Is there a more delicious, more comforting aroma than Italian garlic frying in olive oil?

Garlic is the delicious bulb of a crop in the same family of plants as lilies, but it is much more than a household ingredient with a powerful texture and aroma. Garlic, in reality, has been used in ancient cultures such as Egypt, Greece, and Rome.

Garlic was initially employed as a productivity booster and was even provided to the first Olympians in Greece, allegedly to promote their performance. Garlic is beneficial to one’s health, according to modern specialists.

In this article, we’ll take a deep dive into the history and origins of garlic as well as how it can be used medicinally and in everyday cuisine. Let’s jump in!

History Of Garlic

Garlic has been adored as a present suitable for the deities and revealed as a material suited only for pigs. Garlic has been utilized for over five thousand years as nutrition, medication, an aphrodisiac, currency, and healing potions.

Garlic was believed to keep evil forces at bay, was hanging above doorways to guard medieval dwellers against malice, and was smeared on doors to keep away murderous vampires.

Garlic bulb pendants designed to be worn around the neck were also thought to shield you from a bull’s piercing horns, warding off local wizards and witches, keeping the black plague at bay, and even preventing others from overtaking you in a race.

One of the earliest cultivated crops is this beloved plant. The Egyptians regarded it as a divinity and used it as a national currency.

Clay garlic bulbs were buried with the dead in Tombs and temples. Archaeologists aren’t certain if the clay bulbs were meant to be money for the afterlife or icons to satisfy the deities.

Garlic has also been used to compensate and fuel laborers and prisoners on the huge pyramids. Garlic limitations caused labor shutdowns since the flower was so prized among those who worked building the pyramids.

One of the very few documented Egyptian slave rebellions occurred as a result of a garlic crop loss caused by Nile floods.

Garlic could only have been consumed by the rugged underclasses. Egyptian officials revered garlic but resisted cooking and eating the pungent bulbs. Garlic was also considered too fragrant for sacred establishments in other civilizations.

Greeks who wanted to enter Cybele’s shrine had to undergo a garlic breathalyzer test. Those who ate garlic were barred from entering.

Due to its strong odor and connection with the common folk, the social elite of ancient India deprived themselves of the enjoyment of the fragrant plant. Similarly, garlic-smelling templars in King Alfonso de Castille’s court were barred from entering civilized society for a whole week.

Many Americans embraced the English mentality and did not appreciate garlic until the mid 20th century. Until that day, it was regarded as an ethnic element and was referred to by slang words such as ‘Italian fragrance.’

One of the most impactful periods in the history of garlic occurred during the spread of Muslim dominance across the Middle East and East Europe. This allowed garlic to expand into Central and Western Europe, where it has been welcomed as an outstanding medical cure.

It was touted as an excellent remedy for plagues and smallpox from the 1660s. Eminent chemist and biologist Louis Pasteur demonstrated in 1858 that garlic could destroy bacteria, significantly reducing the chance of surgical site infections.

Garlic was widely employed as an antibacterial and dysentery remedy as a result of these discoveries throughout both World Wars.

Medicinal Properties Of Garlic

Since ancient times, garlic has been regarded as a universal medicine.

Garlic, in reality, has a wide range of medical characteristics that have been scientifically validated, including antibacterial, bactericidal, purgative, antihypertensive, worming, anticancer, antiparasitic, aphrodisiac, hypoglycemic, and so on.

Garlic aids in the treatment of hypertension through the dilatation of tiny capillaries. It also possesses anthelmintic effects and is effective against intestinal parasites. Finally, allicin suppresses tumor growth, which explains its supposed anti-cancer abilities.

Garlic And Italian Cooking

Garlic has a rich history in Italian food, but its usage is even more prevalent at “Italian” eateries outside of Italy. Garlic is widely used in Italy, especially in the south, but only in moderation.

It gives taste to food, but it is mainly mild and well blended with the other ingredients, never dominating it. It can be eaten raw, sautéed (with sauces), or long-cooked in soups, where it becomes delicate and mellow. Garlic can also be used in many preserved foods as a cure and to add extra flavor.

Garlic is featured liberally in Italian-American cuisine and Italian dining beyond the borders of Italy in general, frequently to the detriment of other subtle flavors. Use garlic in moderation to provide flavor without dominating a meal for a more Italian – inspired flavor.

Some Italian chefs put an entire garlic clove into a pan of oil, heat it up to mellow out some of the taste, and then remove the clove to prevent an excessive garlic flavor in the completed meal.

What Are The Benefits of Eating Garlic?

1. Boosts Immunity

Who knew consuming more garlic might help raise your body’s immune system?

According to one trial including 41,000 middle-aged females, those who did eat garlic, fruit, and veggies on a regular basis had a 35% decreased risk of colon cancer. Note that the advantages came from cooked and raw garlic, not from pills.

2. Acts As An Anti-Inflammatory

Rub the oil into painful, swollen affected joints. It is even recommended by the Arthritis Foundation to help reduce cartilage degradation caused by arthritis.

3. Promotes Cardiovascular Health

Studies show that it might benefit your vessels and heart rate. Scientists claim that red blood cells convert the sulfur in garlic into hydrogen sulfide gas, which opens our capillaries and makes blood pressure control simpler.

The excellent thing is that you’ll be able to stop taking your antihypertensive drugs, so talk to your doctor about whether introducing more garlic to your regimen could be beneficial to you.

4. Improves Your Skin And Hair

Garlic’s antioxidants and antibacterial qualities can help clear up acne-causing bacteria on your skin. According to one study, applying raw garlic on spots can help them go away. However, be warned that it may induce a burning feeling on your body.

It is always best to speak to a doctor or qualified dermatologist before using any new products on your skin, as it may not be suitable for everyone.

5. Safeguards Your Food

Those same healing properties in fresh garlic can prevent infection that contributes to food poisoning, including salmonella and E.coli. However, Garlic should not be used as a replacement for adequate food hygiene and management. And as for how long fresh garlic lasts, it can be up to 3 months when stored properly.

6. Keeps Athlete’s Foot At Bay

Garlic is also effective against fungus. If you have an athlete’s foot, immerse your toes in garlic water or massage raw garlic around your feet to kill the fungus that causes the itching.

Are There Any Downsides To Cooking With Garlic?

Garlic has numerous health benefits, but just don’t introduce too much to your meals too soon, no matter how enticing it may be. Overthinking it might result in stomach trouble, bloating, diarrhea, body odor, and foul breath.

Garlic pills can induce migraines, weariness, decreased appetite, muscle aches, disorientation, and allergic responses such as asthma symptoms or itchy irritations in rare instances.

If you take blood thinners, eating garlic supplements may worsen the medication’s impact, making it even more difficult for blood clotting. Before using any garlic medication, ask your doctor for professional advice. ​

Rick Zullo

Former doctor, current science teacher, and life-long food lover, Rick's passion for Mediterranean cuisine was ignited while living as an expat in Rome, Italy. 


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