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11 Health Benefits of Garlic

Garlic is a species of the onion genus Allium (1). It was traditionally used for many centuries not just for cooking, but for its health benefits (2). Recent scientific studies have confirmed some potential health benefits of garlic.

Garlic is a common additive in many foods and recipes. Garlic is a potent herb that is close to onions, leeks, shallots, and chives.

Summary: For centuries, humans have traditionally used Garlic for its health benefits. Scientific studies have confirmed some health benefits of garlic.

Health Benefits of Garlic

Are you ready to add more garlic to your daily routine? Check out the information below to see some potential health benefits of garlic.

1. It May Help Prevent Heart Disease

Heart disease is the number one cause of death in the United States (3). The most common and well-known benefit of garlic is that it may help promote heart health.

Studies have found that garlic supplements help lower LDL cholesterol, or the bad type of cholesterol that is a risk factor for heart disease (4), (5). However, garlic does not appear to help lower triglycerides, which is also a risk factor for heart disease (5), (6).

Many other factors go into preventing heart disease. Eating a well-balanced diet, exercising often, and managing stress can help to reduce risk of heart disease, especially if you have a family history of heart disease (7), (8).

Summary: Studies suggest that garlic supplements can help to lower LDL cholesterol levels, the “bad” type of cholesterol that is a risk factor for heart disease.

2. It May Help Your Immune System

There is some inconclusive evidence that garlic may help to support the immune system in reducing the number of colds.

One study found that taking garlic supplements for 12 weeks significantly reduced the number of colds in the intervention group compared to subjects given a placebo (9). However, another review of multiple studies of garlic concluded that there was not enough evidence to suggest that garlic prevents colds (10).

 

Summary: There is some inconclusive but suggestive evidence that garlic supplements may help to reduce the number of colds.

3. It has Antibacterial and Antifungal properties

Garlic also appears to have some potent antibacterial and antifungal properties.

Many test tube studies have shown that garlic also has antimicrobial properties that can help fight various types of bacteria and fungus. Garlic appears to help disrupt the structure and metabolism of various bacterial cells (11).

However, it is important to note that scientists have mainly conducted the studies of the antimicrobial properties of garlic in test tubes. There needs to be more research to determine if this benefit of garlic can have therapeutic effects on humans (12).

Summary: In test tube studies, research has shown garlic has antimicrobial effects. However, there needs to be more research to confirm if garlic has a therapeutic effect in humans.

4. It is an Antioxidant

Garlic is very high in antioxidants, which help to reduce free radical buildup in the body (13). When the body has too many free radicals, cells can become damaged, and over time, they can contribute to risk for some chronic diseases, including cancer (14).

Garlic reduces free radicals in test tube and animal studies (15). Adding more garlic can be helpful to get a good dose of antioxidants.

Summary: Garlic contains beneficial antioxidants that help to reduce damage from harmful free radicals, preventing risk of many chronic diseases such as cancer.

5. It May Lower the Risk of Cancer

Besides garlic’s antioxidant effects, eating lots of garlic may lower risk of developing some cancers.

Studies find that consuming more garlic is associated with less risk for developing certain cancers, particularly those of the digestive system (16). However, it is important to note that these are associations, and that does not prove that garlic can prevent cancer (1), (17).

There is some evidence garlic inhibits tumor growth in studies conducted in test tube studies, but there is not yet research confirming if garlic has an effect of inhibiting tumor growth in humans (18), (19) (20). There needs to be more research to fully understand this.

Summary: Eating garlic is associated with reduced risk for certain cancers, especially those of digestive system.

6. It May Reduce Blood Pressure

Billions of people worldwide suffer from high blood pressure or hypertension (21). Diet can play a role in preventing and reducing high blood pressure (22).

Hypertension is often the result of many factors such as age, family history, chronic stress, a nutrient-poor diet, a sedentary lifestyle, smoking, and much more (22).

There is also some preliminary evidence that adding garlic to your diet may help to lower blood pressure in those with hypertension (23).

Summary: Some research suggests that garlic may help to reduce blood pressure in those who have hypertension.

