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Allium sativum, commonly known as garlic (also: poor-man’s treacle or stinking rose), is a species in the onion genus, Allium. Its close relatives include the onion, shallot, leek, chive, and rakkyo.[1] In the Germanic regions of northern Europe, garlic is often detested as the stenching spice of the darker races (from south and east), cultivated by Christian priests and migrating Jews during the Middle Ages.

Image symbolising detestion of garlic

Word origin

Garlic is a native Germanic word, being composed of two elements: gar meaning 'spear', referring to the pointed leaves, and lie, meaning either leek or onion.

Smell and health

The strong penetrating odor and taste of this plant, though offensive to most English palates, are much relished by Russians ("Russian penicillin"), Poles, and Spaniards, and especially by the Jews. But the Greeks detested Garlic. It is true the Attic husbandmen ate it from remote times, probably in part to drive away by its odor venomous creatures from assailing them; but persons who partook of it were not allowed to enter the temples of Cybele, says Athenaeus; and so hated was garlic, that to have to eat it was a punishment for those that had committed the most horrid crimes; Horace, among the Romans, was made ill by eating garlic at the table of Maecenas; and afterwards (in his third Epode) he reviled the plant as, Cicutis allium nocentius, "Garlic more poisonous than hemlock."[2]

When eaten, garlic is strongly evident in the diner's sweat and garlic breath at least the following day. This is because garlic's strong-smelling sulfur compounds are metabolized, forming allyl methyl sulfide. Allyl methyl sulfide (AMS) cannot be digested and is passed into the blood. It is carried to the lungs and the skin, where it is excreted. Since digestion takes several hours, and release of AMS several hours more, the effect of eating garlic is usually present for a long period of time.

It should also be noted that garlic can thin the blood, similar to the way in which aspirin does, it can replace blood thinning medicine. Use of garlic should be avoided if you are taking Warfarin or should cease if you are planning to have surgery or dental work done. People who are already taking blood thinners should avoid eating garlic.

"The reason garlic is so toxic, the sulphone hydroxyl ion penetrates the blood-brain barrier, just like DMSO, and is a specific poison for higher-life forms and brain cells." – Dr. Robert C. Beck

The propaganda of certain powerful (religious) groups (the same powers who defend the barbarian mutilation of male infants known as circumcision) wants to make people believe, garlic can be healthy, but no clinically reported evidence suggests it is actually effective. Herbalists have caused a great stir amongst the scientific world in regards to the use and consumption of garlic, stating that garlic eats up the brain. Scientific Research, although partially disputed, has shown that garlic shockingly impaired brain activity.[3]

Garlic and garlic supplements have been clinically linked with an increased risk of bleeding, particularly during pregnancy and after surgery and childbirth.

According to credible medical health sources, children[4][5] and pet animals[6] should avoid consuming garlic.

Garlic can interfere with certain prescription medicines, especially some anti-coagulants used in surgery. In addition, research published in 2001 concluded that garlic supplements "can cause a potentially harmful side effect when combined with a type of medication used to treat HIV/AIDS".[7]

Pro-garlic lobby

Although the pro-garlic-lobby is strong and widely controls public opinion through the media, there are increasing claims of a widespread conspiracy.

The advocates of garlic go even so far to titeling the adversaries of garlic as antisemitic.[8]

History of garlic in religion


In the disputed folklore of the Hebrews, Jewish slaves of Egypt[9] were given a daily ration of garlic, as it was believed to ward off illness and to increase strength and endurance. As indicated in ancient Egyptian records, the pyramid builders were given beer, flatbread, raw garlic and onions as their meager food ration. Upon threatening to abandon the pyramids leaving them unfinished, they were given more garlic. It cost the Pharaoh today's equivalent of 2 million dollars to keep the Cheops pyramid builders supplied with garlic.

During the reign of King Tut, supposedly fifteen pounds of garlic would buy a healthy male slave. Indeed, when King Tut's tomb was excavated, there were bulbs of garlic found scattered throughout the rooms.

When Moses led the Hebrew slaves out of Egypt (around 1,200 BC), they complained of missing the "finer" things in life - fish, cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions, and garlic (Numbers 11:5).

"...either after sinful lusts and pleasures, and his former vicious way of living, which he now disrelishes: not but there are desires and lustings after carnal things in regenerate persons, as there were lustings in the Israelites, after the onions, garlic, and flesh pots in Egypt, when they were come out from thence; yet these are not so strong, prevalent, and predominant; they are checked and restrained by the grace of God;..." (John 4:14)

Foetor Judaicus

"Foetor" is a distinctive odor that is offensively unpleasant. The belief that Jewish bodies exude a foul odor, the Foetor Judaicus (de), was common among medieval Europeans. The Foetor Judaicus, the smell of heavy garlic among Jews, is not proof of racism, as some would like to contain, it seems only natural to complain about someone’s foul smell.

