Quantcast

11 Proven Health Benefits of Garlic

Food
Garlic supplementation is known to boost the function of the immune system. Shutterstock

By Joe Leech

“Let food be thy medicine, and medicine be thy food."

Those are famous words from the ancient Greek physician Hippocrates, often called the father of western medicine. He actually used to prescribe garlic to treat a variety of medical conditions. Well, modern science has recently confirmed many of these beneficial health effects.


Here are 11 health benefits of garlic that are supported by human research studies.

1. Garlic Contains a Compound Called Allicin, Which Has Potent Medicinal Properties

Garlic is a plant in the Allium (onion) family. It is closely related to onions, shallots and leeks.

It grows in many parts of the world and is a popular ingredient in cooking due to its strong smell and delicious taste. However, throughout ancient history, the main use of garlic was for its health and medicinal properties. Its use was well documented by all the major civilizations, including the Egyptians, Babylonians, Greeks, Romans and the Chinese.

The entire “head" is called a garlic bulb, while each segment is called a clove. There are about 10-20 cloves in a single bulb, give or take. We now know that most of the health effects are caused by one of the sulfur compounds formed when a garlic clove is chopped, crushed or chewed.

This compound is known as allicin, and is also responsible for the distinct garlic smell. Allicin enters the body from the digestive tract and travels all over the body, where it exerts its potent biological effects (which we'll get to in a bit).

Bottom Line: Garlic is a plant in the onion family, grown for its cooking properties and health effects. It is high in a sulfur compound called allicin, which is believed to bring most of the health benefits.

2. Garlic Is Highly Nutritious, But Has Very Few Calories

Calorie for calorie, garlic is incredibly nutritious.

A 1 ounce (28 grams) serving of garlic contains:

  • Manganese: 23 percent of the RDA.
  • Vitamin B6: 17 percent of the RDA.
  • Vitamin C: 15 percent of the RDA.
  • Selenium: 6 percent of the RDA.
  • Fiber: 1 gram.
  • Decent amounts of calcium, copper, potassium, phosphorus, iron and Vitamin B1.

Garlic also contains trace amounts of various other nutrients. In fact, it contains a little bit of almost everything we need.

This is coming with 42 calories, with 1.8 grams of protein and 9 grams of carbs.

Bottom Line: Garlic is low in calories and very rich in Vitamin C, Vitamin B6 and manganese. It also contains trace amounts of various other nutrients.

3. Garlic Can Combat Sickness, Including the Common Cold

Garlic supplementation is known to boost the function of the immune system.

One large 12-week study found that a daily garlic supplement reduced the number of colds by 63 percent compared with placebo. The average length of cold symptoms was also reduced by 70 percent, from five days in placebo to just 1.5 days in the garlic group.

Another study found that a high dose of garlic extract (2.56 grams per day) can reduce the number of days sick with cold or flu by 61 percent.

If you often get colds, then adding garlic to your diet could be incredibly helpful.

Bottom Line: Garlic supplementation helps to prevent and reduce the severity of common illnesses like the flu and common cold.

4. The Active Compounds in Garlic Can Reduce Blood Pressure

Cardiovascular diseases like heart attacks and strokes are the world's biggest killers. High blood pressure, or hypertension, is one of the most important drivers of these diseases.

Human studies have found garlic supplementation to have a significant impact on reducing blood pressure in people with high blood pressure.

In one study, aged garlic extract at doses of 600-1,500 mg was just as effective as the drug Atenolol at reducing blood pressure over a 24 week period.

Supplement doses must be fairly high to have these desired effects. The amount of allicin needed is equivalent to about four cloves of garlic per day.

Bottom Line: High doses of garlic appear to improve blood pressure of those with known high blood pressure (hypertension). In some instances, supplementation can be as effective as regular medications.

Read page 1

5. Garlic Improves Cholesterol Levels, Which May Lower The Risk of Heart Disease

Garlic can lower total and LDL cholesterol. For those with high cholesterol, garlic supplementation appears to reduce total and/or LDL cholesterol by about 10-15 percent.

Looking at LDL (the “bad") and HDL (the “good") cholesterol specifically, garlic appears to lower LDL but has no reliable effect on HDL.

Garlic does not appear to lower triglyceride levels, another known risk factor for heart disease.

Bottom Line: Garlic supplementation seems to reduce total and LDL cholesterol, particularly in those who have high cholesterol. HDL cholesterol and triglycerides do not seem to be affected.

6. Garlic Contains Antioxidants That May Help Prevent Alzheimer's Disease and Dementia

Oxidative damage from free radicals contributes to the aging process. Garlic contains antioxidants that support the body's protective mechanisms against oxidative damage.

High doses of garlic supplementation have been shown to increase antioxidant enzymes in humans, as well as significantly reduce oxidative stress in those with high blood pressure. The combined effects on reducing cholesterol and blood pressure, as well as the antioxidant properties, may help prevent common brain diseases like Alzheimer's disease and dementia.

Bottom Line: Garlic contains antioxidants that protect against cell damage and aging. It may reduce the risk of Alzheimer's disease and dementia.

7. Garlic May Help You Live Longer

Effects on longevity are basically impossible to prove in humans. But given the beneficial effects on important risk factors like blood pressure, it makes sense that garlic could help you live longer.

The fact that it can fight infectious disease is also an important factor, because these are common causes of death, especially in the elderly or people with dysfunctional immune systems.

Bottom Line: Garlic has known beneficial effects on common causes of chronic disease, so it makes perfect sense that it could help you live longer.

