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The writings of the ancient Egyptians, Babylonians, Romans, Greeks and Chinese have all mentioned garlic as a wonderful remedy for a wide variety of disorders. In the Sanskrit texts it is known variously as 'The Disgusting', 'The Supreme Medicine', 'Vata's Enemy', this last because garlic possesses five to six tastes, lacking only sour. Bhavaprakasha says that the root is pungent, the leaf is bitter, the stalk is astringent, the tip of the stalk is salty and the seed is sweet.

Garlic is called 'Rahu's Residue' because the demon Rahu, who had happened to sneak a sip of the nectar of immortality illicitly, had his head severed from his body by the discus of Lord Vishnu, the preserver for the Universe and garlic sprang up from a drop of Rahu's blood that feel to earth. It possesses both ambrosial and infernal properties, it is an elixir for the body but it makes the mind intolerant and increases tamas. Islamic myth agrees with this assessment, stating that garlic sprouted from where Satan's left foot touched the earth.

Garlic relieves both vata and kapha, and increases pitta. It is heavy and aphrodisiac, assists parents in obtaining an intelligent child, promotes strength and memory, sweetens the throat, purifies the vision and improve the complexion, digestion and tissue nutrition. It is useful in healing fractured bones and in treating dry skin diseases, vata diseases, worms, haemorrhoids, colic, cough, heart disease, chronic fevers, asthma, kapha diseases and indigestion.

Garlic juice, which has been shown to kill harmful bacteria without destroying useful ones, was diluted with water and used on sterile bandages by the British during the First World War to prevent wounds from becoming infected. Garlic has been used to cure or improve cases of typhoid, diphtheria, whooping cough, pneumonia, bronchitis, bronchiectasis, influenza and tuberculosis, to reduce cholesterol and to scavenge heavy metals from the tissues. It improves the appetite and the circulation, and decreases high blood pressure and body and joint pain. One case of garlic's effectiveness is its ability (which it shares with such substances as fenugreek and honey, and may poisons) to penetrate to all parts of the body very quickly. When you rub garlic on the bottom of your feet, as some people do to treat the common cold, or take an enema of decoction of garlic, its odour will come on your breath within a few moments. It is this property that makes a dog who is fed garlic an unpleasant host for fleas, since its sweat will be redolent of garlic.

Garlic is administered as juice, powder, paste, decoction, poultice, collyrium, medicated milk, oil and ghee, medicated wine and jam, and as an ash, and it appears as an ingredient in many Ayurvedic pills. Some people prefer to use the milder garlic sprouts or grass rather than the bulbs, and strict Brahmans never eat it (beloved as it is of heretics), though they are permitted to consume the milk or milk products of a cow fed garlic.

Ayurveda Life Health and Longevity by Robert E. Svoboda - Penguin Books.