The Detoxifying Benefits of Garlic

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Do you dislike garlic for its taste and smell? Have you ever wondered why garlic is widely used in most cuisines despite its pungent odour? Well, it is high time to give it thought and learn about garlic for its notable health benefits.

What is detoxification and why should we do it?

We live in a world in which we are constantly exposed to pollutants, toxins and chemicals through air, water and food. Even our daily-use cosmetics, body and hair care products contain an abundance of chemicals. Although we can try to minimise our exposure, we cannot completely avoid these toxic substances and prevent them from entering our bodies.

Over time, these toxins (known as xenobiotics) accumulate in our bodies and make us susceptible to numerous health problems. The process of eliminating these harmful toxins from the body is called detoxification. Periodic detoxification by consuming foods with natural detoxification benefits is recommended for people of all ages to cleanse our bodies and enhance the functions of our vital organs. 

Can garlic detox your body?

Yes. Garlic is a so-called ‘superfood’ that can naturally aid detoxification. Regular consumption of garlic protects the body from toxin-induced damage and offers a variety of health benefits. 

Garlic has long been widely used in traditional medicine in Asian countries, mainly India and China. It possesses anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial and anti-cancer properties, and provides a broad range of health benefits by protecting our kidneys, liver, brain and cardiovascular health. Garlic is packed with diverse bioactive substances crucial to expelling toxic elements from our bodies.1 

Chemical composition of garlic

The composition of garlic is listed broadly below. It also contains vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.2

  • Water - 65%
  • Carbohydrates - 28%
  • Organosulfur compounds - 2.3%
  • Proteins - 2% 
  • Free amino acids - 1.2%
  • Dietary fibre - 1.5%

The presence of organosulfur compounds is responsible for garlic’s unique taste and strong odour. Most importantly, these compounds play a key role in mediating the therapeutic benefits of garlic.2 

Organosulfur compounds 

Regular intake of foods rich in organosulfur compounds is vital to enabling the body to metabolise heavy metals. Garlic contains more than 20 types of organosulfur compounds, with these broadly being classified as water-soluble sulphur compounds and oil-soluble sulphur compounds. Some of the water-soluble sulphur compounds are alliin, S-allylcysteine and S-allyl mercapto cysteine which are responsible for garlic’s antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer properties.3

Some of the well-known oil-soluble sulphur compounds found in garlic are allicin and diallyl sulphides, which play a key role in protecting the liver and cardiovascular system from chemical-induced toxicity, regulating blood sugar and cholesterol levels, and enhancing antioxidant levels in the body.3

The most important bioactive compound in garlic is allicin, which mediates diverse therapeutic activities. Allicin is formed from its precursor molecule, alliin, in a matter of 50-60 seconds when a fresh garlic bulb is crushed or cut (in the absence of heat) through alliinase activity.

Allicin - mechanism of action

One of the main reasons that allicin does wonders for the body is its hydrophobic nature, i.e., it does not dissolve in water. This means that allicin, the oil-soluble compound, permeates our cell membrane easily because of its high affinity for lipids but not water. So, as soon as allicin enters our cells, it rapidly interacts with our intracellular components, leading to a faster onset of beneficial action.4

The other possible mechanism of allicin’s action is through exerting antioxidant activity by switching on detoxifying enzymes, which protects our body against the negative effects of oxidative stress (an imbalance of free radicals and antioxidants in the body).5

Liver detoxification

The abundance of allicin in crushed garlic helps to activate liver enzymes. These enzymes mediate the attachment of the sulphur group present in allicin (or other organosulfur compounds) to toxins accumulated in the liver through a process called sulphation. This process is crucial to detoxification and protecting the liver from toxicity.

Additionally, garlic boosts levels of glutathione, a potent antioxidant secreted by the liver. Glutathione initiates our body’s defense mechanism against oxidative stress and scavenges damaging free radicals to neutralise them. 

Cardiovascular detoxification

Garlic displays a direct and positive impact on different parameters that define cardiovascular health, such as:

Garlic has also been shown to prevent the aggregation of platelets that form clots in blood vessels and also improve the dissolution of formed clots. 

Overall, garlic consumption can lower the incidence of hyperlipidemia, hypertension and thrombosis, conditions which can increase the risk of atherosclerosis (build-up of fat in arteries restricting blood flow). Although the exact bioactive compounds involved and their mechanism of action are yet to be identified, the use of garlic has generally shown promising pharmacological effects contributing to cardiovascular health in different clinical studies.7

Heavy metal detoxification

Due to environmental pollutants, high levels of heavy metals naturally accumulate in the plants, fish and animals we eat. Allicin facilitates the elimination of heavy metals from the body by binding to excess heavy metals in the bloodstream, thereby aiding natural detoxification. In addition to allicin, the other bioactive sulphur compounds in garlic, S-allylcysteine and diallyl sulphide, are also involved in detoxifying the body from deadly heavy metals such as lead, cadmium, mercury and arsenic. 

