Garlic and Onions

If you’re a regular Kurma blogee, you would have heard this before. If not, read on…

Olaf Hendriksen from The Netherlands asks:

“Why are Krishna devotees not allowed to eat garlic and onion?”


Short answer:

Devotees don’t eat garlic and onions because they cannot be offered to Krishna. They are members of a botanical family (alliums) that stimulate the central nervous system and are counter-productive to devotions.

Long answer:

You may know that onions and garlic are botanical members of the Allium family – along with leeks, chives and shallots. According to Ayurveda, India’s classic medical science, foods are grouped into three categories – sattvic, rajasic and tamasic – foods in the modes of goodness, passion and ignorance. Onions and garlic, and the other Alliums are classified as rajasic and tamasic, which means that they increase passion and ignorance. “Garlic and onions are both Rajasic and Tamasic, and are forbidden to Yogis because they root the consciousness more firmly in the body”, says Dr.Robert E.Svoboda spring onion:

Those that subscribe to pure brahmana-style cooking of India, including myself, and Vaishnavas – followers of Lord Vishnu, Rama and Krishna – like to only cook with foods from the sattvic category. These foods include fresh fruits, vegetables and herbs, dairy products, grains and legumes, and so on. Specifically, Vaisnavas do not like to cook with rajasic or tamasic foods because they are unfit to offer to the Deity.


Rajasic and tamasic foods are also not used because they are detrimental to meditation and devotions. Of course some of the Alliums have specific health benefits; garlic is respected as a natural antibiotic.

In recent years, the cardiovascular implications of vegetable Alliums has been studied in some detail, although the clinical implications of onion and garlic consumption from this point of view are not well understood (Block 1992; Briggs et al. 2001).


Nevertheless, despite medical comings and goings, alliums are still avoided by spiritual adherents because they stimulate the central nervous system, and can disturb vows of celibacy. Garlic is a natural aphrodisiac. Ayurveda suggests that it is a tonic for loss of sexual power from any cause, sexual debility, impotency from over-indulgence in sex and nervous exhaustion from dissipating sexual habits. It is said to be especially useful to old men of high nervous tension and diminishing sexual power.

You may be aware that many strict vegetarian Buddhists also do not eat any of the Alliums for the same reasons as adherents of India’s Ayurveda – they disturb meditation. If you visit any strict vegetarian Thai, Vietnamese, Chinese, or Japanese restaurant anywhere in the world you will most likely find no Alliums in any of the cooking.


In ancient Tao writings, one sage Tsang-Tsze described the Alliums as the “five fragrant or spicy scented vegetables” , and that each have a detrimental effect on one of the following five organs – liver, spleen, lungs, kidneys, and heart.

Tsang-Tsze said that these pungent vegetables contain five different kinds of enzymes which cause “reactions of repulsive breath, extra-foul odour from perspiration and bowel movements, and lead to lewd indulgences, enhance agitations, anxieties and aggressiveness,” especially when eaten raw.

That in a nutshell is why I don’t cook with garlic and onions.

(ps…If you’re up to it, here’s some more astonishing stuff about garlic.)

(pps…and even more bad news about garlic.)
Posted by Kurma on 18/1/08; 10:50:44 AM

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