Did You Know? – Five Fun Facts about Garlic in the Ancient World
At Garlic Shaker© we eat, breathe, and live garlic: and chance is, as a Shaker Supporter you love those charming cloves as much as we do! In past posts we’ve highlighted tips and tricks for eating, cooking, and preparing garlic in our modern kitchens. Today our minds wandered along a different path, wondering how people in ancient times used these beautiful bulbs. We paused and asked: what did our ancestors do with garlic, and what lessons can we learn from their experiences with this pungent plant?
1. Garlic was a staple in the diets of the earliest civilizations. Early references show that garlic formed part of the daily diet of Egyptians, fed specifically to the working class involved in heavy labor. As it turns out, there is a recurring theme of garlic being fed to the laboring classes across cultures, as it was believed to increase strength and productivity. The Shaker Team is glad to see that knowledge of the health benefits of garlic have spread far and wide since that time, to be enjoyed by people from all walks of life!
2. Garlic was ancient folks’ 5 Hour Energy. Garlic was given to the original Olympic athletes in Greece, as perhaps the earliest “performance enhancing” drug. The Romans believed that garlic aided strength and endurance, feeding it to both sailors and soldiers before going out to sea or battle. We dare you to ditch your coffee or Redbull for a garlic clove the next time you need a boost!
3. Garlic = natural diuretic. In ancient Chinese medicine, garlic was prescribed to aid with digestion, most importantly to stimulate the bowels. They were definitely on to something! Recent studies show that daily inclusion of garlic helps eliminate digestive "blockage," encouraging healthy digestion while reducing swelling or irritation of the gastric canal. We agree that a healthy dose of garlic can definitely help with occasional constipation; however, remember that some people are more sensitive than others (so keep track of how your tummy reacts!).
4. Garlic was often equated with the working class. Garlic was a symbol of the "common people" in ancient times, as many nobles felt smelling of garlic debased them. Similarly, Greeks who wished to enter sacred spaces had to pass a strict breath test aimed at detecting garlic (and were promptly kicked out by priests who smelled the aroma!). We’re glad times have changed, and that the Stinkin’ rose can be enjoyed across all social spheres.
5. Garlic was grown in monasteries. During Medieval times, knowledge of the therapeutic use of plants, particularly garlic, was gained and transmitted through the monks. With the onset of the Renaissance, increasing attention was paid in Europe to the medical uses of plants. Gardens filled with garlic began to appear rapidly within monasteries, eventually spreading to universities and beyond, where the bulbs were renowned for their medicinal value. Want to learn more about how to grow your own garlic at home? We’ll cover that in another post soon!
Today, after close to 6,000 years of folklore, scientific research shows that garlic is an amazing food with a wide range of health benefits. Current research shows that garlic protects against infection and inflammation, lowers the risk of heart disease, and has anticancer and anti-aging effects. We’re glad our ancestors chronicled their encounters with garlic, so that we can use their experiences to lead healthier, happier lives. Go garlic! To enjoy these benefits you will want to get the skin off your garlic. Learn more about how to peel garlic easily.