Let’s talk garlic remedies…last week, we talked about the health benefits of garlic, mainly from a standpoint of using it to treat common, acute illnesses. Garlic is now the go-to herb in this house for a cold, sore throat or any type of infection or virus. I’d love to share with you what I’ve learned about this amazing herb!
Now, the really hard core herb users will usually recommend eating raw garlic cloves. Ha! That would be out of the question with my kids.
I needed kinder, gentler, tastier garlic treatments…ways of using garlic that don’t cause my children to run screaming from the kitchen. After much experimenting, I’m now much more comfortable and confident at using garlic to treat our common illnesses…and my kids approve of and will actually ask for their garlic treatments! Really and truly!
I’m gonna give you the full run down on the best ways to use garlic! Be sure to look for the printable garlic remedy sheet full of recipes and tips at the end of this post.
When I first began my experiments with garlic, it didn’t panned out to be the miraculous cure all that I had read about, I’m pretty sure user error (and laziness) factored into my early results. But even then, the times that we used garlic, we did notice some improvement, which kept me interested in learning more. The not so successful attempts at treating myself and my family with garlic eventually led to more and more success and understanding of how garlic works.
First Time Failure
For instance, the first time I attempted to use garlic as a natural remedy was for a bladder infection. I rarely get a bladder infection…this was probably like the third in my whole life. But it was a doozy! I awoke to a raging infection one morning. Quickly researching, I found that eating raw garlic was a recommended treatment. great.
For the next three days, I reluctantly downed raw garlic cloves every four hours, in addition to eating lots and lots of cooked onions (another member of the allium family, and great for inflammation.) I was feeling much, much better, but I still was aware of some irritation in my bladder. And I stunk…I reeked from my garlic protocol.
Feeling rather defeated, and no longer willing to continue, I scheduled an appointment with my Dr. She confirmed that I did have a bladder infection, but said “You must have just come down with it…the bacteria aren’t even throwing nitrites yet!” (Apparently, bacteria produce nitrites, which is how bladder infections are normally detected…so something good was happening!)
When I told her that I’d had the infection for three days, but had been taking garlic and onions to treat it, she was very impressed! She said “I wish I had been taught about herbs in medical school. Herbs are the basis of modern medicine, but they didn’t teach us anything about using them.”
Knowing that the garlic had done some good, I was encouraged, and set out to do more research on using garlic. This experiment taught me that using garlic internally is great at boosting the immune system, but could I use it to kill the bacteria (or virus/fungus)?
<By the way, I have since treated myself very successfully using another *much easier* natural bladder infection remedy -link will open on a new page.>
Discovering the Secrets of Garlic Remedies
After my ‘failure that was not a failure’, I had a light-bulb moment while researching garlic: raw garlic loses much of its impressive and well documented antibiotic/anti-fungal/anti-viral potency when exposed to heat and acid. (more info on that is discussed in the health benefits of garlic). And if I remember my high school biology class correctly, the stomach is a pretty warm, acidic place.
So, downing raw cloves did boost my immune system response, but it wasn’t the best approach for taking that powerful antibiotic into my blood stream after all.
The Secret to Using Garlic as an Antibiotic:
Allicin, is the strongest known antibiotic component in garlic. It is created from an enzyme reaction between the compounds in garlic when it’s crushed or sliced. Since it’s a constantly changing compound, it is *very* difficult for bacteria, viruses, and other microbes to learn how to beat the system…something that they can do much more easily with single component antibiotics.
Allicin is not stomach friendly…the stomach acids shut it down. Which is probably in your best interest, because your digestive system is supposed to be powered by “friendly” bacteria that you don’t really want to kill off.
The great news is that allicin CAN be absorbed through the skin, directly into the bloodstream. This was a major breakthrough for me in learning how to use garlic remedies effectively!
See below for my favorite way to use garlic topically as an antibiotic.
The Two Secrets to Using Garlic Effectively:
#1 Use it at the first sign of an illness, and use it frequently. Infections work by multiplying in your body at rapid rates…so the earlier you can hit it, the smaller their army, and the less damage they can do. The earlier you treat, the more impact your going to have on the duration and severity of the illness. A cold or sore throat that has been bother you for a day or two is much more likely to become an acute infection, as the germs colonize and take over at an amazingly rapid rate. Hours count.
