Like most girls growing up in the 90's I read Teen Magazine, YM, and Seventeen. As silly as they seem now, the advice they gave was imperative to a successful social life for girls of my generation. Where else were we going to learn to NEVER eat garlic on a date?! Fast forward twenty years and garlic is my stand herb for cooking and health. Who cares if I smell like garlic? Not me and Superman doesn't complain either.
Since garlic is such an easy herb to obtain, it is usually the first thing I recommend for individuals wanting to try natural healing. It is cheap, versatile, and effective. As a detoxifying herb and natures anti-biotic it's uses are immeasurable and has been used for disease control as far back as the bubonic plague. In Russia, garlic is actually referred to as "Russian Penicillin." Contemporary medical studies have also found that it is effective for controlling glucose tolerance and lowering negative cholesterol while increasing the positive. Just adding a clove or two during meal preparation on a regular basis can help maintain good health.
Being in the middle of cold season, garlic is at the height of it's glory in my home right now. I honestly can't seem to keep it in the house. My favorite use for garlic this time of year is as a tea. I slightly crush, peel, and then slice three large cloves before dropping them into my favorite mug and covering them with boiling water. When the water is cool enough to drink, it is nicely infused with garlic I find it quite pleasantly flavored. It has the immediate effect of relieving cold symptoms (headache, stuffiness, sore throat) and in the long run works to detoxify the body and actually send the cold packing. Having caught a cold this past weekend, I am drinking this tea continually. Just adding more garlic and boiling water to my cup though out the day.
Another of my favorite applications of the herb is in the form of an infused oil. I make it a pint at a time and use it for everything from cleaning cuts, to treating ear infections, to slathering on congested chests. The concoction of this highly useful oil is ridiculously simple. Start by pouring a pint of good olive oil into the top of a double boiler and adding a head of crushed, peeled, and chopped garlic. Cover and simmer for 4 hours, making sure that the bottom pan does not boil dry. After four hours, remove the oil from heat and allow to cool. Strain out the garlic chunks and return the oil to the double boiler with yet another head of crushed, peeled, and chopped garlic. Boil for another four hours. At the end of this second cooking period, cool, strain, and store in an air tight container. I simply return it to the bottle I purchased the oil in. It stores in a cool, dark cupboard for about six months.
Magickaly, garlic is used for protection and exorcism. Hence the traditional garlic rope hung in country kitchens. According to the trustworthy Mr. Cunningham, in the old days Italians would bite a clove of garlic to ward of evil spirits and sailors would carry cloves with them on voyages to prevent shipwreck.