Top 11 Proven Benefits Of Garlic

Garlic

When someone mentions garlic, there’s a good chance your mind jumps to the taste and smell. The use of garlic is a staple in most cuisines — adding flavor, spice, and a savory depth.

But garlic is SO much more than just a flavorful ingredient to add to your dinner. Just one clove of garlic is packed with essential nutrients like selenium, manganese, potassium, magnesium, and vitamin C, offering a nutritional punch for meeting daily recommendations.

An even deeper look into its compounds suggests supplementing garlic as medicine, treating viruses, acne, and even combatting cancer. Here are the top 11 evidence-based benefits of garlic.

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1. Protects Against Viruses

Garlic combats viruses, including influenza, rhinovirus, herpes simplex, viral pneumonia, and rotavirus. (1) These benefits are often attributed to two compounds in garlic — allicin and ajoen, helping protect against viral attacks.

A study highlighted that participants taking garlic supplements had a 63% lower risk of catching a cold. When they did, their sickness lasted about 70% shorter than those on a placebo. (2)

2. Combats Inflammation

You may not love the idea of rubbing garlic oil all over you, but research has shown that garlic oil is a potent anti-inflammatory. (3) It contains compounds that fight inflammation, such as:

  • Fresh Garlic Bulbs: S-allyl-L-cysteine sulfoxide (alliin) and γ-glutamyl cysteine derivatives
  • Garlic Powder: diallyl disulfide (DADS) and alliin
  • Ground Garlic: dithiines, sulfide family compounds, and (E–Z)-ajoene compounds

The Arthritis Foundation recommends rubbing garlic oil on inflamed joints to prevent cartilage damage and reduce pain caused by osteoarthritis.

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3. Fights Pathogenic Bacteria

Garlic has potent antimicrobial properties, which means it can help with a number of skin health woes. For example, one study showed that putting garlic on a pimple can help kill acne-causing bacteria. (4)

Garlic oil, as an antimicrobial, can also play a role in managing ear infections. (5) A few drops of warm garlic oil in the ear have been traditionally used to soothe pain and fight infection.

4. Rich In Antioxidants

Garlic is loaded with antioxidants such as allyl disulfide, alliin, allicin, and allyl cysteine, which protect against cellular damage. (6) These compounds provide a shield against oxidative stress, contributing to overall health and well-being.

5. Lowers Blood Pressure

For those with high blood pressure, garlic supplements have been shown to lower blood pressure levels, offering a natural alternative to conventional medications. Its ability to prevent oxidative DNA damage is particularly beneficial for those with hypertension.

One study showed that supplementing with 600-1,500 mg of aged garlic extract for 24 weeks was as effective as the drug Atenolol at reducing blood pressure. (7)

6. Anticancer

Garlic plays a significant role in lowering the risk of developing various types of cancer cells, including stomach cancer, colon cancer, breast cancer, and cervical cancer. Research from both epidemiological studies and laboratory experiments supports this.

Garlic possesses a range of anti-cancer properties. (8) These include its ability to neutralize harmful free radicals, enhance levels of glutathione (a crucial antioxidant), and boost the activity of enzymes like GST and catalase that protect against cancer.

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7. Anti-allergic

Another potential health benefit of garlic is the reduction of allergic airway inflammation. (9)

If you have seasonal allergies, you may try increasing your garlic intake as a natural decongestant. All you need to do is inhale the smell of raw garlic or make a garlic-rich meal and take long, deep inhales while you enjoy.

8. Protects Against Food Poisoning

The compounds in garlic can kill bacteria responsible for food poisoning, such as salmonella and E.coli. (10) While not a substitute for food safety practices, garlic enhances protection against harmful microbes.

9. Enhances Athletic Performance

Ancient Greeks were onto something when they gave garlic to their Olympic athletes. Modern studies confirm that garlic can supercharge workouts by improving exercise capacity and reducing peak heart rate. (11)

10. Fights Fungal Infections

Garlic's antifungal properties are effective against athlete’s foot, ringworm, and candidiasis. Regular garlic consumption has been shown to make people less susceptible to fungal infections. (12)

If you have a fungal infection, like athlete’s foot, simply crush raw garlic with olive oil to make a paste and apply it to the infected area for 30 minutes.

11. Cardiovascular Health

People with high cholesterol may use garlic to reduce total cholesterol levels (combating hyperlipidemia), lower blood sugar, and prevent platelet aggregation. (13) Garlic supports heart health and lowers the risk of heart attack and cardiovascular disease.

