While children might know garlic only as a seasoning that gives you bad breath and keeps away vampires, many adults know the antioxidant-rich herb as a natural way to treat and prevent numerous medical conditions. Although people have used garlic as medicine for hundreds of years, research has yet to adequately address the use of garlic pills for children. Because of possible side effects, only a medical professional who knows your child's health history can decide whether your child can take garlic pills.
The antioxidants in garlic help destroy free radicals, which can damage cell membranes, interact with genetic material and possibly cause heart disease and cancer. Children who take garlic pills for certain conditions can see beneficial results, according to a review of data by the University of Alberta, Canada, in the December 2006 "Pediatrics in Review." According to the data, children saw better results from taking garlic tables for upper respiratory tract infections than from taking placebo or dibazole, a commercial parasiticide containing medication. When applied to the skin, garlic removed warts within three to nine weeks.
Preliminary research suggests garlic pills might be beneficial for the common cold and corns, but Medline Plus, a service of the U.S. National Library of Medicine, says the research is insufficient. According to the "Pediatrics in Review" article, a mixture of garlic and three other herbs applied as an ear drop helped reduce pain associated with ear infection. Because the ear drop was a mixed solution, the exact role of the garlic in the solution is unknown. The article also found that garlic does not appear to treat cardiovascular disease in children.
Like garlic, garlic pills can cause unpleasant mouth and body odor, as well as stomach upset and burning when crushed on the skin. In supplement form, garlic also can cause blood thinning, skin rash, difficulty breathing, loss of appetite, muscle aches, headache, dizziness and fatigue. Among other drugs, garlic might negatively interact with antiplatelet medications, blood-thinning medications and protease inhibitors. Tell your doctor about all medications and supplements your child takes.
While the list of supposed garlic benefits covers everything from cancer to coughs, research does not back up all these claims, especially in children. Additionally, garlic pills do not always provide the same benefits as actually eating fresh garlic. Because of the mixed results from the data in the "Pediatrics in Review" article, the authors concluded that the researchers must further study the safety of garlic in children. For this reason, the medical community has not set a standard recommended dose for children. If you're considering garlic pills for your child, talk to a medical professional familiar with herbal remedies who can help you decide if garlic pills are right for your child and what dosage your child should take.