#2 Use garlic both internally and externally. This will give you the best of both worlds: fighting the infection in the blood, as well as boosting the immune response.
How To Use Garlic as an Antibiotic:
This is our garlic remedy of choice. I have used this successfully in
treating colds, sore throats, ear aches/infections and even the flu.
Modern medicine now employs transdermal patches to dose hormones, medications, and nicotine…so just think of the garlic press as an herbal transdermal patch.
The Garlic Press
It just takes a minute to put together a garlic press. This is how I use raw garlic for the best antibiotic punch. Basically, you put down a spot of oil, smish some garlic, and fold the paper towel up around it…just takes a quick minute. Especially if you use a hammer.
To Use Your Garlic Press
Press against the skin near the area that you are focusing treatment on. I generally prefer the neck or chest area. The neck is just easy access to lots of blood vessels, and the lymph glands. The throat is usually one of the first areas that we start feeling symptoms.
This is because the airways are generally the first place that we encounter incoming germs…so the body is created with an incredible immune response system for identifying and neutralizing attacks right inside the nasal and throat passages. The lymph glands there are part of the immune system. They house specialized T cells that are your body’s sentinels.
In a healthy body with a well functioning primary immune system, these “Killer T Cells” recognize and overcome invading pathogens, and send out messages to every cell in the body telling the cells how to kill off that pathogen. A healthy immune system is an AMAZING thing!
Hold the press in place for a couple of minutes, or as long as you can stand the smell. Some people are sensitive to garlic, and their skin will get red and may sting. If this is the case, just be careful to move the press to a different location each time they start feeling it sting. Try to get as much into the system as possible, with as little trauma as possible. Wipe down the area well after using the press if the person is sensitive to the oils.
***If you suspect that the person is allergic to garlic, or any member of the allium family, then it would be wise to use another herbal remedy.***
We try to do garlic presses every hour. If I get busy and forget, my kids will ask for them. They don’t like the smell at all, but they ask because they can feel the difference that the garlic makes.
Garlic Press Tips
-If more than one of my kids is sick, then I will just make one garlic press, and we take turns using it. I’ve read that the strongest concentration of allicin is within the first 15 minutes of the clove being smashed…so as long as everyone applies the press before 15 minutes is up, you’re still getting maximum effectiveness. Then, we throw the garlic press away.
In the kitchen trash can.
Because a garlic press can become very fragrant if left to age under the couch cushions.
-To make the smell more tolerable: We break out a scarf or something to cover the press while they hold it in place.
Other Garlic Remedies:
- Yummy Cough Syrup I’ve already posted the recipe for garlic honey lemon cough and cold remedy. It’s one of our favorite ways to take garlic for sore throats/cough/colds. It’s tasty, and I do think it has some great health benefits including immune boosting, cutting phlegm, and soothing a cough.
- Biting a Clove of Garlic: One friend, who has a much stronger constitution than I, swears by placing a raw clove of garlic inside her cheek, and biting down on it with her molars (no chewing…just bite and hold). She holds this in place in her mouth for anywhere from a few minutes to as long as she can stand. She says that she never gets sore throats now, because she does this at the first sign, and it always cures it. The idea behind this method is introducing allicin into the mucous membranes of the mouth and throat. On top of directly confronting the infection, the allicin is also swiftly absorbed into the blood stream in the area below the tongue.
Note: in the name of science, I tried this method while writing this article because I’m trying to pick up a cough from my kids, and I really, really don’t want the baby or me to get sick. It worked really fast, and wasn’t as bad as I thought. Thanks Jillian!
Update: Turns out the “cold” I was getting was actually the beginning phase of whooping cough. AMAZINGLY, I avoided it by using the garlic, but the baby did not. I wrote a series of posts on whooping cough from our experience and research that I’ve received a lot of very good feedback from.
