Herb Closet: Garlic (Allium sativum)

What is the difference between a food, an herb and a spice? The answer you will get from a chef is that spices are roots, buds, berries, bark and seeds, while herbs are stems and leaves. And, food is what nourishes us. For our purpose as Pagans, I have to agree with Scott Cunningham when he says they’re all herbs. The important part for us to understand is what their medicinal, magickal and health properties are, and their association to the gods.

I just came from a local organic farm where they were having a customer appreciation day and serving up three different types of greens (collard, mustard and kale) with cornbread and biscuits. Everything was delicious. I do like to support local farmers and when they are growing organic it is a real serendipity. I bought some mustard greens and kale to cook up this week. There were also bags of garlic the last of the season and I obtained a bag while they are still available. All of this made me think about garlic. I love garlic! It is magickal, medicinal, nutritious and delicious.

During the cold weather I try to include it in as many dishes as possible as garlic is a great defense against the common cold, the flu and bronchitis. As I have recently been diagnosed with high blood pressure, I was pleased to learn that garlic in my diet should lower my blood pressure. Garlic has also shown to reduce serum cholesterol (LDL) and triglycerides while raising the good cholesterol HDL, which will keep my levels where I want them. I will definitely sauté some garlic with the kale (oh yum). The fact that it is purported to increase libido, doesn’t hurt either.

Garlic, also known as “stinking rose”, has been protecting people all over the world for thousands of years. Using sympathetic magick one can relate the long hollow stem with the windpipe and related diseases. This herb has been used as a defense against plague, the flu and hepatitis as well as foul weather. It certainly has an undying reputation as a repellent against vampires. (I have noticed that since I eat a lot of garlic, that I am not bothered by vampires at all.) Garlic has been used by sailors, soldiers and homeowners to protect against a variety of worldly and Otherworld evils.

Medicinally it was used by the British military as an antiseptic during both WWI and WWII. They actually bought thousands of tons for treating wounds and preventing infections, and it worked. Garlic contains selenium which is a powerful antioxidant, which many people take as a supplement, as well as germanium which strengthens the immune system giving garlic its ability to heal damaged cells and minimize infection. In warmer weather it will help keep the mosquitoes from biting you as it contains thiamin. Actually, you name it and garlic is probably good for it.

Garlic has an affinity to Hekate and has been used as an offering to her at the crossroads. Magickally, garlic is masculine and ruled by Mars. Maybe that is why it is able to fight so powerfully on your behalf. Just be forewarned that if you eat or use a lot of garlic, your friends may keep their distance.

Garlic Cough Medicine

Peel and grind or mince (a garlic press can also be used) about a pound of garlic cloves and place it in a jar. Pour in a mixture of half water and half apple cider vinegar so it covers the garlic. Let it sit four or five hours and then drain the liquid and add an equal part of honey (or hot syrup of brown sugar) to the mixture. Keep cool and shake well before using. The garlic can then be used for other purposes.

Adults: a tablespoon full three or four times a day.
Children: a teaspoon or more depending on their age.