What's the Connection Between Vampires and Garlic?

Who doesn't like garlic? Vampires, that's who! We know that our modern vision of vampires, mostly drawn from a century of movies, is a far cry from the legends that terrified Eastern European countries, where vampires were pretty much just buried corpses who escaped to terrorize the living. So where did that weird detail about garlic come from?

The belief that garlic can repel, cure, or kill a vampire was already established by the time Bram Stoker published his novel Dracula in 1897. The idea goes back to the medieval era, when garlic was used as medicine. The potent sulphur compounds that give garlic its aroma were the best antibiotic they could find before modern medicine gave us penicillin. Those compounds protected a buried garlic bulb from microscopic predators, after all. The pungency of garlic means that humans can detect its presence in a room without seeing it. Merely being around a garlic bulb is enough to make some folks go away, so why not vampires?

Medieval folks saw vampirism as a disease. Vampire legends may have grown out of a couple of particular diseases that were as rare as vampires, and just as terrifying. Read about these diseases, and how they became associated with both garlic and vampires at Mental Floss. 

While carrying garlic is presumably adequate to repel vampires, ingesting garlic is even better because it makes one's blood distasteful to vampires. The Medical Journal of Australia offers tips on the proper dosage for such purposes.

(Image credit: Ivar Leidus

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