Even garlic can be poisonous
Beverley Simmonds had no idea of the powers of garlic.
That was until she spent the entire night after an enjoyable Italian meal at home with her family, writhing around in agony with stomach cramps.
On presentation to her GP the next day, she was told she had a classic case of liver poisoning, caused probably by an over-sensitivity to garlic.
She said: "I had always known I suffered from indigestion after eating garlic, as well as chives and also onions. But never had I suffered from cramps as severe as these."
Otherwise known as the stinking rose, raw cloves of garlic have been used for thousands of years in Asia to treat ailments ranging from high blood pressure, infections and high cholesterol.
And garlic is now widely accepted among the Western medical community as probably having these same health benefits.
Now Western scientists even think garlic is a possible antidote to malaria.
However, many health professionals warn the high sulphur content in garlic can cause colitis and dermatitis by destroying the natural flora in the gut.
According to Jeya Henry, Professor of Human Nutrition at Oxford Brookes University in Oxford, "the key to allergies and adverse reaction to foods is the amount ingested".
"People can develop allergies to any food and even water," he said.
"The current attitude towards garlic in the medical profession is that it is more angel than devil but adverse reactions do occur."
Although there is a lot of scientific literature now on the benefits of garlic to treat infections and lower cholesterol and blood pressure, Professor Henry said Western methods of science may never be able to completely explain why traditional herbal remedies were beneficial or not.
Tough to prove
He said: "It is often difficult to apply the rigour of scientific study in the West to Asian medicine.
"To set up double blind control trials which the scientific community demand can be difficult when there are so many chemicals in foods.
"It is very difficult to set up a controlled situation to conduct such studies.
"But many people believe that if there are few adverse effects as well as benefits from a herb which has been used in the East for centuries or millennia, these remedies should be continued to be used."
But Ms Simmonds disagrees. "There is no way you are ever going to get me to go near the stuff again," she said.
Professor Henry has recently conducted studies into herbs and spices including chilli and ginger.
His team has found that both chilli and ginger appear to increase a person's metabolic rate.
Similar studies were conducted 10 years ago but Professor Henry's team has used a bigger study group than the original study to verify results.
As many health professionals currently believe a high metabolic rate causes a person to burn up stored body fat more than a slow metabolic rate, these spices could be used in the future as a means of controlling weight.
The US National Council Against Health Fraud in Peabody, Massachusetts, publishes papers on the safety of herbal remedies.
They warn that consumers should be aware that not all natural products are safe and to be aware of overstated claims about remedies.
Garlic, otherwise known as allium sativum, is thought to have been used as a health remedy since 3000 BC.
It is a member of the Lilly family and contains sulphur and amino acids as well as minerals such as germanium, selenium and zinc as well as vitamins A, B and C.