In Ancient Egypt, Ancient Greece, and Rome, garlic was fed to workers as it enhances strength and stamina. Soldiers too would eat garlic before battle.
There are references to Jewish slaves being fed garlic and onions in the Bible. It was a popular spice in the region with the Jews being particularly fond of garlic.
There is extensive reference to its medicinal properties in both the Charaka Samhita and the Sushruta Samhita, ancient Indian medical texts. Both Indians and Chinese regard garlic as an aphrodisiac. It aids digestion, improves respiration, and was used to get rid of intestinal worm infestation (Woodward, 1996). It helps in improving qi—life energy. Charaka Samhita recommends the use of garlic to treat heart disease and arthritis too. Garlic’s effect is also said to be diuretic.
The Ebers Papyrus (c. 1550 BC) prescribes the use of garlic in cases of high blood pressure and clogged arteries. Garlic was also prescribed to alleviate general malaise, and combat infestations of insects, worms, and parasites.
Hippocrates recommended the use of garlic in respiratory ailments, as a cleansing agent, and to treat abdominal growths. Dioscorides recommended the use of garlic to keep arteries clean. Pliny’s Historica Naturalis mentions the use of garlic to improve digestion and to treat insect bites, arthritis, and convulsions.
Before the discovery of antibiotics, garlic was consumed in large quantities, especially during disease epidemics. Its anti-microbial properties were thought to provide protection. In 2002-2003, the SARS epidemic in China killed hundreds of people; garlic was consumed widely, hoping for protection against the virus.
It is a widely-researched species and is a popular herbal supplement cleared for use in the US, Europe, and across the globe. The plant is known to be effective in reducing high blood pressure, showing promise in reducing cardiovascular risk (Ackermann et al., 2001).
Garlic is useful in alleviating atherosclerosis (Berthold et al., 1998). It also tested positive for efficacy against Type 2 diabetes (Ashraf et al., 2005).
And there is much more to garlic… For more read the section on the spice here.