If you’re eating one herb, it should probably be garlic. If you can manage to eat it by the shovelful, even better. (Who needs to stand near people and talk, right?)
Garlic has a host of medicinal properties and a wide range of uses. It has been cultivated for so long by humans its original wild species can no longer be found, though it’s believed to have derived from a species of lily in central Asia. It has been used medicinally and culinarily by almost everyone through history. From pharaohs to the German nun St. Hildegard of Bingen (who wrote several health text books during the middle ages and advocated using raw garlic medicinally), Louis Pasteur even used this fucking magical little bulb FOR SCIENCE. It was used in both world wars to treat wounds and other illnesses, and I’m pretty sure that at some point it originated from unicorn tears. Garlic is fucking awesome.
According to the somewhat dated but always useful book Why George Should Eat Broccoli written by biochemist Paul Stitt, garlic and onions have thirty-five known cancer preventive compounds. Searching through the University of Maryland Medical Center website, I found a bevy of helpful information about medicinal garlic: several population studies also support garlic’s cancer ass-kicking abilities, reducing some cancer rates as much as 30%. They also just threw that shit in a test tube and watched it fuck cancer up all day. Research also suggests that garlic can also help slow the hardening of arteries and lower blood pressure up to eight percent. It also seems to be an anticoagulant. IT EVEN HELPS PREVENT COLDS, GUYS.
So, what makes garlic so magical and delicious? Allicin, an organosulfur compound that displays both antifungal and antibacterial properties (thanks Wikipedia!).
Also, it’s listed as G.R.A.S. (generally recognized as safe) by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, though there are some people who need to take some precautions. Large amounts of garlic may hinder certain prescription medications, so ask your doctor if you want to start using it for more than just cooking.
Now that you’ve talked to your doctor and they’ve OKed using garlic medicinally (or you just want to cook with it more), what to do? There are garlic supplements – though some research shows that supplements aren’t always as effective – or you could buy it bulk at the store. But probably one of the best ways I can think of is growing a little of it yourself. There is a jaw-dropping variety of garlic that you can grow at home that would cost you an arm and a leg at the store (or not even be available at all). Ironically enough, I was going to write about a completely different plant today until a catolog for bulbs and garlics from D Landreth Seed company showed up in the mail. They’re the oldest seed house in the U.S., and they’re awesome. A quarter pound of some of their garlic varieties yield as many as 80 plants.
If you’d like to grow garlic, this lady lays it out pretty well: