12 FEB 2019: Show me a person who doesn’t like garlic and I’ll show you a person who is probably not living life to the fullest. I can say this because my pops is one of those people. If you ever needed a little bit of inspiration to appreciate garlic in all of its magical and healing glory, this is for you. Will you someday use it in a salve to apply directly onto the eye? Probably not, but if you had a tricky infection that was resistant to antibiotics, perhaps you’d be glad that I shared this with you. This garlic salve comes courtesy of an Old English medical bible from the 9th century, also known as Bald’s Leechbook.

The many healing potions of the Dark Ages were discredited along with most other discoveries that occurred before the dawning of modern science; until now. It turns out that Bald’s Leechbook and its collection of healing potions, salves and even plastic surgery methods, are more than just a permanent fixture in the British Library in London (the last known physical copy). While prized as a cure for a nagging sty, Nottingham scientists have conducted extensive research putting it’s antibacterial activity to the test.

Here’s the thing with bacteria, they replicate fast; one becomes millions in just a few hours. This speedy replication means they can adapt very quickly to their surroundings. This is why it is so important to finish your antibiotics even if your symptoms have resolved. If you don’t, you risk a partial elimination of the fugitives, leaving the strong behind. Those left over pass on the secrets of your armoury to their offspring. Now, in on the secret, the new crowd bands together, creating a protective biofilm coating that surrounds them. So, when a future infection happens, they’re already ahead of the game because without breaking through the biofilm, your antibiotics are essentially ineffective. Unfortunately, the threat of antibiotic-resistant bacterial infections is growing, leaving the scientific community feverishly working away at finding new substances to protect us from these superbugs.

Bald’s Eye Salve was up for the challenge.

The recipe involves mashing equal amounts of garlic and leek together, taking equal amounts of wine and cow bile and mixing together in a brass vessel and letting stand for nine nights. You are then to wring through a cloth to extract the clarified liquid and it is ready for use. If you really want to go by the rules it is suggested to use a feather for the application. The powerful action of this salve against bacterial cultures like staph and MRSA were incredible and researchers were blown away by the ability of the Eye Salve to also break through the protective biofilm and eradicate the bacteria entirely.

In case it’s not already obvious, I am a huge garlic fan. It tastes great, it’s fantastic for your heart, it supports a healthy immune system and provides countless other benefits. It’s definitely in my top three for my desert island survival pack, along with some matches, and of course, my Motown Christmas album.

Though I must confess that while it might as well be its own healing superhero, the eradication of these near deadly bacterial infections is not just garlic’s honour alone. The effectiveness of this mixture has been credited to the synergy of the ingredients and allowing them to steep for those nine nights. Others have tested the timeframe and agree that nine nights is the magic number to optimize effectiveness.

I’m definitely not suggesting we return to all of the ancient healing remedies of earlier times. That would mean reinstating public hangings and lining up to rub the hand of a hanged man to cure skin lesions and warts, or shelling out bits of the used rope to alleviated headaches. But why not continue to use what we knew then to build upon it with what we know now? I think we can now agree that not all of it should be thrown in the rubbish. So here’s to the traditional Anglo-Saxon way of healing; let’s eat with our hands, enjoy a good joust, and raise our brass goblets and toast, to health!

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Sabrina Santer

Sabrina Santer uses her academic and holistic nutrition background to share insight and inform readers on travel wellness tips and healthy eating around the world. A witty sense of humour sprinkles her work as proof that healthy need not be boring. 

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