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Basic Information

Garlic is a herb of the allium family, closely related to onions and shallots, which is used almost world wide as a seasoning, a food in its own right or for medical or spiritual purposes.

The plant itself presents a slender, almost grass-like stem, topped with a bushy flower and ended in a multi-lobed underground bulb, which is the part of the plant which is traditionally eaten.

Garlic as a seasoning or foodstuff is generally stripped of its protective skin and then crushed, chopped or cut into sauces and similar preparations so that its strong flavour can be infused, although larger bulbed varieties can be roasted and eaten in their own right. Garlic paste can also be used as a condiment in its own right and has been used as a meat preservative. Garlic, like many herbs, may be dried or preserved in oil or vinegar.

Medicinally, garlic has traditionally been either chewed and eaten raw or applied topically as a paste or an infusion in oil. Antimicrobial effects have been demonstrated due to an antibiotic known as allicin which is inherent to fresh garlic - the presence of significant levels of S-allylcysteine may also help, and these persist even in dried garlic, but their effect is less well demonstrated. There is limited evidence of cancer retarding effects, and no proven link (but plenty of anecdote) between consumption of garlic and protection from the common cold. Historical and traditional medicine systems present garlic for a variety of other conditions, few if any of which are currently verified. Garlic can be allergenic to some humans, and is mildly toxic to some other mammals including dogs although symptoms are generally confined to gastro-intestinal distress if consumed or skin irritation in response to topicals. Toxicity increases for lower animals to the extent that garlic derived insecticides and nematocides are known to exist. Consumption of fresh garlic also tends to impart a strong smell to the breath, as well as sweat, breastmilk and other bodily fluids - a variety of folk remedies, of varying efficacies, exist for this. There is, again, anecdote but no proof that this odour deters some or all species of biting insect.

Spiritual uses of garlic vary by culture - Greco-Roman tradition included sacrifices of garlic made to Hecate at crossroads, but it is more generally seen as a ward against many forms of evil - of which vampires are probably the best known.


1. full source reference

Game and Story Use

  • Garlic paste as a wound dressing may be a surprise to your PCs - but it was used in this role as late as WW2, especially by those nations without easy access to mass-produced anti-biotics.
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