Garlic, one of the best-known cure-alls, is, according to an old Indian proverb, "as good as ten mothers".

But we tend to avoid it in large doses because of the unpleasant odour we emit after eating it.

"A nickel will get you on the subway but garlic will get you a seat," is another saying from New York, perfectly capturing our dislike of its pervasive pong.

Our ancestors, however, knew a good remedy when they saw one. In ancient Egypt, garlic was so highly prized pyramid workers went on strike when deprived of their daily rations.

The Romans dedicated the herb to Mars, the Roman god of war, and ensured their armies were adequately supplied in order to improve strength and stamina.

Garlic was believed effective in treating almost every ailment under the sun, including scorpion stings, dog bites, respiratory problems, bladder infections and intestinal worms.

On long marches, foot-soldiers wedged fresh cloves between their toes to prevent fungal infections.

Although some may avoid garlic like the plague, people in the Middle Ages ate garlic to protect themselves against it.

Modern scientific study has since found that garlic does indeed possess antiseptic, antibiotic and antiviral properties.

One imagines those eating it would have been so malodorous, nobody would have ventured close enough to spread the infection.

Apparently, it worked a treat in warding off the odd vampire as well.

Garlic has long been known to support the cardiovascular system. Although unlikely to lower cholesterol and triglycerides as quickly as drugs, it may be safer for long-term use.

Garlic also appears to lower blood pressure, inhibit platelet stickiness, reduce the risk of thrombosis and arterial plaque formation.

Anyone on anti-coagulant medication or scheduled for surgery, however, should not take garlic in high doses because of its ability to thin the blood.

Apart from valuable antioxidants such as selenium, raw garlic contains potent substances which only become active once a clove is crushed, chewed or chopped.

Allicin is the key sulphur compound involved in garlic's healing properties and protects against cellular degeneration by increasing antioxidant enzymes in the blood.

Once digested, allicin is eliminated via the lungs and skin and becomes responsible for the rather pungent aroma.

The recommended one clove of garlic a day contains around 6,000 micrograms of allicin.

Eating raw garlic may cause heartburn or flatulence and get right up other people's noses, so you may prefer a supplement to the real thing.

Nutri's new high potency garlic tablets are odour-controlled and enterically coated.

They disintegrate in the gut rather than the stomach, eliminating the risk of smell or digestive irritation.

One tablet yields more than 6,000 mcg of allicin from quality raw garlic and provides a safe and acceptable way of including nature's best remedy to your daily diet.

Whether garlic tablets are as effective at busting vampires as the cloves remains to be seen.

For mail order, call Nutri on 0800 212742 and ask for department A0602. Thirty tablets cost £9.95.