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Garlic The Stinking Rose

Ian McKay

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From a Chick’s Point of View


By T Berokoff






Garlic – The Stinking Rose – It’s smelly but healthy!


It was in the 19th century that Louis Pasteur described garlic’s antibacterial properties and during WWI, Albert Schweitzer, MD, recommended it for dysentery. Today, in the 21st century, many pigeon flyers, including us, use garlic in the water for their pigeons. But, why are we using it and do we know what other properties it may possess that can be beneficial to our pigeons and to ourselves?

Recently, I was reading a book by Dr. Lau entitled Garlic and You: the Modern Medicine, and was intrigued by the broad spectrum of diseases garlic can help and/or cure. Additionally, there are numerous articles about the benefits of garlic for pigeons. First, let’s take a look at how garlic is most commonly used for pigeons.

From A Veterinary Approach to Pigeon Health, Marx, page 182:

Garlic – its medicinal value has been touted throughout the ages. What research has been done with garlic shows that, in fact, there is an active ingredient in garlic which has some anti-microbial affect. In other words, it will inhibit certain bacteria and viruses to some degree, and thus, has acquired the nickname, “nature’s antibiotic.†Does it distinguish between good and bad bacteria? No, I don’t think so. It is definitely not strong enough to be used for the treatment of disease. Its effect as a preventive or an inhibiting factor may have some benefit.


The best way to administer garlic, from everything I can gather, is as the fresh product, crushed in the water, crushed and mixed in the food, or cut into tiny pieces and given to birds individually, by mouth.


Moving to an article by Gordon Chalmers, DVM, posted in 2009, he provides a good overview of the benefits of garlic by saying:

Garlic has been reported to have insecticidal, antibacterial, antifungal, and anti-cancer properties, as well as those of lowering blood sugar and fat levels, and reducing the dangerous plaques that bring about plugging of blood vessels that lead to heart attacks and strokes in humans.


Now, what about the use of garlic in racing pigeons? It is a popular, widely used product, but solid, scientific information on its effects in pigeons seems to be scarce. First, the very best source of the good effects of garlic is fresh cloves of garlic…it is best to crush cloves of garlic, and add them directly to drinking water for the pigeons.


Secondly, garlic may provide a temporary antibiotic effect on disease-producing bacteria, fungi and yeasts, both in the digestive tract and body tissues, by reducing their numbers during the period that it is in the drinking water.


Thirdly, the trace minerals selenium and germanium present in garlic may give a boost to the immune system of pigeons, to increase their ability to fight disease-producing organisms of many kinds.


Garlic as a detoxifying agent could have a role as a “blood purifier†or a “tissue purifier†so to speak – whatever these phrases may mean, since they can and do cloak a great deal of the ignorance we all share on this subject. Both are meaningless expressions that really don’t explain anything, but they are used commonly in the mystique of pigeon racing! That aside, there are indications that chemical compounds in garlic may assist the body to detoxify, neutralize or eliminate noxious substances. In pigeons, the use of garlic after a race may assist the so-called “depurative†diets – whatever that might mean – in restoring a bird to normal racing condition. It is also possible that the use of crushed garlic cloves in drinking water at this time might add some extra benefit in allowing the liver and other organs to metabolize lactic acid and other compounds, and to help restore the birds to normal racing condition.


Garlic in racing pigeons remains quite an enigma, and as fanciers, many of us use it without really knowing why, but our ignorance is shared by many people, including the human and veterinary medical communities, who have only tantalizing bits of information to suggest that there may be a number of positive effects from the use of garlic. Certainly, studies in laboratory animals and humans suggest a number of desirable effects from the use of garlic. When used judiciously, crushed cloves of garlic, used in drinking water, may be a useful product in the loft throughout the year, but especially during rearing and the racing season.


In a video featured on www.pigeonracingpigeon.com Dennis of Hawkbait Lofts explains how once a week he removes the skins from 4 cloves of garlic and punches little slits in the cloves with a fork or knife. He adds all 4 cloves to a gallon water container for the pigeons. He says he does this once a week throughout the winter. He says it purifies the pigeons’ blood. He goes on to say that if you notice the pigeons’ nose is grey the garlic will help open the veins and the color will return to normal. He adds that it helps with intestinal problems and will yield firmer droppings.

Another posting on www.pigeons.biz/forums posted November 1, 2005, by Skyeking from SE Coast Central Florida, addresses the “goodness of garlicâ€. He uses soft gel garlic caps and says he has “seen noticeable results in my pigeons. I have used it daily for birds in rehab and see better results the longer it is used. It can be used to treat birds in general, for injuries and diseases, “in any case, it strengthens the immune system and plays a vital role in recovery. If it was economical and didn’t take so much time, I probably would pop a soft gel garlic cap down each of my birds daily as it is so beneficial.†Evidently, he also uses fresh garlic too for preventative reasons. He says, “I use the garlic clove in the birds’ water a few times a week. The problem is the smell will cause the birds not to drink as readily as they should. If you do use it in their water start with a clove to a gallon, and if they refuse to drink the amount they normally do, use less. If you use a plastic drinker, the smell may permeate the plastic and that may further repel the birds to drink enough of it. The point is, for the birds to get enough of the “goodness†of garlic, they need to drink their normal drinking quota.â€

