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The 5 Best Garlic Supplements


Garlic is a powerful home medicine you can use to promote good health and prevent illness. But are you taking garlic supplements wrong?

Garlic supplements - gel capsules containing garlic extract (The Grow Network)

The 5 Best Garlic Supplements

Garlic is one of the most important culinary spices and medicines in just about every home arsenal. It’s flavor-packed and nutrient-rich. Along with a healthy diet and exercise, garlic is the easiest medicine to promote good health and prevent illness without a prescription.

In fact, if you are new to studying herbal medicine, there are important reasons why garlic should be your first home medicine. Effectiveness, safety, ease of use, and general availability make it a perfect option for beginners and experienced herbal medicine users alike. You can supplement with raw garlic or use garlic supplements in a variety of other forms to enjoy the health benefits of this powerful vegetable.

Raw Garlic and Allicin

Raw garlic supplements - The Grow Network

Image by Peggy Choucair from Pixabay

Raw garlic, properly prepared, has incredible antimicrobial benefits. Allicin, one of garlic’s active compounds, basically disrupts the ability of harmful bacteria to replicate. However, getting allicin from garlic requires a little chemistry.

Interestingly, raw garlic does not contain allicin, but rather two ingredients that create it when they come in contact: alliin, a sulfur-rich amino acid, and alliinase, a protein-based enzyme. These two compounds are physically separated in the whole clove, but when garlic is crushed, minced, or otherwise broken, the physical barrier is removed and the alliinase enzyme begins to convert alliin into allicin.

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In other words, chemical activation by crushing and exposing to air is required to produce allicin from garlic. Scientific research shows that for more allicin activation, you’ll want to crush your garlic and then wait 20 to 60 seconds to allow the allicin to develop before eating it.

If you are trying to fight a specific infection or prevent illness when your body is under attack, harnessing allicin’s peak power in raw garlic is the way to go. However, if you want the long-term health benefits that come from the everyday use of garlic, then there are other ways to get your daily dosages.

4 Garlic Supplements to Use as Alternatives to Raw Garlic

Heat decreases some of garlic's health benefits, but may actually increase its antioxidant power (The Grow Network)

Contrary to popular belief, garlic doesn’t have to be taken raw to be beneficial to your health. Other preparations can offer many of its anticancer, antioxidant, cardiovascular, and additional benefits. Using a critical trick prior to cooking it, taking it as an extract, or using certain powdered preparations in pill form can preserve garlic’s potency and make it more palatable for daily use.1)https://lpi.oregonstate.edu/mic/food-beverages/garlic#reference5

Cooked Garlic

Heat absolutely impacts the potency of garlic. Allicin benefits are diminished by heat to some extent. However, antioxidant benefits may actually be enhanced in cooked garlic.2)https://draxe.com/nutrition/7-raw-garlic-benefits-reversing-disease/

To preserve more of that allicin reaction while enjoying the antioxidant benefits, use this simple trick: Crush or mince your garlic and allow the allicin to activate for 10 full minutes before applying heat.

Research shows that more active properties are retained after cooking just by waiting a while to cook crushed garlic.3)Song K, Milner JA. The influence of heating on the anticancer properties of garlic. J Nutr. 2001;131(3s):1054S-1057S.  (PubMed)

Garlic Extracts

Using concentrated garlic extractions are another way to up your garlic intake. There are a variety of production methods used for garlic extractions.

In some cases, powders are mixed into vegetable oil. In others, raw garlic is crushed and placed in oil. Some extractions are made using ether. Steam distillation is sometimes used. Aged garlic extractions are also available, involving a 20-month process to mellow the volatile compounds.

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Generally, these extracts are then put in capsules to make them easy to ingest. The capsules also protect the extracted liquid from the acidic environment in the stomach so it can reach the small intestine intact.

Research suggests that all of these methods may have good medicinal value. However, there is also controversy over whether they are the most potent way of accessing the full potential of garlic.

Some research suggests that whole garlic has hundreds of health properties that may work in cooperation with each other. As such, garlic extractions may lose some of the total benefits of using whole garlic.4)https://www.researchgate.net/publication/309301357_The_Functional_Role_of_Garlic_and_Bioactive_Components_in_Cardiovascular_and_Cerebrovascular_Health_What_We_Do_Know Yet, they may also be good for isolating and extracting particular compounds that target specific health concerns, such as improving cardiovascular health.

