Unfortunately, in two out of three cases the leeches showed an obvious preference to the garlicky arm, attaching to it in 14.9 seconds, compared to 44.9 seconds for the bare arm. In an article published in the Journal of the Norwegian Medical Association, the researchers concluded that garlic may attract vampires rather than repel them and that restrictions on garlic use might be considered in order to avoid Balkan-like developments in Norway.
Oregano is an herb whose name is derived from the ancient Greek word meaning "joy of the mountains." And it is joyful indeed to think that your spaghetti sauce or pizza, flavored with this bold, peppery herb, can help keep you free from infections.
"Herbs and spices are incredibly potent antioxidants," Blatner said. "In terms of herbs, [oregano] is the highest in antioxidant compounds."
The antioxidant activity in oregano is due to its high content of phenolic acids and flavonoids, color compounds that are also anti-inflammatory. When eaten, oregano can protect against the common cold, influenza, fevers and indigestion.
But oregano is rarely eaten alone, and the combination of the herb and other foods may contribute to its disease-fighting abilities.
"It could be a synergistic effect," said Mary Beth Kavenagh, an instructor in the department of nutrition at Case Western Reserve University. She also pointed out that oregano is often eaten with immune-boosting garlic and tomatoes, which contain vitamin C, beta carotene and leutine, all of which benefit the body.
Topically, oregano has antimicrobial properties, guarding against bacteria. Scientists have plans to tap this property by using oregano to create thin wraps for covering fresh food to protect it from spoiling.
Bell peppers are part of the nightshade family and originated in South America before spreading to Europe and the rest of the world. Bell peppers are both low in calories and dense in nutrients. They are a good source of phytochemicals as well as beta carotenes and vitamin C.
In fact, gram for gram, red bell peppers have twice the vitamin C of most vitamin C-containing fruits and vegetables, Blatner said, including oranges.
Linus Pauling, one of the most influential scientists of the 20th century, was an advocate of megadoses of supplemental vitamin C to prevent colds. Whether vitamin C is effective at preventing a viral infection that will cause a cold is under debate and hasn't been fully proved or disproved.
But research has gone far enough to show that increasing vitamin C intake can reduce the length of time cold symptoms last as well as reduce the severity of those symptoms.
And experts are not huge proponents of supplemental vitamin C.
"The best way to get vitamin C is through food," La Puma said.
The FDA recommends getting about 90 milligrams of vitamin C each day, which is easily obtainable through daily meals. A half cup of raw red bell pepper contains 142 milligrams of vitamin C.
Vitamin C is known to maintain the skin, which is the body's first line of defense against microbes and viruses of all kinds. Vitamin C may also help to increase white blood cell count as well as antibody production.
Tea is the most widely consumed beverage in the world, after water, and to great effect. Tea is rich in polyphenols -- plant antioxidants -- as well as a number of other chemicals that can help protect the body against cold or flu.