Share this article

print logo

The People’s Pharmacy: Science supports garlic

Q. I have used garlic for at least 20 years to ward off a cold. It works nine times out of 10 if I use the garlic as soon as the symptoms begin. Simmering the garlic for 12 to 15 minutes softens the taste and smell so it is no stronger than a cooked onion.

Here’s my current favorite recipe: Pour an 11.5-ounce can of V8 into a saucepan and add half a cup of water. Bring to a boil and add 6 large cloves of fresh garlic, chopped, the juice of 1 lemon and as much hot pepper as you can stand. Simmer for 12 to 15 minutes.

I drink half when I make it and half the next day. I know of no other remedy with such an amazing record of preventing a developing cold. Some people do not tolerate fresh garlic. I have no recipe for garlic pills, but maybe someone can contribute one.

A. Thank you for sharing your recipe. Many people may find that much fresh garlic challenging, but they don’t have to give up on garlic.

We were fascinated to read an article in the Journal of Nutrition (online, Jan. 13, 2016) that reinforces your observations. A University of Florida researcher gave aged garlic extract (AGE) or placebo to 120 volunteers in a randomized controlled trial.

After three months, the volunteers taking the garlic extract had no fewer colds, but their symptoms were less severe, and they missed fewer days of work or school. Two types of immune-system cells were activated. The scientist concluded: “AGE supplementation may enhance immune cell function and may be partly responsible for the reduced severity of colds and flu reported.”

People interested in other remedies may wish to consult our Guide to Colds, Coughs and the Flu, available at


Q. Our adopted son, now 11 years old, suffered from severe, often bleeding eczema for most of his life. A naturopath suggested using coconut oil topically. After using this daily for three months, the eczema vanished.

We had tried everything for nine years – diet and topical lotions and ointments. She said perhaps his body wasn’t getting some kind of mid-level oil.

His eczema scars also are fading. He used to scratch, scratch, scratch. That is no longer a problem, though we still slather coconut oil on him after he showers.

A. Eczema, also known as atopic dermatitis, is a chronic skin problem in which the skin becomes inflamed, red and itchy. A rash with liquid-filled bumps sometimes develops.

One study compared virgin coconut oil to mineral oil applied to the skin to treat symptoms of eczema (International Journal of Dermatology, January 2014). During the two months of the study, coconut oil performed better in easing the symptoms of these children, confirming your own experience. Coconut oil is a source of medium-chain fatty acids. Perhaps that explains why it worked better than other creams and lotions.


Q. I use liquid cayenne to bring down my blood pressure. It is strong, so I only need a drop or two a day. It makes the blood vessels expand.

The last time I checked, my blood pressure was 118/70. Previously, it had been up around 140/90.

A. Capsaicin, the compound that makes cayenne hot, has indeed been shown to make blood vessels relax in rodents (Open Heart online, June 17, 2015). When blood vessels relax, blood pressure drops. Your experience suggests that capsaicin should be tested in humans for its potential to help control blood pressure.

The People’s Pharmacy radio broadcast airs at 2 p.m. Saturdays on WBFO-FM 88.7.