7 Health Benefits of Raw Garlic That Make It Worth the Stinky Breath

If you’ve ever been caught in a situation of stinky garlic breath, either as a perpetrator of such a caustic exhalant or victim of someone’s essence of an entire clove of garlic breath, you might be thinking: “Is garlic even good for you when it smells this bad in the aftermath?” Well, the truth is that even as bad as garlic breath is on either end of the experience, there are a few documented health benefits of garlic and a lot of folktale benefits. Some of the latter are true, and some are a bit exaggerated.

Now, you don’t need to pull up Amazon and add a daily garlic supplement to your cart immediately. You can totally try out garlic supplements if there are particular health benefits of garlic you want more of– though maybe test out some of the other ways to reap those health benefits of garlic first.

Next time you’re in the kitchen cooking, starting at a clove of garlic, curious about how the benefits of eating raw garlic, consider recipes that don’t involve heat. This is because, on the list of pungent-yet-healthy foods (, onions, tuna), raw garlic tops the list. Besides the obvious concerns (can you say garlic breath and B.O.?), it’s not exactly one you often hear about being good for you. One of the best ways to reap the benefits of garlic is by eating it raw.

Ariana Lutzi, ND, naturopath and nutrition consultant for Bubs Naturals, says garlic is one of the most accessible healthy foods to eat. “Garlic is packed full of nutrients and adds intense flavor to any dish. It’s the most potent when used in its raw form,” she says.

What is the healthiest way to eat garlic?

Besides delivering a nutritional boost, Lutzi says the benefits of eating raw garlic include kicking nasty infections, too. “Garlic, and garlic extract, fights all types of infections—fungal, bacterial, parasitic, and viral—regulates blood sugar, lowers blood pressure, and lowers cholesterol, to name a few.”

Studies show that the optimal amount of raw garlic you should consume a day is roughly one to two cloves in order to get the most amount of benefits without any undesirable side effects (like body odor or heartburn). Honestly, though, who knew all of these benefits could be packed inside such a small (and smelly) herb? If you do get heartburn, though, which, despite its benefits, is common from eating raw garlic, you could try incorporating it into recipes like hummus or dip that mask the flavor.

The research shows studies of different ways to administrate the herb, including garlic allicin, garlic extract, cloves of garlic, garlic capsules, and supplements.

Health benefits of raw garlic
Photo: Stocksy/Melanie Riccardi

Health Benefits of Raw Garlic

Alejandro Junger, MD, cardiologist and author with a focus on the health benefits you can derive from your diet, vouches for the health benefits of garlic. For example, garlic contains a compound called “allicin.” According to the peer-reviewed journal Molecule, “allicin has a variety of health-promoting properties, for example, cholesterol- and blood pressure-lowering effects that are advantageous for the cardio-vascular system.” Yep, you read that right: garlic can be good for your blood pressure and generally support your cardiovascular health.

What does garlic do for the body? 

Here are some other health benefits of the veggie, amplified when raw as cooking dulls some of its nutrient density:

1.Garlic is good for your brain

One benefit of raw garlic is that it’s full of vitamins and minerals, including vitamin B6, manganese, selenium, vitamin C, iron, potassium, and copper. This powerhouse combination is especially good for cognitive function: Vitamin B6 and magnesium are both linked to boosting mood and improving brain health.

2. It supports a healthy immune system.

You have vitamin C in raw garlic to thank for this one. For a more savory immunity booster than oranges, incorporate some raw garlic into your meals.

3. It’s anti-inflammatory

Garlic contains allyl sulfides, an anti-inflammatory, cancer-fighting compound that studies have shown to slow the growth rate of cancer cells. Because it’s anti-inflammatory, this means it also helps protect the body from free radicals.

4. It’s good for your liver.

If you’ve been wondering, “Is garlic good for the liver” the answer would be heck, yes, it is. Studies have shown that it can protect the liver from some toxins and help lower blood sugar levels. This helps your body flush out toxins more efficiently, which benefits the entire body overall.

5. Garlic is good for your heart.

According to a clinical nutritionist and chiropractor, Vikki Petersen, CCN, DC, and CFMP, consuming garlic on a regular basis is directly linked to benefitting cardiovascular health. “Garlic has long been known to reduce cholesterol and normalize blood pressure,” she says. “Additionally, its anti-inflammatory effects are a big benefit to diminishing the risk of our number one killer, heart disease.”

6. It may help protect against osteoporosis

With aging, the risk for osteoporosis increases, particularly for women. Dr. Petersen says there is some evidence to suggest that consuming garlic can help protect against it. “Garlic can increase estrogen levels in women entering menopause, a time when bones are most at risk for developing osteoporosis. Some studies also showed it to slow the effects of osteoarthritis,” she says. While the preliminary studies are promising, more research needs to be done to confirm this connection.

7. Garlic is good for your skin.

While you probably don’t want to rub garlic all over your body, eating garlic can benefit your skin from the inside out. “Garlic’s antibacterial and antifungal properties can help acne, and its general anti-inflammatory benefits help improve overall circulation, including bringing nutrients to your skin in a more efficient manner,” says Dr. Petersen. “Garlic is Mother Nature’s antibiotic and contains immune-boosting properties due to its antibacterial, antiviral, antifungal, and antiseptic aspects, all courtesy of the compound allicin that garlic is so rich in.” She adds that garlic allicin is also anti-inflammatory and rich in antioxidants, which is good for the skin.

Watch the video below to learn more benefits of raw garlic:

So, here’s the sitch: stinky breath isn’t the only side effect garlic can come with. You don’t need to eat raw garlic with every meal, or every day, to reap the health benefits. Unless you’re recommended to take it medicinally per your doctor’s tips, you don’t need to be taking it every day, according to the Cleveland Clinic. The Cleveland Clinic reports that, in some cases, too much garlic can have side effects like headaches, fatigue, appetite loss, muscle aches, dizziness, or allergic reactions (if you’re allergic).

