People worldwide have believed in the almost mystical powers of the vegetable, garlic, for eons. (And, yes, garlic is considered a vegetable rather than an herb botanically). Bram Stoker added to the allure of garlic when he introduced it in his 1897 novel, Count Dracula. In the book, Van Helsing uses garlic to ward off the vampire, Dracula. In folklore, garlic was used as a protective agent against vampires, evil spirits, disease, and mosquitos, another bloodsucker.
Today we aren’t quite as concerned with garlic’s ability to repel evil spirits or vampires, and yes, some people still use it repel mosquitos. However, modern science is very much aware of the other health benefits of garlic, and by extension, garlic supplements. Natural garlic and garlic supplements have been the subject of numerous clinical trials, with somewhat conflicting results.
At the heart of the debate is a compound known as allicin. In this “Best of” article, we will detail the science behind allicin, garlic, and garlic supplements. We’ll provide a topline review of several clinical trials testing the importance of allicin in delivering garlic’s health benefits. We will detail the benefits of garlic supplementation, dispel a few myths along the way, and finally, we will provide our choices for the best garlic supplements on the market today. As always, our selections are unbiased as we have no interest or affiliation with any of the products or brands selected.
The Science Behind Allicin – For Combating heart Disease
Whole garlic contains the amino acid alliin. When chewed or crushed, alliin combines with alliinase the enzyme that catalyzes the conversion of alliin to make allicin. Allicin is the main active ingredient in garlic, which produces a series of other sulfur-containing compounds such as diallyl disulfide.
Quoting the NCBI (National Center for Biotechnology Information) … Studies show that garlic and its bioactive constituents exhibit antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, antifungal, immunomodulatory, cardiovascular protective, anticancer, hepatoprotective, digestive system protective, anti-diabetic, anti-obesity, neuroprotective, and renal protective properties.
Those are significant health benefits from this one ingredient/supplement and explain the multitude of clinical trials. One prominent manufacturer in the garlic space, the Wakanuga of America Company, makers of the Kyolic brand, has conducted over 750 clinical trials.
NCBI listed cardiovascular protection as a benefit, and much of this article will focus on these heart health and blood pressure claims. It is believed that allicin also aids in the release of nitric oxide in your blood vessels, relaxing them, and lowering your blood pressure. Lower blood pressure is beneficial for your heart and the entire vascular system.
We’ll revisit allicin and its role in cardiovascular health later in this review and present a dissenting viewpoint.
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Let us get back to our vegetable, garlic, a species in the onion genus, Allium. Relatives in the Allium family include the white onion, the red onion, yellow onions, shallots, leeks, and chives. Garlic is native to Central Asia and northeastern Iran but has long been a popular seasoning worldwide. In the U.S., Gilroy, CA, is our nation’s “garlic capital.”
Garlic is incredibly nutrient-dense. It is a rich source of Vitamin B6 and contains, B2, B3, folate, Vitamin C, calcium, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorous, potassium, sodium, and zinc. There are 600 varieties of garlic in the world, with the two main subspecies being hardnecks and softnecks.
Many people still believe the medicinal value and health benefits of garlic are best unlocked when consumed raw.
Garlic Supplements – Explained
Garlic supplements available on the market today typically fall into one of four categories:
- Garlic oils – Garlic essential oil and vegetable oil base.
- Garlic powders – A form of dehydrated and pulverized garlic. Powders are usually delivered in a tablet or capsule form with parsley, mint, or citrus to decrease odor.
- Garlic oil macerates – Garlic cloves, or garlic powder mixed into vegetable oil and then encapsulated.
- Aged garlic extract – Made from organically grown garlic, which is crushed and then naturally cold-aged for up to 20 months, removing the odor in the process.
In our opinion, the best garlic supplements feature certified organic, Non-GMO, and odorless garlic.
Important Note: allicin is not present in many of the top garlic products due to its instability and reactivity. Brands often express their “potencies” in theoretical amounts of the raw garlic used to distill its product. Other brands may use a powder that contains alliin and alliinase. You will remember that alliinase is the enzyme that converts alliin to allicin. This combination, when added to water, converts to allicin in a test tube. However, a test tube is a very different environment from our digestive tract.
