Sunday, September 24, 2023

Does Garlic Drive Away Vampires?

Norwegian scientists tested whether garlic can drive away vampires.

This website is not into unscientific sensationalism. However, I thought of writing this article to highlight how scientists test folklore and traditional beliefs.

In this particular case, scientists not only performed experiments but also got a paper published in a research publication. So pay more attention to the approach, and less to the conclusions.

The Scientific Methodology

Just because something appears unscientific does not mean it is wrong. The correct way is to conduct a proper experiment and disprove it. Aren’t we glad that science marches with truth and not the consensus opinion? Think about the unscientific convictions of the past centuries:

  • Our forefathers thought that diseases are spread by bad air or miasma, not germs;
  • A hundred years ago, people thought that different parts of our tongue feel different tastes—something called the ‘tongue map’, a conviction that was disproved in 1974;
  • Thirty years ago, we ‘knew’ that stomach ulcers are caused by excess stomach until Dr Barry Marshall proved that H. pylori bacteria were the culprit; and more recently,
  • A finding just a decade ago that arsenic-based life forms exist.

Plus, not to forget the major conceptual errors such as Albert Einstein’s Cosmological Constant, Linus Pauling’s Triple Helix for the DNA structure, and Fred Hoyle’s disapproval of the Big Bang theory. And they were Demigods of those respective fields!

All of these took experiments to prove or disprove.

Just because you don’t see black swans does not mean they don’t exist.

Let’s get back to our vampires and garlic.


Vampires are fictional creatures that subsist by drinking the blood of the living. They are believed to roam at night because they are powerless during the daytime. Using their fangs, they suck the blood of their prey.

In the Balkan countries, folklore says that vampires are kept at bay by garlic, mustard seeds, and hawthorn.

Garlic and Vampires

To test this belief, scientists decided to check whether vampires can be driven away by garlic.

The main problem was finding blood-sucking vampires for their experiment. So the researchers settled on the next best candidate: leeches, parasites that attach themselves to hosts, bite their skin and suck out blood.

The scientists offered a clean hand as well as one smeared with garlic to leeches stored in a laboratory setup. They found that leeches latched onto the garlic-smeared hand in 15 seconds versus the normal 45 seconds they took to attach to a clean hand.

The scientists, thereby, concluded that the vampire-protective properties of garlic are incorrect. They ‘proved’ that garlic attracts vampires, not repels them!

Why did the scientists not consider bats for such studies? One, it would be unsafe to let a bat bite a human hand given the potential risk of rabies transmission. Two, until recently, bats were not found to consume human blood, though now there is some new evidence that vampire bats do drink human blood.

The researchers (who were from Norway) went on to suggest that the Norwegian government should restrict its citizens from using garlic to prevent vampire affliction.

The interesting part was that the scientists wrote a paper based on this study which got accepted by a medical publication. Well, let us admire the spirit of scientific inquiry and not debate the nitty-gritty.

To Read More

First Published on: 8th July 2023
Image Credit: Ralph from Pixabay
Last Updated on: 21st July 2023


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