Garlic (Allium sativum)
Energetics: Hot, dry. Stimulating
Therapeutic Actions: alterative, anticholesterol, antihypoglycemic, antilipidemic, antimicrobial, antispasmodic, carminative, cholagogue, diaphoretic, expectorant, hypotensive, nutrient, stimulant, tonic, vulnerary
As a home cook and herbalist, garlic is never more than an arm’s reach away. Scratch that – I actually have run out of it too many times to mention. Oh, the horror. What I am trying to say is that garlic is, forever and always, a much loved ingredient and herbal remedy – one I never intend to do without. At least not for long, anyway…
Garlic is one of the great things that even non-herbal-y types can appreciate. The research is in. And it is good. Numerous studies support the use of garlic for cardiovascular and immune health (and you can check out a few of them in the references section at the bottom of the post). Thank you Science for backing us up on this one, we’re glad you were listening.
Garlic Medicinal Benefits
Garlic has profound and substantiated benefits for the cardiovascular system. Clinical studies have shown that it can help reduce LDL (“bad” cholesterol) levels, triglycerides (“free” fats in the blood stream that are used for energy), and high blood pressure, while also having a normalizing effect on low blood pressure. Other traditional uses extend to the thinning of thick congealed blood and clearing bruises. Additionally, it is an exceptional antimicrobial agent for the digestive and respiratory systems, effective against bacterial, viral, fungal and even parasitic complaints. Its pungent and stimulating character make it particularly effective when suffering from a wet, clammy, snotty cold – simultaneously drying up boggy tissues and cleaning up infection.
Garlic is usually well tolerated as a food stuff, except where instances of great GI discomfort or allergy are concerned. Raw cloves have the greatest medicinal value, but due to stimulating energetics, should being avoided by expectant mothers and those with gastric distress unrelated to microbial causes. While I have seen some herbalist indicate to eat a whopping 13 cloves day for acute symptoms and impending illness, I strongly feel that one or two cloves daily would offer excellent cardiovascular and immune benefits. Also, who wants to share the same space with somebody that has consumed what essentially amounts to a head of raw garlic? Even this card-carrying-garlic-lover is disinclined to snuggle up to that person… At this point, I bet that at least half of you are wondering just how you can possibly tolerate munching down on whole clove of the raw stuff. I could first suggest following your pungent “snack” with a nubbin of cheese or a small glass of milk to neutralize the pungency. Or you could try…
Honey Fermented Garlic
Trust me on this one folks… Although honey and garlic sound like strange bed fellows, they are, in fact, a particularly tasty medicinal “odd couple”. Fermenting cloves in raw, unfiltered honey mellows the pungent heat and transforms it into something more palatable to tender palates. During this dual process of infusion and fermentation, the honey leaches water from the cloves, thinning the viscosity, and producing a nutrient rich fermentation environment for native bacteria and yeast. Plump, good quality heads that have not yet sprouted and raw, unfiltered honey are imperative to the success of this ferment. I buy raw honey from a local source, but you can even find jars like this available on Amazon.
Within the first few days of fermentation, small bubbles and gas will be produced. Over weeks and months, the cloves will darken and sweeten. Cloves can really be eaten at any time, but the garlic from a longer ferment will be mellower and richer in flavor. The excess fermented honey is medicinal in its one right, but can also be used for sweet and savory culinary purposes, or even to sweeten your fire cider!
Please note, both garlic and honey have been linked to rare instances of botulism. There is inherent risk here – not nearly enough for me to worry about, but I do want my readers to assess their risk/benefit scenario and make informed decisions. The high sugar, low moisture, high oxygen, and moderately high acid environment are just not terribly favorable to Clostridium botulinum. Due to these precautions though, honey fermented garlic is not appropriate for infants or those with compromised immune systems. Additionally, diabetics and those with hyperglycemia should avoid this and other high sugar remedies.
Honey Fermented Garlic
Honey fermented garlic is a tasty way to enjoy the immense medicinal benefits of raw garlic.
- raw, unfiltered honey
- garlic preferably organic, red skinned varieties
Peel individual garlic cloves. If cloves are very large, cut in half. Place in a glass jar. Pour honey over cloves to cover. Cloves will rise to the top; add honey as necessary so that the amount of honey at the bottom of the jar is equal to or slightly greater than the width of the floating garlic "cap". Over time, the cloves will sink and you will want them to be adequately covered when that happen. ALWAYS allow for at least two inches head space in your vessel to prevent bubble over in an extremely active ferment. Place a tight fitting lid on the jar for long term storage, but leave lid loose while actively fermenting. I use a Fido swing top jar like these.
After a day or two, small bubbles will be noticeable, indicating an active ferment. Depending on ambient temperature and moisture levels, the ferment can be quite vigorous, or somewhat slow. "Burp" and stir the jar twice daily while ferment is active. NOTE: Cloves do not need to be submerged for this style of ferment. Do discard in the rare instance that mold forms.
Cloves can be eaten at any time, but the ferment should be complete within about 4-6 weeks. Cloves will darken over time and may discolor a slight blue-green due to the anthocyanin pigments in garlic or the presence of trace minerals such as copper. This is not cause for alarm and is to be expected in certain circumstances.
Wood, Matthew. (2016). The earthwise herbal repertory: the definitive practitioner’s guide. Berkeley, CA: North Atlantic Books.