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Can Garlic Help Adult Acne?

author image Assia M. Mortensen
Assia M. Mortensen has over 12 years of experience as an editor and journalist, and has published hundreds of articles in magazines, newspapers and online at "The Santa Barbara Independent," "Frontiers Magazine," "805 Living Magazine,", LIVESTRONG.COM and many other outlets. Mortensen graduated from the University of California in Santa Cruz with a Bachelor of Arts in literature and creative writing.

For centuries, garlic has been a traditional folk remedy thought to have powerful antiseptic, antiviral and anti-fungal properties. It is purported to increase overall stamina, virility and vitality. In 2010, it is still considered by Indian Ayurveda healers to be a helpful way to fight persistent adult acne. Although there are no formal studies on the topic, according to Robert Godart in his article "Home Remedies for Pimples," garlic is a valuable herb not only for treating acne scars but for a number of skin diseases and allergies. In Ayurveda, it is considered effective for removing acne scars and preventing new acne from forming.

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Why Garlic Works

Move over oranges and papayas; researchers now believe that garlic contains the most powerful antioxidant out of any natural food. As reported by Science Daily in a January 31, 2009 article, a compound called allicin—which gives garlic its unique taste and smell—has the capacity to decompose into the ultimate antioxidant sulfenic acid. Dr. Derek Pratt, who is Canada Research Chair in Free Radical Chemistry, said, “The reaction between the sulfenic acid and radicals is as fast as it can get, limited only by the time it takes for the two molecules to come into contact. No one has ever seen compounds, natural or synthetic, react this quickly as antioxidants.”

How to Use It for Acne

A couple of cloves added to your diet may prevent acne.
A couple of cloves added to your diet may prevent acne.

Garlic is most potent when consumed raw. If you like the taste, crush the cloves and add some to your favorite dinner recipes. Think Italian pasta with garlic bread. You can also soak the peeled cloves in milk for an hour, which cuts the smell if you don’t care for it. For acne prevention, a couple of cloves per day are thought to be effective. The antioxidants are most prevalent in fresh garlic, and since garlic is thought to be cleansing to the system in general, it’s best to ingest it this way.

Garlic Capsules or Tablets

However, if you are completely adverse to the smell and taste, but still want to try the remedy, visit the pharmacy or herbalist for garlic tablets. These are generally not as potent, but are still thought to be an effective alternative—with little or no odor or taste.

A Topical Option

Minced garlic can be diluted and used topically.
Minced garlic can be diluted and used topically.

There is some debate as to whether or not fresh garlic juice should be applied directly to pimples. In Ayurvedic medicine, it is considered effective for removing acne scaring and drying out acne when used topically, according to Godart. However, many find this causes a burning sensation, especially those with sensitive skin.

Home Remedy

If you would still like to try the topical home remedy, crush a clove of garlic into a paste diluted with ½ cup of warm water. Apply to the face with a washcloth then wash with a gentle cleanser. This diluted mixture should not irritate the skin; however, if you experience burning, discontinue use.

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