Garlic has been utilized for medicinal purposes for thousands of years. The uses of this herb range from protecting gravediggers in 18th century France from the plague to gangrene protection. While garlic is rich in traditional uses, through modern research, few of these uses are found to be effective. Due to the active compounds within garlic, it is commonly used to treat chest congestion. And while initial research found this herb is effective at treating common cold symptoms, it may not be the best natural treatment option for chest congestion.
Garlic contains several active constituents; however, the primary compound is alliin. Alliin is derived from cysteine, which is an amino acid and sulfur-containing compound responsible for providing the bulk of the medicinal qualities found within garlic. When garlic bulbs are broken, alliin is transformed into allicin. In order for the body to absorb allicin, the garlic must be fermented to break down the components of allicin. The University of Maryland Medical Center suggests this chemical decomposition creates various water-soluble sulfur compounds, which are believed to enhance the healing capabilities of garlic.
Garlic and Chest Congestion
The active constituents within garlic may improve immune system function and help relieve the symptoms of the common cold, which include chest congestion. A review published in "Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition" in 2009 examined evidence of garlic's benefits and concluded that it boosts the immune system, potentially helping your body fight a cold and a laboratory study published in "The Ethiopian Medical Journal" in 2006 found that crushed garlic effectively slows growth of pathogens in culture. A comprehensive review published in "The Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews" in 2009 examined trials of garlic for the common cold. It reported that subjects in one trial reported improved symptoms, but reported that larger, well-controlled studies are needed to determine whether garlic is an effective cold treatment.
The University of Maryland Medical Center suggests consuming 600 to 1,200 mg of aged garlic per day. Users may also consume 2 to 4 g of minced garlic per day. To benefit from supplementing with garlic, Drugs.com suggests consuming 2 to 5 mg of allicin per day. To prevent stomach upset, consume garlic supplements with food.
While garlic is generally considered safe for consumption, you should always discuss the use of garlic with your physician, especially if you’re currently taking medications such as blood thinners or HIV medications. Common side effects include bad breath, unpleasant body odor, heartburn and gastrointestinal discomfort.
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Garlic
- Drugs.com: Garlic
- National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine: Garlic
- Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition: Garlic: Nature's Protection Against Physiological Threats
- Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews: Garlic for the Common Cold
- Ethiopian Medical Journal: An In Vitro Assessment of the Antibacterial Effect of Garlic (Allium Sativum) on Bacterial Isolates from Wound Infections.