Garlic is rich in minerals such as selenium, calcium, magnesium and zinc, which also play a role in removing accumulated heavy metals and heavy metal-induced toxins from our vital organs via urine.

Garlic and gut health

A healthy gut (digestive tract) is a peaceful home to both “good” and “bad” microbes (bacteria, fungi, viruses and parasites) which is widely known as “the gut microbiome”. Everyone’s gut microbiome is unique and generated according to the microbes we have been exposed to since birth. The gut microbiome is intertwined with our overall state of health and disease. Many metabolic disorders can arise if the balance between gut-protecting microbes and pathogenic microbes (i.e. microbes capable of causing disease) becomes disrupted. 

Exposure to processed foods, food additives, food packaging materials and high-fat content in our daily menu can easily tip this balance and favour the invasion of harmful pathogens which can cause digestive abnormalities. This may lead to irritable bowel syndrome or gastroesophageal reflux disease. For this reason, regular detoxification of our gut is important as our gut microbiota is closely linked to the proper functioning of other vital organs such as the brain, heart and immune system.

Garlic plays a huge role in aiding digestion and maintaining a healthy gut microbiome. The carbohydrates in garlic (fructans) act as a prebiotic, which stimulates the growth of beneficial gut bacteria and repairs the gut wall breach that happens during an acute infection.8 Furthermore, the sulphur compounds in garlic mediate the breakdown of complex substances and ease metabolism by speeding up antioxidation and detoxification pathways to excrete them out of our bodies.

Garlic and immune function

Dietary garlic acts as an effective immune booster as it enhances the function of our immune system by inhibiting proinflammatory factors and inducing the production of regulatory immune cells and anti-inflammatory cytokines. This action leads to the suppression of various inflammatory diseases and helps to achieve immune balance.9

In addition, garlic possesses potent antiviral and antifungal activity by blocking the entry of these pathogens, thereby inhibiting the replication of pathogenic (i.e. able to cause disease) genetic material inside our bodies. Thus, garlic boosts our immune system in fighting and/or preventing a wide range of microbial infections, from the common flu to severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS).10

Other health benefits of garlic

  • Prevention of insulin resistance and type-2 diabetes11
  • Promotion of weight loss and prevention of obesity12
  • Protection against neurodegenerative diseases (dementia, Alzheimer’s disease)
  • Potent anticancer activity, especially for colon cancer and stomach cancer
  • Improvement in blood vessel dilation and boost to sexual activity
  • Helps to repair collagen damage in the skin
  • Prevention of premature ageing
  • Faster wound healing

Recommendations and precautions

Eating two cloves (around 2-5 grams) of raw, crushed garlic every morning is a great way to start your detox journey. Although the antioxidant contents are found to be slightly reduced in cooked garlic, other contents that provide beneficial effects remain unaltered. Therefore, keep up a regular intake of garlic, either cooked or raw.

When consumed in excess, some people have shown side effects such as heartburn, stomach upset, excessive bad breath and body odour, especially with raw garlic. Garlic allergies are rare and occur within two hours of consumption. The major symptoms include a skin rash, swelling in the mouth and breathing difficulty. However, garlic intolerances are not uncommon and symptoms include bloating, nausea and diarrhoea, which can be seen after several hours of intake.

Consult with your health care provider if you are taking blood thinning (anticoagulant) medications, as a sudden increase in garlic intake may cause some interaction.

Garlic detox recipes and tips

  • Lemon and garlic tea
  • Ginger, garlic and honey tonic
  • Apple cider vinegar drink with garlic, ginger and honey
  • Turmeric and garlic soup
  • Onion garlic soup with added mint and cinnamon
  • Lemon garlic butter sauce

Beyond its inclusion in soups, sauces and drinks, garlic makes a wonderful seasoning or flavouring for any meal that we make. Even garlic-flavoured cooking oil is used to make daily food, and dressings for salads because of its health benefits.


Garlic is a wonderful natural detoxicant. All forms of garlic – raw, extracted and fermented forms (oil, paste and powder) – have been shown to provide benefits to health. Many clinical trials are designed to optimise garlic’s detoxifying benefits worldwide. Garlic can mitigate the alarming build-up of toxins in your vital organs and prevent heavy metal poisoning, providing a befitting antidote for all the toxins that accumulate in your body every day.


