Can Garlic Help Fight Off A Cold?

The weather is turning colder and flu season is ramping up. There is precious little that Western medicine can offer to fight off the common cold, so it’s good to review what natural medicines and foods actually help. I previously wrote about chicken soup and easy non-food prevention tips; now let’s discuss garlic. Many people swear that eating a clove or two at the start of a cold helps their symptoms. What’s the evidence?

Garlic is commonly used in many cultures to fight infections. And there are some lab studies that suggest anti-viral, anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties. But a major review this year by the Cochrane group found only one good study worth examining; in this study, people who took daily garlic over three months had only 1/3 the amount of colds that the non-garlic group had. So, that’s encouraging news for prevention. But, when those patients were sick, each group’s cold symptoms lasted the same length. So, less convincing evidence for treatment. Their main conclusion:

There is insufficient clinical trial evidence regarding the effects of garlic in preventing or treating the common cold. A single trial suggested that garlic may prevent occurrences of the common cold, but more studies are needed to validate this finding. Claims of effectiveness appear to rely largely on poor quality evidence.

Personally, I think it’s a good idea to try garlic for treating a common cold, not as prevention. Especially if the garlic is freshly crushed; adding it to chicken soup is perfect. The New York Times has a nice review of the literature at this link: Really? – The Claim – Garlic Can Be Helpful in Warding Off a Cold.