Powdered Garlic Pills

Powdered garlic pills are one of the most common ways to take garlic supplements. This process uses whole garlic, which is dried and ground to a fine powder. The powder is then placed in a capsule. That capsule is made from a polymer designed to withstand the stomach’s acidic environment. Sometimes, the garlic is compressed into a tablet and then enteric-coated for the same purpose.

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As a dried product, garlic pills do not contain any allicin. The allicin reaction will only happen when that pill is in the small intestine and is rehydrated with water. As such, many garlic pill supplements include a measurement of “allicin potential” on their label to help users determine the relative potency of their product. This measurement is obtained by dissolving the powdered product in room-temperature water for 30 minutes and then measuring the allicin produced.

Some researchers don’t believe that the allicin potential method of testing is representative of how much allicin will be produced inside the human digestive system. According to a garlic research roundup from Oregon State University:

“It has been argued that it is more appropriate to measure ‘allicin release’ using a USP [United States Pharmacopeial] method for assessing drug release from enteric-coated tablets under conditions that mimic those of the stomach and intestine. Allicin release by this method has been shown to parallel true bioavailability. Most tablet brands have been found to produce little allicin under these conditions, due mainly to low alliinase activity and prolonged disintegration times.”

Again, allicin is not the only beneficial component in a garlic supplement. Hundreds of other compounds may work in different ways to promote positive benefits. So, there are other potential health benefits to taking any kind of powdered garlic supplement.

Yet, if allicin release is your primary goal in taking powdered garlic supplements, then enteric-coated capsules might be more effective than tablets. More importantly, buying from manufacturers that measure potency by allicin release rather than allicin potential may give you a more accurate measure of the potency of your garlic supplement.

Garlic Juice

A final category for supplementation is garlic juice. According to the World Health Organization, this form of supplement is the least stable and must be used promptly. Make it at home for this one and use fresh for peak potency.

Daily Dosages

Regardless of which form of garlic supplement you choose, the World Health Organization5)http://apps.who.int/medicinedocs/en/d/Js2200e/4.html offers these suggested dosages for safe daily use:

  • Fresh garlic: 2–5 g (taken with food to prevent stomach upset)
  • Dried powder: 0.4–1.2 g
  • Oil: 2–5 mg
  • Extract: 300–1000 mg
  • Other preparations should correspond to 4–12 mg of alliin or about 2–5 mg of allicin.

All these garlic supplements are good options to help support your long-term health. They also make the benefits of garlic conveniently available when you don’t have time to cook or can’t tolerate fresh raw garlic. Some versions, such as aged garlic extracts, also promise not to give you bad breath and limit potential stomach upset.

What Do You Think?

What’s your favorite garlic supplement? Do you have any suggestions for optimizing its health benefits? Let us know in the comments below!

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This is an updated version of an article that was originally published on November 3, 2019.

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References

References
1 https://lpi.oregonstate.edu/mic/food-beverages/garlic#reference5
2 https://draxe.com/nutrition/7-raw-garlic-benefits-reversing-disease/
3 Song K, Milner JA. The influence of heating on the anticancer properties of garlic. J Nutr. 2001;131(3s):1054S-1057S.  (PubMed)
4 https://www.researchgate.net/publication/309301357_The_Functional_Role_of_Garlic_and_Bioactive_Components_in_Cardiovascular_and_Cerebrovascular_Health_What_We_Do_Know
5 http://apps.who.int/medicinedocs/en/d/Js2200e/4.html
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This post was written by Tasha Greer

COMMENTS(1)

  • Martin Novotny says:

    Great article, Tasha! I would add aged (aka black) garlic – during a purely enzymatic process (nothing is added) most of the allicin deteriorates so it is friendly for people with the leaky gut syndrome, Crohn’s and other diseases and 3 important antioxidants ramp up – fructosamyl arginine, S-allyl-cysteine and S-allyl-mercapto-cysteine. Latter two are precursors of glutathione thus important in overall immunity and fights C19.