Sunday 28 February 2010

Garlic - The Less Popular View

In my second year of raw food, I was excited to be contacted by a journalist who wanted to write an article about me for a women's magazine and possibly make a TV series too. He was very enthusiastic about raw, and we chatted about various things, finding lots of common ground, until...the subject of garlic came up. I happened to say that, after being raw for a while, I'd come to dislike the taste of garlic, and had found some information to suggest that perhaps garlic wasn't all it was cracked up to be, and could even be something health-conscious people should be avoiding.

He was shocked that I could suggest such a thing. He swore by garlic, and told me about the various ailments that garlic is said to be beneficial for. I did say it was a controversial area, but he appeared not to be able to entertain the concept of garlic being anything but a wonderfood. I didn't hear from him again much after that, and I often wonder if my doubts about garlic had raised some doubts in his mind about me!

On raw food forums, I've seen garlic lovers get a little upset at any criticism of garlic. It's dangerous territory, I go! In my article on the hallowed garlic, I won't be providing 'balance' as in putting forth the pro's and cons. You can all find the pro's of garlic by simply googling 'garlic health food' and you'll find millions of words on what a wonderful thing it is for us. Rather, I'll try to provide (some) 'balance' to those millions by presenting you with some information/thoughts on garlic that you don't hear so often.


When I was a child in the Sixties in the UK, garlic didn't enjoy the reputation it holds today. Most people disliked the odour, let alone the taste. But with books such as Elizabeth David's Mediterranean Cooking, package holidays in the Seventies, and the foodie-ism of the Eighties, garlic enjoyed a surge of popularity in cooking, and health writers began to extol the virtues of garlic as a health food.

The mainstream has a love affair with garlic. It can do no wrong. I used to love it myself until raw. Then, as so often happens when we go raw, we start to experience things differently, with our senses, intellectually...we talk, we read, we think, we meditate...and our old cherished beliefs are thrown up in the air and our eyes are opened to other possibilities.

Is garlic a natural food for us?

Garlic is not a food at all. Not many people would enjoy popping a clove of garlic into their mouths and having a good chew, or a bowl of cloves if they were hungry.

Garlic in breastmilk can give a baby colic. It is one of the things its pure body doesn't like. Garlic is one of those substances like stinky ('aged') cheese (mould), chili, alcohol etc that relatively healthy, vibrant, responsive small children with relatively unadulterated taste buds and desires, generally dislike. That should tell us something.

As children get older, they are conditioned into 'accepting' garlic in small amounts until, because they've come to associate it with pleasant situations, because older people they admire like it, and because it's been cunningly slipped into all sorts of foods (even crisps!), they learn to like it. In some households, garlic is in so many meals (I used to have a vegan cookbook that had garlic in just about every meal bar the desserts) that children get so used to the taste that they grow up to be adults who feel that meals taste bland without it. In this way, garlic perverts the tastebuds just as salt, chili and other substances do, resulting in our (sadly) rejecting food in its natural state.

After I'd been raw for a few months, I no longer liked the taste of alcohol. For someone who'd liked a drink or five for the past 30 years, that was quite incredible. But, alcohol came to taste like it had done when I'd first tried it as a child - not good. Same happened with garlic. Before raw, I was certainly a garlic-lover (someone once told me that he could find me quite attractive but would need a gas-mask I ate so much garlic). But, even just a few months into raw I was finding that the amounts of garlic that (some) raw food recipes recommended rendered the meal inedible for me - it tasted so unpleasant. I started halving, then quartering the amounts, and now use it in tiny amounts only if I'm making a raw dish for cooked-food people.

What happens when we eat garlic?

As everyone knows, our breath stinks of it. Breath the same day as eating garlic isn't too bad, as everyone can identify the smell as garlic. But the day after, although garlic-breath doesn't smell like garlic anymore, the garlic that had been ingested the previous day results in even worse breath that smells...disgusting. The sulphur?

We also exude garlic through our pores. That suggests to me the body is trying very hard to expel it. Also, I'd noticed way before going raw that garlic would always make me thirsty. That indicates to me that, like salt, the body is demanding water to try to neutralise the effects of something harmful, to flush it out. As Dr Doug Graham puts it so well, 'the solution to pollution is dilution'.

Does everyone love garlic?

Garlic has certainly been revered by many in the past. But some have gone against the flow...the Roman poet Horace wrote that garlic 'is more harmful than hemlock'. Ancient Hindu texts ('The Laws of Manu') forbade eating garlic as 'unclean' (unhealthful).

Tibetan monks don't eat garlic. Some yoga teachers and Buddhists believe that garlic interferes with meditation. Ancient Indians believed garlic would lure people away from spiritual endeavours.