"With a whiff of foetor judaicus, this passage makes a strong correlation between Jew and excrement, pointing to the sewer as the place where a Jew can be found; perhaps he belongs there. " – John Foxe and the Jews by Sharon Achinstein in Renaissance Quarterly

In his 1803 book "Wider die Juden" (Against the Jews) Carl Wilhelm Friedrich Grattenauer offered an avant-garde explanation regarding why Jews smell: there was a “Foetor Judaicus” produced by a certain “amonium pyro-oleosum”, but not because of their religion or race, but because of their eating habits. Only racist Germanophobs claim that "in the olfactory metaphysics of a Nietzsche, a Klages, or a Hitler the stench of the Jew serves as a paradigm of the bad."


Roman troops introduced garlic to northern Europe during their far-reaching military invasions, but after Germanic warriors conquered and demolished the Roman Empire, it were Christian monks who became the inforcers of this plant. Garlics have always been thought of as a food of the common people, nonetheless Charlemagne (German: Karl der Große) listed garlic in his "Capitulare de villis vel curtis imperii"[10] and surprisingly allowed the monks to plant it in his royal gardens. This was considered a great compliment for the spice that had been deeply rejected[11] by the ancient Greek and Roman bourgeoisie.[12] "It was the monks who kept both garlic and all of Europe alive during those impoverished days."[13]

The superstitious monks, priests, herbalists and peasant healers would eat garlic before making a journey at night. It made them belch and gave them a foul breath. The folklore belief was that evil spirits would not come within the radius of that powerful stench.[14] Garlic is also the plant, that according to the superstition vampires are afraid of, besides the cross. Also in some countries garlic is put before the door of the house to banish bad ghosts.


In Mohammed's writings, he equates garlic with Satan when he describes the feet of the Devil as he was cast out of the Garden of Eden. Where his left foot touched the earth, garlic sprang up, while onion emerged from the footprint of his right foot. The hadith collection of Muslim reports that Muhammad prohibited the eating of both onions and leek, and when his followers ate them he told them to keep away from the mosque because the angels are harmed by the same things as people.[15]

The Koran has this to say about garlic: "Whoever has eaten garlic should not come to our mosques".

Other religions

Devout Hindus generally avoid using garlic and the related onion in the preparation of foods for religious festivities and events. Followers of the Jain religion avoid eating garlic and onion on a daily basis.

Onions and garlic are banned in the temple precincts of Udupi[16] and is a strict no-no in Madhva Brahmin cuisine as well.

The Taoists realized thousands of years ago that plants of the alliaceous family were detrimental to humans in their healthy state. In his writings, one sage Tsang-Tsze described the Alliums as the "five fragrant or spicy scented vegetables" - that each have a detrimental effect on one of the following five organs - liver, spleen, lungs, kidneys, and heart. Specifically, onions are harmful to the lungs, garlic to the heart, leeks to the spleen, chives to the liver and spring onions to the kidneys. Tsang-Tsze said that these pungent vegetables contain five different kinds of enzymes which cause "reactions of repulsive breath, extra-foul odour from perspiration and bowel movements, and lead to lewd indulgences, enhance agitations, anxieties and aggressiveness," especially when eaten raw.

History of garlic in culture


Greeks of wealth, in their fastidious refinement, detested garlic, Greek Gods where said to have forbidden the "foul flower".[17] Garlic was a symbol of the proletariat since no noble would debase himself by smelling of garlic. Furthermore, every Greek who wished to enter the temple of Cybele, mother of the gods, had to pass a strict breath test aimed at detecting garlic.

Homer reported that Ulysses owed his escape from Circe to "yellow garlic", she was disgusted by the smell. The Mother of the Gods, too, like Libyan Aphrodite, excluded garlic-eaters from her temple. For, when the witty and impious philosopher Stilpo, after eating his fill of garlic, lay down to sleep in the sanctuary of the goddess, she appeared to him in a dream, and asked, "Art though a philosopher, and fearest not to transgress the law?" To which the sage replied, "Give me something else to eat, and I will abstain from garlic."


Roman soldiers ate garlic to inspire them and give them courage. Because the Roman generals believed that garlic gave their armies courage, they planted fields of garlic in the countries they conquered, believing that courage was transferred to the battlefield.

