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(Allium Sativum)

by Dylan Warren Davis:

The Hand Reveals

By Dylan Warren-Davis

   By Dylan Warren-Davis

Of the rulership of garlic Culpeper says simply: "Mars owns this Herb".[1] The Martial rulership of the herb most directly comes from the shape of the bulb and long tubular pointed leaves being directly analogous to the glyph for Mars. In fact the very name 'garlic' comes from Anglo-Saxon meaning 'Spear plant', a very appropriate name for a plant ruled by the god of war. When the bulb is split open the individual cloves often have a reddish hue. The flavour of garlic is well known for its hot, dry pungent taste, savoured in the cuisine of many cultures. Garlic likes to grow in hot and dry open places. The hotter the sun the more pungent the taste.

As can be seen, garlic particularly fulfills the Martial signature of a herb found in Lilly's Christian Astrology:

"The herbs which are attributed to Mars are such as come near to redness, whose leaves are pointed and sharp, whose taste is caustic and burning, love to grow in dry places." ([2] )

Garlic is related botanically to the onion, which is also traditionally ruled by Mars. However the onion is much bigger than garlic, as well as being more fleshy and succulent so it is appropriate that the onion is jointly ruled by the Moon.

As a Martial herb garlic is seen to strengthen the Fiery choleric humour. The choleric humour counters the influence of the Watery phlegmatic humour which has its seat in the lungs.([3] ) Traditionally garlic is used for chest and lung infections such as chronic bronchitis, whooping cough, bronchitic asthma and catarrhal conditions of the respiratory system, such as colds and influenza.

The eating of garlic is well known for causing a particularly pungent malodorous breath that can have unpleasant social consequences. The malefic aspect of Mars is certainly apparent here. Paradoxically it is this smell that contributes to the therapeutic effect of garlic on the body. The oil present in garlic when it is freshly cut has a sickly sweet smell. However one of the substances present in the fresh oil, called alliin, is oxidized by the metabolism of the body to produce diallyl disulphide, responsible for the offensive smell.

Diallyl disulphide is highly anti-bacterial as it circulates around the body. As it is exhaled through the lungs in the breath it powerfully disinfects the respiratory system. The herb also has antiviral properties and additionally, by stimulating the formation of white blood cells, it enhances the immunological responses of the body against infection.

These pharmacological actions confirm the traditional use of garlic for chest infections. Furthermore, garlic has spasmolytic action useful in relieving spasm of the bronchi in asthma. The pungency of the oil has a powerful expectorant action useful for cutting and expelling phlegm from the lungs. Of its action Culpeper says:

"In choleric men it will add fuel to the fire; in men oppressed in melancholy, it will attentuate [weaken] the [melancholic] humour, and send up strong fancies, and as many strange visions to the head; therefore let it be taken inwardly in great moderation; outwardly you may make more bald with it" ([4] )

The adding fuel to the fire is Culpeper's way of saying that the herb strengthens the choleric humour associated with fever. In humoral physiology a good fever was seen to eliminate impurities from the body and clarify all the humours. Today garlic is still used as a febrifuge to assist fevers.

Culpeper's description of garlic weakening the melancholic humour is particularly interesting, for when the melancholic humour is linked to blood viscosity and the clotting mechanism of the blood, recent pharmacological studies have shown that garlic reduces cholesterol and lipids in the blood, as well as reducing platlet aggregation thereby preventing thrombosis. The herb has also been shown to help prevent the build up of fatty deposits inside the blood vessels as in arteriosclerosis. Furthermore, garlic is shown to help reduce high blood pressure, a condition which is frequently associated with degenerative changes in the blood vessels.

Strong fancies, is Culpeper's way of saying that the herb excites strong sexual passions, a use for the herb commonly found in the Mediterranean countries. The idea of many strange visions to the head is due to Mars being dignified in Aries and alludes to the sexual desires generated by the strengthening of the sexual drive.

Finally garlic has been shown to have an hypoglycaemic action, that is it helps lower the blood sugar. This makes the herb useful for helping diabetes. As Venus is connected to sugar, this action of the herb clearly demonstrates Mars' antipathy to Venus.

Notes & References:

  1 ] N. Culpeper, The English Physitian, 1653, section on garlic.
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  2 ] W. Lilly, Christian Astrology, 1647, p.67.
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  3 ] D. Warren-Davis, 'Decumbiture and Humoral Physiology', The Traditional Astrologer, Issue 2. Autumn 1993.
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  4 ] N. Culpeper, ibid.
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Dylan Warren-Davis has been practising herbal medicine (naturopathy) for 25 years, qualifying as a prize-winning student with the National Institute of Medical Herbalists (UK) in 1982. Since completing his herbal training, Dylan has researched the lost European metaphysical teachings, upon which Western herbal knowledge is based. He has also been engaged in the commercial production of herbal tinctures and has been a consultant on the manufacturing of herbal tinctures to the herbal industry in Britain. In addition to seeing clients, he is currently promoting glyconutrition in both the UK and Australia.

He may be contacted by email at

 In this series:    Valerian & Fennel: Two Contrasting Mercurial Herbs
 In this series:   Garlic: The embodiment of a Martial herb
 In this series:    Dandelion: The embodiment of a Jovial herb
 In this series:    Comfrey: The embodiment of a Saturnine herb
 In this series:    The Myths of Mistletoe

© Dylan Warren-Davis
This article was published in the Traditional Astrologer Magazine of which Dylan was an associate editor. Published online, April 2003.

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