Dr Robert C Beck, DSc, in research carried out in the 1980s (and, no, I don't have a source) found that it had a detrimental effect on brain function. And he recalls from his days as a pilot in the 50s a flight surgeon telling pilots not to touch garlic three days before a flight as it would double or triple their reaction time.

Some people do report 'brain fog' after eating garlic (and I'm one of them).

Garlic has antibiotic properties

Indeed it does, through the action of allicin. It's interesting that some garlic advocates, whilst shy of conventional antibiotics as prescribed by doctors, will see the 'antibiotic' properties of garlic as a plus, because it's a 'natural' antibiotic. Well, that's OK then...except that it isn't.

'Antibiotic' (Concise Oxford Dictionary): '(substance) capable of destroying or injuring living organisms, esp. bacteria.'

Bacteria are our clean-up agents. As everyone knows, bacteria are essential for our well-being. Now, just for the sake of argument, I'll go with the popular 'good and bad bacteria' theory (I don't actually agree with it, but...maybe an article on that in ten years' time?) I haven't read anything to suggest that that crushed garlic coursing through our digestive system actually knows the difference between the 'good guys' and the 'bad guys'. The number of times I've heard people confidently declare that garlic only kills the 'bad' bacteria - could someone show me the study that proves this?

If you are a gardener, and have grown garlic you may have noticed that your garlic will be untouched by bugs. Nothing eats it. Insects won't eat it because it will kill them. In fact, garlic grown amongst plants deters insects. Garlic is a pesticide.

Garlic has medicinal properties

Certainly does. Countless studies have shown that garlic has positive effects on certain symptoms in unhealthy people.

And, like all medicines, there have also been a host of reported adverse effects after ingesting garlic. They're in the same category as many on the list of 'side-effects', that patients are warned may occur, that you would find in the leaflet in a medicine bottle box. Sure, they haven't been proven (they've come from case reports), but this simply means that no studies have been financed to prove/disprove them. Here are some of them: oesophagal and abdominal pain, small intestinal obstruction, contact dermatitis, rhinitis, asthma, bleeding, myocardial infarction, urticaria, angioedema and ulcero/necrotic lesions (Journal of Herbal Pharmacotherapy 2001 Vol 1, no 1, pp63-83 - the author does cite sources).

The Natural Hygiene view of medicine is that medicine per se is toxic. It may indeed suppress certain symptoms, but at the same time it gets up to all sorts of other tricks in the body -the results of which are not so 'beneficial'. People are duped into thinking they've discovered a 'miracle cure' just because one symptom has vanished, but, sadly, the 'cure' is an illusion. There is always a price to pay for ingesting things that we really shouldn't be putting into our bodies, whether pharmaceutical or 'natural'. Short-term gain leads to longer-term pain; the suppression of one symptom will simply be swapped for more problems later on. But although many people know that, they so often still prefer the 'quick fix' cure than change their lifestyles.

Does the fact that garlic reduces cholesterol, 'balances blood sugar' (etc) mean healthy people should be eating it?

As you've probably guessed from the last section, the answer as I see it must be 'no'. As it wouldn't be logical for a healthy person to take medicine (even daily).

Does the fact that aspirin (may) 'reduce the risk of a heart attack' (in very unhealthy people with heart problems) mean that healthy people who are not at risk of heart attack, should take an aspirin each day? Maybe the very unhealthy person who will not change the lifestyle that led to heart problems in the first place would find the risk of gastrointestinal upsets and stomach bleeding from aspirin a reasonable trade-off. But this would not apply to the healthy person.

So, if someone with high blood pressure is taking a medicine (or even garlic?) to reduce high blood pressure and/or lower blood pressure, regardless of whether it is actually a good idea for that person to be taking that medication rather than addressing the root causes of the problem so that they don't have to take the medicine with its various side-effects, should a healthy raw fooder with no blood pressure problems be ingesting that medicine?

It would be daft, wouldn't it?

So, as garlic is clearly an antibiotic, and clearly a medicine, rather than a food, why are so many raw fooders still adding garlic to their food? I guess one answer could be 'I like the taste'. Sure, just as some of us used to like the taste of meat, sodium chloride, coffee, alcohol...


A raw vegan (or raw vegetarian low-dairy) diet will reduce cholesterol and blood pressure, and Gabriel Cousens MD has showed us how the raw food diet can reduce and eradicate the need for Type II diabetes medication.

I know that most of the world won't be switching to raw any time soon, but does it really make sense for healthy raw fooders, or new raw fooders on the path to health, to mix medicine with their meals?


greenmama! said...

Terrific and comprehensive article.

I will add... Many women experience nausea and revulsion toward garlic during pregnancy, a clear signal from the body to avoid a toxin.

My father jokingly refers to garlic as "nature's contraceptive," and begs my mother not to consume it because the smell disgusts him. Ironically, he takes Kyolic (garlic pills) for the "health benefits."


