Beyond Bad Breath

Whether it is the bad breath it seems to provoke or the imagery of vampire repelling garlic-chains – garlic has been and still is being discussed a lot. The controversy about it either being a necessary ingredient to almost every single dish or people thoroughly avoiding any food that contains garlic can divide the world into two. Very often though, the use of garlic in common knowledge is limited to the kitchen even though there are at least two other fields where garlic can play an important role. This article therefore is dedicated to all the other possible applications, leaving aside the question whether “life stinks more with garlic or without it” (Garlic Quotes).

“Do not eat garlic or onions; for their smell will reveal that you are a peasant” (Garlic Quotes). This quote dates back to the beginning of the 17th century and talks about the profession as a farmer in a dismissive way. Nowadays though, especially in the field of organic agriculture, there is a new interpretation to this quote. A farmer that “smells of garlic” is a very clever one indeed, as he or she recognized the utility of this plant in agriculture. Garlic, that is to say, like Mwarubaini (Neem tree, explored in the last article in this Series), is a natural insect repellent. Its strong scent is not only disliked by many humans but also by insects. SAT’s “recipe” for this natural insecticide is simple yet effective: three bulbs of garlic per 10 liters of water are crushed and mixed with other natural ingredients like neem leaves and chili. When using cold water, the mixture has to rest for around two weeks; hot water accelerates the process of maturing. After filtering, the mixture has to be applied repeatedly on the fields. Insects, among them Whiteflies, are repelled by the intense scent. Farmers that grow garlic in their gardens therefore not only dispose of an important cash crop (garlic yields a high selling price on the market), but at the same time produce their own organic pesticides.

Also not to forget are the medicinal benefits that garlic provides. It has been used as natural medicine in different cultures around the world for thousands of years. For example, garlic is said to have been fed to athletes in the earliest Olympic Games in Ancient Greece as “performance enhancing” agents (Rivlin 2001). Interestingly, different cultures that mostly developed independently of each other came to very similar conclusions concerning the use of garlic in the treatment of diseases (Rivlin 2001). But only a “recent increase in the popularity of alternative medicine and natural products has renewed interest in garlic and their derivates as potential natural remedies” (Bayan 2014). Among others, science literature supports the proposal that garlic is effective for lowering blood pressure and preventing atherosclerosis and therefore that garlic is beneficial for preventing and treating cardiovascular diseases (Bayan 2014). Also, garlic is effective for combating infectious diseases like common colds and Candida and is a booster for the immune system in general (Hirt 2001). Reason enough to consume garlic, especially in its raw state, on a regular basis. It also makes for medicinal garlic honey, oil or tincture that can all be used to treat or at least alleviate the diseases or infections outlined above.

It therefore seems advantageous for small-scale farmers in Tanzania, but also for people practicing urban farming, to extend their crops by garlic cultivars, whether one likes the taste of it in food or not. It is medicine, pesticide and profitable cash crop in one and may just as well help to increase independency!


Bayan Leyla, Peir Hossain Koulivand and Ali Gorji (2014). (19.08.2016).

Garlic Quotes, (19.08.2016).

Hirt Hans Martin and Bindanda M’Pia, Natural Medicine in the Tropics, Winnenden 2001.

Rivlin Richard S. (2001). Historical Perspective on the use of Garlic, (19.08.2016).