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A Herbal Sceptic – Cured with Garlic

Being a product of the 1990s British state education system, I grew up with a very ‘conventional’ western mind-set towards science and medicine. I have always been naturally sceptic of medicine applied through plants, even while hearing the tales my grandmother had told me of Camomile lotion helping rashes, and ginger helping a bad stomach. But these were always remedies you purchased in bottles and packets, carefully tested and scrutinised by the infallible knowledge of the modern pharmaceutical scientist. Believing that plants could be used to help alleviate or cure medical problems? That was pure witchcraft, akin to dancing under a full moon on a Tuesday to help a sprained ankle, or rubbing crystals on your eyelids for the flu. To think that only a few decades later, I was putting aside the advice of registered doctors, and getting my medicine from my modest balcony garden.

The beginning of my (so far short) journey into herbal healing started when I got some pretty nasty battery acid burns, while I was working in a metal scrapyard in Australia. One of the products we recycled was the lead from lead acid batteries – the ones under the hood of every car/van. It was my job to weigh, stack, and wrap the batteries onto a pallet before sending them away for processing. It just so happened that one morning, a battery I picked up fell apart in my hands, spreading a lovely solution of 38% Sulphuric Acid on to my arms and hands. The somewhat minor burns turned into irritated skin, and due to the dirty environment I worked in, ended up being infected with the bacteria Staphylococcus aureus (1). A quick trip to the doctor should get that sorted, right? Well, 4 months later, and countless courses of Bactoban, Flucloxacillin, and two other antibiotics I cannot remember, yielded nothing except a slice out of my pay check.

It was thanks to google, and a desperation not to look like my skin was falling off, that I found a forum post with many people promising that crushed garlic, cures staph infections (2). The original post states –

‘Freshly crushed raw garlic kills all or almost all harmful bacteria, including staph, on contact. One study (Walton, Herbold & Lendegren 1936-1938 – Journal of Food Science) even showed that the vapours alone from nearby crushed raw garlic killed all bacteria, including staph, out to 8″ away just from the fumes.
Numerous other studies, such as Abdou et al., 1972 have confirmed that crushed raw garlic kills staph on contact.’

This statement had my brain ticking. Peer reviewed proof that a plant can treat bacterial infections? Is this the evidence I needed to extend the true value of plants into the medical realm too? A bit more digging soon yielded much more recent journal releases on the subject, including the testing of garlic compounds on a variety of types of problematic bacteria, with positive results (4) (5) Importantly too, garlic based compounds can seemingly overcome the problems in treatment associated with antibiotic resistant strains of Staph, such as MRSA.(3) This gives us humans a good avenue for treatment of bacteria which is learning to dodge our best scientific efforts.

So, I was sold. I had found a bridge between my steadfast belief in the scientific world, and my love and belief in the intrinsic value of plant life. Maybe all those old wives tales were based in truth? After doing some reading though, I realised I could not just rush out to the shop and eat 40 garlic cloves and consider the problem fixed and do a little celebration dance. There are a few things that have to be adhered to when working with garlic as a healing agent – the garlic used must be non-irradiated, and it must be chopped or crushed and allowed to breakdown into the powerful compound allicin.(6) (For those organic pest control users out there, allicin is the compound which naturally protects the plant against pests, and can be used as a spray-solution to protect your crops (7)

To ensure you are working with non-irradiated Garlic, you are best off growing it yourself, or sourcing it from a local grower. Second to this – organic, nationally grown Garlic is your next best bet. A simple test for non-irradiated Garlic is to take a clove, and using a sharp knife, slice long-ways through the middle of the clove. You should end up with a centre that has a healthy green shoot, ensuring that the clove is still living and not blasted with radiation. Most imported garlic is irradiated to stop it sprouting and spoiling. You want to find a glove with an intact endosperm (the green bit) like this one.


For treatment of my staph infections, I made a poultice and applied to directly to my wounds I mixed it with coconut oil, as I found that using it directly was far too strong, and burnt very harshly. I also bathed in a mix of 1-4 activated garlic per bathtub. As garlic is gram-negative, and staph is a gram-positive bacteria, the garlic compound actively seeks out the staph bacteria and helps neutralise it. The allicin is not degraded further when suspended in a water solution, so chucking it in the bath will do a decent amount of good. I soaked for an hour or so, making sure I submerged my whole body every now and again.

