For centuries, one superfood has successfully added flavour to our food, treated ear infections, and even defended against vampires: garlic!
Click start to play today’s Crossword, where garlic hides in one of the clues.
This edible bulb is native to central Asia, and is the X-factor in a host of dishes across countries – from India to the Far East to Italy. But it doesn’t just add its inimitable flavour to food; it has traditionally been used for years as a cure for certain ailments, by Egyptians, Greeks, Chinese and many other cultures.
Allicin, a sulfur compound in garlic, is the reason why it is associated with so many health benefits. Garlic has been known to be helpful for slightly improving blood pressure, cholesterol, and immunity. According to a June 2021 report in US-based news website CNN, in high doses, garlic’s compounds have reportedly helped protect organs from heavy metal toxicity.
But perhaps its best-known use – at least in folklore – is its success in warding off vampires. The link between garlic and vampires has to do with allicin. Allicin is briefly released when the garlic clove is cut, and its presence in the bulb is to help ensure that it survives while it is still in the ground, where it is surrounded by both microscopic and larger predators. The smelly, burning allicin deters further attacks.
The same logic applies to vampires. Some Europeans in the Middle Ages believed that vampires were created by a blood disease and that allicin, which acts as a powerful antibiotic, would be able to ‘kill’ the blood-thirsty fictional creatures.
According to the US-based Carnegie Museum of Natural History, an actual disorder of the blood, called porphyria, may also be the origin for this belief. Those who suffer from it tend to look pale, and their teeth look bigger because their gums shrink. Garlic makes these symptoms much worse, so people with porphyria often avoided it, making people around them believe they were real-life vampires!