In recent years, garlic has been touted as a superfood for improving health and preventing disease. Garlic may provide certain mood-elevating benefits for symptoms of depression, although research confirming this claim is extremely limited. Additionally, while some alternative practitioners believe that garlic may help anxiety, there's virtually no evidence to support this claim. Consult your doctor before using any alternative or nutritional remedies.
Garlic has been used since Egyptian times, when garlic was given to slaves and laborers to increase stamina and strength during the building of the pyramids, according to HerbalLegacy.com. In current times, garlic is used to prevent cancer and heart disease, improve the functioning of the immune system and lower blood pressure. Garlic's numerous benefits may partly be due to its high concentration of antioxidants. Antioxidants help combat the cellular damage caused by free radicals, particles that are present in pollutants and also occur as a byproduct of metabolism. Free radicals are thought to contribute to the formation of certain diseases. Raw garlic also contains allicin, which is believed to have antibacterial and anti-fungal properties. Alternative and natural practitioners often recommend garlic as a treatment for psychiatric disorders such as anxiety and depression, although there's not much scientific evidence to prove that it works.
Garlic and Depression
In his book, "The Chemistry of Joy," Dr. Henry Emmons states that raw garlic can enhance production of serotonin, a neurotransmitter, or brain chemical responsible for signal transmission and mood regulation. Depression is thought to occur, in part, due to an imbalance in serotonin. However, only a few studies on laboratory animals have shown potential benefits of garlic for depression. One study, published in the August 2008 issue of the "Indian Journal of Pharmacology," showed that an ethanolic extract of garlic showed antidepressant-like properties on laboratory mice exposed to a tail suspension test and a forced swim test by decreasing immobility time. However, no studies have shown either garlic extracts or raw garlic to have antidepressant properties in human subjects. Do not use garlic as an alternative to conventional psychiatric treatment.
Garlic and Anxiety
Anxiety is a common reaction to stress and fear. While a number of treatments are thought to help reduce symptoms of anxiety, some alternative and holistic health practitioners believe that garlic may also provide some benefit, although there's no evidence to support this claim. In his book, "Healing Through Natural Foods," naturopath H.K. Bakhru states that garlic is believed to improve mood and reduce fatigue and anxiety. There is not enough evidence to suggest that eating raw garlic has any effect on symptoms of anxiety. Garlic should not be used as an alternative to conventional treatments like psychotherapy and medication.
While anecdotal evidence and an extremely limited amount of animal studies suggest that raw garlic may have a positive effect on mood and depression, there's not enough evidence to support these claims. If you suffer from depression or anxiety, consult your doctor. These conditions can become worse if not properly treated. Always inform your doctor if you plan to use any alternative treatments or dietary supplements.
- HerbalLegacy.com: Garlic
- "The Chemistry of Joy"; Henry Emmons, M.D.; 2005
- "Indian Journal of Pharmacology"; Evidences for the Involvement of Monoaminergic and GABAergic Systems in Antidepressant-like Activity of Garlic Extract in Mice; D. Dhingra and V. Kumar; August 2008
- "Healing Through Natural Foods"; H.K. Bakhru; 2000
Ashley Miller is a licensed social worker, psychotherapist, certified Reiki practitioner, yoga enthusiast and aromatherapist. She has also worked as an employee assistance program counselor and a substance-abuse professional. Miller holds a Master of Social Work and has extensive training in mental health diagnosis, as well as child and adolescent psychotherapy. She also has a bachelor's degree in music.