicinal use of sagebrush, Artemisia Tridentata-Big Sagebrush, a Valuable Medicinal Herb. It may be apropos to note that there are also a lot of non-medicinal uses for sagebrush for the preparedness/survival-minded, including for fire-starting, cordage, baskets, pillow-stuffing, insect repellant, paper-making, etc.

IMG_3765

Sagebrush Country

I live in the big sky country,  the high desert of Central Oregon.  Everywhere I look I see Big sagebrush (Artemisia tridentata).  The genus Artemisia comprises hardy herbaceous plants and shrubs, which are known for the powerful chemical constituents in their essential oils. In a  search of artemisia on the USDA plants database in Oregon there are 150 species of artemisia that appear. The name Artemisia comes from Artemis, the Greek name for Diana. There are any number of artemisia species that are popular in our modern herbal materia medica,  from wormwood to mugwort.   The intent of this post is to continue to explore my bio-region and develop herbal protocols based on the use of local plants and to that end, sagebrush (artemisia tridentata) will certainly play a  role.  This is by no means a definitive article but a written documentation of my search through the literature related to traditional uses and potential current applications.

My exploration of plants always starts through the eyes of First Peoples/Native American’s, who have had a long relationship with using artemisia species throughout North America.  The focus of this blog is to explore the use of Artemisia tridentata, which is mostly relegated to the western states. Big sagebrush and other artemisia species are therange dominant plants across large portions of the Great Basin.

Any number of tribes used artemisia tridentata including tribes affiliated with my bio-region, Okanagan-Colville, Paiute, Shuswap and the Thompson.  Many of the tribes used it similarly. These uses include the following:  respiratory and gastrointestinal aids, cold and cough remedy, antirheumatic both internally and externally, antidiarrheal, ferbrifuge, dermatological aid, eye wash, gynecological aid, analgesic, diaphoretic, emetic, pulmonary aid, and antidote for poisoning.  All parts of the plant were used including the leaves, stems, seed pods, branches and roots.

tridenta

Artemisia tridentata

It was used both externally and internally.*   Externally it had many uses including: as a poultice of fresh and dried leaves for chest colds, as a wash made of the leaves and stems for cuts and wounds, as a leaf decoction for an eye wash, the leaves were packed into the nose for headaches, the ground leaves were used as a poultice along with tobacco for fever and headaches, the leaves were powdered and used for diaper rash or packed into shoes for athlete’s infection, a decoction of the leaves were mixed with salt and gargle for sore throat, mashed leaves were used for toothaches, a leaf decoction was used in a bath for muscular ailments. *  There are many references to it being used internally as an infusion or decoction, but as one informant indicated it was too strong and powerful to drink, “you wouldn’t have any more kids, no children”.  Internal use is not recommended due to some chemical constituents found in the plant.  There are many references to artemisia being inhaled for headaches, for spiritual cleansing, to produce sweat and rid the body of colds, respiratory infections and pulmonary issues.

Artemesia annua

Artemisia annua

An interesting fact is that the Paiute’s and Okanagan-Colville indicated that they used a decoction of leaves for malarial fever, which is also similar to the use of other artemisias around the world.  Most of artemisia’s research as an antimalarial is focused on Artemisia annua (sweet annie).   Artemisia annua is a very interesting plant and is the source of the most powerful antimalarial drug ever discovered, artemisinin.  It is also being investigated in treatment of breast cancer.

Many of its traditional uses can be attributed to artemisia’s active medicinal constituents including camphor, terpenoids, and tannins. Sagebrush essential oil contains approximately 40% l-camphor; 20% pinene; 7% cineole; 5% methacrolein; and 12% a-terpinene, d-camphor, and sesqiterpenoids.  The essential oils present account for its use in inhalation.  Sesquiterpene lactones are among the prominent natural products found in Artemisia species and are largely responsible for the importance of these plants in medicine and pharmacy.

For my own purposes I can definitely see incorporating it into liniments, antiseptic washes, chest poultice, fumigation, powdered for use as foot powder.  Although there is tremendous oral history of its internal use I personally would be hesitant and look to other herbal options.

A few of my references:

Adams, James D., Garcia, Cecilia.,  Healing with Medicinal Plants of the West. Abedus Press, 2009.

Moreman, Daniel E., Native American Medicinal Plants.  Timber Press, 2009.

