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Herb of the week.

Byline: Dee Atkinson

Garlic Latin Name: Allium sativa Grown: Native of central Asia, but grown in all warm climates, including southern Europe. Most garlic used in capsules and tablets comes from China.

History: Garlic has such a long history of use, it is difficult to trace its origin. The Pharaohs are said to have placed it in their tombs and fed it to their slaves for strength. Ancient Greeks and Romans consumed large quantities of it and the Roman army carried garlic. There are records of it being used medicinally in Britain from the 12th century.

Traditional Use: Garlic was used in cases of leprosy, smallpox and the plague and for various types of infectious fever. Recipes exist for garlic ointments, syrups and medicinal vinegars. It was also used as an antiseptic. During the First World War, garlic juice was used to wash wounds.

Current Use: Still considered to be antiseptic, Garlic is active against bacteria and microbes and even helps to expel worms. Garlic pearles and tablets are taken for coughs, colds and chest problems. Garlic is also used to lower blood cholesterol levels.

Herbalist Advice: Available in capsule or tablet form, garlic is my herb of choice for preventing colds and chest infections. Much of the active ingredients are contained in the sulphur compounds that give garlic its smell, so odour-free garlic products are not as effective.

Finely chopping a clove of garlic and swallowing it before your evening meal is a great cold prevention. To lower blood cholesterol, some products such as Kwai ACE contain antioxidants A, C and E, which will also help maintain healthy cholesterol levels. Herbalists will use juices and tinctures giving the benefit of the whole plant. Cooking garlic kills the active principles.

When not to use: This is a very safe herb - a great example of making your food your medicine. But anyone taking blood-thinning medication or about to have heart surgery should talk to a practitioner before using garlic.

Dose: Tablets and tincture should be taken at the dose prescribed by the manufacturer. To prevent a cold, take one clove of finely-chopped garlic before your main meal each day.

Q I AM 47 and my doctor tells me that I am peri-menopausal. I get hot flushes and have had irregular periods for the past six months. I suffer from migraine and don't want to use hormone replacement. Do you have any suggestions.

A HERBALISTS have been treating patients with menopausal symptoms for centuries and have a tried and tested range of remedies.

Much current interest has been focused on herbs and food that contain phyto-oestrogens - compounds with a similar action to oestrogen that act as a sort of natural hormone replacement.

One of the best herbs in this category is Black Cohosh. It has been shown to relieve symptoms of menopause and help prevent osteoporosis. It is available in tincture and tablet form.

Hot flushes can be eased with sage tincture or drinks of cold sage tea and mood swings and anxiety eased with St John's Wort. Exercise and diet are very important. Foods that contain phyto-oestrogens - these include soya products, flax seed oil, linseeds, beans and peas, sprouted seeds such as alfalfa and pomegranates - will ease symptoms of the menopause. Exercise is one of the best ways to prevent osteoporosis - do at least 45 minutes of brisk walking, three times per week.

The best solution would be to consult a qualified herbalis.

Q I HAVE been hearing about something called glucosamine sulphate that can help knee problems. I have had arthritis for five years and am wondering if it would help.

A GLUCOSAMINE sulphate is an amino sugar that is necessary for the production of connective tissue in the body. It plays an important roll in the formation of nails, tendons, skin and bone. There have been a number of clinical trials that show that glucosamine is effective in relieving pain and inflammation.

As many people can't take conventional anti-inflammatories because they cause stomach problems, products such as glucosamine are becoming very popular. I have used it a lot in clinic, often alongside Devil's Claw tablets and found it can take up to four months to feel the full benefit. The standard dose is between 1000 to 2000mg daily, but it doesn't work for everyone.

Write to Dee Atkinson at Vital, Daily Record, One Central Quay, Glasgow G3 8DA, or email

herbal hotline

If you want advice, call the independent Herbal Hotline on 0906 802 0117 9am-1pm, Monday to Friday. Calls are answered by qualified medical herbalists and are charged at 60p a minute.
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Sep 5, 2001
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