After around a week of garlic baths, and topical application, my wounds had lost all of their redness and tenderness, and were starting to heal up. Within a few weeks, it was all seemingly gone. After such a long period of pharmaceutical medicine had failed, my doctor was amazed with the work garlic had done. But, he said to me with a touch of dismay in his voice, he would likely lose his job if he recommended it to any patients.

Globally, as we approach a post-industrial society, medical knowledge of this sort is going to become invaluable. Laboratories, factories and scientific communities will not exist in the current format forever. That understanding of a unavoidable transition away from the availability of modern medicine, coupled with the increasing resistance from bacteria towards antibiotics, makes this plant based medicine a powerful and effective tool for anybody. As permaculturists, we need to work on healing our decimated ecosystems, bringing life back to our deadened soil, and reinvigorating long-suppressed communities. In order to do this in the most effective manner, we need to be healthy, and strong. I believe that this tiny glimpse into effective herbalism provides us with proof that we can achieve true health, with a thriving garden and the correct knowledge. With something as simple and true as a few cloves of garlic. My Year 9 science teacher would be mortified.




(3) Antibacterial activity of a new, stable, aqueous extract of allicin against methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus.

(4) In vitro activity of an aqueous allicin extract and a novel allicin topical gel formulation against Lancefield group B streptococci





  1. This article seems to set up a false dichotomy between the use of plant extracts in medicine and a scientific worldview (i.e. an effort to use unbiased logical methods to interpret the available empirical evidence). If the efficacy of the former is established in double-blind, placebo controlled trials then a fair test has been used and we should all be happy that another tool is available to medicine. I don’t think we need to call this activity “herbalism”, as if it is some sort of mystical cult – the word “medicine” will do.

    1. It can not legally be called medicine without the FDA getting involved and that will not happen because garlic is cheap to produce and won’t make pharmaceutical companies any money. Because of that, they will never put the effort into studying it and getting it approved as a medical treatment in this country.

  2. Hello Ollie,
    nice post. Today I finished my 9 day layoff. I had inflammation of nasopharynx (after 5 years of beeing completly helthy). I treated myself according to my doctors advice and also with garlic and onion, crushed in honey. I agree that it is necessry to have home planted garlic and also honey directly from fair bee keeper. I have several friends between them. They agree that honey is also very good medicine to heal surface wounds. This is checked. When someone has some smaller wounds he can simply apply honey. Like butter on the bread. It does not mean, I refuse doctors and medicine. But simple things like healthy food, exercises and sport, simple living, good mind and all this stuff are powerful help.

  3. 1 – I hope you tested negative for the bacterium, otherwise, keep treating yourself!
    2 – your grade 9 science teacher, if s/he was like mine, would have been proud. Peer review is part of the scientific process. And without looking up the studies (1938 is a long time ago), we can guess that there might have been some structure to the study that would give it some verifiability, and since it didn’t involve humans, double-blind design probably wasn’t necessary. Penicillin, after all, was a fluke discovery (if the legend of how it was discovered is true), 10 years prior. Said discovery was quite likely the impetus for looking at garlic and publishing the paper in Journal of Food Science that you cite.
    3 – what you call pharmaceutical medicine is better described as “intellectual property” medicine. There’s no value to the discovery if it can’t be patented and marketed to vast numbers of people — just ask most of the malaria sufferers in the world. Its antithesis is not herbalism — just plain medicine, of the scientific variety, is completely sufficient. Even if it has been almost completely corrupted by the money-centric world we find ourselves in.
    4 – great tip about the irradiated garlic!

  4. First step in your own path to freedom is rejecting state indoctrination otherwise known as the “education system” which systematically has been supressing certain knowledge whilst promoting the rest to suit a set agenda!
    Good on those who gain knowledge through their own research!

    1. Diggman – why not do both? It is of course possible to experience a state education system and select what you wish to take from it AND gain knowledge through your own research. After all, it was presumably one of those wicked state education systems which taught you how to write…or did you teach yourself?

  5. Thanks for the comments everybody. Great to know that some acquired knowledge is getting read by other folk.

    Miloswlav – sorry to hear about your inflammation. I have heard honey is very good for inflammation, but have not encountered it much myself for that use. I was told a long time ago that locally harvested honey can be used as an effective cure for hayfever – something about the local pollen being present in some form in the final honey – not sure if that rings true though! I’ll experiment with trying honey on small wounds in the future and see how it goes.

