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AN ANGLO-SAXON riddle: "I have one eye, two ears, two feet and 1,200 heads. What I am called?" Answer: A one-eyed seller of garlic.

Boom boom. Garlic was booming then. But it's boom time again with more scientific evidence confirming that garlic can ward off vampires that suck your blood (or their 20th-century equivalents, namely cancer and heart disease).

Apparently, when the clove is processed it creates allicyn. A study at the University of Pennsylvania found that when this chemical was added to malignant breast cells in mice it reduced the cancer cells by 60 per cent.

Until recently this information was regarded as useless because it was thought that you would have to eat your own body weight in the stuff to make any difference. But not any more. New research to be published in the Journal of Nutrition and Cancer from the Ruakura Agricultural Research Centre in Hamilton, New Zealand, discovered that half a clove of raw garlic a day is protective (or four and a half cloves of cooked garlic).

Diallyl disulfide, a substance in garlic, produces enzymes that change the body's mineral balance and stunt abnormal cell growth. A study of 44,000 women in Iowa found that garlic consumption had a positive correlation in protection against cancer.

Now there is even scientific evidence for garlic's reputation as an aphrodisiac. A study at the Chelsea and Westminster Hospital found that impotent men lack the enzyme nitric oxide synthase which is present in garlic. It's cheaper than Viagra.

Garlic is a recommended foodstuff in America. It is mineral and vitamin- rich but good garlic can be 13 times stronger than bad garlic. So don't eke out that curled brown bulb that's turning into a tree at the bottom of the fridge.

Countries that eat lots of garlic have lower rates of heart disease but the attention often goes elsewhere. "It's very frustrating," says Peter Josling, director of the Garlic Centre. "Whenever the virtues of the Mediterranean diet are extolled it's all about fruit, vegetables and olive oil. Garlic is merely seen as a flavouring."

To release the power of the clove you have to get malodorous. Garlic capsules, while beneficial for their sulphur content, can never replicate the anti-oxidant quality of the freshly crushed real thing. In fact some contain virtually no garlic at all.

So how can you incorporate half a clove of raw garlic a day into your life, without losing all your friends, and certainly your pulling power?

Peter Josling says: "Folklore says the more you eat the less you smell. If the body is bombarded with it, the sulphur compounds break down in the bloodstream more easily and it ceases to smell. Either that or persuade your friends and family to eat a lot too. And all start at the same time. The easiest way is to chop the clove on to toast and butter in the morning." Then chew parsley or aniseed and avoid lifts.

Magical garlic: five astonishing health tips:

1. In the First World War garlic was used to prevent wounds from turning septic. In the Eighties my mother applied garlic crushed in yoghurt to my spots and they disappeared overnight. My friend was so impressed she did the same but her face swelled up.

2. Beat stress by crushing a garlic bulb with your bare hands.

3. Improve hand-eye coordination by taking three cloves and juggling.

4. Healing crystals and garlic are much the same shape. Garlic was the prototype. Put on mantelpiece and pick up good vibes.

5. The French troops in 1066 were boosted with garlic. We had mead. The consequence: Norman Lamont. Be warned.

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