Is it good to eat garlic every day?

The Cleveland Clinic also specifics that you should talk to your doctor before taking a garlic supplement. This is especially true if you take blood thinners because “a garlic supplement can increase the medication’s effect, making it even harder for your blood to clot.”

For those that aren’t pounding the garlic but find some tummy symptoms after incorporating more of it into their diet: you’re not imagining it. If you’re opening google to search, “Does garlic make you gassy?” the answer is a big yes.

Garlic and onions, according to the Journal of Neurogastroenterology and Motility, are high “FODMAP” foods meaning they have a high content of “indigestible and slowly absorbed short-chain carbohydrates.” Without getting into the fine print of it all– this means they have properties that some tummies have a hard time digesting. People who are sensitive to high FODMAP food may want to avoid foods like garlic and onion.

Despite all the health benefits of raw garlic and cooked garlic alike– here are some of the side effects you might face if you up your garlic consumption significantly.

Side Effects of Raw Garlic

1. Eating garlic can cause mild to moderate physical symptoms

When it comes to incorporating garlic into your diet, Dr. Petersen says there are some side effects to consider. Some people may experience heartburn, burning in the mouth, gas, nausea, diarrhea, or vomiting.

2. Garlic can have an effect on your body’s scent

Body odor is another side-effect of loading up on garlic. But this is typically only an issue when people are eating three to four cloves of raw garlic a day.

3. Consuming raw garlic can cause burning or irritation

Eating raw garlic is not as easy as it sounds. For starters, it can be super intense and even cause a burning sensation once you start chewing it. And Lutzi says other potential side effects include gastrointestinal burning or irritation. “It can produce changes in intestinal flora,” she says.

4. It may cause some people to develop a rash

Dr. Petersen says some people may be sensitive to garlic topically, meaning it could negatively affect their skin, causing a rash. If you’re sensitive, she recommends wearing gloves when chopping it.

5. Garlic can interact with some medications

People taking certain medications should proceed with caution since raw garlic can potentially react with some drugs, including anticoagulants, antiplatelet, hypoglycemic, and insulin. If you’re on other meds, it’s always a good idea to talk with your doctor before incorporating any kind of supplement or herb (like raw garlic) into your diet.

All of this is to say, experiment with your raw garlic intake. Dr. Petersen says a healthy dose of garlic is two to three cloves a day cooked or a supplement of aged garlic at a dose of 600 to 1,200 milligrams. Go small, and if it seems to agree with your body, that’s great. If not, raw garlic just isn’t for you—and that’s okay. Since the potential side effects of eating raw garlic sound less than ideal, there are (thankfully) lots of different ways you can get all of the benefits of eating raw garlic without, well, having to chew an actual clove of garlic.

How To Use Raw Garlic and Reap the Benefits

Is it better to chew or swallow garlic?

Chewing garlic is believed to release more allicin and provide greater potential health benefits. However, chewing raw garlic can be intense and difficult to tolerate due to its pungent taste and odor. Therefore, it’s encouraged to acquire minced or chopped garlic via your diet instead of consuming it alone.

One way to make peeled raw garlic go down a bit easier is to slice the clove into thin slices and sandwich them between apple slices, as Dr. Junger suggests. The apple will help cover up the pungent flavor, and mixing the garlic with another food will make the whole experience a lot more tolerable.

Will I get all the health benefits of eating garlic if I swallow it whole?

According to Lutzi, you can still get the health benefits of eating garlic if you swallow it whole. She recommends cutting the clove into four small pieces and swallowing it whole like a pill to avoid the pungent effect of chewing it. Again, it’s strongly encouraged to talk to a provider before doing this and listen to your body if you get adverse symptoms.

Other ideas for eating raw garlic:

  • Mince a garlic clove and toss it into your salad or salad dressing.
  • Make garlic toast, like this blogger, by mincing the raw garlic, and then mix it with some ghee or butter, and spread it on toast
  • Make an ACV garlic tonic (see the recipe below)
  • Add to soups or juice with other veggies

Ideas for eating cooked garlic:

Why is it so difficult to eat raw garlic?

Of course, we totally understand that even the thought of consuming raw garlic might make you cringe. So, if you really hate the taste but want to reap the benefits of raw garlic, there are garlic extract supplements available, including some that are odorless. And, if you’re not quite sold on eating raw (yet), here’s an RD-approved garlic cooking tip to get the most anti-inflammatory benefits from every clove.

Does garlic detox your body?

There is little scientific evidence to support the claim that garlic can detoxify the body. This is partly because the language and terminology around something “detoxing your body” are not medically accurate. Your liver detoxes your body every second of every day by breaking down various materials and sending the useful nutrients where it needs to go and the waste to your kidneys. However, garlic does support liver function, which supports “detoxification.”

So there you have it, folks, an answer to the big question, “Is garlic good for you?” Use this as an excuse to order all the garlic-containing menu items, load up on garlic recipes at home, and, hey, keep those vampires at bay while you’re at it.

Healthy Herbal Tonic With Raw Garlic Recipe

Raw garlic
Apple cider vinegar

1. Roughly chop multiple cloves of garlic and add to the small mason jar.
2. Fill at least one-fourth of the jar full of chopped garlic. Next, pour in equal parts honey and apple cider vinegar, enough to cover the garlic.
3. Let this mixture sit in a dark pantry or cupboard for at least a week, shaking daily.
4. After a week, strain out the garlic or leave it for a more robust concoction. Take one tablespoon daily for immune defense throughout cold and flu season.

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