Garlic (Allium sativum) is an herb related to onion, leeks, and chives. It is commonly used for conditions related to the heart and blood system. Garlic produces a chemical called allicin. This is what seems to make garlic work for certain conditions. Allicin also makes garlic smell. Some products are made “odorless” by aging the garlic, but this process can also change the effects of garlic.
People commonly use garlic for high blood pressure, high levels of cholesterol or other fats in the blood, and hardening of the arteries. It is also used for the common cold, osteoarthritis, and many other conditions, but there is no good scientific evidence to support these uses.
Garlic has anti-inflammatory benefits and helps blood flow more easily through the body. Several studies found that blood pressure was lowered by 10% when the participant took garlic supplements. Keep in mind that the supplement doses are fairly high—600 to 1,500 mg of aged garlic extract. That’s the equivalent of roughly four cloves of garlic a day, so start chopping.
Garlic can also reduce cardiovascular disease risk by lowering your cholesterol. A group of study participants that took a garlic supplement saw their cholesterol levels go down over a period of five months. The key here is commitment. Like many natural remedies, it takes a while for the benefits of garlic to kick in, because you have to let the vitamins and minerals build up in your body. But adding garlic to your daily routine is a healthy way to develop a lifelong habit that can benefit your health year after year.
Garlic is a natural at reducing heart disease risk because it lowers cholesterol and blood pressure. It’s also great at reducing your risk of heart disease by relaxing hardened blood vessels and preventing platelet aggregation. How does it work? Garlic increases production of nitric oxide which keeps blood vessels relaxed. It also prevents platelets from binding to proteins, which reduces blood clots. When it comes to heart disease help, garlic’s got you covered.
Digested garlic helps boost the immune system and reduces the severity and length of cold and flu symptoms. One study showed that taking a daily garlic supplement reduced the number of colds participants experienced by 63%. Studies have also reported that the average length of cold symptoms were reduced from five days to a day and a half. If you like garlic, try adding more to your meals when you feel a cold coming on.
There is some evidence that garlic can help reduce bone loss by increasing estrogen in females, which can be a big win for your bone health after menopause. Adding a daily dose of garlic could help reduce your risk of osteoporosis and osteoarthritis. You still need to include other healthy foods to make a real impact on bone density—dairy products, green leafy vegetables, fish, and nuts are all good choices.
Damage from free radicals contributes to aging, but garlic contains a powerful antioxidant to help battle that—S-allyl cysteine. This antioxidant shows promise in protecting against brain damage and keeping your brain functioning better as you age. It works by increasing your brain’s blood flow thanks to garlic’s ability to lower cholesterol and blood pressure. This means a reduced risk of brain disorders like dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
Neither raw nor black garlic appear to come with major side effects. However, raw garlic has a couple of downsides that black garlic may share. Eating raw garlic in large amounts may increase the risk of bleeding. Because of this, people on blood thinning medications may also want to avoid black garlic in large amounts.
That said, one study examined the effects of aged garlic extract on blood clotting among people taking blood thinning medication and found it posed no serious risk. Still, it’s best to speak with a healthcare professional to determine whether black garlic is safe and appropriate for you.