Debbie Took said...

Thanks, Greenmama. Good point about garlic in pregnancy.

I had a quick google and found this advising women not to have garlic during pregnancy:

(and of course anything we shouldn't be consuming in pregnancy is something we shouldn't be consuming full stop!)

But of course also in the list were links describing the 'benefits' of garlic in pregnancy (which are similar to those 'benefits' I discussed in the article).

Denise said...

Really interesting article Debbie. I'm not completely raw and do love garlic in my cooked meals, however, whenever I attempt to have even a tiny amount of garlic with a raw salad I cannot stand the taste. I've tried to make raw Hoummus several times but the garlic in it has been too strong for me.

When I lived in Spain I always had more mosquito bites than all my colleageus, they suggested that I take smelly garlic pills and eat alot of garlic as the mosquitos don't like the smell of your skin or the taste of your blood. It really does work and now I always take garlic pills when I go on holiday - but they have to be the smelly ones, the odour free ones don't work!

cindy said...

Great post. Thanks

Debbie Took said...

Aha, yes, garlic as a pesticide!

Interestingly, I've found since going raw that although I still get bitten by mosquitoes, I hardly have any swelling or irritation. My theory is that the mozzies are our friends and, in biting us, the inflammation is drawing toxins to the surface of the skin for expulsion. The less toxic the body, the less the inflammation. (I know people will be thinking 'West Nile Virus'/malaria, but I have theories about those as well, which will have to wait for 'public' consideration a few years yet!).

(Have to say that my dear part-cooked husband *really* suffers...)

Debbie Took said...

Cindy, many thanks for your feedback :-)

Nadine said...

Thank you so much for posting this Debbie! I have noticed the same things with garlic myself and for the longest time thought there was something wrong with me since everyone seems to tout it as a miracle food.
While I always listen and trust my own body, it is great to know that others are having the same thoughts and experiences.

Debbie Took said...

Hi Nadine

Although raw, I will admit to enjoying the UK reality TV show 'Come Dine With Me'! Guilty pleasure? Last one showed someone serving garlic soup, and of course all the diners trilled, 'I LOVE garlic!' We've got to the point where people who would like their food without garlic are viewed as a bit unusual, even unsophisticated?!

But there are probably more people in the raw food world questioning it than in any other walk of life. For example, in VitaOrganic, Wardour St, London W1, where they serve raw salads, I was cheered to see a bowl the other day labelled 'No garlic!'

Anonymous said...

great article, debbie!
i used to be a garlic freak and my dad would say "that'll ruin your social relationships". (my breath was terrible, but i could not feel it myself).
i recall, when i was a kiddo, i used to be given crushed garlic w/ lemon juice and honey when i had a cold, and this latter was gone in 2 days. hmm...

quickie question: the fact that we use spices (say cumin, cardamon, pepper, cinnamon, etc) or herbs, w/o them being technically foods - isn't that the same as with carnivores, for example, when they feel sicko or have trouble w/ their digestive systems, they eat some grass (tho it's not food for them) for the health benefits it brings?
thanks debbie!

Debbie Took said...

Hi Acey

Sounds a bit like the 'eat chicken soup for three days and your cold will be gone.' If you let a cold run its course and do nothing, it'll probably be gone in 2-3 days anyway
:-)(or symptoms easing significantly).

Spices...Natural Hygienists don't see it the same as eg cats eating grass, and this explains why:

(Having said this, I do have spices myself occasionally and am very partial to cinnamon!)

David Cohen said...

Great post... as ever.

Debbie Took said...

Thanks D!

Anonymous said...

thanks deb! the has so SO much info, that i missed the part about condiments. i have still tons to read tho. thanks for pointing out to the article, which i am reading shortly.

my inquiry still holds tho (carnivores eating grass). i am digging more :-). we humans should have a parallel/similar behavior. that's why i shooted for spices or even non food items (garlic, onions, etc).


Gretchen said...

Hi Debbie,

I am so with you! I never liked raw garlic or onions, even before I went raw, so I never had to give them up when I started getting into natural hygiene. The taste and smell lingers forever and it's so unpleasant. It's obvious to me that our bodies are trying like crazy to get the stuff out of us as quickly as possible.

Thanks for all the great info. I love your articles!

Cheers, Gretchen

Debbie Took said...

Hi Gretchen

Yes, I do think onions can be a problem as well, and that it's no coincidence that underarm BO often smells of onions.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the great article Debbie. Since being 100% I find I can tolerate less and less garlic and onion, and as my digestion gets more sensitive I can feel what the garlic and onion do to it each time I eat, which I couldn't do before.

Interestingly, I've always sworn garlic gives me spots. Reading your explanation makes sense, my system being stimulated to push it out as toxins through my skin...