- GOOT (Garlic Olive Oil Treatment) is a well loved garlic remedy among many of my friends. It’s a thick paste made with fresh garlic that can be rubbed on. See the printable garlic remedy page at the bottom of this post for recipes and uses.
- Eating raw garlic is a great way to boost the immune systems in your family if a bug is going around. The trick to this is making something delicious! My favorites are:
- Add raw garlic to salsa,
- pasta (alla checca is a favorite here!), or
- mix chopped raw garlic into melted butter and pour it over rolls.
- Another friend adores tzatziki sauce or fresh hummus.
If everyone shares in the garlic-y goodness, no one will be ostracized for the the breath…which leads to my next garlic remedy:
The Remedy for Garlic Remedies
And speaking of bad breath…if you can’t stand the smell of garlic, then add in or eat a bit of fresh or dried parsley with your garlic. If you use it topically, make dried parsley ‘tea’ with hot water and use that to wash the offending area, or rub the area with something made of stainless steel to remove the oils.
If you can’t stand the burn/taste of garlic, try warming it in butter or using it with a recipe that uses oil (pesto, salad dressing, pasta sauce with olive oil). Melted butter is just shy of magic with garlic, turning the fiesty burn into a velvety rich flavor. It’s my preferred way to take garlic raw (with warm yeast rolls, of course).
For skin that is sensitive to garlic, try applying garlic remedies to the back or the soles of the feet, which seem to be less sensitive skin. If you’re sensitive to the smell of garlic, then applying GOOT or garlic oil to the soles of the feet just before bed, and layer with old socks to prevent oil stains.
Here are some testimonials and other real life examples of garlic remedies from my wonderful, herb savvy friends:
Coughs: I did garlic presses with my two year old on her chest. I just helped hold it there for about 2 minutes at a time. I did it several times throughout the day. She didn’t seem to mind it at all and it cleared up a terrible, bronchitis sounding cough. ~Wendy T.
Sore Throat & Strep Throat:
Crushed raw garlic on a warm wet rag and placed on the neck (near the glands) for sore throats, illness, etc. Works within minutes to relieve sore throats. Gave this one to my sister also and she now swears by it for her strep throat prone son. ~Patti S.
Fresh garlic presses have cured many cases of (diagnosed) strep and throat infection in our house over the past 4 or 5 years. ~Christine G.
Colds: My husband was just getting over a 5 or 6 day cold. My little man started to sniffle yesterday, and last night, was completely snotty and miserable, with a low fever. When he fell asleep, I sneaked in and held some garlic on his neck for the 2 minutes, and also taped a clove on his foot. This morning, he is congested, but no fever, and no snot running everywhere. I did the garlic periodically today. He’s going to sleep just as sweetly as can be, and was a happy, cuddly boy today. I did a few other things as well, but I think the garlic gets the credit for this one. ~Lacey A.
I began having a dull pain in my right ear & it progressed to a sharp piercing pain, I just now chopped fresh Garlic placed it in a thin scrap of cloth & in a bowl poured a small amount of hot water over it, rung the access water out & placed it over the offending ear…instantly the ear popped like going up in elevation and I felt the fluid draining, instant relief. I left this there for a full minute then reheated & continued with it over each gland just below the ear, & felt the swelling relax, & the accompanying sore throat also vanished. ~Sherri R.
Our 2 year old had been swimming, and had gotten water in her ear. She started to run a fever and had intense ear pain. I diced and steeped a crushed garlic clove in warm olive oil for 10 or so minutes, and then strained it and let it cool. We dropped the body temp garlic oil into her ear. Within an hour or 2 of administering the garlic oil, both the fever and pain were gone. This was our first attempt at using natural remedies…wildly successful!! ~Jessica I.
Garlic provides pain relief for toothaches. I chewed a raw clove of garlic right on the tooth as long as I could stand the taste. Spit it out. Instant pain relief for 12hrs. Repeat. ~Patti S.
Ready to experiment? Here is a printable page of recipes for your herbal notebook: Garlic Remedies .pdf (It will open in a new window.)
Do you have a favorite garlic remedy that you’d like to share? I love hearing about how other families use natural remedies!