Parks, Willard Z.  Notes of the Northern Paiute of Western Nevada, 1933-1944.  Compiled and edited by Catherine S. Fowler.  University of Utah, Anthropological Papers, Number 114, 1989.

See also the sagebrush entry from Herbalpedia.com.

Prep School Daily: Herbal Medicine – Juniper

Jennifer at Prep School Daily writes some nice, informative posts on a variety of preparedness-related topics. Here are a couple on using Juniper as medicine.

Herbal Medicine: Juniper Part I

Herbal Medicine: Juniper Part II

Juniper is another phenomenal antibiotic, and it is so easy to locate. Especially here at my house on Juniper Ridge (really, that’s what it says on the local topographical map), where we have hundreds of juniper trees.  It grows everywhere between the Rocky Mountains and the Sierra Nevada Mountains, so I tend to think it just grows everywhere.  But it’s also a really common landscaping shrub.  So if you don’t actually have trees near you, maybe you can find some of the low-growing varieties in a shopping center parking lot or on school grounds.    There are something like 50 or 60 or 70 species of juniper; all can be used medicinally.  The juniper berry of some varieties is quite similar in size and color to a blueberry, but most are smaller than a blueberry and much duskier in appearance, at least until they are washed and dried.

Bulk Juniper Berries, Whole | Buy Juniper Berry | Spice Jungle
My juniper berries look like this, not the big pretty ones you see pictured everywhere else online.

But don’t get too excited about eating these berries.  Sure, you can eat them.  They just aren’t all that sweet or juicy or filling, any of those things that we really like about blueberries and blackberries and strawberries.  The juniper berry isn’t actually a berry.  It’s a seed cone.  A baby tree.  And that’s exactly what the green, unripe berries taste like.  The old, dried berries taste like dead trees.  The bluish/purplish ones, the ones you want for medicine and eating (if you really want to eat them) have the tiniest amount of flesh on them that if you think really hard about while chewing on might just have a hint of fruitiness about them.

However, juniper berries do have their own grand purposes in life.  Some would say their greatest use is as gin, and indeed juniper berries were historically used to sanitize medical equipment (more on that in another post).  Juniper is employed in so many ways and for so many conditions that we’ll need a few posts to cover them all.

Junipers of the western United States were widely used by Native Americans in treating many medical conditions, especially those related to the urinary tract, digestive tract, and skin.

Time to harvest:  Berries–in the fall, after the first frost and the berries have turned blue/purple, and before they start to shrivel.  Berries develop on the tree for two to three years; green berries should not be used…

TPH: Herbal Apprenticeship, 2018

From Sean and Monica at The Prepared Homestead and Huckleberry Mountain Botanicals:

Herbal Apprenticeship

Interested in doing an herbal apprenticeship where you get some hands on experience and delve deeper into your herbal studies?

This apprenticeship will primarily focus on cultivating herbs, herbal preparations and proper storage techniques but we will do wildcrafting as time/weather and what’s growing permits. Each session I will discuss specific herbs so we won’t be working with the same ones. My discussions will include herbal actions, affinities, energetics, & preparations.

Each session runs 6 weeks and will cover a different set of herbs.

What I expect of you:

  • Commitment to the program for the duration (except emergency)
  • Arrive on time
  • Bring necessary equipment and supplies
  • Good attitude and readiness to learn
  • Have fun!

If you feel this is a good fit and you’re ready to take your herbal education to the next level, don’t wait! Those 5 slots will go quickly.

Session 1, May 24 – June 28 10 AM to 3 PM:

$250.00, I am only accepting 5 apprentices to maximize hands-on experience.

EARLY BIRD SPECIAL! SIGN UP BEFORE APRIL 1 AND RECEIVE A 20% DISCOUNT. 6 WEEKS FOR $199.00

Register


Session 2, August 16 – Sept 20 10AM to 3 PM:

$250.00, I am only accepting 5 apprentices to maximize hands-on experience.

EARLY BIRD SPECIAL! SIGN UP BEFORE APRIL 1 AND RECEIVE A 20% DISCOUNT. 6 WEEKS FOR $199.00

Register

The Prepared Homestead: Intro to Family Herbal Medicine

The Prepared Homestead will present an introduction to family herbal medicine on Friday evenings from July 7th, 2017 through September 8, 2017 from 5:30 to 8:00pm in Cocolalla, Idaho.

