Does Garlic Work for Cold Prevention?

Garlic is a widely used natural remedy for cold prevention. Does it really work? A new analysis may shed light on this issue.

Of all the diseases known to mankind, the common cold is one of the one’s most difficult to eradicate. Although not life threatening, a cold is an annoyance to most people and has led to the development of a variety of alternative remedies for cold prevention and treatment, most of which have been no better than placebo. One alternative remedy for cold prevention that has been the subject of some investigation is garlic. Is garlic for cold prevention effective?

Garlic for Cold Prevention: What Do Studies Show?

Recently, The Cochrane Library published a review of various studies looking at the use of garlic for cold prevention. They were only able to find only one study that met the relevant criteria. This study consisted of 146 participants treated with a garlic supplement or placebo for three months. The subjects treated with the supplement not only experienced a significant reduction in common cold occurrence (65 vs. 24 occurrences), but also showed a reduction in the number of days they experienced symptoms when compared to those who received a placebo. Unfortunately, it’s difficult to draw conclusions since only one study was analyzed. The researchers concluded that this study does suggest some benefit, although there’s not enough evidence based on a single analysis, to conclude that garlic is effective for cold prevention.

How Might Garlic Work for Cold Prevention?

The component of garlic that many proponents believe is effective for cold prevention is allicin. Allicin is not found in significant amounts in raw garlic, but is formed when the garlic is crushed or cut, causing damage to the bulb. Allicin is thought to have antibacterial, antiviral, and antifungal properties and is believed to work by blocking certain enzymes used by organisms to set up an infection. Although allicin has antimicrobial properties in the test tube, whether or not it can effectively ward off infection in humans is another matter. Sometimes effects seen in a laboratory setting don’t pan out when it comes to the human body. The other problem is that there are so many types of garlic available and all of them may not work equally in terms of fighting off infections such as colds.

Garlic for Cold Prevention: Is It Worth It?

While there’s no sold evidence that garlic for a cold works, this study did suggest some benefit. Since garlic is thought to have other health benefits and few risks other than a powerful smell to the breath, there seems to be little downside to adding more garlic to the diet. Some experts believe to get the benefits of the allicin in garlic, the raw clove must be chewed in the mouth to form the active compound responsible for the antiviral properties. This would make it questionable as to whether processed garlic supplements would have the same benefits. All in all, adding some garlic to the diet during cold and flu season may not be a bad thing, but be sure to carry some breath mints!

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