Science has, for years, deemed allicin as the compound responsible for garlic’s health benefits. Once again, in test tubes, allicin has shown an ability to kill bacteria and fungus. However, research also indicates that the garlic supplements used to demonstrate its health benefits contain insignificant amounts of allicin, if any. The benefits of garlic are most likely the result of a synergy of the various compounds absorbed by the body.
Clinical Trials Of Garlic Supplements
We return to the NCBI (National Center for Biotechnology Information) to provide an overview of garlic clinical trials and the role of allicin. Most clinical trials since the 1980s have used garlic powder products, from dehydrated and pulverized whole clove supplements, to study the effects on cholesterol and blood pressure. To be fair, results are mixed, there appears to be a benefit on blood pressure levels for hypertensive subjects, although cholesterol reaction found little to no effect. Due to inconsistencies in the studies, such as variance in dose, product types, and very importantly, the identification of active compounds and bioavailability, results are inconclusive.
The studies confirm the efficacy of allicin in vitro; however, question the allicin bioavailability from the various supplements. Stated differently, allicin is not present in many of the top garlic products due to its instability and reactivity.
Garlic Supplement Benefits
Speaking of benefits … a product which is antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, and antifungal, and provides cardiovascular protection, is anticancer, protects the digestive system, is anti-diabetic, anti-obesity, and neuroprotective has awesome potential.
As noted, recent findings indicate garlic has a beneficial effect on high blood pressure. Eleven new studies of garlic supplements and blood pressure showed garlic reduced systolic blood pressure by an average of 4.6 mmHg.
Additional potential benefits of garlic supplementation:
- Reduced Chance of Cold and Flu – and shorter duration
- Prevention of Heart Disease
- Anti-Aging – Allium vegetables are a good source of antioxidants and contain compounds that may have an anti-aging effect by counteracting the glycation process.
- Anti-bacterial and Anti-parasitic – Garlic has antibiotic properties and is considered one of our best natural options because its chemicals have antibacterial, antiviral, and antiparasitic properties.
- Cancer Prevention – several studies have indicated an association between daily consumption of garlic and prevention of stomach and colorectal cancers.
In alternative medicine, garlic/allicin is said to protect against the following health problems:
- High Blood Pressure
- High Cholesterol
Author Dan Buettner has published the most thorough investigation of centenarians in his bestseller, Blue Zones. It is an intriguing read and offers fascinating insights as to how and why certain peoples around the world, those living in what he refers to as Blue Zones, enjoy such long lives. One of the factors possibly influencing their health, vitality, and longevity, is their diet, emphasizing vegetables such as beans and garlic and onions in the Allium family.
Dispelling The Garlic Myths
Garlic Does Not Detoxify Your Blood
Unfortunately, most products, including garlic, that claim to detoxify your body are not true. These claims are not backed by scientific evidence.
Garlic Does Not Combat Acne
Although those suffering from acne will try almost anything to clear their skin, garlic is not the solution. We couldn’t find any medical research to support anti-acne claims.
How Much Garlic Do You Need
World Health Organization recommendations:
- 2 grams to 5 grams of fresh garlic
- .4 gram to 1.2 grams of dried garlic powder
- 2 milligrams to 5 milligrams of garlic oil
- 300 milligrams to 1,000 milligrams of garlic extract
As an example, our top recommendation, Kyolic Aged Garlic Extract’s recommended serving is two capsules, 600 mg, twice per day, or 1,200mg.
What Forms Of Garlic Supplements Are Available?
As previously stated, there are four primary types of garlic supplements available today: garlic oils, garlic powders, garlic oil macerates, and aged garlic extract.
Is Garlic Supplementation Safe?
With our endorsement, we also must note that garlic supplementation can have side effects, such as diarrhea, heartburn, gas, and nausea. And, for people in certain situations, garlic can have dangerous side effects.
For Those Preparing For Surgery
Garlic can disrupt anti-coagulants, so before any surgery, discuss your garlic supplement with your physician in case you need to stop taking them. Also, garlic supplements may not be advisable for those taking blood-thinning medication.
Some people suffer an allergic reaction after consuming garlic. The most common symptoms include rash, headache, and high temperature. Although rare, garlic has caused anaphylaxis, a potentially fatal allergic reaction.
Topical Application – Again Garlic Is Not For Treating Acne
Garlic contains a potent chemical compound, diallyl disulfide. This compound can irritate the skin and even cause a burn that may take months to fade.