A final post about garlic on mannyguerrero,jimbo.com from Paranaque City, says that “garlic is an incredible natural antibiotic. It is the allicin that is the key ingredient to purify the bloodstream and build up the immune system, maintains beautiful feathering and white wattle. It is a natural anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, and anti-inflammatory. (They will not fuss about the taste of the garlic if you use no more than one organic clove of garlic per gallon of fresh water.) If they fuss about, buy a soft gel capsule and give one to each bird down the throat every few days.â€

There you have it, the thoughts and experiences about garlic from pigeon flyers. We place one fresh organic garlic clove in a gallon of water for each section and use the same garlic clove for one week. Each day we replace the water, but put the same garlic clove back in. At the end of the week, we replace the clove. Our pigeons do not have a problem with the smell and drink as much water with or without the garlic clove. Additionally, I do the same for our chickens. Our dogs get garlic too. I chop up a fresh clove of garlic and add it to their food each day. Surprisingly, they don’t have “garlic breath.â€

This brings me to speak of the benefits garlic holds for us. In betternutrition, June, 2013, garlic was touted to reduce blood pressure. “An Australian study found that Aged Garlic Extract can lower blood pressure in adults with hypertension. Compared to a placebo, 480 mg of the garlic supplement was taken daily for 12 weeks and reduced blood pressure enough to lower heart disease risk by 16 – 40 percent. The study was published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition.â€

A garlic extract, called Aged Garlic Extract, has been developed based on the traditional use of garlic. Instead of using heat, Aged Garlic Extract is aged naturally for 20 months. The benefits are the harsh and irritating compounds are greatly reduced, the pungent odor of garlic is also reduced, sulfur-containing compounds, such as alliin and allicin, are converted to many other sulfur-containing compounds, which are mainly water-soluble, from www.kyolic.com.

The book I mentioned, Garlic and You gives numerous findings from animal studies about the benefits of garlic. One study conducted with mice provided results showing that garlic inhibits bladder cancer in the mice. The test results were published in the Journal of Urology, 1987. They injected liquid garlic extract directly into the bladder and in the controlled study found the injected mice had the lowest incidence of bladder cancer. The same treatment also showed smaller tumors. Additionally, after five treatments of injected garlic, “there were no tumor cells. In other words, five treatments with these agents actually cured the cancer! Note that the cure was obtained only with local injection, not systemic injection.†This study showed that garlic “possibly works in a dual role, interfering with tumor cell metabolism on the one hand and stimulating immune cells on the other.†Another benefit of garlic is the anti-aging properties it possesses. I’ve given a couple of accounts of such benefits.

The first is about Dr. Bessie Delany, 103 years old who lives with her 105-year old sister, Sarah. When asked about their longevity, both answered that they exercise, stay away from fatty foods, eat vegetables each day and “take a clove of garlic every day.†The second story is from the book Garlic Healing Powers and tells of two women living in Armenia. The older woman was 128 years of age and was the mother of the second younger woman who was 85 years of age. They both ate garlic on a regular basis. Does this mean garlic can add years to our lives? In animal studies done by Dr. Lau and his research team, they would say yes. Garlic seems to improve mental alertness, memory retention and learning abilities. It wouldn’t hurt to add an aged garlic supplement to our diet and see if our memory improves.

Finally, in another animal study done by Dr. Lau and his team of researchers that was of interest to me was one that focused on garlic improving endurance. The focus of the study was on strength and endurance; the researchers wanted to see if garlic could boost both. First, rats in the study were injected with isoproterenol, a drug that damages the heart muscle. Next, for 7 days one group of rats received nothing extra in their diet, but a second group of rats was fed garlic along with each meal. Both groups of rats were then placed in a tank of water to see how long they could swim. The group that wasn’t given garlic was able to swim 78 seconds. But, the group that received the garlic every day for 7 days was able to swim for 840 seconds. This proved to them that “garlic boosts normal endurance and garlic helps protect the heart muscles even after it had been damaged by the isoproterenol.†It would seem that garlic would increase the endurance and strength of our pigeons if we added garlic daily to their diet.

To summarize, garlic is good for our pigeons and for us. It has antioxidant properties, it helps restore memory, it can extend life expectancy, it helps strengthen the immune system, can help prevent cancer and boosts normal strength and endurance. From this Chick’s Point of View, using fresh cloves of garlic is an easy way for our pigeons to receive the benefits from the clove. For ourselves, we can take an aged garlic supplement daily or use fresh organic garlic in our foods. Just remember, if you eat garlic, let the people around you know so they can eat it too and there won’t be a problem with “garlic breath†coming from the Stinking Rose.


1) If you use garlic for your pigeons or take it yourself, please contact me and let me know how you use it, and your experience with it, and anything else you might want to add.

2) Please contact me and let me know what you do to help prepare your birds for long distance races.

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