Current research shows that garlic may have some real health benefits, such as protection against the common cold and the ability to help lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels.
“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 prescribed garlic to treat various medical conditions — and modern science has confirmed many of these beneficial health effects.
Here are 11 health benefits of garlic that are supported by human research.
Garlic is a plant in the Allium (onion) family. It’s closely related to onions, shallots, and leeks.
Each segment of a garlic bulb is called a clove. There are about 10–20 cloves in a single bulb, give or take.
Garlic 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, people
Scientists now know that most of garlic’s health benefits are due to the formation of sulfur compounds when you chop, crush, or chew a garlic clove.
Perhaps the most well-known compound is
The sulfur compounds from garlic enter your body from the digestive tract. They then travel all over your body, exerting strong biological effects.
Garlic is a plant in the onion family grown for its distinctive taste and health benefits. It forms sulfur compounds, which experts believe to be responsible for some of those health benefits.
Calorie for calorie, garlic is incredibly nutritious.
A single clove (about 3 grams) contains
Garlic is a good source of several nutrients, notably:
Garlic also contains trace amounts of various other nutrients.
Garlic is low in calories and rich in vitamin C, vitamin B6, and manganese. It also contains trace amounts of various other nutrients.
Research from 2016 suggests that aged garlic extract (AGE) can boost your immune system.
The study found that people who took AGE supplements for 3 months during the cold and flu season experienced less severe symptoms and fewer days missed of school or work.
Other research suggests that the compounds in garlic may have
Garlic and garlic supplements may help prevent and reduce the severity of illnesses like the flu and common cold.
According to the
High blood pressure, or hypertension, is one of the most important factors that may lead to these diseases.
The analysis noted that the effect of garlic was similar to some blood pressure medications but with fewer side effects.
Garlic supplements appear to improve blood pressure for those with known high blood pressure. In some cases, supplements may be as effective as regular medications.
According to 2016 research, taking garlic supplements for more than 2 months could reduce your LDL by up to 10%. Researchers noted this effect in people with slightly raised cholesterol levels.
But garlic does not seem to have the same effect on triglyceride levels, another risk factor for heart disease.
Research also suggests that garlic does not have an effect on HDL (good) cholesterol.
Garlic supplements seem to reduce total and LDL (bad) cholesterol, particularly in those with slightly high cholesterol. There appears to be no effect on HDL (good) cholesterol and triglycerides.
Oxidative damage from free radicals contributes to the aging process and related cognitive decline.
Garlic contains antioxidants that support your body’s protective mechanisms against oxidative damage. Research suggests these antioxidants may significantly reduce oxidative stress and lower your risk of related diseases like Alzheimer’s disease, the most common form of dementia.
Garlic contains antioxidants that can help protect against cognitive decline related to cell damage and aging. This may reduce your risk (or slow the progression) of Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia.
The potential effects of garlic 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 help defend against infectious diseases is also important. Such diseases are common causes of death, especially in
Garlic has known beneficial effects on common causes of chronic disease, so it makes sense that it could also help you live longer.
Garlic was one of the earliest “performance-enhancing” substances.
Ancient civilizations used garlic to reduce fatigue and improve the work capacity of laborers. Olympic athletes in
Animal studies suggest that garlic may improve physical performance. The benefits for humans are not yet conclusive. Ultimately, more research is needed.
At high doses, the sulfur compounds in garlic have been shown to protect against organ damage from heavy metal toxicity.
Allicin in garlic can help reduce levels of lead in your blood and vital organs.
A 2012 study involving employees at a car battery plant (who had excessive exposure to lead) found that garlic reduced lead levels in the blood by
Three doses of garlic each day even outperformed the drug D-penicillamine in reducing symptoms.
Studies show that garlic can significantly reduce lead toxicity and related symptoms.
A few recent studies have measured the effects of garlic on bone health, specifically in women after menopause.
Results of a
A 2018 study found that 12 weeks of garlic supplements (1 gram per day) helped reduce pain in women with knee osteoarthritis and obesity or overweight.
Garlic appears to have some benefits for bone health by reducing oxidative stress. Still, more human studies are needed.
The last one isn’t a health benefit but is still important.
Garlic is very easy to include 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.
A common way to use garlic is to press a few cloves of fresh garlic with a garlic press, then mix it with extra virgin olive oil and a bit of salt. This works as a very simple and nutritious salad dressing.
Garlic is delicious and easy to add to your diet. You can use it in savory dishes, soups, sauces, dressings, and more.
People have believed in garlic’s medicinal properties for thousands of years. Science is now beginning to confirm it.
Garlic is safe and healthy for most people. But if you’re taking blood thinners, talk with a doctor before drastically increasing your garlic intake.