Many of you are probably big fans of garlic in your food or on a piece of fresh bread. Garlic (Allium sativum) has been used in Mediterranean and Asian cooking for hundreds of years. Throughout the ages, this plant was utilized for medicinal purposes and more recently as a pest repellent.
One patient asked me whether there is sufficient evidence to show that eating garlic might benefit cold symptoms. To answer this question, I decided to look into the available research.
Looking at the literature, the use of garlic for medicinal purposes goes back thousands of years. One of the earliest writings was found in Avesta, a collection of Zoroastrian holy writings in ancient Persia during the sixth century BC. Garlic was also part of practicing medicine in Sumerian and the ancient Egyptians.
It has been suggested that aged garlic extract has an antioxidant effect and also could enhance the immune system. Laboratory data have also shown some antibacterial and antiviral properties of this plant.
How beneficial is garlic in treating or preventing colds?
It was not easy to find reliable studies that looked at this question. Most of the studies were low quality and not well designed. According to a quality review of all available studies, there isn’t enough data to comment on the effects of garlic (positive or negative) on the prevention or treatment of the common cold.
What this means is that we don’t have any clue whether or not garlic works.
But I have to say that there is nothing wrong with consuming a moderate amount of garlic, except maybe its strong smell.
There have been some reports that the consumption of a large amount of garlic may cause bleeding. Therefore, individuals on aspirin, fish oil, blood thinners or people with low platelet counts and who are prone to bleeding should be cautious.
Otherwise, we should continue using garlic as a great addition to our food until better research and more data about its medicinal benefits are available.