Garlic is on my prevention list for colds and flu this season. Garlic has been used for centuries as a food ingredient and as a medicine. Studies have shown that garlic reduces the risk of becoming sick as well as the duration of a cold/flu if you are sick. It can also reduce the severity of symptoms. Garlic is a super food that shouldn’t be overlooked.
Garlic is a powerful antioxidant with antimicrobial, antiviral and antibiotic properties. In other words, garlic is a natural antibiotic. Garlic is rich in sulfur compounds, which are responsible for its health benefits. Garlic also contains manganese, vitamin B6 and vitamin C.
There are hundreds of peer-reviewed studies that show the health promoting properties of garlic including cancer prevention, cold prevention, cholesterol lowering and blood pressure lowering.
According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, evidence suggests garlic may help prevent colds. In one study, people took either garlic supplements or placebo for 12 weeks during cold season, between November and February. Those who took garlic had fewer colds than those who took placebo. And when they did get a cold, the people taking garlic saw their symptoms go away faster than those who took placebo.
According to evidence from the Cochrane Database, participants from a study who took garlic every day for three months (instead of a placebo) had fewer colds.
According to NIH National Cancer Institute, “Several population studies show an association between increased intake of garlic and reduced risk of certain cancers, including cancers of the stomach, colon, esophagus, pancreas, and breast.
The use of garlic against colds and flu seems to be most effective when taken before the onset of a cold or flu or immediately when symptoms occur. Allicin is the property in garlic that is believed to be effective against viral infections. Crushing or chopping garlic releases and enzyme called alliinase. To maximize the health benefits of garlic in releasing allicin, crush garlic and allow it to sit for about 15 minutes to allow alliinase to activate. If you cook the garlic immediately after chopping or crushing, it may lose some of its benefits. If you start to feel a cold coming on, and are brave, you can swallow chopped up garlic cloves whole like a pill. Or, after mincing garlic and letting it rest for 15 minutes, add honey, a bit of olive oil and minced garlic to a cracker. You can purchase garlic in supplement form, but the most potent and effective way to consume garlic is when fresh. I would recommend not consuming garlic capsules on an empty stomach because it may cause nausea or other GI distress.
Combining garlic, vitamin C and zinc may be just the perfect remedy this cold and flu season.
Mandy Nix is a registered dietitian at Broughton Hospital who writes a weekly nutrition column for The News Herald. For questions, contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.