The History of the Name “Russian Penicillin” for Garlic During World War II

It is one of the most instantly identifiable tastes, as well as one of the healthiest ingredients, and garlic is no exception. Innumerable recipes and preparations use it, giving a wide range of meals its well-known, delectable taste. However, it is seldom appreciated on its own, save in recipes like roasted chicken with numerous heads of garlic, garlic confit oil, or the ol’ standby, garlic bread. Instead, it is usually a side dish. Do you know the health benefits of garlic?

According to this quotation from an article in the Pharmacognosy Review (found at the National Library of Medicine), “during a period when antibiotics and other pharmacy goods were not yet available, a bulb of garlic alone constituted a whole pharmacy sector” The Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University’s Micronutrient Information Center reports that “garlic extracts have been discovered to have antibacterial and antifungal activities.” It’s also filled with manganese, vitamins B1, B6, and C as well as selenium and fiber. Garlic is also excellent in lowering cholesterol and blood pressure and in strengthening the immune system. It’s also a good source of potassium, calcium and iron.

What Is the Origin of the Name “Russian Penicillin”?

According to the Los Angeles Times, the Egyptians utilized garlic to treat heart problems, general weakness, headaches, and migraines “as early as 1500 B.C.,” when it was noted that garlic had notable health advantages. As a result of its healing abilities, garlic was referred to as “Russian penicillin” during World War II. It was utilized to treat combat wounds and injuries.

You may be wondering where that moniker came from. As Western New York Urology Associates notes, “the Russian government resorted to this traditional medicine for its troops after running out of antibiotics during World War II.” Garlic “poultices” are claimed to have been used to prevent infection in exposed wounds and sores. The British government “made a wide call for the public to furnish it with garlic in order to satisfy wartime demands,” and Louis Pasteur’s early experiments concerned utilizing garlic to fight germs. “No doubt that raw garlic may destroy a broad range of germs by direct touch, including fungus, bacteria, viruses and protozoa,” Urology Associates states. In spite of the cloves’ little size, garlic is clearly a potent substance.

Garlic’s Medicinal Uses Throughout History

There is an antibiotic compound in garlic called allicin that is released when garlic is crushed, diced, or sliced. Allicin is responsible for garlic’s pungent, strongly garlicky fragrance and includes some of the most beneficial compounds in garlic.

For centuries, garlic has been used in traditional Chinese medicine to treat respiratory and intestinal problems, while indigenous North Americans utilized it to treat “flu-like symptoms,” according to the American Society for Microbiology. Allicin, according to ASM, may treat flu, herpes, CMV, and cytomegalovirus symptoms, as well as lower the number of parasites in the body. This compound is found in greater concentrations in garlic than in leeks, onions, or chives, according to ASM, despite the fact that all alliums contain allicin and alliinase.

According to Karin Edgett, the allicin in garlic may be activated and elevated by cutting, slicing, chopping, or crushing it for at least 10 minutes before utilizing it in any way. Of course, raw garlic may be eaten, but it’s less flavorful and can have an overpowering, even scorching flavor if consumed that way. Dr. Albert Schweitzer reportedly used garlic to cure diarrhea, according to Bon App├ętit in 2014. Perhaps the traditional saying “a (crushed) clove of garlic a day keeps the doctor away” should be rephrased, as ASM suggests. (Apples, I’m sorry.)


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