  1. Shang A, Cao SY, Xu XY, Gan RY, Tang GY, Corke H, et al. Bioactive compounds and biological functions of garlic(Allium sativum L.). Foods [Internet]. 2019 Jul 5 [cited 2024 Jan 25];8(7):246. Available from:
  2. Melguizo-Rodríguez L, García-Recio E, Ruiz C, Luna-Bertos ED, Illescas-Montes R, J. Costela-Ruiz V. Biological properties and therapeutic applications of garlic and its components. Food & Function [Internet]. 2022 [cited 2024 Jan 25];13(5):2415–26. Available from:
  3. Subramanian MS, Nandagopal MS G, Amin Nordin S, Thilakavathy K, Joseph N. Prevailing knowledge on the bioavailability and biological activities of sulphur compounds from alliums: a potential drug candidate. Molecules [Internet]. 2020 Sep 9 [cited 2024 Jan 29];25(18):4111. Available from:
  4. Miron T, Rabinkov A, Mirelman D, Wilchek M, Weiner L. The mode of action of allicin: its ready permeability through phospholipid membranes may contribute to its biological activity. Biochimica et Biophysica Acta (BBA) - Biomembranes [Internet]. 2000 Jan 15 [cited 2024 Jun 19];1463(1):20–30. Available from:
  5. Borlinghaus J, Albrecht F, Gruhlke MCH, Nwachukwu ID, Slusarenko AJ. Allicin: chemistry and biological properties. Molecules [Internet]. 2014 Aug [cited 2024 Jan 31];19(8):12591. Available from:
  6. Rahman K, Lowe GM. Garlic and cardiovascular disease: a critical review12. The Journal of Nutrition [Internet]. 2006 Mar 1 [cited 2024 Feb 1];136(3):736S-740S. Available from:
  7. Li M, Yun W, Wang G, Li A, Gao J, He Q. Roles and mechanisms of garlic and its extracts on atherosclerosis: A review. Frontiers in Pharmacology [Internet]. 2022 [cited 2024 Feb 1];13. Available from:
  8. Chen K, Xie K, Liu Z, Nakasone Y, Sakao K, Hossain MdA, et al. Preventive effects and mechanisms of garlic on dyslipidemia and gut microbiome dysbiosis. Nutrients [Internet]. 2019 May 29 [cited 2024 Feb 2];11(6):1225. Available from:
  9. Subramanian MS, Nandagopal MS G, Amin Nordin S, Thilakavathy K, Joseph N. Prevailing knowledge on the bioavailability and biological activities of sulphur compounds from alliums: a potential drug candidate. Molecules [Internet]. 2020 Sep 9 [cited 2024 Feb 2];25(18):4111. Available from:
  10. Rouf R, Uddin SJ, Sarker DK, Islam MT, Ali ES, Shilpi JA, et al. Antiviral potential of garlic (Allium sativum) and its organosulfur compounds: A systematic update of pre-clinical and clinical data. Trends in Food Science & Technology [Internet]. 2020 Oct 1 [cited 2024 Feb 2];104:219–34. Available from: 
  11. Padiya R, Khatua TN, Bagul PK, Kuncha M, Banerjee SK. Garlic improves insulin sensitivity and associated metabolic syndromes in fructose fed rats. Nutrition & Metabolism [Internet]. 2011 [cited 2024 Jun 19];8:53. Available from:
  12. Gudalwar BR, Nimbalwar MG, Panchale WA, Wadekar AB, Manwar JV, Bakal RL, et al. Allium sativum, a potential phytopharmacological source of natural medicine for better health. GSC Advanced Research and Reviews [Internet]. 2021 [cited 2024 Jun 19];6(3):220–32. Available from:

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This content is purely informational and isn’t medical guidance. It shouldn’t replace professional medical counsel. Always consult your physician regarding treatment risks and benefits. See our editorial standards for more details.

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Vijayalakshmi Rajendran

PhD in Ocular Immunobiology, University of Aberdeen, Scotland

Vijayalakshmi is fondly called as “Viji” by friends, family and colleagues. Viji is an ardent lover of science. She has a profound knowledge in ophthalmology, cell biology, stem cells and regenerative medicine.

Viji has several years of research experience in interdisciplinary therapeutic areas. During the journey, she discovered her interests in communicating science via posters, presentations and research papers and teaching young, budding scientists.

She enjoys conveying complex science in simple terms. Viji aims to harness medical writing as a profession to facilitate easy access of high-quality medical content for a range of audiences.

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