Some of us have heard stories of grandmothers who took to the woods to gather herbs for tonics or treatments for various ailments.  Now we can experience the rewards of some of these herbs right in our own back yards or buy them in supermarkets.  There are hundreds of herbs, rare and common, just waiting for you to discover them.  A good place to begin is with garlic.

Some of us have heard stories of grandmothers who took to the woods to gather herbs for tonics or treatments for various ailments.  Now we can experience the rewards of some of these herbs right in our own back yards or buy them in supermarkets.  There are hundreds of herbs, rare and common, just waiting for you to discover them.  A good place to begin is with garlic. 
Garlic is a strong smelling cousin of the onion and it is seldom considered an herb.  The fact is that it is one of the most valuable for medicinal purposes, and its reputation goes back as far as the ancient Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans.  It is a diuretic, stimulant, expectorant, and sweat-promoter.  For centuries, it has been a common European remedy for colds, coughs, and sore throats.  We often hear jokes that garlic works because the smell of garlic is so bad that no one will get close enough to you to give you a germ.  This may be true, but Soviet scientists have isolated the pharmaceutical substance in garlic that serves as a natural antiseptic.  It is called allicin and it is found in garlic’s essential oil, the part of garlic that has the odor.  Don’t expect odor free garlic supplements to have the same powerful medicinal value as pure raw garlic.
More recently, doctors have found that garlic opens up blood vessels and reduces blood pressure in hypertensive people.  Dr. Pavo Airola, a German-trained doctor, wrote a book called The Miracle of Garlic.  In it he tells of the lack of all the kinds of circulatory problems in countries where garlic is eaten with every meal, even though the rest of the diet may be rich in pasta and other foods believed to cause such problems.  I heard a doctor on television say research at the University of Texas revealed that garlic contains as many as 60 chemicals which help prevent cancer.  That alone is enough encourage its use.
Polish scientists discovered that bacteria, including staphylococci, which resist other antibiotics, succumb to a pulverized garlic preparation. 
Herbalist lore tells us that a clove or two of garlic, pounded with honey and taken two or three nights successively, is good for rheumatism.  In colonial times, New Englanders used raw garlic juice to rid the body of intestinal worms.  I know a woman who surrounds a garlic clove with ground beef which she entices her dog to eat daily for this purpose. 
During World War I, garlic was used as an antiseptic in hospitals.  Pads of sphagnum moss were sterilized, saturated with water-diluted garlic juice, and applied as bandages to open wounds.
If you are not inclined to grow garlic, it is readily available in supermarkets.  Get fresh cloves of garlic with plenty of juice.  I like the purple variety best but it is seldom available.     
Several years ago a man told me of a garlic mixture he claimed had saved his life.  He said he had all kinds of diseases and disorders and three doctors told him he didn’t have long to live.  He decided to take a trip through the Northeast.  His car broke down and he was rescued by some Amish people who he said not only repaired his car, they gave him his life saving remedy.   The remedy was ½ cup water blended with 2 or 3 cloves of garlic, 2 or 3 tablespoons of raw honey and 2 or 3 tablespoons raw apple cider vinegar.  He used two tablespoons of the mixture daily.  He was so enthusiastic about this remedy that he convinced me to go home and mix it up. 
I took two tablespoons on an empty stomach and it hit me hard.  I broke out in a sweat and actually thought I might faint. 
Since that time I have been using this fairly regularly (but never on an empty stomach and straight from a spoon) and I find that it is a great remedy for inflammation.  If you have sore joints, knees, etc., you might give it a try.  It is delicious added to vegetables or salads.  My favorite way to use it is: Mix the daily two tablespoons in a cup of half regular V-8 juice and half water.  I heat the water and V-8 combination and then add the garlic mixture after pouring it into a cup.  Cooking the raw garlic, honey, and vinegar would destroy some of its remedial properties.  I drink this delicious mixture when I don’t plan to be in close contact with anyone.  Drinking it on a regular basis seems to keep away ticks, chiggers, and mosquitoes.  Even though humans cannot detect the odor of garlic through the skin, I think insects do.  I don’t get bites like other people and I give garlic the credit.
(Janice Norris lives in Heber Springs, has a B.S. in home economics from Murray State University, taught home economics, owned and operated health food stores in Illinois and Heber Springs, has taught numerous health and nutrition classes, and wrote a weekly newspaper column in Illinois for 15 years.She can be reached at janicenorris34@yahoo.com)