For thousands of years, garlic was believed to have medicinal properties.
“Let food be your medicine, and medicine your food.”
These 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.
Modern science has recently confirmed many of these beneficial health effects.
Here are 11 health benefits of garlic that are backed by human research.
1. Garlic Contains Compounds With Powerful Medicinal Properties
Garlic is a plant of the Allium (onion) family.
It is 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 ampoule, 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, the primary use of garlic was for its health and medicinal properties.
Its use has been well-documented by many major civilizations, including the Egyptians, Babylonians, Greeks, Romans, and Chinese.
Scientists now know that most of its health benefits are caused by sulfur compounds formed when a clove of garlic is chopped, crushed, or chewed.
Perhaps the most famous of these is allicin. However, allicin is an unstable compound that is only briefly present in fresh garlic after it has been cut or crushed.
Other compounds that may play a role in the health benefits of garlic include diallyl disulfide and s-allyl cysteine.
The sulfur compounds in garlic enter the body from the digestive tract and travel throughout the body, where it exerts its powerful biological effects.
Summary: Garlic is a plant in the onion family that is cultivated for its distinctive taste and health benefits. It contains sulfur compounds, which are believed to provide some health benefits.
2. Garlic is very nutritious but contains very few calories
Calorie for calorie, garlic is incredibly nutritious.
One clove (3 grams) of raw garlic contains:
- Manganese: 2% of the Daily Value (DV)
- Vitamin B6: 2% of DV
- Vitamin C: 1% of DV
- Selenium: 1% of DV
- Fiber: 0.06 grams
- Decent amounts of calcium, copper, potassium, phosphorus, iron, and vitamin B1
It comes with 4.5 calories, 0.2 grams of protein, and 1 gram of carbs.
Garlic also contains traces of various other nutrients. In fact, it contains a bit of almost everything you need.
Summary: Garlic is low in calories and high in vitamin C, vitamin B6, and manganese. It also contains traces of various other nutrients.
3. Garlic Can Fight Illness, Including Colds
Garlic supplements are known to boost immune system function.
A large 12-week study found that a daily garlic supplement reduced the number of colds by 63% compared to a placebo.
The average duration of cold symptoms was also reduced by 70%, from 5 days in the placebo group to just 1.5 days in the garlic group.
Another study found that a high dose of aged garlic extract (2.56 grams per day) reduced the number of sick days with a cold or flu by 61%.
However, one review concluded that the evidence is insufficient and that more research is needed.
Despite the lack of strong evidence, adding garlic to your diet may be worth a try if you catch a cold often.
Summary: Garlic supplements help prevent and reduce the severity of common illnesses like the flu and colds.
4. Active Compounds in Garlic May Lower Blood Pressure
Cardiovascular diseases like heart attacks and strokes are the biggest killers in the world.
High blood pressure, or hypertension, is one of the most important factors in these diseases.
Human studies have shown that garlic supplements have a significant impact on lowering blood pressure in people with hypertension.
In one study, 600–1,500 mg of aged garlic extract was just as effective as the drug Atenolol in reducing blood pressure over a 24-week period.
Supplement doses must be high enough to have the desired effects. The amount needed is equivalent to about four cloves of garlic per day.
Summary: High doses of garlic appear to improve blood pressure in people with high blood pressure (hypertension). In some cases, supplements can be as effective as regular medications.
5. Garlic improves cholesterol levels, which may reduce the risk of heart disease
Garlic can lower total and LDL cholesterol.
For people with high cholesterol, garlic supplements appear to lower total and/or LDL cholesterol by about 10–15%.
Looking specifically at LDL (“bad”) and HDL (“good”) cholesterol, garlic appears to lower LDL but has no reliable effect on HDL…
High triglyceride levels are another known risk factor for heart disease, but garlic appears to have no significant effect on triglyceride levels.
Summary: Garlic supplements appear to lower total and LDL cholesterol, especially in those with high cholesterol. HDL cholesterol and triglycerides do not appear 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 supplements have been shown to increase antioxidant enzymes in humans and significantly reduce oxidative stress in people with hypertension.
The combined cholesterol and blood pressure lowering effects, along with the antioxidant properties, may reduce the risk of common brain diseases like Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.
Summary: Garlic contains antioxidants that protect against cell damage and aging. This may reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.
7. Garlic can help you live longer
Garlic’s potential effects on longevity are basically unprovable 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 diseases is also an important factor, as these are common causes of death, especially in the elderly or people with dysfunctional immune systems.
Summary: Garlic has known benefits for common causes of chronic disease, so it makes sense that it could also help you live longer.
8. Athletic Performance Could Be Improved With Garlic Supplements
Garlic was one of the first “performance-enhancing” substances.
It was traditionally used in ancient cultures to reduce fatigue and improve the working capacity of workers.
Most notably, it was given to Olympic athletes in ancient Greece.
Rodent studies have shown that garlic helps exercise performance, but very few human studies have been done.
People with heart disease who took garlic oil for 6 weeks had a 12% reduction in maximum heart rate and better exercise capacity.
However, one study of nine competitive cyclists found no performance benefit.
Other studies suggest that exercise-induced fatigue can be reduced with garlic.
Summary: Garlic may improve physical performance in laboratory animals and people with heart disease. The benefits of healthy people are not yet conclusive.
9. Eating garlic can help detoxify heavy metals in the body
In high doses, the sulfur compounds in garlic have been shown to protect against organ damage due to heavy metal toxicity.
A four-week study of employees at a car battery factory (excess lead exposure) found that garlic reduced blood lead levels by 19%. It also reduced many clinical signs of toxicity, including headaches and blood pressure.
Three doses of garlic a day even outperformed the drug D-penicillamine in reducing symptoms.
Summary: Garlic has been shown to significantly reduce lead toxicity and associated symptoms in one study.
10. Garlic May Improve Bone Health
No human studies have measured the effects of garlic on bone loss.
However, rodent studies have shown that it may minimize bone loss by increasing estrogen in females.
A study in postmenopausal 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 supplement may have beneficial effects on bone health in women.
Foods like garlic and onions may also have beneficial effects on osteoarthritis.
Summary: Garlic appears to have some bone health benefits by increasing estrogen levels in women, but more human studies are needed.
11. Garlic is easy to include in your diet and tastes absolutely delicious
The last is not a health benefit, but still important.
Garlic is very easy (and delicious) to include in your current diet.
It complements most savory dishes, especially soups and sauces. Garlic’s strong taste can also add punch to otherwise bland recipes.
Garlic comes in many forms, from whole cloves and smooth pastes to powders and supplements like garlic extract and garlic oil.
However, keep in mind that garlic has some drawbacks, such as bad breath. There are also people who are allergic to it.
If you have a bleeding disorder or take blood thinners, talk to your doctor before increasing your garlic intake.
A common way to use garlic is to press a few cloves of fresh garlic with a garlic press, then toss it with extra virgin olive oil and a little salt.
It’s a wholesome and super satisfying dress.
Summary: Garlic is delicious and easy to add to your diet. You can use it in savory dishes, soups, sauces, dressings, and more.
In conclusion, garlic offers a wide range of proven health benefits. It boosts the immune system, reduces cardiovascular risks, fights against cancer, improves respiratory health, manages blood sugar levels, enhances digestion, supports liver function, provides anti-inflammatory effects, promotes brain health, aids in weight management, and supports bone health. Adding garlic to your diet can be a valuable step towards improving overall health and well-being.