No other herb has such a rich history of use in every single culture on this planet than garlic. Ancient civilizations of Rome, Greece, China and Egypt devised stellar stories about its origin. Ayurveda, the oldest medical system of the world relates its own - garlic grew as an offshoot of drops of amrita which fell on the earth during the epic battle between gods and demons. Surrounded by an aura of magical and medicinal mysteries, charm of garlic has remained undiminished over the centuries of its use.
Garlic’s Sanskrit name rasona literally means lacking one taste; it contains all the six tastes except sour .
Ayurveda has described it as hot in potency and pungent in post digestive effect. Garlic is unctuous, sharp and heavy. It pacifies kapha and vata, but aggravates pitta. Modern analysis of garlic shows it to contain water contents, protein, carbohydrates, and other substances like calcium, phosphorus, iron and vitamin B complex besides traces of iodine. Garlic also contains volatile oils and sulphur compounds of which some are responsible for its sharp odour.
Though in the recent times garlic has acquired a reputation as an effective immunostimulant, anti-viral, anti-cholesterol, cardio-vascular tonic and also as a tumor inhibiting medicine. Ancient ayurvedic texts have eulogized it for its extra ordinary healing properties and called it maha aushadhi (great medicine). Garlic has been described as stimulant, carminative, digestive, metabolic corrector and killer of intestinal worms. Also acts as a laxative, diuretic, expectorant, anti-inflammatory, aphrodisiac and rejuvenating properties. Given in low doses, garlic helps in hypertension, raises body’s immunity, fights viral and bacterial afflictions, keeps cholesterol and tryglycerides level under control and acts as an anti-oxidant substance.
As a home remedy, garlic is used both externally and internally to combat many diseases. A few cloves of garlic are added to hot oil used for body massage and oleation. Frying five to six cloves of garlic in desi ghee and taking it before lunch provides an adjuvant effect for controlling the flare up phase of rheumatoid arthritis. The medicated milk of garlic (kshirpak) works well in many vata diseases like sciatica, lumbago and paralysis. Daily consumption of garlic in one’s daily diet reduces body toxins besides controlling the lipid profile.
However, one fails to understand why such a useful herb didn’t get religious sanction despite its ‘divine’ origin and is rather feared as being tamasika. Ayurvedic texts describe a method to lessen its strong odour. Put a few peeled off cloves of garlic in buttermilk or diluted curd overnight. If used next day, the garlic will lose much of its sharpness and offensive odour. Those who want to use raw garlic and also to whom its suitability is in doubt, can try this method. Cooking in ghee also reduces its pungent nature.
There are many ayurvedic classic medicines containing garlic such as rason vati, lashunadya ghrit and rason ghrita. The Kashyap Samhita, while describing the famous rason kalpa, is more explicit in telling that garlic should be used sparingly by persons of pitta prakriti . In kapha and vata diseases it should be used with honey and ghee respectively. The maximum dose of raw garlic cloves is up to six pieces and to counter its unsavory effect the powder of coriander seeds should be used.
Department of Kayachikitsa,
Guru Nanak Ayurvedic College, Gopalpur,