Garlic is a well-known food ingredient – one that has been used for centuries. It has also been used as a medicine.
Many studies have shown that garlic has medicinal and health benefits (1).
This article gives an in-depth explanation of the health benefits of garlic, and its protective effect against the flu and common cold.
Garlic is an immune booster
Garlic contains a powerful compound known as alliin. Alliin is converted to allicin when garlic is chewed or crushed. It is important to note that this allicin is the most active ingredient in garlic (7).
There’s some amount of sulfur in allicin. This sulfur is responsible for the distinctive taste and smell of garlic (8).
But then, allicin has an issue with being stable. It quickly converts to other sulfur-based compounds thought to be responsible for the medicinal properties of garlic (5).
Is garlic effective against colds and the flu?
Garlic has shown great potentials against colds and the flu.
In a particular study, 146 healthy subjects were given either a placebo or garlic supplements for three months. The group treated with garlic supplements had their risk of getting a cold reduced by 63%. Also, the duration of their colds was shorter by almost 70% (11).
In another study, subjects who ate garlic had their cold period reduced by 61% on average, compared to a placebo group. Also, their colds were not as severe (9).
If you experience a cold or flu often, then eating garlic can cut minimize your symptoms or even prevent illness.
It is worth knowing, however, that most studies investigating the benefits of garlic against cold were not of high quality (12).
We are not sure if garlic should be taken constantly, or if it is effective as a short-term treatment.
How to derive the most benefits from garlic
It is important to note that the health benefits of garlic may be affected by the way it is prepared or processed.
Alliinase, an enzyme that converts alliin into allicin, is only active under specific conditions. For instance, it doesn’t work when there’s heat.
It was observed though, that crushing garlic and leaving it to stand for 10 minutes before cooking helped prevent the loss of its medicinal properties.
The researchers also found that although cooking contributed to the loss of garlic health benefits, this loss could be compensated for by increasing the amount of garlic used.
Here are some ways to derive the most benefits from garlic:
- Slice or crush your garlic before eating it. This will increase its allicin content.
- Allow your crushed garlic to stand for at least 10 minutes before cooking it.
- Use plenty of garlic in your meals – more than a clove if possible.
How much garlic should you eat daily?
Well, one clove of garlic is considered the minimum effective dose, and this segment can be eaten two to three times daily.
Taking an aged garlic supplement may also be helpful. For the supplement form, you can take 600-1200mg daily. Taking too much garlic may be counterproductive, so you mustn’t take more than the recommended dose.