7. It Might Help with Anxiety and Depression

You may not think there is a link between garlic, anxiety, and depression, but some preliminary studies in animals suggest there might be.

One study conducted in rats found that adding more garlic alleviated depressive and anxiety-related behaviors (24). However, it is important to note that these results are very preliminary. There needs to be much more research to understand the effects of garlic on anxiety and depression in humans before we can make any conclusions.

There are many factors to consider when thinking about anxiety and depression, and these results are very preliminary (25). Consult with a mental health care provider or calling the National Hotline for help with mental health crisis at 1-800-273-8255.

Summary: One study suggested that garlic may help reduce depressive and anxiety-related behaviors in rats. This research is very preliminary, and much more research is needed before any conclusions on the effect of garlic on depression and anxiety can be made.

8. It May Reduce Blood Glucose Levels

Diabetes is a condition that affects millions of people around the globe (26). For those living with type two diabetes, a balanced diet and lifestyle can help to stabilize blood sugars (27).

Some evidence suggests that consuming garlic may have a positive effect on reducing blood glucose levels in people living with diabetes; however, other studies have found no effect of garlic on blood sugars (28).

Summary: Some mixed evidence suggests that garlic may help with balance blood sugars in those living with diabetes.

9. It May Improve Skin Health

While not commonly used in skin care products, there is some evidence to suggest that garlic may have skin benefits when applied topically, possibly because it is full of skin-loving antioxidants (29).

One study suggests that using garlic in skin creams may help to reduce skin aging and aid in skin rejuvenation (29).

Summary: While garlic is not commonly used in skin care products, one study suggests that using garlic in skin creams may help to reduce skin aging and aid in rejuvenation.

10. It Might Reduce the Risk of Alzheimer’s and Dementia

Over 25 million people have dementia worldwide (30). There is some evidence that a well-balanced diet may help to lower risk of dementia (31).

Some preliminary research suggests that the antioxidant properties of garlic may help reduce risk for dementia (32). While research suggests that oxidative stress in the brain may lead to the development of dementia, we do not know if the antioxidants in garlic can prevent dementia (33), (34).

However, the research on whether specific foods in our diets can help prevent dementia is very preliminary, and much more research is needed to make firm conclusions (31).

Summary: Some preliminary evidence suggests that garlic might reduce risk of dementia due to its antioxidant effects.

12. It May Improve Physical Performance

Some evidence suggests that garlic may help to increase physical performance.

Animal studies show garlic helps promote endurance and physical performance in rats (32). However, the research garlics effect on human physical performance has been mixed.

One study found that garlic can reduce fatigue in humans, and another found that taking garlic supplements for 6 weeks improved exercise capacity for study participants with heart disease  (33), (34). However, in a small study of 9 competitive cyclists, garlic did not improve performance (35).

Summary: Some mixed evidence suggests that garlic may improve physical performance.

Does Garlic Come with Health Risks?

Garlic in small doses, especially those found in food, is safe to consume for most (1). Although consuming garlic in larger amounts as a supplement may come with some side effects (1).

These include (1):

  • Breath and body odor
  • Hearburn
  • Stomach aches

Garlic supplements may also interact with some medications, including blood thinners and anti-viral drugs (1).

Be cautious when adding new supplements to your routine if you take medication or have any of the conditions above. Consult with a health care provider before taking any new supplement regularly.

Summary: Garlic used in food and cooking is safe to consume for most people. However, consuming larger amounts of garlic as supplements may have some side effects. Consult with a health care provider before adding any supplements to your routine.

Conclusion

Humans have used garlic in traditional medicine and cooking for centuries, and some research suggests it may also have some potential health benefits.

Garlic may help to reduce blood cholesterol and blood pressure, but there needs to be more research on the other potential health benefits of garlic.

Summary: Enjoy adding the small garlic to your foods regularly for flavor and health benefits, but consult with a health care provider before adding a garlic supplement to your routine.

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Evidence Based

This article is based on scientific evidence, and written, fact-checked & medically reviewed by health experts.

Throughout this article, you'll find scientific references (clickable links to highly trusted peer-reviewed scientific papers, links denoted by the numbers in the parentheses (1, 2, 3)).