Family Herbal Medicine

Come spend Friday Evenings July 7-Sept 8 5:30-8:00 PM on the homestead learning about Family Herbal Medicine and working with herbs. Herbalism has been around for thousands of years. It has been the traditional method used by people on every continent to support health and bring healing. Today there is a resurgence, a renewed interest in taking charge of our own health and educating ourselves on family herbal medicine know-how. In this 10 week program my goal is to build your confidence in your knowledge and ability so you feel equipped to take care of your family’s basic health needs. Each of these sessions is available individually, they are also available at a discount as groupings (see description below) or at a significant discount when you register for the entire program.

What we will cover over the 10 weeks –


Session 1: Introduction to western herbalism & Burns, Stings, & Rashes

echinacea

  • Why use herbs? Why study family herbal medicine?
  • Basic safety precautions
  • What herbs are growing around your yard you can use to ease stings and bites
  • How to heal a burn fast and reduce scarring
  • Herbs for skin rashes, diaper rashes, and facial breakouts
  • You’ll also learn the basics of making a poultice and when to use this type of treatment as well as drying herbs, part 1

Session 2: Wounds, Bruises, & Cuts

  • How to stop a bleeding injury
  • Best herbs for reducing swelling
  • Herbs that eliminate infection
  • Herbs to have in your family First Aid Kit
  • In this session we will learn to make a soothing compress and continue our discussion on drying herbs

Session 3: Coughs, Colds, & Congestion

  • Intro to wildcrafting
  • Learn the difference between types of coughs and which herbs to choose for each type
  • How to shorten the length of a cold
  • Herbs that help reduce congestion and allow for easier breathing
  • In this session we will make some herbal honey and cover the basics of an herbal bath & steam

Session 4: Fevers, Teething, & Ear Infections

  • When to worry about a fever
  • What herbs to use for different types of fevers
  • Herbs to soothe teething pain and irritability
  • How to treat ear infections naturally
  • We will cover the basics of making an infused oil

Session 5: Indigestion, Diarrhea, Constipation & Stomach Ache

  • We’ll talk about the importance of regular bowel movements and which herbs help
  • Herbs that are good for soothing stomach ache
  • How to reduce IBS and intestinal inflammation
  • We’ll discuss when to make a decoction and infusion and practice making both

Nourishing Herbal Infusion


Session 6: Tonic Herbs

  • This week we move into using herbs for daily health
  • We will cover my favorite herbs to take and what they are good for
  • Using Herbs as your vitamins
  • I will show you how to make a Nourishing Herbal Infusion

Session 7: Anxiety, Stress, Insomnia, & Headaches

  • Strategies for reducing stress and anxiety
  • How to use herbs to reduce the effects of anxiety
  • What herbs help quiet the mind and make it easier to fall asleep
  • Herbal treatment for tension headaches
  • In this session we will make an herbal tincture

Session 8: Menstrual Disorders

  • Herbs you can use to reduce cramping and eliminate bloating
  • Treating excess bleeding with herbs
  • In this session we will also discuss diet and lifestyle
  • We will create an infusion blend and a soothing massage oil

Session 9: Adaptogens & Immune Boosters

  • Reduce incidence of illness by using herbs
  • Increase your ability to handle stress and bounce back faster
  • My favorite adaptogens to use and how to easily incorporate them into your life
  • When to use herbs to boost immunity and when not to
  • Benefits of Bone Broth and basic recipe
  • In this session we will make an infused vinegar

Session 10: Balancing Female Hormones

  • Top 6 herbs for balancing hormones
  • Herbal protocol for taking control of your hormones once and for all
  • Lifestyle recommendations
  • Where to buy reliable herbs
  • Making your own capsules

This is 25 hours of herbal instruction and hands-on learning opportunity!

Each session costs $35 when bought individually.

You receive a 20% discount if you purchase one of my grouped sessions:

  • Session 1-5 $140.00
  • Session 6-10 $140.00

Or if you are ready to jump in and take control of your family’s health, then sign up for the entire Family Herbalism Course for only $250.00! That’s a savings of $100

I have space for only 10 people in each class. This is a very interactive, hands-on herb class so be ready to learn tons and have fun doing it!

**Cost for supplies is extra. The list will be emailed to you upon confirmation of enrollment or you can pay a small fee and I will provide all the supplies necessary for each session.

 

2018 Edit; They now have a ten month herbal school — Huckleberry Mountain Botanicals School.