The smell of garlic simmering in olive oil is a sure sign of a mouth-watering meal to come. Still, it can be hard to get fresh garlic in your diet every day, so many people turn to garlic supplements for their daily dose — about 1.9 million Americans, according to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health.
Here, we'll dig into the research behind the possible benefits of garlic supplements and offer tips on the best ones to buy.
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Are Garlic Pills Good for You?
If you tend to stay away from garlic because of its pungent smell, you shouldn't — that's why it's so good for you. Garlic, or Allium sativum, produces organosulfur compounds, according to April 2015 research published in the Journal of Immunology Research, and anything with sulfur is going to have a strong scent (onions and leeks are in the same family).
When you crush or chop raw garlic, a compound called allicin is formed, and this carries many of the health benefits. This is still present in garlic supplements, but the body's ability to absorb it may be diminished some, according to June 2018 research published in Nutrients.
Garlic comes in many forms, including raw, powder, oil and aged garlic extract. Of these forms, powder, oil and aged garlic extract might be found in a capsule supplement.
The health benefits of garlic and garlic supplements have been researched extensively in animals, but human studies have been more limited. Still, based on the research to date, garlic may have a positive effect on the following conditions:
- High blood pressure: Aged garlic extract lowered blood pressure more than a placebo in study participants with uncontrolled hypertension, according to January 2016 research published in Integrated Blood Pressure Control.
- Gingivitis and periodontal disease: According to a February 2020 review in Experimental and Therapeutic Medicine, garlic extract, allicin and aged garlic extract have all been shown to suppress the growth of bacteria that causes periodontal disease.
- High cholesterol: Garlic has been shown to reduce total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol, according to an extensive May 2018 review published in Medicine.
Types of Garlic Supplements
Choosing the best garlic capsule for you might come down to tolerance and personal preference.
- Powdered or dehydrated garlic capsules: Garlic cloves are crushed, dried and made into a powder.
- Aged garlic extract: This is raw garlic that has been stored in ethanol for up to 20 months.
- Steam-distilled garlic oil: This type of capsule has a ratio of 1 percent sulfur compounds to 99 percent vegetable oil, according to the Linus Pauling Institute.
- Garlic oil macerate: This garlic capsule supplement consists of ground garlic in vegetable oil.
What to Look for in a Garlic Supplement
1. Quality: Keep in mind that supplements, even natural supplements, are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). They may contain ingredients not listed on the packaging, and the health claims they tout may not be supported by research.
The only way to know that your supplement truly has the content it claims is for it to have a USP (United States Pharmacopeia) seal, which ensures the identity, potency, purity and performance of a product. Currently, there are no garlic supplements that have obtained a USP seal. Your best bet is to look for a brand you trust — one you've used before, and one that follows the FDA's Good Manufacturing Practices, which should ensure your supplement is packaged and labeled properly.
2. Type of garlic: This all comes down to personal preference. Most garlic supplements on the market today offer an odorless garlic, which might be preferable. Some even come enhanced with parsley, which may help mask any hidden garlic scent. All types of garlic — powdered, oil, raw and aged — have been shown to have health benefits.
3. Cost: More expensive doesn't always mean better. You may pay a premium for extras like organic or non-GMO, but those do not guarantee a more effective garlic supplement. Stay within your price range and make sure garlic is a good choice for you (check with your doctor) before spending more.
Take your garlic supplement as directed and not with a high-protein meal, which can decrease your body's ability to absorb the garlic, according to July 2018 research published in Nutrients.
The 4 Best Garlic Supplements
1. Best All-Around: Kyolic Aged Garlic Extract
Aged garlic extract may have health benefits, as indicated in research. The aging process of the garlic also helps cut back on the strong garlic odor. This brand adheres to the above-mentioned Good Manufacturing Practices and has high ratings from consumers. It's also an American product: Kyolic garlic is grown on certified organic farms in California.
Buy it: Amazon.com; Price: $23.99
2. Best for Dietary Restrictions: Sports Research Vegan Garlic Oil
These capsules contain extra-virgin olive oil instead of the standard soybean oil, which may be a better choice for those with allergies to soy. They are also vegan and non-GMO-verified, which means they're not made with genetically modified foods. Finally, the brand follows the FDA's Good Manufacturing Practices.
Buy it: Amazon.com; Price: Varies
3. Best for Sensitive Stomachs: Nature's Bounty Garlic
The Nature's Bounty brand has had successful lab audits by the United States Pharmacopeia and has been vetted by Specialized Technology Resources, a dietary supplement quality control agency. It adheres to the Good Manufacturing Practices as well.
These garlic supplements are also enteric coated, which means they'll stay intact until reaching your small intestine — this can help alleviate the stomach discomfort that sometimes can come with supplements.
Buy it: Amazon.com; Price: $18.99
4. Best on a Budget: BRI Nutrition Odorless Garlic
With one of the highest ratings on Amazon for garlic supplements, BRI has a 60-day money-back guarantee if you don't see the results you're after. These are also made in the USA, adhere to Good Manufacturing Practices and won't break the bank. This is an odorless supplement, too, which may help eliminate the bad breath or odor that can come with taking garlic every day.
Buy it: Amazon.com; Price: $12.88
Who Should Not Take Garlic Supplements?
If you are taking anticoagulant medications, such as Coumadin or warfarin, you should speak with your doctor before taking a garlic capsule. According to the Linus Pauling Institute, garlic can enhance the effect of these medications, which can increase your risk of bleeding.
It is also not recommended to take garlic if you are on antiretroviral medication for HIV. The U. S. Department of Health and Human Services warns that garlic can interfere with these medications and make them less effective.
Are There Side Effects From Garlic Supplements?
The most noticeable and unpleasant side effect from your supplement is going to be "garlic breath" and possibly body odor, although these effects seem to be less common with supplements than with raw garlic, according to the July 2018 research in Nutrients.
Other reported side effects include burping, bloating and reflux, per January 2016 research in Integrated Blood Pressure Control.
Garlic supplements show some promising benefits, but there's no guarantee you'll see the results you're looking for. Speak with your doctor if you would like to start taking garlic to ensure it won't interfere with your medications or other health goals.
Concerned About COVID-19?
Read more stories to help you navigate the novel coronavirus pandemic:
- National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health: "Most Used Natural Products"
- Journal of Immunology Research: "Immunomodulation and Anti-Inflammatory Effects of Garlic Compounds"
- Nutrients: "Allicin Bioavailability and Bioequivalence from Garlic Supplements and Garlic Foods"
- American Institute for Cancer Research: "Garlic"
- Integrated Blood Pressure Control: "The Effect of Aged Garlic Extract on Blood Pressure and Other Cardiovascular Risk Factors in Uncontrolled Hypertensives: The AGE at Heart Trial"
- Experimental and Therapeutic Medicine: "The Preventive and Therapeutic Application of Garlic and Other Plant Ingredients in the Treatment of Periodontal Diseases"
- Linus Pauling Institute: "Garlic and Organosulfur Compounds"
- Medicine: "Anti-Hyperlipidemia of Garlic by Reducing the Level of Total Cholesterol and Low-Density Lipoprotein"
- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: "Garlic Supplements Can Impede HIV Medication"
- Food and Drug Administration: "Dietary Supplements"
- United States Pharmacopeia: About USP
- Food and Drug Administration: "Guidance & Regulation (Food and Dietary Supplements)"