Wild Garlic - The Healing Properties of Ramson. Bonus: Recipe for Delicious Wild Garlic Pesto
In the season of the ramson find out what health properties it possesses, how it has been used in the past and how to prepare delicious pesto from wild garlic.
Author: Rositsa Tashkova, Master of Molecular Biology and Microbiology
Wild garlic is also called ramson, wild onion, bear's garlic, wild cowleek, buckrams, broad-leaved garlic, wood garlic, bear leek. It is a widespread species in Europe and Asia, and is found even in Siberia.
According to one hypothesis, the name is related to the Ursa major constellation, which is visible in the northern hemisphere, and wild garlic is one of the most northern spread species of Allium.
The other hypothesis is related to the popular perception that when the bear wakes from hibernation, it eats wild garlic to clear from toxins and restore its strength.
What Is in Wild Garlic
Wild garlic contains the characteristic for the family of garlic and onion sulphur compounds (methiin, alliin) and more [ref.1]:
- phenolic compounds (flavonoids, kaempferol),
- steroidal glycosides,
- polysaccharides (mainly fructans),
- fatty acids (palmitic, linoleic, oleic, palmitoleic, stearic, α-linolenic and myristic acid),
- amino acids (asparagine, glutamine, aspartic acid, glutamic acid, arginine, alanine, glycine, threonine).
What Is Wild Garlic Traditionally Used for
There is evidence that wild garlic was used by the Mesolithic people, the Celts, the Romans. The ancient Greeks recognized at least four types of onions, including wild garlic, which was thought to have a detoxifying effect.
All parts of the plant are edible. For medical purposes, the leaves collected in April and May, and the bulbs collected in September and October, are used. Wild garlic is usually harvested in the wild, but in some countries, such as Poland, the plant is protected and it's not allowed to pick it in the wild nature.
In European folk medicine, wild garlic is usually recommended as a digestion stimulator, an antimicrobial agent, that removes toxins from the body and prevents cardiovascular disease. It is often used as a cure for respiratory problems, such as a common cold with fever or bronchitis.
It is also used externally to help heal wounds, in chronic skin diseases and in acne.
Today, ramson is often used for cooking. Fresh leaves can be consumed raw or cooked and as a kind of pesto. Add to soups, gnocchi, risotto, ravioli and as a seasoning for hard cheeses or smears with cottage cheese. Leaves and flowers can be used as a side dish to salads, while bulbs can be used as ordinary garlic.
Benefits of Wild Garlic for the Cardiovascular System
Modern pharmacological studies confirm many of the aforementioned traditional applications of wild garlic. It is a plant with high potential for the prevention and treatment of cardiovascular diseases.
Read more in the article Herbs for a healthy heart. Part 1.
Various extracts obtained from fresh leaves of wild garlic have been tested in laboratory conditions for action on aggregation of human platelets (blood elements responsible for blood clotting). The results show that the spirit extract of ramson significantly inhibits aggregation by a mechanism similar to that of the drug Clopidogrel.
Studies in rats have shown that wild garlic has a greater ability to lower high blood pressure compared to ordinary garlic. [ref.2]
It also lowers total cholesterol and increased insulin levels in the blood.
Antimicrobial Effects of Ramson
The antimicrobial effect of aqueous and methanol extract from wild garlic leaves against the following bacteria has also been proven: Staphylococcus aureus, Bacillus subtilis, Escherichia coli, Proteus mirabilis, Salmonella enteritidis, Listeria monocytogenes, Salmonella enterica, and fungi: Cladosporium sp., Aspergillus niger, Rhizopus nigricans, Geotrichum candidum, Penicillium expansum, Candida lipolytica, Mycoderma, Saccharomycopsis fibuligera.
The juice of the bulbs of the plant has also shown an effect against some internal parasites.
The leaves and bulbs of wild garlic have a strong antioxidant effect.
Read more in the article What are the benefits of antioxidants for health and which foods are richest to them.
Wild Garlic and Cancer
The influence of wild garlic extracts on cancer cell lines is also being studied and the results are promising.
Dialyl disulfide (a component of the volatile oil of ramson) inhibits the proliferation of various human cancer cell lines, including breast, lung, colon, lymphomas and neuroblastoma.
The mechanism of action involves stopping the cell cycle or apoptosis (programmed cell death). Also, dialyl trisulphide induces apoptosis in the cell lines of prostate cancer in humans.
Recipe for Wild Garlic Pesto
Wild garlic has a very delicate, unobtrusive garlic taste, and the first spring leaves are distinguished by great fragility. It is suitable as an addition to salads, and pesto can be prepared from it. Here is what you need:
- 100 g wild garlic
- 150 ml olive oil
- 100 g yellow cheese, parmesan or other type of cheese
- 60 g walnuts, almonds or other nuts
The leaves of the wild garlic are washed and drained, the stalks are removed and the leaves are cut in pieces.
Grind in the blender together with the nuts and cheese, adding the olive oil gradually to the mixture.
The finished pesto is stored in a glass jar in the refrigerator.
Is there a ramson doppelganger
Although the garlic-like smell of ramson should allow its unambiguous identification, there are cases of fatal poisoning with toxic plants, the leaves of which, due to a similar shape, are mistakenly collected from the wild. Such plants are: autumn crocus (Colchicum autumnale), lily of the valley (Convallaria majalis) and European white helleborer (Veratrum albumtrum).
What are the side effects of consuming wild garlic?
Levurda is considered safe. However, it is good to consume with caution from people whose erythrocytes (red blood cells) are particularly susceptible to oxidative damage or are on anti-blood clotting therapy. In very rare cases, an allergic reaction may occur.
- Allium ursinum: botanical, phytochemical and pharmacological overview, 2015, Phytochemistry Reviews
- Wild garlic has a greater effect than regular garlic on blood pressure and blood chemistries of rats, 2001, International Urology and Nephrology
- Wild garlic pesto (levourda), Know How To Cook
👩 🔬 Rositsa Tashkova-Kacharova has a Bachelor degree in Molecular Biology and a Master's degree in Microbiology and Microbiological Control. She completed her Master's thesis at the University of Nantes, France. At that time she painted a Christmas tree of bacteria and inspired the announcement of the first competition for drawing with microorganisms Agar Art. For 3 years she was the editor of the journal Bulgarian Science and continues to write about science and medicine.