Since ancient times, garlic and onion were always present in even the smallest herb gardens. Both were so widely cultivated for food and medicine purposes around the world, that the wild forms of these two members of the lily family are long gone.
Characteristic aroma and medicinal value of alliums (bulbous plants of the lily family, including: onions, garlic, chives, leeks and shallots) are brought about by sulfur and carbon compounds that neutralize harmful bacteria.
Garlics taste has just as many fans as garlics repellant breath (according to Pliny, Romans naturalist and author, 23/24-79 A.D.) has enemies. So much so that in ancient Roman times some of the temples would not let entering those who ate garlic. The fear of foul odor stretched as far as affecting the use or the lack of use – of onion and garlic in fine urban cooking recipes.
At the same time, common Roman folk used both onion and garlic as cure-all in rural areas where both were also among important food staples.
On the other hand, alliums used as aphrodisiac were highly valued by ancient Romans and Greeks and were therefore widely used in love potions, mixed with some other herbs.
While wealthy Romans were picky about when, where and how to use garlic and onions, ancient Egyptians accredited them both with magical powers and swore oaths to onion and garlic as if they were equal to gods.
Nevertheless, garlic is a traditional remedy, used for all kinds of infections, especially before the rise of antibiotics. During the World War I soldiers wounds were being dressed with garlic. Other uses for garlic have always been: chest and ear infections, colds and flu, digestive infections, rid of intestinal parasites, circulatory problems and strokes, lowering cholesterol and blood pressure, reducing blood sugar and even supporting conventional antibiotics and warding off their side effects.
Onion, milder in aroma, now grown and used as a vegetable, also has a long list of traditional medical virtues. Some are similar to those of garlic, but onion has also been used for preventing oral infection and tooth decay, and to stimulate hair growth and circulation. Onion juice, mixed with honey is a traditional treatment for colds.
The list of historically proven benefits of alliums is long. The smell, though, stays strong. Luckily, Mother Nature provided us not only with natural antibiotics but also with herbal solutions for stinking exhalations. One of them is raw parsley leaves. Chew and sweeten your breath (especially after enjoying raw garlic or onion for whatever reason).