By: Andreas Moritz
Posted: September 14, 2011 — updated 2016
Ayurvedic medicine, the oldest form of medicine, does not recommend garlic at all. And they had very good reasons for this since it is known to be one of the most toxic herbs or plants, not fit for human consumption. This is because of its known destructive effects. Garlic works on bacteria-killing germs; therefore, it is an anti-bacterial food that can completely eradicate bacteria. Not many people think that that is a good thing. We want something that kills off germs, but it can have negative side effects that may be even worse than having a bacterial infection.
I personally do not recommend garlic for a number of reasons. There are some studies that show that garlic can actually cause damage to brain cells. It has that very powerful effect because garlic does end up in the blood stream if eaten in raw form; if eaten in cooked form, the negative or toxic effect is greatly diminished. So if a person does feel like they want the garlic, then they can take it in cooked form, and it will be less negative, or less harmful to the body.
Garlic burns; it literally can burn little holes through the lining of the intestines. Also, it can certainly penetrate the mucus lining and make its way through into the intestinal wall, where it can burn little holes that eventually can lead to perforations, if you eat it too often. And that is the part where they already have been eaten or damaged. So particularly people who have leaky gut, where the toxins already escape from the intestines and move into the blood stream, should be extra careful. This is because garlic should not really be in the blood.
Some people who have been through World War II or post-World War II, for example 5-10 years afterward, including several of Italian descent, were very knowledgeable about the toxic effects of garlic. Firsthand accounts indicate that some took garlic cloves with them to the front lines of battle, and squashed the garlic, basically using the juice from the garlic. They poured the garlic juice over their bullets and then put the garlic-laden bullets into their guns. According to anecdotal reports, the Italians were never known to be the best marksmen or shooters. To the contrary, they were famous for not being able to aim properly at enemy solders, so they often missed. It is quite possible that they missed more often than they succeeded. So they thought that putting garlic on the bullets might give them an advantage. By somehow shooting and hitting the enemy, just injuring them in the foot or somewhere else, not necessarily in the (life-threatening) heart or the head, the enemy would die when the garlic entered the enemy’s blood stream. They knew this because once garlic is in the blood, for instance by injecting raw garlic juice into the blood, you can certainly die from that.
So it is not something to be taken lightly. There is a whole new trend in Italy that is shying away from putting garlic in food and they know that it is not one of the best things to ingest because it can upset the stomach and the intestines, and cause inflammation. In this vein, there is even a new trend called ‘garlic-free restaurants’ and all the great chefs are learning how to cook without garlic. Interestingly, garlic only became popular in that part of the world when there was a shortage of food and there were no spices or herbs available. This was particularly true during war times. Additionally, poverty increased during times of war, and the poor had taken recourse to garlic as a way to making their food more flavorful. That is where the trend started expanding, because there were a lot of shortages, and many poor people, in the aftermath of World War II. Thus, in a way, that’s when garlic became very popular and spread throughout the world. So there is a new trend now that has sort of gone backwards in time and is phasing out garlic.
Garlic also overrides the flavor of other tastes in food. So once you put garlic in food, you hardly taste anything else but garlic. In that sense, it is not the best for the taste buds because it is very important that the tongue, which has taste bud cells to detect all the tastes – sweet, sour, salty, pungent, bitter and astringent – to have exposure to all these six tastes. This is critical for the cells in the body to function well, and for the food to be digested properly. If you miss out on some of these six fundamental tastes, or you override them by having a particularly pungent taste that dominates all the other tastes, then this can lead to digestive trouble. Such trouble can be triggered if the digestive system no longer recognizes these other essential tastes and is, therefore, not secreting the correct enzymes and digestive secretions, accordingly. This is needed in order to digest all the foods that you have ingested, not just the pungent or spicy food, which garlic is.
Medicinal values of garlic which Ayurveda recommends?
You do not find many references in Ayurvedic medicine for medicinal properties of Ayurveda except that it does have an anti-bacterial effect. It is more often recommended to plant garlic in the fields to prevent mosquitoes and other insects from flying in and eating up the crops. So, in that sense, garlic definitely has a major use. But it should, in my opinion, not be used for food. That’s why every body type reacts to it; it is not really good for any of the body types. The only body type that can cope with garlic, more than others, are the kapha body types. They have a thick skin and thick intestinal lining. So it is less likely for them to get serious damage, unlike the vata type, who has a very thin intestinal lining. Vata types are more likely to get injured by garlic. And the pitta body types can get inflammation in the intestine if they eat too much garlic, especially the raw form.
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