Lately you may have seen this duo in a link bait ad. A few semi-real home remedy sites are peddling it, too. The pitches go something like this:
- Feeling under the weather? A spoon of this will kick your cold to the curb.
- Eat garlic with honey on an empty stomach and after a week something unbelievable happens.
- Say goodbye to high blood pressure with this natural remedy.
Those are just three variations of the many benefits and side effects being claimed.
The problem is that 80% of what they’re saying is exaggerated, fabricated, or just a flat-out lie.
However, about 20% might have some merit. Nothing proven, but at least it’s based off of something scientific.
1st Claim: Immunity boosting
The concept of using garlic for cough, cold, and the flu has been around for ages. Despite its popularity as an herbal remedy, very little research has been done on those things. When it comes to using it with honey, literally nothing has been done.
There’s no scientific research which looks at the ingredients combined.
So right of the bat, those claiming this is a “proven” remedy are making it up. That said, here’s a look at using those two ingredients separately and what science points to.
The website of David Wolfe claims that there was a study where a daily dose of garlic led to a 70% reduction in the length of colds.
That’s just not accurate.
The study they reference we are very familiar with. In fact, we have written extensively about every study that’s related to using garlic for colds and flu.
Out of the 8 human studies, the one and only that passes scientific scrutiny (per Cochrane Database analysis) was conducted by the University of Florida and published in 2012.
Yes, there is a stat in there about 70%, but it’s NOT about colds being 70% shorter.
Rather, they took the cumulative number of sick days for the placebo and garlic groups. The latter did have 70% fewer days cumulatively, but the average length of each illness was improved by only 18%; 4.6 days of recovery versus 5.6 for placebo.
There were also these 2 other important differences…
1. Processed allicin supplements – not whole garlic – were used
It is believed that the allicin in garlic is what’s responsible for the suspected immune supporting benefits. The graphs below come from another piece of research which shows the effect this compound appears to have on cultured cells in the lab – i.e. Petri dish experiments. (1)
The allicin is quickly destroyed during cooking and even with raw garlic, after you crush it the allicin will be gone within ten minutes or so. That’s why the University of Florida study used encapsulated aged garlic extract capsules. Not the raw crushed, which is being suggested by many bloggers.
2. The study was for generic illness symptoms
The 18% faster recovery time could have been for colds, flus, coughing, and any number of under the weather scenarios that can cause symptoms. That’s because their definition of “illness” was an episode of experiencing side effects. It was not with clinical certainty that they were sick.
There’s a clinical study that was done in Iran about using honey and coffee together for the symptom of coughing during a cold, but not for treating the cold itself (2).
Does garlic and honey help coughs?
Nothing has been published on that combination, however on a stand-alone basis, there are a few studies about using the sweet stuff. Not too long ago, two medical doctors published a detailed analysis of various purported herbal remedies for colds. This is what they said about using honey for coughs (3).
“Consistent findings of three randomized controlled trials involving children suggest that a single night-time dose of honey can have a small effect on cough and sleep in children over 12 months old.”
Sounds promising, until you read the sentences after that which say this about those trials:
- They weren’t all blinded trials.
- Funding was by the Honey Board for some, which may be a potential conflict of interest.
- Some patient results were excluded, which reportedly violated a study’s own rules.
- On occasion the effectiveness was determined by a clinician, rather than the sick children or their parents.
The one thing that’s true is that yes, there is some preliminary evidence that on a stand-alone basis, each of these two ingredients might benefit immunity. But they’re both far from proven.
What’s false are the scientific claims about using them together and the embellishments being made about the studies for each used separately.
2nd Claim: Lowering blood pressure
With nearly 30,000,000 pieces of medical literature in it, if you search the PubMed database for these two foods and blood pressure, you will only come up with a single result.
Is it a human study? Nope.
Is it about using both together? Nope.
It’s a research paper written by a single author at a nursing school in Canada. She reports that after a statistical analysis of 20 books on Traditional Chinese Medicine, there are 38 foods which are “most frequently recommended” for hypertension. Honey and garlic for blood pressure are listed among those, but not as a pair. (4)
If you do the same search but for just the herb related to onion, you will get over 200 results. Not all are related but many are, including several clinical trials.
