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The Science Behind the Health Benefits of Garlic

Karen Alexander, Licensed Registered Dietitian Nutritionist

June 16, 2020

Originating in Central Asia, garlic is a member of the onion family and is a vital ingredient in cuisines all around the world. Garlic is both a culinary and a medicinal plant. When garlic is minced, crushed, or chewed, it creates a compound called allicin that enhances its antioxidant and medicinal properties. There are many health benefits of garlic, in this blog, we will discuss just some of them.

Garlic and cardiovascular risk
Studies have found that garlic can reduce hypertension through the level of total cholesterol and LDL (bad cholesterol).

Garlic and cancer risk
According to the American Institute for Cancer Research, there is strong evidence that eating garlic frequently lowers colorectal cancer risk by repairing DNA, slowing or inhibiting the growth of cancer cells, and decreasing inflammation. Garlic also has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties as well as promotes cell death of damaged cells.

Garlic and rheumatic arthritis
Garlic contains diallyl disulfide, an anti-inflammatory compound that limits the effects of molecules that promote inflammation (pro-inflammatory cytokines). Therefore, garlic can help fight inflammation and may even help prevent cartilage damage from arthritis.

Heat and garlic
Heat destroys garlic’s active allyl sulfur compound formation and some of the garlic healthy properties. Therefore, cooked garlic is less effective medicinally than fresh garlic. A study published in the Journal of Nutrition found that as little as 60 seconds in the microwave, or 45 minutes in the oven can block garlic’s ability to inhibit carcinogens in breast tissue. Researchers found that allowing crushed garlic to “stand” for 10 minutes before microwave heating for 60 seconds prevented the total loss of anti-carcinogenic benefits. If cooked, garlic can be added towards the end of a recipe to retain its nutritional value.


  • Garlic can cause allergic reactions in some people.
  • Garlic can change your breath and body odor, cause heartburn, upset stomach, and digestive distress in people with Irritable Bowel Syndrome.
  • Garlic can potentially interact with some medicine. It can increase the risk of bleeding in people taking Omega 3 (EPA), ginkgo, vitamin E, and ginger, or blood thinners such as Warfarin (Coumadin). Garlic may also interact with other medications like Cyclosporine, Saquinavir, anti-hypertensives, calcium channel blockers, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, etc. Bottom line, talk with your doctor, or your naturopathic doctor before increasing your intake of garlic or start taking any garlic supplement.

Storing garlic

  • Store garlic in a cool, dry, dark location, preferably in a mesh bag or a paper bag with holes. Discard garlic that has become discolored, soft or moldy. Garlic can be stored three to six months in the right conditions.
  • Do not store garlic in oil at room temperature. Garlic may contain Clostridium botulinum spores from the soil. In the right conditions, the spores can produce the deadly botulism toxin. Therefore, if you flavor oil with garlic, store the mixture in the refrigerator or freezer. Use the refrigerated mixture within a week.

Freezing garlic
Garlic can be frozen in several ways:

  • Peel and chop garlic as desired. Wrap tightly and freeze.
  • Freeze unpeeled garlic, removing cloves as needed.
  • In a food processor, puree peeled cloves in oil (two parts oil to one part cloves). Place the garlic in an air-tight, resealable container and freeze. The garlic will not freeze solid, so you can remove what you need for use in sautéing.

Fun facts

  • Garlic was a part of the daily Egyptian diet, specifically those in the working class who were involved in heavy labor.
  • The Romans believed that garlic aided strength and endurance, feeding it to both sailors and soldiers before going out to sea or battle.

Aged garlic extract has shown to have powerful health benefits, but we will ask our blog contributor the Naturopathic doctor Todd Robinson ND, FABNO to discuss this in his blog.

The recipe of the week comes via Native Sun
Baked Salmon with Garlic and Dijon

1 1/2 lbs. salmon filet

2 tbsp. fresh parsley chopped

2 tbsp. light olive oil, not extra virgin

2 tbsp. fresh lemon juice

3 garlic cloves, pressed

1/2 tbsp. Dijon mustard

1/2 tsp. salt

1/8 tsp. black pepper

1/2 lemon, 4 slices


  1. Preheat oven to 450˚F and line a rimmed baking sheet with foil.
  2. Slice salmon into 4 portions and arrange them on a lined baking sheet, skin-side-down.
  3. In a small bowl, combine 2 tbsp. parsley, 2-3 pressed cloves garlic, 2 tbsp. oil and 2 tbsp. lemon juice, 1/2 tbsp. Dijon, 1/2 tsp salt, and 1/8 tsp pepper.
  4. Generously spread the marinade over the top and sides of the salmon then top each piece with a slice of lemon. Bake at 450°F for 12-15 min or until just cooked through and flaky. Enjoy!


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