    Derek – Awesome insights, thank you. I think you’re right about the studies not needing human based testing, as i think it was to test the viability of allicin to disrupt/destroy certain bacterial cells, and done so without the need for a host as such. I am only just now learning to trust medicine which is not of a high financial value – I suppose that is a clear display of how well my personal view upon it had been corrupted by money from an early age. It is really a whole new world opening up to me.

    Digg – hear hear! It does make you wonder which diseases/epidemics could be easily cured if money was not the prime directive for so many…

    1. Great that you’re learning that pharmaceuticals aren’t the only medication option, Ollie. There are also a lot of very much scientific studies on various oils, herbs, etc showing their efficacy as either antibacterial agent or bactericidal agents. The application of scientific methods to filter good folk remedies from the myths is very much a very useful scientific process. :)

      I’ve only considered using garlic orally, thanks for the interesting idea about using it topically as a poultice and for bath water. There’s not much worry about ‘irradiated garlic’ by the way, as most fresh garlic from grocery stores are still alive (you should plant grocery store garlic, when they get too old).

  6. Your article is good, but you really need to proofread it.
    “This had my statement had my brain ticking.”

    “…and within a month, a test by my doctor showed that I tested positive for the bacteria.”
    If that last one is true, you’re not providing a very convincing argument for the use of garlic. I suspect, however, that wasn’t what you meant at all.

  7. I have been suffering for the past year with reoccurring staph infection and while the Bactroban and Fucidine were working in the beginning, soon after they stopped. The bacteria was taking over large area of my body, after treatment for 2-3 weeks will go away to just come back in few days. Then i found out that if I apply some essential oils diluted in olive oil it has fast effect to eradicate the bacteria. I had extensive read on the topic and read many scientific studies to find out that the following essential oils kill the bacteria as the leading one being wintergreen: wintergreen, cinnamon, peppermint, tea tree, palmarosa, grapefruit to which I add lemongrass, thyme and oregano. It had worked miracles for me especially since I have atopic dermatitis. The healing must be from within as well but for now this is a life saver for me. Essential oils are super useful and effective and I wish there were more studies but for now they are quite limited. I am not too sure of the concentration and since there is not much info on mixing and diluting of multiple essential oils I do that as per my own judgement and sometimes I do it more concentrated and sometimes less. I hope that helps people who struggle with Staph infection

  8. Hi there,

    Thank you for your post. I have had a staph infection for months now that keeps roving around my body in the form of pimple-like “pox”. I keep trying different things (including the doctor-prescribed antibiotic mupirocin) and it helps for a little bit but then the staph moves somewhere else. I am going to try the garlic baths and topical applications with coconut oil.

  9. Didn’t work on contact dermatitis with fungal/bacterial infection. Garlic only irritates the sores/blisters and prevents it from healing. Make sure you get a proper diagnosis to treat the infection effectively.

    1. Another way is to saturate the body by crushing a few cloves of garlic and letting it oxidize for 10-15 minutes and use a butter knife to apply it to your feet length ways. It will burn if it gets to the more sensitive skin on the inner side of your feet. Then wrap your feet with glad wrap and you can walk around with it on. The garlic allicin will get into your bloodstream immediately and you will taste the garlic in your mouth within 60 seconds, and remember to get the fresh garlic. Not sure how often to do this. But as often as you can through the day. It will work from the inside out. When you need to go out, you just give your feet a good wash and continue when you get back home. Good luck.

  10. Hello Ms. Sylvia! How do you use garlic orally? A ctscan revealed that i have an abcess in my lower left abdomen abutting the psoas & illiacus muscles that’s giving me pain & fever. I was treated with antibiotics & felt good a week later. But the pain & fever would keep coming back every 3 months or so. I am actually suffering from it again at this very moment. I would like to try natural treatments this time, maybe garlic will help. Thanks in advance!

  11. I got here looking for natural remedies to cure boils or fornucles and Im going to try the raw application with coconut oil. But one thing I have tried a couple of times for sure is, to bite a raw garlic for tooth ache, pain and swelling dissapears between minutes. I tell people to try it and they won’t forget me.

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