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- An ingredient in garlic may offer one of the best defences against hospital superbugs, research shows. The compound is said to be effective even against highly resistant strains of the notorious MRSA bug, which has claimed many lives.

Tests by Dr Ron Cutler, a microbiologist, showed it can cure patients with MRSA-infected wounds "within days", he said. Allicin, which occurs naturally in garlic, not only killed known varieties of MRSA, but also new superbug generations resistant to "last-resort" antibiotics such as vancomycin. The findings will be published in the Journal of Biomedical Science in the new year.  

Dr Cutler, from the University of East London, said: "Antibiotics are increasingly ineffective [against MRSA]. Plant compounds have evolved over millions of years as chemical defence agents against infection. Garlic has been used in medicine for centuries."  

MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) causes 2,000 deaths in UK hospitals each year, mainly by infecting surgical wounds. Dr Cutler is starting clinical trials.  

By John von Radowitz The Independent - UK 12-30-3 © 2003 Independent Digital (UK) Ltd 

If you are interested in growing Bear's Garlic please contact us about ordering seeds.

Bear's Garlic (Allium ursinum L.) from Gernot Katzer's Spice Pages

pharm Herba Alii ursini
Dutch Daslook
English Ramson, Wild garlic
Estonian Karulauk
Finnish Karhunlaukka
French Ail sauvage, Ail des ours
Gaelic Garleag
German Bärlauch, Wilder Knoblauch
Hungarian Medvehagyma
Polish Czosnek niedzwiedzi
Russian Cheremsha
Swedish Ramslök
Bear's Garlic (flowering plants)

Bear's Garlic (flowering plants)

Used plant part
Young leaves, preferably fresh. They should be harvested before the plants starts flowering. The bulb, being much smaller than that of garlic, is only rarely used.
Plant family
Alliaceae (onion family).
Sensoric quality
Similar to garlic, but less strong and with a hint of chives.
Main constituents
Similar to garlic, bear's garlic contains a large number of sulphur compounds: divinyl sulfide, dimethyl thiosulfonate, methyl cyctein sulfoxid and the latter's degradation products, methyl allyl thiosulfonate and methanethiol.
Native to Western and Central Europe.  In the USA, ramp (Allium tricoccum), a wild plant with more onion-like flavour, is used for similar purposes.
English ramson (Old English hramsan) is of unclear origin; cognates are found in several Germanic languages (e.g., Swedish ramslök) and in the Balto-Slavic subfamily (e.g., Lithuanian kermuse and Russian ceremsha). There are, however, a few possibly related words in other Indo-European tongues: Greek krómmyon "onion" and maybe Welsh craf "garlic".

The Latin species name, ursinum, was derived from Latin ursus "bear"; cf. also German Bärlauch "bear's leek" and French ail des ours "bear's garlic". I do not know what the associations with bears are motivated by.

All Germanic tongues avoid, for fear of the dangerous animal, the true name of the bear: English bear, German Bär, Swedish björn and others are euphemisms and simply mean "the brown one", being derived from an Indo-European root BHER- "brown"; an alternative, yet less plausible, explanation relates bear to Greek theér "animal" and Latin ferus "wild" (Indo-European GHWER- "beast").
The true Indo-European name of the bear is RKSOS, probably meaning "destroyer"; it appears in Latin ursus and Greek árktos "bear"; the latter term was also used to denote the constellation Great Bear (also known as the Great Dipper) and thus became a general term for "north".

See also garlic.

Bear's garlic bearing unripe fruits

Bear's garlic (wilting leaves and unripe fruits)
Bear's garlic, growing wild in fens and river woods of Central Europe, is much used in local cuisines, but since it cannot be cultivated, it has not gained any superregional importance.

In spring, the leaves are collected and used raw to flavour spreads based on cottage cheese, soups and sauces. Dried leaves usually exhibit a very faint odour and should, if ever, used in liberal amounts. On the other side, they are better preserved by preparing a pesto-like sauce (see basil) or simply by freezing.  

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