Ways To Get More Garlic In Your Life

Garlic is available in various forms to suit your preferences and health conditions. Here's a look at the different effects of garlic supplementation and dosage recommendations:

  • Raw Garlic: The consumption of garlic raw maximizes the availability of allicin, garlic's primary active compound, which is known for its antibacterial, antiviral, and anti-cancer properties. Crush 1-2 cloves of fresh garlic per day for maximum benefit.
  • Roasted Garlic: Garlic cloves roasted whole or in slices until soft and caramelized. Roasted garlic offers a milder, sweeter taste than raw garlic, but also decreases some of the allicin content. Can be consumed more liberally than raw garlic; 2-3 cloves per day.
  • Garlic Oil: Oil infused with garlic, either commercially prepared or homemade. Rub garlic oil on painful joints as an anti-inflammatory to ease pain, or place 1-2 drops in the ear to treat ear infections.
  • Garlic Capsules: Garlic powder or garlic oil in capsule form, standardized to contain a certain amount of allicin or other garlic compounds. Convenient for those who want the benefits of garlic without the taste or smell. Typically dosed at 600-1200 mg daily, divided into multiple doses.
  • Garlic Tablets: Compressed garlic powder or extract in tablet form. Like capsules, tablets offer a convenient, odorless way to consume garlic. They often contain a standardized dose of garlic's active components. Generally, the dosage is similar to that of capsules.
  • Aged Garlic Extract: Garlic that has been aged and soaked in water or alcohol to reduce odor and increase the presence of certain beneficial compounds, available in capsule or liquid form. Follow the manufacturer's guidelines, usually around 600-1200 mg daily.

Side Effects

While garlic is a natural and beneficial addition to most diets, like any supplement, it can cause adverse effects in some or come with risk factors if taken with certain medications.

Be aware of these potential side effects of garlic supplements:

  • Digestive issues: Some people may experience digestive discomfort, including gas, bloating, heartburn, or nausea, particularly when consuming raw garlic or high doses of a garlic supplement.
  • Body odor and breath: One of the most well-known side effects of consuming garlic, especially in large quantities, is the impact on body odor and breath. The compounds responsible for garlic's health benefits, such as allicin, can lead to an unpleasant odor. (If you’re heading into date night, brush your teeth or skip the garlic until you get home!)
  • Skin irritation: Applying garlic topically or handling it excessively can cause skin irritation, redness, or burning, especially if the skin is sensitive. It's recommended to use garlic-infused products designed for topical use to avoid such reactions.
  • Increased bleeding risk: Garlic has natural anticoagulant properties, meaning it can thin the blood, relax your blood vessels, and affect blood clotting. This can increase risks in those taking blood-thinning medications or those with bleeding disorders.
  • Hypotension risk: Since garlic can lower blood pressure, it may augment the effects of blood pressure-lowering medications, leading to hypotension (abnormally low blood pressure). Monitoring and adjustment by a healthcare provider may be necessary.

Given these potential side effects and drug interactions, I recommend starting with lower doses of garlic and gradually increasing to gauge your body’s tolerance.

FAQs

Eating garlic every day can boost your immune system, reduce blood pressure, and improve cholesterol levels, potentially lowering the risk of heart disease. You may also notice an increase in body odor if you’re eating it in high doses, though.

Garlic has been used to address issues across a variety of conditions, including common colds, high blood pressure, heart disease, and certain types of cancer. However, garlic on its own cannot “treat” any condition and is not a cure for disease.

The healthiest way to eat garlic is raw, after letting it sit for a few minutes after crushing or chopping it, to fully activate its beneficial allicin compound.

Swallowing garlic whole may reduce its effectiveness, as crushing or chopping garlic and letting it sit before consumption is necessary to activate allicin, the compound responsible for many of its health benefits.

Talk To Your Healthcare Provider

Diving into the medicinal properties of garlic can be a game-changer for your health, but let's make sure you’re doing it the right way. Talk with your healthcare provider to see how to use garlic supplements to optimize your health.

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The information on this website has not been evaluated by the Food & Drug Administration or any other medical body. We do not aim to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any illness or disease. Information is shared for educational purposes only. You must consult your doctor before acting on any content on this website, especially if you are pregnant, nursing, taking medication, or have a medical condition.

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BY DR. WILL COLE

Evidence-based reviewed article

Dr. Will Cole, DNM, IFMCP, DC is a leading functional medicine expert who consults people around the globe, starting one of the first functional medicine telehealth centers in the world. Named one of the top 50 functional and integrative doctors in the nation, Dr. Will Cole provides a functional medicine approach for thyroid issues, autoimmune conditions, hormonal imbalances, digestive disorders, and brain problems. He is the host of the popular The Art Of Being Well podcast and the New York Times bestselling author of Intuitive Fasting, Ketotarian, The Inflammation Spectrum and the brand new book Gut Feelings: Healing the Shame-Fueled Relationship Between What You Eat and How You Feel.

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