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The Evidence For Using Garlic To Treat A Cold

Suffering from a cold or flu can really take the good outta ya and make you feel helpless; even the smallest task seems exhausting. It is a common belief that there is no real "cure" for colds and flu; you simply have to let it run its course. That may be true given the nature of a viral infection, but garlic may provide a partial solution to help reduce the severity and length of those awful symptoms.

Studies on Garlic’s Effects on Cold and Flu

There have been small studies to try to understand how garlic can affect cold and flu symptoms.

  • One small study in 2001 looked at 146 people and followed them for three months. The group who used the garlic supplement reported a total of 24 occurrences of cold symptoms, while the group who did not use the garlic supplement had 65 occurrences over the trial period. (PMID: 11697022)
  • In 2012, another small study of 120 people found that people who took garlic supplements were able to recover from cold and flu symptoms faster than those who didn’t. (PMID: 22280901)

Can you trust a small study like this? Not if it was a pharmaceutical being investigated, but we are talking about food! It's generally considered very low risk so the bar for safety is much lower. Whether it works is the remaining question... and hundreds of years of use in folk medicine plus these well designed studies to back it up, and I'd trust it works.

How Does Garlic Work To Stop Cold and Flu Symptoms?

So, what is in garlic that may make it so powerful against the cold and flu? Honestly we aren't perfectly sure. Research shows it's likely the sulfur containing compounds (allicins), saponins and amino acid derivatives found in garlic that are responsible for targeting cold and flu symptoms. What we don't know is how those chemicals exactly do there work in the human body.

Here are a few caveats about garlic to consider before you go using it to try and end those cold and flu symptoms:

First, Make Sure Garlic is Right for You

Do a little more research as to the benefits of garlic against cold and flu symptoms to make sure that it will target those you are actually suffering from. Also, check to make sure you are not allergic to it because if your body is not suited for garlic, it will not do you any good.

Second, Get Familiar with the Smell

If you have used garlic before you know it has a distinctive smell. No matter how much you wash garlic, the smell never goes away. This smell is due to the presence of the active agents that are responsible for fighting a cold and flu. If you are going to use garlic, get used to it now.

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There are several ways you can incorporate garlic into your diet so it can start helping you fight those cold and flu symptoms.

01. Raw Garlic:

It might be a strong but effective way of using garlic to help prevent cold and flu. On remedy I was taught in Naturopathic Medical School was to crush a clove of garlic mix it in some honey and eat it straight. When I tried it personally, it worked! However, this method is not for the faint of heart - raw garlic has quite a bite to it!

02. Cook with Garlic:

Of course, adding garlic in your food while cooking is a great way to leverage it's benefits. Cooking and sautéing garlic reduces its pungency and makes it a little easier to eat. But be aware that cooking and roasting destroy the active constituents. So try to cook it lightly when you are using it to help your cold/flu symptoms.

03. Garlic Supplements:

There are various garlic supplements available on the market. If you do not want to consume raw garlic, you can simply use garlic supplements. Of course, be sure to check with your Naturopathic Doctor or healthcare provider about whether it's right for you and your unique situation first. It can interact with some medications and medical conditions! 

If you would like to learn more about my 8 Secrets To A Lifetime of Healthy Eating, just click here.


Laura Nurse, BBA, ND
Naturopathic Doctor 


Other episodes you might enjoy:

5 Diseases That A Plant-Based Diet Can Help Reverse

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How To Shift To Clean Eating - The Easy Way


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