Being a part of the onion family, garlic is poisonous to pets. Never feed onion related foods, either raw or cooked, to pets.
As we always recommend, consult with your medical professional before adding a garlic supplement to your regimen. Even though it’s a natural product, garlic may still interact with other medications.
Will Garlic Supplements Benefit Me?
Seldom are we as definitive in endorsing a product as we are with garlic. Whether you achieve your daily recommended dosage via whole food, garlic powder supplement, garlic oil, or aged garlic extract, we’re confident you will receive many of the promised health benefits. If you have concerns regarding heart health and blood pressure, we think this is a no-brainer to add to your regimen.
Best Garlic Supplements
When selecting the best garlic supplements, we scoured the market for brands that adhere to the following:
- Product attributes; odorless, Organic Certified, Non-GMO
- We ensured the products are manufactured in a certified cGMP facility (Good Manufacturing Practices)
- We looked for companies and brands that have independent third-party testing and money-back guarantees
Kyolic Aged Garlic Extract – Cardiovascular, from Wakanuga of America Company
Wakanuga offers the most extensive line of garlic supplements on the market today under the Kyolic brand name. They dominate the market in the natural products space, particularly in brick and mortar retailers. Kyolic has sixteen sku’s featuring aged garlic extract as a primary ingredient in liquid, capsules, vegetarian capsules, tablets, and soft gels. They meet or exceed all our criteria in terms of manufacturing and third-party testing. With over 750 scientific studies and counting, Kyolic Aged Garlic Extract is the number one choice of consumers looking to promote heart health and address blood pressure and circulation.
Kyolic Cardiovascular contains 600 mg of odorless, aged garlic extract in two capsules or tablets (per serving). They are designed to support and strengthen your cardiovascular system by maintaining circulatory function and promoting overall heart health.
Three-hundred capsules retail for $12.99 online at VitaminShoppe.com, or $11.84 at Amazon.com.
Odorless Garlic, 1500 mg, from NaturaLife Labs
Each NaturaLife soft gel capsule delivers a full 1,500 mg of garlic per serving, earning it the Maximum Strength label. The product is made with fresh California grown, organic garlic, free of chemical processing, and contains no fillers, magnesium stearate, dioxides, preservatives, gluten, sugar, yeast, or starch.
Manufactured in an FDA registered facility in accordance with Good Manufacturing Practices and third party tested. Supported by a 100% Money-Back Guarantee.
One-hundred and fifty soft gels sell for $11.99 on Amazon.com.
Odorless Garlic Extract, from Sundown
Sundown is a brand in the Nature’s Bounty Company portfolio. Other trusted Nature’s Bounty brands in the natural product’s space include Met-RX, Pure Protein, Body Fortress, Solgar, and, of course, Nature’s Bounty. The company manufactures and markets more than 16,000 nutritional supplement items.
All Nature’s Bounty products and ingredients are manufactured in cGMP facilities and subjected to independent third-party testing by United States Pharmacopeia and STR (Specialized Technology Resources).
Made with odorless garlic extract and free of artificial colors, flavors, and sweeteners. All Sundown products are Non-GMO certified.
At 250 soft gels for $8.30, this is one of the best values in the category.
Garlic Force, by New Chapter
In a unique approach, New Chapter manufactures Garlic Force with dual extracts of garlic plus complementary herbs like ginger and organic oregano to add the whole-food benefits of garlic. The product is Non-GMO Project Verified, 100% vegetarian, gluten, dairy, and soy-free, with no synthetic fillers, and no artificial flavors or colors.
This more premium formulation comes at a cost, 30 vegetarian capsules retail for $23.97.
Garlic Supplement Alternatives
For those seeking the heart health benefits of garlic, there are two popular supplement options, CoQ10 and Omega 3. Consuming more garlic in your diet is another option. In fact, using garlic instead of salt to flavor food is also an excellent way for people to manage their high blood pressure.
To Summarize: Garlic Supplements And Your Health
Regardless of who is more accurate in the “allicin versus the synergy of garlic compounds debate,” we are confident a garlic supplement can be beneficial. We’ve discussed garlic supplements, its benefits, and the best garlic supplements. Most garlic supplements are relatively inexpensive, so the cost of adding them to your regimen is minimal.