Garlic as Medicine

Reader Contribution by Ilene White Freedman

As the weather transitions from winter to spring, you might find yourself needing an immune booster to keep your body strong. As we shed our winter coats a little too soon, and spring allergies begin to lower our immunity, we need an immune booster to keep the common cold at bay.

What’s your natural wellness aid? At the first sign of a cold, a sore throat, fatigue that hints of fighting illness, a pain in my ear … I take some raw garlic. I would say I “eat” raw garlic, but I am hardly eating it. It is more like taking important medicine.

A Dose of Garlic

Select the best garlic you can find. Hard-neck garlic is stronger than soft-neck, so maybe it is more vibrant in its medicinal strength as well. I do not know if regular grocery store garlic is irradiated and weakened or killed off. It would be a good test.

Peel a garlic clove. Using a non-serrated knife, slice the garlic clove as thin as you can (or as thin as you need for swallowing). Slice into slivers, like almond slivers.

Swallow the pieces like a pill, wash down with water. I put the pieces on a spoon with some honey. This makes it really easy to swallow, coats the throat with honey and protects it from garlic juice, and adds some benefits for allergies or sore throats.

A Dose of Advice

Start with just a half clove and work up. If you take too much garlic too fast, it can cause nausea.

When I’m really fighting off a big cold, I can take as many as six cloves throughout a day.

Remember, a clove is one little sectional off a garlic bulb. I am talking about taking just a clove, not a whole bulb!

Do not crush the garlic! The juices of the garlic will sting all the way down your throat. You want smooth slivers, which is why I recommend a smooth knife instead of a serrated knife. The juices of garlic are supposed to be very good for you and all that, but I get lots of benefits from taking garlic in this way without that torture.

Will you smell like garlic? I believe that the body sweats out only excess. When fighting illness, your body needs all the garlic and you won’t even notice it on your breath or skin. My husband and I have been amazed at times when we needed six or seven cloves in a day, our bodies just seemed to absorb it. When you are well and eat too much garlic, your body might send out the excess.

A great book about the amazing properties of garlic as a natural antiobiotic: Herbal Antibiotics by Stephen Buhner. The benefits of garlic go well beyond the common cold. Garlic is serious antibiotic power. Buhner says, “No other herb comes close to the multiple system actions of garlic, its antibiotic activity, and its immune-potentiating power.”

Echinacea and Astragulus are two more great immune boosters. Echinacea, like garlic, is best at first symptoms of illness. Echinacea and Astragulus work great for a sore throat, which is often the first sign of a cold. If you take Echinacea for two weeks, you need to stop for a couple weeks. Best to only take it when you are fighting symptoms. 

Ilene White Freedman operates House in the Woods organic CSA farm with her husband, Phil, in Frederick, Maryland. The Freedmans are one of six 2013 Mother Earth News Homesteaders of the Year. Ilene blogs about making things from scratch, putting up the harvest, gardening and farm life at Mother Earth News and, easy to follow from our Facebook Page. For more about the farm, go to