Photo of garlic bulbs
Ageing garlic for nearly two years enhances its medicinal benefits [Image: JJ Harrison - Wikimedia Commons]

Aged garlic supplement shortens cold & flu duration

31 January, 2012

Natural Health News — Supplements of aged garlic extract have been shown to significantly reduce the severity and also the duration of the common cold and flu.

The study published online in the journal Clinical Nutrition sought to establish what effect if any the aged garlic had on certain measurable factors of immune system function. These included its effect on NK cells and gamma-delta T cells, a group of immune cells found in large quantities in the gut.

To do this researchers from the University of Florida recruited 120 healthy people with an average age of 26 and randomly assigned them to take a daily supplement of the aged garlic extract (2.56 grams) or placebo for 90 days.

Results showed that the number of both types of immune cells increased more in the garlic group, compared with the placebo group.

As for the study participants, 90 days of consuming the garlic supplement produced a 21% reduction in the number of symptoms, and  a 61% reduction in the number of days a person suffered from cold or flu. The study also showed that  the number of work days missed due to illness dropped by 58% in the garlic group.

Say the researchers: “These results suggest that supplementation of the diet with aged garlic extract may enhance immune cell function and that this may be responsible, in part, for reduced severity of colds and flu.”

So what is aged garlic?

Aged garlic extract, or AGE, differs from dietary garlic and most types of garlic supplements in that it is naturally aged for 20 months.

This ageing process changes the garlic in some important ways. Apart from making it milder and less garlicky smelling, it also concentrates certain beneficial chemicals in the bulb. For example AGE contains higher levels of certain antioxidant phenols than cooked or raw garlic.

But the ageing process also allows certain sulphur-containing substances that are not present in raw garlic to develop. These substances – gamma-glutamyl cysteine, S-allyl cysteine, S-allyl mercaptocysteine and S-methyl cysteine – are thought to be responsible for the unique health benefits ascribed to AGE.

In fact, in the study above the researchers speculate that the various sulfur-containing compounds in the extract, including how these lead to increases in levels of glutathione in cells and this, in turn, had a beneficial effect on immune cells.

AGE is beneficial for heart health. Human trials have shown that it can slow the progression of atherosclerosis (clogged arteries) and improve circulation.

There is also a great deal of experimental evidence to show that AGE protects against oxidant-induced diseases including acute damage from ageing, radiation and chemical exposure and long-term toxic damage.

You can take aged garlic as a supplement but you can also buy it to cook with as part of a healthy diet.