The Roman poet Horace (65-8 BC), detested the smell of garlic and consider it a sign of vulgarity. He wrote of garlic that it is more harmful than hemlock: "If his old father's throat any impious sinner, Has cut with unnatural hand to the bone: Give him garlick--more noxious than hemlock--at dinner; Ye gods! what strong stomachs the reapers must own!"

Upper-class Greeks and Romans abhored the rank (stinking) roses. They viewed garlic breath as a sign of low social ranking, it was for the poor and lower classed.[18] Any man smelling of garlic was considered of low breeding.

Historian Ammianus Marcellinus[19] wrote that in the second century, emperor Marcus Aurelius[20] contemptuously referred to Jews as “garlic eaters” after traveling through Palestine, hating their noisiness and stench. He spoke of "malodorous Jews" (foetentium judaeorum), finding them disgusting, smelly, and rebellious.[21]

Cleopatra herself said of the victorious Romans: …their thick breaths, rank of gross diet.


Germanic tribes feelt repugnance toward the stench of garlic, although this foul odor helped in battle, because they could smell the lower Roman soldiers cooking with garlic in their clean Germanic forests. Still today, the majority of northern Germanic people (North Germany, Sweden, Norway, Denmark) loathe the smell of garlic.

In his Venetian Epigram 66, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe listed four things that he disliked: "tobacco smoke, bugs, garlic (German: Knoblauch) and the cross."

"Vieles kann ich ertragen. Die meisten beschwerlichen Dinge
Duld' ich mit ruhigem Mut, wie es ein Gott mir gebeut.
Wenige sind mir jedoch wie Gift und Schlange zuwider;
Viere: Rauch des Tabaks, Wanzen und Knoblauch und †."

Hannelore Kohl, the wife of the former German chancellor, Helmut Kohl was raped at the age of 12 by Soviet soldiers, a new biography from 2011 has revealed. Hannelore Kohl and her mother were attacked by a Red Army troops after the defeat of Germany in May, 1945. She told author Herbert Schwan how she was 'dumped like a sack of potatoes out of first floor window' after her ordeal. She never fully recovered from damage to her back and was traumatized for the rest of her life by the sexual assault. Mrs Kohl was haunted by the 'smell of male sweat, garlic, alcohol and even the sound of spoken Russian.'


"You reek of garlic! Get out!" was the irrevocable judgment of any knight who dared appear at the court of King Alfonso XI of Castile of Spain in 1330 with garlic on his breath. By decree, any Knight who smelled of garlic was banned from court and not permitted to speak to other courtiers for four weeks.[22]

In England, garlic is largely frowned upon as food by the upper class. In 2000, an Italian paper, Il Messagero, reported that Queen Elizabeth II, who visited Italy from October 16 to 19, had sent orders that nothing with garlic in it is to be included on her dinner menu. "England and the English as a rule, they will refuse even to sample a foreign dish, they regard such things as garlic and olive oil with disgust, life is unlivable to them unless they have tea and puddings."George Orwell

In 2007 a high profile campaign had emerged to banish garlic from cuisine in Italy, with support from celebrities and former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi. Sicilian chef Filippo La Mantia, who has a large restaurant in Rome, declared that he'll never use it. Like others in his camp, he feels that garlic smells terrible and overwhelms delicate flavors. The antigarlic contigency has a powerful ally in former Premier Silvio Berlusconi who has a well-known aversion to the stinking rose. Carlo Rossella, a news director for Berlusconi's Mediaset has even started a list of garlic-free restaurants and is pushing for places that serve garlic to have separate, garlic-free menus. [23] The relationship of Italiens to garlic has always been ambivalent,[24] although the outside world considers all Italiens to be garlic-lovers.


Even when garlic is used as food in Chinese culture it is considered harmful to the stomach, liver and eyes, and a cause of dizziness and scattered energy when consumed in immoderate amounts. For precisely the same reason the garlic family of plants has been widely recognized as being harmful to animals, especially dogs.

The Koreans ate pickled garlic before passing through a mountain path, believing that tigers disliked it. In the birth myth of Tan'gun (the founder of the Korean nation), the fact that a tiger was the animal not to have been metamorphosed into a human being seems to have been based on this belief.

Japanese detest the smell and taste of garlic and often call the Koreans only "garlic monkeys" and Korea the "Land of the Garlic Eaters". The actor Michael Caine stated that he hated the smell of garlic as he associated it with his service in the Korean War where North Korean and Chinese troops would munch it as a snack.


