The weather is getting colder, the days shorter, and, with the holidays approaching, our schedules are all about to get much busier. While winter’s weather and the increase of holiday stress might not be the best for our immune system, luckily, nature may have our backs yet again. Herbs and spices are healthy ways to keep our bodies fighting colds, but I’m interested in looking at one herb in particular—garlic. This delicious ingredient, a regular in many Italian dishes, might give us more than just bad breath. For years, it has been thought that garlic can help cure and prevent the common cold and the flu. Will eating extra garlic this cold season really help ward off sickness?
Garlic has a long history of being used to treat all kinds of ailments, but for those of us who want garlic to just help prevent the common cold, will it work? A 2012 study by Julia Fashner and published in the American Family Physician states that, “prophylactic use of garlic may decrease the frequency of colds in adults, but has no effect on duration of symptoms.” This means that while garlic may help to prevent colds, once a cold has started, garlic has little control over ending symptoms any faster. Dr. Mehmet Oz’s website, Dr. Oz, states that “Garlic contains the immune-boosting compound allicin, also known to relieve cold and flu symptoms.” They suggest to “chop or crush 1-2 cloves of fresh garlic and “steep” them in hot water, then, drink it like a tea.” This remedy will help alleviate your symptoms but might not cause them to disappear altogether. Additionally, The University of Maryland Medical Center’s website states that “in one study, people took either garlic supplements or placebo for 12 weeks during ‘cold season’ between November and February. Those who took garlic had fewer colds than those who took placebo.” Interestingly, this particular study found that “when they did get a cold, the people taking garlic saw their symptoms go away faster than those who took placebo,” The University of Maryland Medical Center explains.
Another study published in 2001 by Peter Josling, a British scientist, “followed 146 healthy adults over 12 weeks from November to February. Those who had been randomly selected to receive a daily garlic supplement came down with 24 colds during the study period, compared with 65 colds in the placebo group,” The New York Times states. Additionally, this study similarly found that “the garlic group experienced 111 days of sickness, versus 366 for those given a placebo [and,] they also recovered faster,” according to The New York Times.
Verdict: True. While the research seems to be, at times, a little mixed, the general consensus appears to be that garlic will help prevent and alleviate the common cold. Taken as an extra supplement to your daily multivitamin, garlic might be your saving grace this cold season. If you want to consume garlic as a preventative approach but are wary of the bad breath it comes with, the website Popular Science, a website that provides scientific information on a multitude of subjects, states that “eating an apple, sip[ping] some green tea [or] lemon juice,” will help get rid of the nasty smell that lingers after garlic.
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