garlic (generic name)
- Auto Immune Conditions
- Bladder & Kidney Health
- Brain & Nervous System
- Care Transitions
- Dental Health
- Emotional Health
- Eye Health
- Falls Prevention
- Financial Planning
- General Safety
- Health Care Basics
- Healthy Living
- Hearing Loss
- Heart Health
- High Blood Pressure
- Life Transitions
- Lung Health
- Men's Health
- Nutrition & Weight Management
- Pain Management
- Preventive Health
- Sexual Health
- Stomach & Digestive Health
- Stress & Anxiety
- Women's Health
TraditionWARNING: DISCLAIMER: The below uses are based on tradition, scientific theories, or limited research. They often have not been thoroughly tested in humans, and safety and effectiveness have not always been proven. Some of these conditions are potentially serious, and should be evaluated by a qualified healthcare provider. There may be other proposed uses that are not listed below.
Adults (18 years and older)
Human studies report the use of 4-12.3 milligrams of garlic oil by mouth daily. Some sources report that steam-distilled oils, oil from crushed garlic, and aged-garlic in alcohol may be less effective for some uses, particularly as a blood thinner.
600 to 900 milligrams daily of non-coated, dehydrated garlic powder in three divided doses, standardized to 1.3% allicin content, has been used in human studies. The European Scientific Cooperative on Phytotherapy (ESCOP) recommends 3 to 5 milligrams allicin daily (1 clove or 0.5 to 1.0 gram dried powder) for the prevention of atherosclerosis. The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends 2 to 5 grams fresh garlic, 0.4 to 1.2 grams of dried powder, 2 to 5 milligrams oil, 300 to 1,000 milligrams of extract, or other formulations that are equal to 2 to 5 milligrams of allicin daily.
The European Scientific Cooperative on Phytotherapy (ESCOP) recommends 2 to 4 grams of dried bulb or 2 to 4 milliliters of tincture (1:5 dilution in 45% ethanol), by mouth three times a day for upper respiratory tract infections.
Children (younger than 18 years)
Safety or effectiveness of garlic supplements has not been proven in children. Garlic in amounts found in food is likely safe in most children.
SafetyDISCLAIMER: Many complementary techniques are practiced by healthcare professionals with formal training, in accordance with the standards of national organizations. However, this is not universally the case, and adverse effects are possible. Due to limited research, in some cases only limited safety information is available.
People with a known allergy to garlic, any of its ingredients, or to other members of the Liliaceae (lily) family, including hyacinth, tulip, onion, leek, and chives, should avoid garlic. Allergic reactions have been reported with garlic taken by mouth, inhaled, or applied to the skin. Some of these reactions are severe including throat swelling and difficulty breathing (anaphylaxis). It has been suggested that some cases of asthma from inhaling garlic may be due to mites on the garlic. Fresh garlic applied to the skin may be more likely to cause rashes than garlic extract.
Side Effects and Warnings
Bad breath, body odor, and allergic reactions are the most common reported side effects of garlic. Fresh garlic has caused rash or skin burns, both in people taking garlic therapy and in food preparers handling garlic. Most reactions improve after stopping garlic therapy. Other reported side effects include dizziness, increased sweating, headache, itching, fever, chills, asthma flares, and runny nose.
Bleeding is a potentially serious side effect of garlic use, including bleeding after surgery and spontaneous bleeding. Several cases of bleeding are reported, which may be due to effects of garlic on blood platelets, or to increased breakdown of blood clots (fibrinolysis). There is debate about the effects of garlic in people treated with warfarin (Coumadin®), but studies suggest that garlic does not alter the International Normalized Ratio (INR) values that are used to measure the effect of warfarin on blood thinning. Garlic should be stopped prior to some surgical or dental procedures due to an increased risk of bleeding. Caution is urged for people who have bleeding disorders or who take blood thinning medications (anticoagulants, aspirin/anti-platelet agents, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen or naproxen) or herbs/supplements that may increase the risk of bleeding. Dosing adjustments may be necessary.
Garlic or its ingredients may lower blood sugar levels and increase the release of insulin. However, studies in humans do not show changes in blood sugar control in people with or without diabetes. Nonetheless, caution is advised in people with diabetes or hypoglycemia, and in those taking drugs, herbs, or supplements that affect blood sugar. Blood sugar levels may need to be monitored by a healthcare professional, and medication adjustments may be necessary. Informal reports describe low iodine absorption in the thyroid and low levels of thyroid hormone (hypothyroidism) with garlic supplementation. A few reports suggest that garlic and garlic-like plants may be linked to nodules or tumors of the thyroid. Reduced sperm counts have been reported in rats.
Dehydrated garlic preparations or raw garlic taken by mouth may cause burning of the mouth, abdominal pain or fullness, poor appetite, gas, belching, nausea, vomiting, irritation of the stomach lining, changes in the bacteria in the gut, heartburn, diarrhea, or constipation. One report describes bowel obstruction in a man who ate a whole garlic bulb. Garlic should be used cautiously by people with stomach ulcers or who are prone to stomach irritation.
Multiple studies show a small reduction in blood cholesterol levels after garlic supplements are taken by mouth. Small reductions in blood pressure are also commonly reported. One case of heart attack is noted in a healthy man after taking a large amount of garlic by mouth.
Contamination of garlic products has been reported. In Vancouver, British Columbia, a commercial preparation of chopped garlic was linked to botulism. One report describes overdose of colchicine and even death after meadow saffron (Colchicum autumnale) was mistaken for wild garlic (Allium ursinium).
Pregnancy and Breastfeeding
Garlic is likely safe during pregnancy in amounts usually eaten in food, based on historical use. However, garlic supplements or large amounts of garlic should be avoided during pregnancy due to a possible increased risk of bleeding. In addition, early animal studies suggest that garlic may cause contraction of the uterus. Many tinctures contain high levels of alcohol, and should be avoided during pregnancy.
Garlic is likely safe during breastfeeding in amounts usually eaten in food, based on historical use. However, some mothers who take garlic supplements report increased nursing time, milk odor, and reduced feeding by the infant. The safety of garlic supplements during breastfeeding is not known.