This section is from the book "An Experimental History Of The Materia Medica", by William Lewis.
Allium Pharm. Lond. & Edinb. Allium sativum C. B. & Linn. Garlic: a plant with long narrow grass-like leaves; among which arises a single straight hollow stalk; bearing on the top a cluster of small white hexapetalous flowers; each of which is followed by a fruit about the size of a pea, full of dark coloured roundish seeds. The roots are of the bulbous kind, of an irregularly roundish shape, with several fibres at the bottom: each root is com-posed of a number of smaller bulbs, called cloves of garlic, inclosed in one common membranous coat. - It is said to grow wild in Sicily: with us, it is raised in gardens, from seed, for culinary as well as medicinal uses.
The roots of garlic have a penetrating highly acrimonious taste, and a strong, offensive diffu-sive smell. Applied to the skin, they inflame and often vesicate the part. Taken internally, they seem to extend their action, in a short time, through the whole habit; impregnating, with their strong scent, not only the breath, but the urine, the milk of the breast or of the udder, the serum which oozes from fores or issues (a), and the fluid which perspires through the skin. The other parts of the plant possess the same qualities, in a lower degree. In Spain, garlic is said to be equally mild with onion, and is used as food.
(a) Boerhaave, hift. plant. Lugd. Bat. 437. (b) Ibid.
Garlic root has been celebrated, by some practical writers, in a variety of disorders; and condemned by others, not only as an offensive, but as a noxious drug. It is certain, that there are many cases, in which it is extremely prejudicial; but that there are many also in which it is of great utility. To warm and stimulate the solids, attenuate thick humours, and refill putrefaction, seem to be its primary virtues. Hence, in hot bilious constitutions, where there is already a degree of irritation, where the juices are thin and acrimonious, or the viscera or intestines unfound, it is apparently improper, and seldom fails to produce head-achs, flatulencies, third, febrile heats, and inflammatory symptoms in various shapes. In cold sluggish phlegmatic habits, on the other hand, it proves a salutary and powerful corroborant, expectorant, diuretic, and, if the patient is kept warm, sudorific. In loss of appetite, and humoral asthmas, where the stomach or lungs are oppressed by viscid phlegm, this medicine has generally good effects. It has likewise been found serviceable, as a warm strengthener, in the beginning of dropsies, and for preventing a new accumulation of water after evacuation: Sydenham (a) relates, that he has known the dropsy cured by the use of garlic alone.
(a) Bennet, [Chrift. Benedictus] tabidorum theatr. exerc. 29. p. 81.
Some have held it in great esteem as an antidote against the contagion of pestilential and other putrid disorders; whence it received the name of theriaca rusticorum. It is used also among the common people, slightly boiled in milk, as an anthelmintic; and Hoffman looks upon it as one of the capital medicines of that class.
Garlic is sometimes employed externally, in unguents and lotions, as an antiseptic and dif-cutient; and is frequently made an ingredient in the stimulating epithems, applied to the soles of the feet, in the low stage of acute distempers, for raising the pulse and relieving, the head. Sydenham assures us (b), that none of the sti-mulants operate, in this intention, more powerfully than garlic: he observes, that it sometimes occasions intolerable pain, which may be relieved by a cataplasm of bread and milk. Dr. Cullen remarks that it is not so apt to ulcerate the part as mustard; more capable of being absorbed, and extending its action to remote parts.
This root loses in drying almost nine parts in fifteen of its weight, without suffering any con-siderable loss of its taste or smell: hence six grains, dry, may be looked upon as equivalent to fifteen grains of the fresh root.
The fresh root yields, upon expression, about one fourth its quantity of a very viscid glutinous juice; which smells strongly of the garlic, and in good measure retains its scent after being in-fpiffated, by a gentle warmth, to the consistence of an extract.
(a) Traflat. de hydrope. (b) Epist. de variolis confluent.
Both the fresh and the dry root give out their virtue to water by warm infusion. A quart of water, poured boiling hot upon a pound of the fresh root cut in slices, and differed to stand upon it in a close vessel for twelve hours, becomes strongly impregnated with the smell and taste of the garlic.
Vinegar and honey excellently coincide with and improve this medicine, as a detergent and deobstruent, in disorders of the breast.
The garlic itself is never to be boiled, either with vinegar or with watery liquors; the virtues of this root refiding in an essential oil, which exhales along with the steam of boiling water, leaving, if the decoction be infpiffated, an inert mucilaginous extract, which has very little of the taste and nothing of the smell of the garlic. The oil, obtainable by distillation, is of a pale yellowish colour and a thick ropy consistence, in small quantity but of great activity, of an extremely strong smell and a fiery taste: great part of the oil remains dissolved in the dis-tilled water, which is very strongly impregnated with the taste and scent of the garlic.
Rectified spirit of wine, digested on dry garlic root, extracts its virtues more readily and more perfectly than either water or vinegar. With this menstruum, the active matter of the garlic does not easily exhale: the spirit distilled off from the filtered tincture has very little taste or smell of the root, nearly all its virtue remaining in the inspissated extract.