“Present study showed significant decrease in both Systolic and Diastolic blood pressure in both dose and duration dependent manner.”
That quote comes from a Saudi Arabian trial involving 210 people who were given a dosage for their hypertension, used for 24 weeks straight. (5)
A randomized and double-blind trial out of Australia with 50 patients found an average drop of 10.2 points for systolic blood pressure. That was after 12 weeks of use in patients who were 140 and above. (6)
But that was with aged garlic extract rich in allicin, not the raw fresh.
In 2017 a meta-analysis was published, which is basically a scientific review of all past studies, occuring from 1990 through 2015. Their conclusion sums up well the 200+ pieces of literature on this topic (7):
“In particular, a relatively large body of evidence supports the use of potassium, magnesium, L-arginine, vitamin C, cocoa flavonoids, beetroot juice, coenzyme Q10, controlled-release melatonin and aged garlic extract. The antihypertensive effect of all these nutraceuticals seems to be dose related and the overall tolerability is good.”
The Manuka honey blood pressure benefits you may have read about are just not there. The one and only human study that was even loosely related involved 50 men (15 to 30 years old) in Nigeria who found that when alcohol and honey (the regular type) were consumed together, their blood pressure went up slightly during the 10 hours after drinking. (8)
They’ve never been studied together for the lowering of blood pressure.
Whether it’s Manuka honey, unpasteurized raw honey, or conventional, there is almost nothing out there to suggest it helps with blood pressure in humans. The one and only study was irrelevant, since it was in combination with alcohol.
Ultimately, it means this purported benefit is a big lie.
3rd Claim: Losing weight
Is honey and garlic good for weight loss?
About the closest “evidence” you will find for this is a short (and boring) YouTube home video of the camera staring down at chopped up garlic mixed with the natural sweetener in a cup.
The foreign lady – whose English is hard to understand – talks for 2 minutes and 41 seconds about the alleged ways this helps your health. Some of them we’ve already debunked above.
She spends the entire time moving that spoon around. It’s like watching a kid play with their food and not eat it.
Not her video, but other link bait online hypes garlic on an empty stomach for weight loss, by combining it with what the bees are producing. Doing this for 7 days is said to make it “easier to maintain a healthy weight” (whatever that means).
But whether it’s for a week, a month, or a year, there’s nothing found in even the most fringe alternative medicine research about this home remedy.
When you evaluate the two separately, the answer remains the same.
The Vitamins And Lifestyle (VITAL) cohort study that took place in Washington involved 15,655 people over a 10-year period. Among the supplements used, garlic was not found to correlate with weight loss or gain. In fact, this is the only significant finding they observed:
“Among overweight or obese men and women, long-term use of multivitamins, vitamins B6 and B12, and chromium were significantly associated with lower levels of weight gain.”
And the people using those supplements didn’t even lose weight! They just gained less than the others. (11)
For honey, there’s only one thing loosely related. It’s a study involving 12 people with type 2 diabetes who were given Kanuka honey (not to be confused with Manuka). Though it was formulated with other things; cinnamon, magnesium, and chromium. After 40 days, there was a small improvement in weight (they lost 2.2 kg/5 lbs) but it was not statistically significant. (12)
Does garlic and honey burn fat? This is a big scam whatever way you want to slice it.
There’s nothing substantive about using them together, nor is there anything about using plain bee honey or the garlic separately. What’s false about the weight loss claim? Apparently all of it!
The takeaway is this…
…these food are healthy for you in many ways, but not for obesity or even shedding a few vanity pounds. If you’re looking to lose weight, check out the more substantial research on weight loss superfoods.
For immune system benefits related to cold and cough, as well as blood pressure, there are glimmers of hope for these two things. The best evidence is for allicin-rich aged garlic extract, rather than the crushed or whole garlic cloves.
Ultimately though, the research is just too early to claim the benefits for these two foods – not together and not even when used separately.
These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.