8. Athletic Performance Can be Improved With Garlic Supplementation

Garlic was one of the earliest “performance enhancing" substances. It was traditionally used in ancient cultures to reduce fatigue and enhance the work capacity of labourers. Most notably, it was administered to Olympic athletes in ancient Greece.

Rodent studies have shown that garlic helps with exercise performance, but very few human studies have been done.

Subjects with heart disease who took garlic oil for six weeks had a reduction in peak heart rate of 12 percent and improved their exercise capacity. However, a study on nine competitive cyclists found no performance benefits.

Other studies suggest that exercise-induced fatigue may be reduced with garlic.

Bottom Line: Garlic can improve physical performance in lab animals and people with heart disease. Benefits in healthy people are not yet conclusive.

9. Eating Garlic Can Help Detoxify Heavy Metals in the Body

At high doses, the sulfur compounds in garlic have been shown to protect against organ damage from heavy metal toxicity.

A four week study in employees of a car battery plant (excessive exposure to lead) found that garlic reduced lead levels in the blood by 19 percent. It also reduced many clinical signs of toxicity, including headaches and blood pressure.

Three doses of garlic each day even outperformed the drug D-penicillamine in symptom reduction.

Bottom Line: Garlic was shown to significantly reduce lead toxicity and related symptoms in one study.

10. Garlic May Improve Bone Health

No human trials have measured the effects of garlic on bone loss. However, rodent studies have shown that it can minimize bone loss by increasing estrogen in females.

One study in menopausal women found that a daily dose of dry garlic extract (equal to 2 grams of raw garlic) significantly decreased a marker of estrogen deficiency. This suggests that this garlic may have beneficial effects on bone health in women.

Foods like garlic and onions have also been shown to have beneficial effects on osteoarthritis.

Bottom Line: Garlic appears to have some benefits for bone health by increasing estrogen levels in females, but more human studies are needed.

11. Garlic Is Easy to Include In Your Diet and Tastes Absolutely Delicious

The last one is not a health benefit, but still important.

It is the fact that it is very easy (and delicious) to include garlic in your current diet. It complements most savory dishes, particularly soups and sauces. The strong taste of garlic can also add a punch to otherwise bland recipes.

Garlic comes in several forms, from whole cloves and smooth pastes to powders and supplements like garlic extract and garlic oil.

The minimum effective dose for therapeutic effects is one clove eaten with meals, two or three times a day. However, keep in mind that there are some downsides to garlic, such as bad breath. There are also some people who are allergic to it.

If you have a bleeding disorder or are taking blood thinning medications, then talk to your doctor before increasing your garlic consumption.

The active compound allicin only forms when garlic is crushed or cleaved when it is raw. If you cook it before crushing it, then it won't have the same health effects. Therefore, the best way to consume garlic is raw, or to crush and cut it and leave it out for a while before you add it to your recipes.

My favorite way to use garlic is to press a few cloves of fresh garlic with a garlic press, then mix with extra virgin olive oil and a bit of salt. This a healthy and super satisfying dressing.

For thousands of years, garlic was believed to have medicinal properties. We now have the science to confirm it.

This article was reposted with permission from our media associate Authority Nutrition.

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

By Pam Radtke Russell in New Orleans

Local TV weather forecasters have become foot soldiers in the war against climate misinformation. Over the past decade, a growing number of meteorologists and weathercasters have begun addressing the climate crisis either as part of their weather forecasts, or in separate, independent news reports to help their viewers understand what is happening and why it is important.

Read More Show Less

While airlines only serve bottled drinking water directly to customers, they use the plane's water for coffee and tea, and passengers can drink the tap water. Aitor Diago / Getty Images

You might want to think twice before washing your hands in an airplane bathroom.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
Individual standing in Hurricane Harvey flooding and damage. Jill Carlson / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

By Allegra Kirkland, Jeremy Deaton, Molly Taft, Mina Lee and Josh Landis

Climate change is already here. It's not something that can simply be ignored by cable news or dismissed by sitting U.S. senators in a Twitter joke. Nor is it a fantastical scenario like The Day After Tomorrow or 2012 that starts with a single crack in the Arctic ice shelf or earthquake tearing through Los Angeles, and results, a few weeks or years later, in the end of life on Earth as we know it.

Read More Show Less
A pregnant woman works out in front of the skyline of London. SHansche / iStock / Getty Images Plus

Air pollution particles that a pregnant woman inhales have the potential to travel through the lungs and breach the fetal side of the placenta, indicating that unborn babies are exposed to black carbon from motor vehicles and fuel burning, according to a study published in the journal Nature Communications.

Read More Show Less

Teen activist Greta Thunberg delivered a talking-to to members of Congress Tuesday during a meeting of the Senate Climate Change Task Force after politicians praised her and other youth activists for their efforts and asked their advice on how to fight climate change.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
Ten feet of water flooded 20 percent of this Minot, North Dakota neighborhood in June 2011. DVIDSHUB / CC BY 2.0

By Jared Brey

When Hurricane Michael tore through the Florida panhandle last October, it killed at least 43 people, caused an estimated $25 billion in damage and destroyed thousands of homes.

Read More Show Less
A protestor holds up her hand covered with fake oil during a demonstration on the U.C. Berkeley campus in May 2010. Justin Sullivan / Getty Images

The University of California system will dump all of its investments from fossil fuels, as the Associated Press reported. The university system controls over $84 billion between its pension fund and its endowment. However, the announcement about its investments is not aimed to please activists.

Read More Show Less
Forest fire continues to blaze in Indonesesia on Sept. 18. WAHYUDI / AFP / Getty Images

Nearly 200 people have been arrested in Indonesia over their possible connections to the massive wildfires raging in the nation's forest, officials said this week.

Read More Show Less