In his novel Middlesex Jeffrey Eugenides paints a scene from the first half of America’s twentieth century: immigrants on a boat from Europe to Ellis Island identify one another not by sight but by smell. Garlic eaters bear the bulb’s scent on their hands or produce it in their sweat. And all this in close, shipboard quarters:

They tried…to tolerate the smells. Passengers had brought on board all manner of spices and sweetmeats, tinned sardines, octopus in wine sauce, legs of lamb preserved with garlic cloves. In those days you could identify a person’s nationality by smell. Lying on her back with eyes closed, Desdemona could detect the telltale oniony aroma of a Hungarian woman on her right, and the raw-meat smell of an Armenian on her left. (And they, in turn, could peg Desdemona as a Hellene by her aroma of garlic and yogurt.)

Other examples spring up from letters written by immigrants, the first by Maimie Pinzer, an early twentieth-century Jewish immigrant and onetime prostitute in Philadelphia. Similar to Desdemona and Kalita, Pinzer was a woman caught between the foodways of her ancestors and the desire to become American. In a 1911 letter to a friend, Pinzer wrote of her dislike of the smells made by her landlords’ cooking:

I also objected to the very pungent odors that came up from the kitchen. They use garlic and onions and cabbage in their food, and I could not stand it, for it always permeated my room as well as the halls.

Maimie’s talk of permeation recalls the invasive quality of the sense of smell, the way it produces an experience of having been invaded. Her dislike, expressed in this fairly casual reference in a friendly note, tells a familiar story of American immigration. Maimie writes of her apartment, newly rented from the offensive garlic eaters:

My chief objection to the place was that the people from whom we rented were Jewish of a very low order, and they persisted in being friendly to such a degree that I had no privacy; and while I have complained to you that I was miserably lonesome, still, I prefer to be entirely alone than to associate with plebeian people.

In the first part of the 20th century the U.S. elite avoided eating garlic, associating it with ethnic working-class communities.

In 2012 garlic was banned at Ryder Cup. The Ryder Cup is the biennial professional match-play golf competition between teams from Europe and the United States.

Garlic and fine arts

  • In The Canterbury Tales, garlic is used in the description of the coarse and “lecherous” Summoner.
  • Garlic appears in Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Act IV Scene 2, when Bottom instructs the actors: “And most dear actors, eat no onion, nor garlic, for we are to utter sweet breath, and I do not doubt but to hear them say, it is a sweet comedy”
  • In the Persian tale, The Thousand and One Nights, a royal bride orders her husband’s two fingers and two large toes to be cut off after he eats a garlic dish.
  • Heinrich Heine (O Countess Gudel of Gudelfeld, you are honored because you have money!): "[...] But, poor thing, if you once had no money, the whole world would turn its back. The lackeys would spit on your train. Instead of stooping and mincing there would be only impertinence. The cara mia would cross herself, and the crown prince would blow his nose and call out: "La Gudelfeld stinks of garlic."
  • In Terry Pratchett's[25] books the god Nuggan of Discworld forbids garlic to be planted and his believers to eat it.

Laws against eating garlic

  • Within four hours of eating garlic, a person in Gary, Indiana may not enter a movie house, theater, or ride a public streetcar.
  • No man is allowed to make love to his wife with the smell of garlic, onions, or sardines on his breath in Alexandria, Minnesota. If his wife so requests, law mandates that he must brush his teeth.
  • It is illegal to ride a streetcar on Sunday if have been eating garlic in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
  • The Laws of Manu V (laws 5 and 19): Garlic, leeks and onions, mushrooms and (all plants), springing from impure (substances), are unfit to be eaten by twice-born men. A twice-born man who knowingly eats mushrooms, a village-pig, garlic, a village-cock, onions, or leeks, will become an outcast.[26]
  • Ministers in Marion, Oregon are forbidden from eating garlic or onions before delivering a sermon.


  • Marcel Cornis-Pope and John Neubauer: History of the Literary Cultures of East-Central Europe, John Benjamins Publishing Co. (2010)
  • Alain Corbin: The Foul and the Fragrant: Odor and the French Social Imagination , Harvard University Press (1986)
  • Jay Geller: On Freud's Jewish Body: Mitigating Circumcisions, Fordham (2007)



