Numen Resource Guide


photo by Sandra Lory

Garlic: An All-Star Winter Remedy

By Larken Bunce, MS, Clinical Herbalist & Co-Director Vermont Center for Integrative Herbalism, Montpelier, VT ©2009

Garlic (Allium sativum) is one of our most versatile medicines, providing respiratory, immune, digestive and cardiovascular support. Many excellent varieties grow happily and store well in a variety of climates and are readily available at farmer's markets. As a culinary herb, garlic is available in the produce aisle of coops and grocery stores and can be purchased with food stamps, making it a local, relatively inexpensive and widely available remedy.

Because garlic stimulates immune function and its volatile antimicrobial and mucus-thinning compounds are excreted partially through the lungs, it is especially valuable in preventing and resolving respiratory infections. As a broad-spectrum antimicrobial, garlic can also come in handy when stomach infections come around, as well as Strep infections of throat and ear and Staph infections (including resistant strains, e.g., MRSA). Garlic also increases circulation and sweating, helping to support the body's innate fever response. It's easy to see why garlic is a favorite for winter wellness.

Garlic Scapes

photo by Sandra Lory

Fresh, cooked or aged? What's the difference?

Fresh garlic: powerful immune stimulant, broad-spectrum antimicrobial (acts on viruses, bacteria, fungi, protozoa and worms), diaphoretic (increases sweating), digestive antispasmodic, increases bile flow, expectorant, insect repellent

Gently cooked garlic: gently stimulates immune function (should be a regular part of winter diet); supports healthy intestinal flora and digestive health overall; supports cardiovascular health; provides support during cancer therapy and is cancer-preventive. Aged/encapsulated garlic products have similar benefits.



When to use garlic

Make it yourself: Garlic-ginger oxymel

This is a favorite winter remedy that can be both used right away and stored for many months. Honey and vinegar add their own healing benefits. Can be used to prevent or address respiratory infection; encourages healthy fever and kills many common bacteria and viruses; also makes a good cough syrup, thinning mucus and encouraging expectoration. It's particularly nice for kids and sensitive adults because its sweetness tempers the heat of the ginger and garlic. Dose is 1 tablespoon 1–3x/day or as needed (higher dose for acute conditions); 1 teaspoon 1–3x/day for kids.

1 head garlic
4-inch piece of ginger root
2 tablespoons anise or fennel seeds
1 cup apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup local honey

Crush anise/fennel seeds in mortar and pestle; add to vinegar in a pot. Chop ginger and add to vinegar. Simmer mixture for 30 minutes. Remove from heat and add chopped garlic and honey. If there's time, allow to sit overnight before straining or leave ingredients combined and siphon off top as needed. (Garlic may turn blue-green over time—have no fear, this is part of a normal and safe chemical reaction between the garlic and vinegar.)

General dosing guidelines

Garlic precautions

Text development financially supported by the Herbalist in the Aisle program of Hunger Mountain Coop, Montpelier, VT.