Is Garlic Unholy?

Swami Ajnananda Saraswati

Garlic is widely used in India and all over the world as a culinary and medicinal herb. Its use goes back in history to the ancient civilizations of Egypt, Greece and Rome. Traditionally, from the yogic standpoint the use of garlic has been avoided as it considered rajasic, producing heat and desire. However, here at BSY our approach to food is scientifically yogic and we use garlic daily as its benefits far outweigh its disadvantages.

The most frequent criticism levelled at garlic is that it produces an offensive smell, but curiously enough the main ingredient, allycin, is in itself odourless. If the body produces a very strong and disagreeable odour with the use of garlic, it is because of toxins being eliminated through the skin and lungs. The more gross the diet and heavily dependent on meat and animal products, the worse the smell. Many people who 'can't stand' the taste of garlic or who feel nauseated on eating it are in fact demonstrating the level of toxicity of their systems. They may also be manifesting a liver or related organ disorder, as garlic promotes the flow of bile.

Antibiotic Properties

The active ingredients - sulphur, iron, calcium, pectin and various enzymes - exist in a fine balance which makes the specific action of garlic preferable in many cases to that of broad spectrum antibiotics. Often antibiotics will suppress an eliminative process which the body has begun, whereas the use of a herb such as garlic can in fact speed up the process. In many cases where orally administered antibiotics ere freely used, large doses of garlic may be applied instead with fewer negative side effects (discounting the smell). Apart from some possible discomfort due to the stimulating action, garlic does not interfere with the beneficial balance of Intestinal bacteria. In fact, garlic therapy can leave the patient with greater resistance after the elimination of the immediate disease, rather than decreased resistance and increased susceptibility to ether sorts of infection as is often the case with antibiotics.

All this is not to say that one should never use antibiotics; they can save lives. 'When your house is on fire, call in the fire brigade; don't be too concerned about your roses getting trampled'. Remember that herbs are subtle medicines (though some would disagree in the case of garlic) provided by nature. They work best on those who live closest to her natural rhythms and harmony. If your diet is simple and health giving and your mental attitude is calm and positive, you can expect to get the best results. However, if your diet is mostly animal products and rich, spicy or processed foods end your lifestyle is stressful, herbal medicine may not be immediately or strongly effective.

Medicinal Properties

Garlic is an expectorant; it expels worms, reduces fever, increases the flow of urine and bile, relieves cramps and spasms, and expels gas from the intestines. It can lower blood pressure and is reported to be helpful in reducing blood cholesterol, thus helping in the treatment of arteriosclerosis.

Garlic may also be employed with great benefit in cases of coughs, colds, bronchitis, chronic stomach and intestinal catarrh, it is good in intestinal infections such as dysentery and serves as a useful adjunct to standard medical treatment of cholera and typhoid. It was the main ingredient in the famous 'Thieves Vinegar' used by a group of thieves who went into plague stricken houses to steal but never contracted the disease themselves.


If you have a juice extractor at your disposal, you can easily make up a very potent mixture when coughs and colds or any of the above mentioned illnesses strike. Juice 50 grams (2 oz.) of garlic and combine that juice with 2 or more tablespoons of honey and a teaspoon of lemon or time juice. It may also be taken in combination with other raw juices such as carrot. If you don't have a juicer simply crush 25 to 50 grams and mix with sufficient honey and lemon juice to render palatable. This dose can be repeated two or three times a day until symptoms begin to abate. Children will respond to much smaller quantities.

As a preventive, small amounts are best taken raw in salads and included in cooking, as a part of your everyday diet Poultices may be used for severe respiratory congestion but care should betaken, particularly with very small children to ensure that their sensitive skin does not blister. Perhaps the best way to administer it to the very young is to put it lightly crushed into their socks so that as they walk it can be absorbed through the soles of the feet. It will be smelted elsewhere on the body within 30 minutes.

A cold extract made by crushing several cloves and allowing them to stand in ½ a cup of lukewarm water for 8 hours may be used as an effective enema for intestinal worms. Also, with children, small pieces may be inserted in the anal passage at night.

Those people whose practice has been to shun garlic for traditions sake because of its rajasic properties should remember that from the Ayurvedic point of view, it is regarded as 'nectar' - a lift saving medicine. In this ancient scheme of treatment it has particular application to cerebro-vascular accident (stroke, brain haemorrhage) where it instantly reduces blood pressure with many attendant positive effects in terms of increasing body resistance to infection, pneumonia, etc.

Because of its strong action through the blood, who is to say that there isn't something after all In the old wives' tale about hanging up garlic to prevent the intrusion of vampires.

In the garden it certainly has the ability to repel some of the common plant 'vampires' such as aphids. It is the gardener's friend both as a companion plant and as a tea or spray. Planted in among the roses it will greatly enhance not only the health of the blooms but will also increase the strength of their perfume (there could be some kind of plant competition going on here as far as the smell is concerned) and planted around peach trees it will eliminate the degenerative condition known as 'curly leaf'. As a strong tea it is used to control late blight in tomatoes and potatoes and to treat rot of stone fruits. The spray of juice mixed with a suspension agent such as paraffin oil will protect against both aphids and cabbage moths.

Garlic can play a vital role in our health, right through from food cultivation to disease prevention.