Raw garlic and garlic supplements in a small heart-shaped bowl with a document in the background indicating the benefits of garlic

Garlic Supplements vs Raw Garlic: Which One is Right for You?

Taking food in its natural form is always advisable to get the most out of it. However, some foods have specific characteristics that make it hard for us to enjoy their full benefits. For instance, raw garlic has a pungent and spicy taste and causes bad breath.

In our previous article, How to Best Eat Raw Garlic Without Burning Your Mouth, we explored ways to reduce the burning sensation in your mouth when eating raw garlic and the possible side effects of raw garlic. However, eating raw garlic is much of a hassle when you can just take garlic supplements once or twice daily to enjoy the benefits of garlic. This article will settle the garlic supplements vs raw garlic debate. It will specifically explore whether garlic supplements are better than raw garlic.

What are garlic supplements?

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Garlic supplements are dietary supplements that contain concentrated garlic extract. They supply the body with the various active compounds of garlic in a relatively higher concentration than fresh garlic. Garlic supplements come in tablet, capsule, liquid, or powder form.

odorless garlic softgels

Types of garlic supplements and their differences

Garlic supplements can be categorized as garlic essential oil, aged garlic extract, and dehydrated garlic powder.

Aged garlic extract is made by crushing or cutting fresh garlic into smaller pieces and leaving it in an ethanol or alcohol bath for up to 20 months. The whole process happens at room temperature.

Garlic essential oil is pure and several hundred times stronger than fresh garlic and dehydrated garlic powder. It is sold in a natural and undiluted form. However, some manufacturers dilute or blend it with other essential oils. Unlike dehydrated garlic powder and aged garlic extract, garlic essential oils are not fit for consumption and are only meant for external use. Even when used externally on the skin, it has to be diluted appropriately to make it safe. Ingesting garlic essential oil may lead to inflamed gastric mucosa, bleeding gums, nose bleeding, hyphema, and permanent vision loss.

It is good to distinguish between garlic essential oil and garlic oil macerate or garlic-infused oil because they are different. Their difference is that garlic oil macerate or garlic-infused oil is just oil with crushed, chopped, or macerated garlic cloves. Unlike garlic essential oil, garlic-infused or garlic oil macerate is safe to eat.

The oils used in garlic-infused oil usually include vegetable oils such as olive oil. Over time, the oil picks up a garlicky flavor and aroma. Then, the crushed or macerated garlic is removed from the oil.

What are the problems with eating raw garlic?

Eating raw garlic leads to many health benefits. However, allicin, one of the active compounds in garlic, might cause a burning sensation in your mouth. It might irritate your tongue, gums, and throat.

Raw garlic also has a pungent taste and smell that can be off-putting and might make the experience less fulfilling despite the many health benefits of eating fresh garlic. The pungency, often linked to sulfur-containing organic compounds such as allicin and diallyl disulfide, can make it unbearable to eat a few slices of a garlic clove. Eating one or two whole cloves as recommended might even be more difficult for most people unless you are fully committed.

Eating raw garlic further leads to bad breathe. The bad breathe is so troubling that it can persist for 24 hours and more after eating raw garlic. Other people can also tell you have eaten raw garlic. Brushing teeth or using mouthwash is not enough to get rid of this bad breathe because it comes from the lungs rather than the mouth.

One might also need to eat as many as four garlic cloves to enjoy the full benefits of garlic. It follows that raw garlic has a low concentration of allicin and other beneficial compounds, requiring one to take more garlic to get sufficient amounts.

In addition, raw garlic causes stomach problems. For instance, the fructans in raw garlic are likely to cause bloating, gas and abdominal pain if consumed in higher amounts. This often happens in people with fructan intolerance. Beyond this, some compounds in raw garlic may also cause heartburn and indigestion.

Benefits of garlic supplements over raw garlic

Garlic supplements differ from raw garlic in that they contain a higher concentration of the compounds responsible for the various health benefits of garlic. This eliminates the need to eat garlic cloves daily to experience the benefits. With garlic supplements, it is far easier to take a sufficient dose in just one garlic pill.

In addition, garlic supplements are a more convenient way to enjoy these benefits without having to deal with the pungent and spicy taste of raw garlic. They bring convenience to the whole experience of taking garlic and enjoying its health benefits. Unlike raw garlic, you can take garlic supplements any time you like without anyone knowing.

Some garlic supplements also do not cause bad breathe. Enteric-coated garlic supplements, in particular, make it possible to enjoy the health benefits of garlic without bad breathe. They can withstand the acids in the stomach and only release their contents in the small intestine. Delivering the supplements directly to the small intestine helps prevent bad breathe. Even so, not all garlic supplements have an enteric coating. Some manufacturers may also not coat their garlic supplements well. Therefore, they may rupture before they reach the small intestine and cause bad breathe.

Unlike raw garlic, garlic supplements have a standard dose. As a result, one does not blindly take garlic. This helps you track your daily garlic intake. The standard dosing also ensures one does not take excess garlic. Proper dosing reduces the risk of common side effects.

Garlic supplements also cause few gastrointestinal issues compared to raw garlic. It follows that garlic supplements contain very low amounts of the offending substances. For instance, garlic supplements contain 0.22% of the total fructans in raw garlic. Thus, you will only experience these problems if you take more than the recommended dose.

Tips for Incorporating garlic supplements into your diet

One should take garlic supplements as advised because each product is different. For instance, some brands of odorless garlic supplements require you to take two softgels daily, while others require three softgels.

The best time to take garlic supplements is in the morning an empty stomach. If you are taking the supplements twice daily, you should take the second dose at night, preferably one hour before bedtime. Taking the supplements before bedtime may help you relax and fall asleep faster.

Who should not take garlic supplements?

As much as garlic supplements have many health benefits, some people should not take them due to the risks involved. For instance, those taking anticoagulants, anti-platelet medications, and protease inhibitors should avoid garlic supplements as they interact and may cause adverse effects.

People set to undergo surgery should also not take garlic supplements because they increase the risk of bleeding. If you have been taking garlic supplements, you should inform your doctor about it out of caution.

If you are allergic to garlic, you should not take garlic supplements because they contain most of the compounds in garlic in even higher concentrations. Therefore, these supplements may cause severe allergic reactions.

What are the possible side effects of garlic supplements?

Garlic supplements are generally safe to use. However, depending on the dosage, they might cause certain side effects in some people.

For instance, garlic supplements may cause the same gastrointestinal problems seen with raw garlic. In particular, these supplements may cause gas, stomach discomfort, bloating, diarrhea, nausea, and heartburn.

However, most people report mild effects. Those who experience more severe side effects may have fructan intolerance. People with celiac disease and irritable bowel syndrome may also be more susceptible to severe side effects with garlic supplements.

To minimize the risk of these side effects., you should avoid taking more than the recommended dose. If the side effects persist with a normal dose, you should stop taking these supplements and talk to a doctor about food intolerance.

Also, depending on the type of garlic supplement, one may still experience bad breathe. Taking enteric-coated garlic supplements may help solve this problem.

Bottom Line

Garlic supplements are more effective than raw garlic and the right choice for you because they deliver the active compounds in garlic in relatively higher concentration. These supplements also come with a lot of convenience and address many of the problems with eating raw garlic such as bad breathe, pungent taste, and the burning sensation. Based on the various benefits over raw garlic, garlic supplements emerge as a clear win. Even so, the type of garlic supplement determines how much better they are over raw garlic because some still cause bad breathe.