Garlic is a beloved root in the health industry. It’s packed with potent flavor and research shows it may help to improve heart health and immunity. While eating garlic is a great way to add this healthy root to your daily regimen, some find it easier to take a supplement.
Find out more about garlic and its supplement form right here. We’ll show you what garlic supplements are used for and give you a few tips to find the best garlic supplement.
What Are Garlic Supplements?
Garlic supplements are concentrated forms of garlic. They are available as garlic tablets, garlic powder, garlic oil, and garlic capsules. Supplements are not regulated by the FDA so choosing a high-quality garlic supplement is important. Make sure to read the label to know how much garlic is in the supplement and if there are any other ingredients as well.
Garlic is a popular ingredient in traditional medicine and cuisine across the globe. The garlic plant, also known as Allium sativum, features large bulbs that are used in cooking to add a touch of piquant flavor. The plants are pollinated by bees and butterflies and can grow up to 3 feet tall.
Garlic plants are native to Central Asia and researchers have discovered more than 100 cultivars of the plant. The main varieties include “wild garlic”, “meadow garlic”, and “field garlic”. There are also single garlic bulbs, which are wildly popular in China, particularly in the Guang Zhou and Yunnan regions. In addition, aged black garlic is increasingly popular though it has been a staple food ingredient in Asian cuisine for centuries.
What Are Garlic Supplements Used For?
Garlic supplements are widely used for conditions ranging from heart disease and pain management to skin care. The active ingredient in garlic is known as allicin. The chemical is responsible for the potent smell of the fresh garlic bulbs and is also behind most of the purported health benefits of the plant.
Some research shows that eating garlic on a regular basis or supplementing with garlic may help to lower the risk of certain types of cancer. A meta-analysis published in South Korea found that people who consumed garlic had a significantly lower risk of developing stomach cancers (1).
A 2015 meta-analysis of 25 studies found that garlic consumption resulted in a decreased risk of upper-digestive cancers (2). A third meta-analysis examined 19 case-control studies and 2 cohort studies with a total of more than 500,000 participants. The researchers found that people who consumed large amounts of vegetables containing allium including garlic had a lower risk of gastric cancer (3).
Researchers have not found evidence to indicate that garlic is an adequate treatment for serious disease. What they have found is an inverse relationship between garlic consumption and the risk of certain types of cancers. More research is needed to understand the exact mechanisms behind these health benefits. For now, eating garlic may be beneficial for digestive health.
Garlic supplements are most commonly used for improving heart health. In vitro studies have shown that garlic consumption may help protect cardiovascular health (4). Additional research shows an inverse relationship between garlic consumption and cardiovascular diseases such as heart attacks and high blood pressure.
One study published in 1997 showed that garlic consumption offered a protective effect against stiffening of the aorta. As people age, the aorta may become less elastic, leading to blood pressure problems and irregular heart rates (5).
A study published in the Journal of Nutrition in 2001 examined the effects of garlic extracts and sulfur compounds in men. The study consisted of men with high cholesterol. Researchers found that aged garlic extract (Kyolic) supplementation resulted in a seven percent decrease of total cholesterol levels (6).
They also witnessed a 10 percent decrease in LDL cholesterol. The researchers examined the same compounds on animals and found decreases of 15 and 30 percent, respectively. Additionally, the scientists found that supplementation simply with S-allylcysteine alone was less potent than the aged garlic extract (6).
Research is still ongoing, but preliminary studies have shown garlic supplementation may help lower blood pressure and lower cholesterol.
Insecticides And Pesticides
To use as an insecticide, crush a few cloves of organic garlic and mix with a cup of water. Soak the garlic in the water for at least 6 hours. Add a dash of dish soap and combine the ingredients in a medium-sized spray bottle. Spritz plant leaves, stems, and the soil at the base of the plant to deter critters.
Eating fresh garlic or taking a high-quality supplement may help to boost the immune system. A study published in the Journal of Immunology Research found that garlic helps to modulate cytokine secretion, thus boosting immunity. Researchers also found that garlic contains potent antioxidants that have anti-inflammatory properties that can help protect overall health (9). Additional research published in Clinical Nutrition found that aged garlic extract may help decrease the severity and duration of the common cold by encouraging the production of white blood cells — the body’s natural disease-fighting agents (10).
Garlic has been used in the treatment of yeast infections for years. There are garlic creams designed to be applied topically to the outside of the vagina as well as oral garlic tablets to help treat the infection from the inside out. Research on the topic is not prevalent and often of lower quality. One study showed that in garlic was effective in treating 18 strains of Candida albicans — the bacteria behind yeast infections (11). Other research on garlic and yeast infections showed mixed results or no effect at all (12) (13).
Due to the mixed nature of study results, it’s always best to consult a qualified healthcare practitioner before treating any illness. They can help prescribe the best treatment plan and offer options to suit your specific needs.
How To Choose A Garlic Supplement?
Most research on the benefits of garlic is based on aged garlic extract or using fresh garlic. That’s because the main ingredient, allicin, is volatile and produced only in certain circumstances. Allicin must be produced outside the stomach because digestive processes prevent the conversion of the chemical alliinase into allicin. Allicin is produced when the garlic clove is chewed, crushed or minced. The problem with allicin is that it is also irritating to the throat and stomach.
Most experts recommend simply eating garlic as the best form of supplementation. If for some reason you can’t simply eat garlic, use these tips to find the best garlic supplement.
Don’t Go For Odorless
Odorless garlic supplement such as the popular Puritan’s Pride and Bri Nutrition odorless garlic are designed to reduce the smelly component of taking garlic. While they may make social gatherings more enjoyable, the reason they are odorless is that the chemical allicin is removed. That also means that health benefits from the allicin are also no longer present. Stick to pure garlic supplements to avoid altering the efficacy.
Look For Coated Supplements
Coated supplements feature a special coating that enables the supplement to bypass the first stages of the digestive system. These supplements are broken down in the small intestines rather than in the stomach. Garlic compounds such as allicin may cause side effects such as stomach irritation if they are broken down in the stomach. That’s because these chemicals increase stomach acid, leading to irritation and digestive discomfort.
Look for enteric-coated garlic pills for the best results. Keep in mind that these supplements are based on time-release technology. The developers estimate the average time it takes for the garlic pill to reach the small intestines. For some people, the garlic pill may still begin the breakdown process while in the stomach. Talk to a healthcare professional to determine which enteric-coated garlic supplement is right for you.
Alkaline-Buffered Garlic Pills
Some manufacturers have created garlic pills that are buffered by alkaline compounds. These compounds help to delay the impacts of stomach acid on garlic compounds. This allows the allicin to be produced before the breakdown occurs.
Supplementing With Garlic
Whether you choose to supplement with garlic pills or simply by eating more raw garlic cloves, this root may boost health. You can pick up these herbal supplements online at Amazon or in your local grocery store or farmer’s markets across the USA. Extra strength garlic supplement sand other garlic pills can be found in the health food or supplements section alongside other favorites such as fish oil and magnesium.