Talking of BO (!) mine often smells of curry...I don't use spices that regularly, but I do still sometimes. Do you feel the same about spices?

Debbie Took said...

Hi Alison

I pretty much accord with the Natural Hygiene view of spices (see link in my answer to Acey). Chili always made my nose run, even pre-raw, and I always wondered about that (UNTIL I went raw!).

However, although I do believe spices are unhealthful, I do use them very occasionally...

Unknown said...

The spices in their raw, unmixed with other ingredients?

Onions make our eyes water almost every time without fail

spices (such as green chillies, red chillies, ginger etc) are so strong mot people cough or dare not even them raw

Garlic? Stings like several bees have invaded your mouth. I somehow ate cloves and cloves of this stuff (raw, on its own, sometimes 3 cloves at a time!) several months back thinking it would help with my candida. All I needed to do was eat lovely juicy fruit!

Nice article as alywas Debbie.

Unknown said...

great article debbie, as always :)

Spices and herbs taste bitter and disgusting and garlic stings like several bees have entered your mouth. All these things in their raw state, no one would even think of eating. (Although indians can eat raw green chillies like there's no tomorrow but thats because theyre taste buds are so numbed out and damaged that they can no longer feel the irritability of the irritants!)

Debbie Took said...

Three raw cloves at a time?! Do you have any friends from that period left, Prabdeep?

RawDad said...

Great article Debbie - thanks again ... I 2 used to consume quite a bit of garlic... and have frankly lost the taste for it... and onions and booze... since I have been on 80 10 10...

Really cool... I think...

Debbie Took said...

Hi rawdad

I don't have raw onion much either now, although I believe there may still be a recipe for 'raw onion bread' on the RawforLife site somewhere!

I do use some snipped chives sometimes for flavouring. Although Natural Hygiene wouldn't really support that either (:-)) it's a solution for those 'transitionining' from onions et al!

Debbie Took said...

Thank you, 過分

Although...I target my output at about one article a month :-)

David Cohen said...

I'm with quite a few others about onion. I use to love red onion in a salad, and I had some on Friday, first time for quite a while, but the taste just lingered for ages. I still like chopped chives, though. Also, as a result of this post, I immediately swapped out garlic in one of my favourite simple recipies (parsjip rice), to a small amount of minced spring onions (which I still like), and this worked very well.

AJ said...

Great post. I love your blog! It's hard for me to read because all the photos on the sidebar are making my mouth water. And it's March, so why are you tempting me with luscious figs and concord grapes!!? LOL :)

Check out my blogs and

Debbie Took said...

Ah, sorry :-) But, although figs are usually Sept/Oct, by coincidence my local Waitrose had some loose, beautifully ripe South African figs last week, that tasted just amazing!! However, this week although the figs are still South African, they've gone back to the packaged slightly under-ripe ones again - the kind that make your tongue sore!

amandamcdaniel41 said...

It makes sense that the body would be thirsty after eating garlic because like yoga or deep massage there has been an uplift of stored toxins that need to be moved out hence thirst. Balance is the key anything in abundense is not good. Alcohol in balance improves the good cholestrol one glass a day is better than none. Cultures living in hot climates depended on spices that kills the bacteria that would otherwise make anyone sick. Peoples dwelling in cold climates never needed spices, for they do not grow and second the bad bacteria does not survive on the food they ingest. I read this in Psychology 101 David G. Myers pg 477 Its impossible to suggest a diet for everyone to follow a diet needs to be based on ancestory. The Inuit of Alaska were very healthy before colonization. Their pardox deals with vitamin C, their climate does not allow for that vitamin to grow however they are not plagued with scurvy and all of the other problems associated with vitamin C deficiency. The Europeans on the other hand cannot live with out it.

Debbie Took said...

I have published the previous post, although, naturally, as a Natural Hygienist, I disagree with just about everything in it.

Debbie Took said...

For anyone who would like to know more, eg about how poisons such as alcohol 'in balance' are not healthy, why we should not eat spices, and the Natural Hygiene explanation of why we become ill, etc, please see this site:

Amandamcdaniel's post reflects the popular view of illness and, sure, most people believe garlic, spices, alcohol 'in moderation' etc are'healthy'. The Natural Hygiene explanation is radically different.

spofcher said...

Both garlic and onions make me thirsty so that I avoid them both.
I don't miss garlic, but I do like onions, but cannot eat them.

Chuck Kahn said...

I noticed years ago that I get thirsty after eating garlic. But whenever I tell people about my post-garlic thirst, they look at me like I've just said something insane. Why this reaction? Is garlic-caused thirst an "edge case," only affecting a tiny fraction of the population? Or does everyone get garlic-thirst but they just don't realize or admit it? How widespread is garlic-caused thirst?

Unknown said...

You make perfect sense.