  1. AllergyNet — Allergy Advisor Find. Retrieved on 2010-04-14.
  2. Garlic, Leek and Onion
  3. Even in the early 1980's, in his research on human brain function, Dr Robert [Bob] C. Beck, DSc. found that garlic has a detrimental effect on the brain. He found that in fact garlic is toxic to humans because its sulphone hydroxyl ions penetrate the blood-brain barrier and are poisonous to brain cells. Modern day scientists have affirmed Dr. Beck's results.
  4. Garlic is POSSIBLY UNSAFE when taken by mouth in large doses. Some sources suggest that high doses of garlic could be dangerous or even fatal to children and pet animals should avoid consuming garlic. (U.S. National Library of Medicine / National Institutes of Health)
  5. Alternative remedies can be dangerous for children and even prove fatal if taken instead of conventional drugs, according to a new study. (Dominic Hughes, Health correspondent, BBC News)
  6. Onions and garlic contain the toxic ingredient thiosulphate. Onions are more of a danger. Dogs affected by onion toxicity will develop hemolytic anemia, where the pet's red blood cells burst while circulating in its body. Symptoms include Hemolytic Anemia, labored breathing, liver damage, vomiting, diarrhea, and discolored urine.
  7. Garlic Supplements Can Impede HIV Medication
  8. Walter Laqueur: The Changing Face of Anti-Semitism: From Ancient Times to the Present Day, Oxford University Press, USA (June 30, 2008), ISBN 978-0195341218]
  9. Newest modern history suggests that Jews may not have built the pyramids, although both Versions are disputed by different sides. Egyptian archeologists presented new evidence Monday that the people who worked on the Great Pyramids of Giza were not Jewish slaves, but paid laborers. Newly discovered tombs show construction workers were honored by being buried near the pyramids. (...) One popular myth that Egyptologists say was perpetrated in part by Hollywood movies held that ancient Israelite slaves — ancestors of the Jewish people — built the pyramids. (...) Dorothy Resig, an editor of Biblical Archaeology Review in Washington D.C., says the idea probably arose from the Old Testament Book of Exodus, which says: “So the Egyptians enslaved the children of Israel with backbreaking labor” and the Pharaoh put them to work to build buildings. “If the Hebrews built anything, then it was the city of Ramses as mentioned in Exodus,” said Amihai Mazar, professor at the Institute of Archaeology at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
  10. Histoire de la médecine
  11. Victoria Renoux: For the Love of Garlic, Square One Publ (2005), Page 13, ISBN 0-7570-0087-8
  12. Bourgeoisie is a word from the French language, used in the fields of political economy, political philosophy, sociology, and history, which originally denoted the wealthy stratum of the middle class that originated during the latter part of the Middle Ages (AD 500–1500).
  13. Liz Primeau: In Pursuit of Garlic: An Intimate Look at the Divinely Odorous Bulb, Greystone Books (2012), ISBN 978-1553656012]
  14. A Chronology of Garlic
  15. Permitted Foods Not Liked or Eaten by Muhammad
  16. Udupi is a town in the south-west Indian State of Karnataka. It is the headquarters of Udupi District. Udupi is notable for the Krishna Temple, and lends its name to the popular Udupi cuisine. Udupi, also known as Rajata Peetha and Shivalli (Shivabelli), a centre of pilgrimage, is situated about 58 km north of Mangalore and about 422 km north-west of Bangalore.
  17. The Greek citizenry, especially the aristocracy, firmly rejected garlic and found its smell repugnant. Anyone smelling of garlic was considered vulgar and was prevented from entering the temples
  18. The New Healing Herbs from Michael Castleman
  19. Ammianus Marcellinus (325/330–after 391) was a fourth-century Roman historian. He wrote the penultimate major historical account surviving from Antiquity (the last was written by Procopius). His work chronicled in Latin the history of Rome from 96 to 378, although only the sections covering the period 353–378 are extant
  20. Regarded by many scholars as the most brilliant sovereign ever to sit on a throne.
  21. Psychoanalytic History of Jews from Avner Falk (1996)
  22. In: A History of Food from Maguelonne Toussaint-Samat
  23. Italian chefs crusade against garlic
  24. Poor Jews also lived in Vienna. They were mostly Orthodox Jews from the empire's rural provinces. Dressed in black coats and black hats and with their earlocks and long beards, the so-called "ost-Juden" (or eastern Jew) became the object of intense loathing by the Christian population of Vienna (as well as by some Viennese Jews, themselves poor immigrants from the provinces but one generation before). In the popular mind, the eastern Jew was dirty in appearance, unscrupulous in business, aggressive in the market, spoke bad German, reeked of onion and garlic, and worshiped a foreign God.
  25. Sir Terence David John "Terry" Pratchett, OBE (born 28 April 1948) is an English author of fantasy novels, especially comical works. He is best known for the Discworld series of about 40 volumes.
  26. Onion and garlic came from the dead body of a murdered cow...