Is Garlic a Natural Antibiotic?

Can garlic kill bacteria and viruses? Find out more about the antibiotic properties of garlic – and whether it can protect you against winter colds and flu viruses.

More people are taking garlic supplements or adding garlic to their food in hopes of getting some of the health benefits of this vegetable. Whether or not garlic actually reduces the risk of heart disease is still unproven although it does thin the blood, which may lower the risk of heart attack and stroke. Some people also take garlic supplements in hope of warding off bacterial infections and the common cold. Does garlic kill bacteria and viruses?

Antibiotic Properties of Garlic: Can Garlic Kill Bacteria?

There’s not a lot of good evidence that garlic kills bacteria although it may strengthen the immune system and make it easier to fight off bacterial infections. In one study carried out at the National University of Health Sciences in Illinois, allicin, the active ingredient in garlic, stopped the growth of antibiotic-resistant bacteria in the laboratory, but this doesn’t necessarily mean it has the same effect in the human body.

One bacteria that garlic isn’t effective against, according to studies, is Helicobacter pylori, the bacteria that causes many gastric ulcers. In addition, the allicin in garlic is destroyed or significantly reduced in quantity when garlic is sautéed in oil. This suggests that even if it does have anti-bacterial benefits, it may be necessary to take a garlic supplement.  

Does Garlic Kill Viruses?

Several small studies have looked at whether garlic fights off viruses such as the common cold. One three month, double-blind, placebo-controlled study involving 146 people showed that participants who took a garlic extract experienced 66% fewer colds than those who took a placebo, but it didn’t shorten cold duration. This is encouraging, but more studies are needed before any firm conclusion can be reached about garlic’s virus-fighting benefits.

The Antibiotic Properties of Garlic

Garlic has also been proposed as a treatment for fungi and yeast, especially vaginal yeast infections. Garlic extract does stop the growth of Candida yeast in the laboratory, but whether it does in the human body hasn’t been adequately studied. All-in-all, there are better treatments for vaginal yeast infections, at least according to the limited research that’s available.

Can Garlic Kill Bacteria and Viruses?

There is some preliminary evidence that garlic kills some types of bacteria and fungi in the laboratory; and it may help to ward off the common cold, but this is far from conclusive. In addition, no one knows how much garlic you need to get these health benefits and whether a supplement works better than fresh garlic.

The best approach may be to eat more fresh garlic, but don’t sauté it since it destroys some of the benefits. Hopefully, more research will answer the burning question of whether garlic kills bacteria and viruses.

References:

Pubs.org. “Garlic: A Natural Antibiotic”

J. Gen. Microbiol. 1988; 134: 2917-2924.

Adv. Ther. 2001; 18: 189-193.

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