Traditional and Modern Use of Garlic Mustard

Garlic Mustard is a common wild herb in Britain and Ireland. Its leaves exude a garlicky smell when bruised or chopped, although the plant is unrelated to garlic.

Common Name

Garlic Mustard

Scientific Name

Alliaria petiolata



Botanical Description

Garlic mustard has straight, stems (hairy at the base) with large green and toothy leaves, sometimes described as heart-shaped. The flowers are small and white with cross-shaped petals.


Biennial. Native.


Deciduous woodland, cultivated land, hedgerows, wasteland.

Parts Used For Food

Leaf, stems, flowers, seeds, root.

Harvest Time

March, April, July, August, September.
Garlic Mustard Notebook

Food Uses

The release of a garlic smell and taste when the leaves are crushed led to the use of garlic mustard as an alternative to true garlic. Thus it can be said to have the same uses as garlic in food preparation and cooking. The wild herb also makes an excellent savoury salad green, sauce and potherb. Seeds used as a pepper substitute. The root has wasabi notes, and the flavour ranges from ‘very hot’ to ‘sweet with mild heat’ depending on location and region.

Nutritional Profile

As a member of the mustard family, which includes cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, brussels sprouts, mustard and watercress, garlic mustard could be among those vegetables which if eaten as part of a healthy, balanced diet might help to prevent cancer.

It shares cancer-preventing chemicals isothiocyanates, from the mustard family, and allyl sulfides, from the garlic family.

Garlic Mustard Recipes

Traditional Medicine Uses of Garlic Mustard

Garlic mustard has been used as an antiseptic herb for treating leg ulcers, bruises and sores, coughs and colds, clearing a stuffy head, to encourage sweating and even as a cure for colic and kidney stones.

In Somerset, England, the fresh green leaves were rubbed on feet to relieve the cramp.

Other Uses

A yellow dye might also be obtained from the whole plant.


Garlic mustard is apparently “palatable to livestock”, which suggests another means to manage its spread on the borders of fields and woodlands. An unfortunate side effect of this, however, is that it might lend a disagreeable flavour to cows milk and an unpleasant taste to poultry meat.

About The Author

Robin HarfordRobin Harford is a plant-based forager, ethnobotanical researcher, and wild food educator. He is the author of Plantopedia: The Past and Present Uses of Wild Plants.

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  1. Duke, J. A. (2001) Handbook of Edible Weeds. Herbal reference library. Boca Raton: CRC Press.
  2. Gerard, J. (1994) Gerard’s Herbal: The History of Plants. Nachdruck. Marcus Woodward (ed.). London: Senate, an imprint of Studio Editions Ltd.
  3. Hatfield, G. (2008) Hatfield’s Herbal: The Secret History of British Plants. London: Penguin.
  4. Mac Coitir, N. & Langrishe, G. (2015) Ireland’s Wild Plants: Myths, Legends and Folklore.
  5. Quattrocchi, U. (2012) World Dictionary of Medicinal and Poisonous Plants: Common Names, Scientific Names, Eponyms, Synonyms, and Etymology. Boca Raton, Fla: CRC.

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  1. Thank you for sharing I am new to the world of herbs. I am starting a notebook of all the herbs I studying . I am currently taking a immersion course with Chestnut School of Herbal Medicine.

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