Garlic For Common Colds: Why And How To Use It

garlic for colds

The dreaded common cold is one of those things that most of us silently endure till it makes its exit from our life, only to return again. The common cold is exactly what it is … common.

[pullquote]Did You Know?



  • Garlic was buried with Pharaohs to ward off evil spirits.
  • It was used as a performance enhancer during the first Olympic Games in Greece and as treatment during the Great Plague of London.
  • It has also found significant mention in the Indian Ayurvedic text, the Charaka Samhita.[/pullquote]

Children have to bear 6 to 8 colds per year and adults 2 to 4. How comforting would it be if we knew an easy way to speed up our recovery or even avoid the sickness altogether! While antibiotics kill bacteria and not viruses (the cause of colds), garlic, a kitchen essential used for over 5,000 years in alternative medicine, steps up and shows its healing powers with the common cold.

Besides longstanding folklore behind the recommendation of garlic for colds, science too has turned a keen eye to this bulbous panacea. Medical research has proved that garlic helps in the treatment of colds. Here’s how.


Allicin In Garlic Strengthens The Immune System

Garlic extracts have been shown to activate white blood cells (macrophages, lymphocytes, natural killer (NK) cells, dendritic cells, and eosinophils) – key players of the immune system – thus, boosting resistance to disease in general.1 This means protection from colds, too.

[pullquote]Allicin in garlic can kill bacteria, fungi, and tumor cells. It also lowers cholesterol and blood pressure.2[/pullquote]


Alliin, a compound present in whole garlic, is highly unstable and immediately gets converted to allicin on tissue damage.3 Allicin is the predominant sulfur-containing compound in fresh garlic responsible for garlic’s typical odor and taste. It has been suspected to play a role in WBC activation and immunity strengthening.

Trials Have Shown Garlic’s Positive Effects On Colds

One study involving 146 participants showed that people who took garlic every day for 3 months had a 63% lower risk of catching a cold.4 Also, those who did get infected recovered 70% quicker.


Though the authenticity of the data collected in this study has been questioned and further studies are required, we strongly recommend giving garlic a fair chance as a preventive measure for colds.5 If it doesn’t work for you, there are a host of other ways you will benefit, including lower risks of heart disease and cancer.6

[pullquote]Takeaway: Eating garlic regularly can reduce the severity of colds and may even prevent them completely.[/pullquote]


Another study showed that people who ate 2.56 gm aged garlic extract every day for 3 months had 21% fewer symptoms and colds that were 61% shorter.7 This is possibly due to the stimulating effect of garlic on immune cells, T-cells, and NK cells. All in all, the severity of colds was significantly reduced by including garlic in the diet.

As soon as you feel a cold coming on, consciously consume more garlic. Here are ways you can do so:


1. Chew Raw Garlic Cloves

Chew Raw Garlic Cloves_The Effectiveness Of Garlic In Treating The Common Cold

Bite on 2 to 3 whole, peeled garlic cloves spread across the day for 2 days. Biting causes the tissue damage necessary to trigger the formation of allicin.


Tip: To avoid stinky garlic breath, chew on coffee beans or an orange peel after you chew on garlic.

2. Have Garlic Soup

Before you cook this soup, remember, overcooking can destroy garlic’s sulfur compounds, including allicin.8 Even 1 minute of microwave heating or 45 minutes of oven heating can prevent allicin formation.9


  • Always crush or slice garlic cloves at room temperature and set aside for 10–15 minutes before you use it in any recipe.10 This gives the enzyme alliinase time to convert alliin to allicin.
  • Cook garlic on low to moderate heat   for a maximum of 10 minutes.
  • Try using more than 1 clove in each meal.
  • Do not microwave garlic.[/pullquote]


  • 1 whole head of garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
  • 8 cups vegetable or chicken broth
  • 1 1/2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/4 tsp dried thyme
  • A pinch of dried sage
  • Salt (to taste)


  • Heat the broth on low flame.
  • Stir in all the ingredients, and bring to a boil.
  • Reduce the heat and allow the soup to simmer for 30 minutes.
  • Add salt to taste.
  • Strain out the cloves and leaves and serve

Drink a cupful of soup 3 times a day. Refrigerate the leftover soup. Reheat on a moderate flame the next day before you have it. Along with the healing properties of garlic, the sheer warmth of the soup will make you feel a lot better.

3. Drink Garlic Tea


  • 3 garlic cloves, halved
  • 3 cups water
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1/2 cup fresh lemon juice


  • Add the garlic cloves to the water and bring to a boil.
  • Turn off the heat, and add honey and lemon juice.
  • Strain out the cloves, and serve.

Sip on half a cup of this tea thrice a day. Refrigerate the extra for the next day. Like the soup, the warmth will soothe your sore throat.

4. Take Garlic Supplements

If garlic’s taste and smell are too much for you to bear, taking dietary supplements may be a better alternative. The trials that have proved garlic’s cold-healing properties were done using garlic supplements.  Garlic supplements come in powder form, oil, or as an aged extract.

The usual recommendation of garlic supplements for adults is:11

  • One 300-mg dried garlic powder tablet (standardized to 1.3% alliin or 0.6% allicin yield) 2 to 3 times per day, or
  • 7.2 g of aged garlic extract per day

Your health practitioner is the best person to tell you how much supplement you should take and which type of supplement will be effective for you. This will depend on your medical history, your current medications, and your diet.

Side Effects Of Garlic That You Should Be Careful About

Besides the obvious bad breath that garlic gives you, there are other side effects you should know12:

  • Body odor, heartburn, and an upset stomach: These are common side effects of raw garlic. If you suffer from a digestive disorder like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), it is best you keep your garlic intake minimal.
  • Increased risk of bleeding: Garlic is a natural blood thinner and increases your risk of bleeding. So, those on anticoagulant medications such as warfarin (Coumadin), those going in for surgery, and pregnant women should avoid it.
  • Drop in blood sugar: Garlic increases insulin sensitivity, so those on blood sugar-lowering medications should avoid it.13
  • Interference with medications: Garlic can interfere with the effectiveness of some drugs, including saquinavir, a drug used to treat HIV infection.
  • Allergic reactions: Some people are allergic to garlic and may develop hives, pink-dotted rashes, nausea, a runny nose, or an upset stomach. Because garlic is used in so many foods, a garlic allergy is not easy to self-diagnose. While you can go off garlic for a week or two and see if it makes any difference, it is advisable to get an allergy test done as well.

Even on garlic supplements, you may experience the side effects associated with raw garlic. So, those on medications and pregnant women need to be extra careful. It is always advisable to get your dosage determined by a doctor before consuming supplements.