Reconstructing Garlic As A Whole Food


There are a lot of opinions about garlic; I’ve learned. Probably lots of hype, too. It does seem clear that there’s a lot of medicinal value to the stuff, and its use as such appears to go all the way back to ancient Egypt.

But what’s hip and what’s hype? What compounds are the ones that are responsible for the wonders and how do you consume it?

  • Is raw better?
  • Is cooked better?
  • Is crushed better, and, raw or cooked?
  • Sliced?
  • Minced?
  • Chewed or swallowed?
  • Sprouted or not?

And on and on, and my answer is that I’m not sure, but there seems to be no end of conflicting sources who are absolutely sure—in ALL-CAPS with multiple exclamation points!!! So the obvious answer for me is to stop the unbridled deconstruction and eat garlic in all sorts of ways. Cover all the bases. Plus, it’s enjoyable in all kinds of ways.

Many of you already do that and have done so forever. I’ve always enjoyed the taste and smell of garlic when it’s mild, and I’ve used it in many different ways in cooking going way back. I’ve taken garlic supplements with allicin at various times. I’ve eaten it in various ways, and I’m sure it’s beneficial in some of them, as they claim, but I’ve never detected a benefit where I could say with any certainty wow, that’s the garlic!

But now I can. And I think if you give this a try, you too are going to say ‘wow.’ It’s kind of remarkable and in many ways and levels, unmistakable. At least to me.

I’m talking about swallowing whole cloves (small ones) and sliced in half lengthwise (large ones).

Some time ago, during all the resistant starch and gut health posts, one commenter, in particular, used to go on an on about eating raw garlic and how addicted he was though I don’t recall him saying how he consumed it. It always stuck in the back of my mind, but I never really did anything but continue to use garlic regularly in cooking, sometimes minced in a salad dressing, etc.

One day I got wind of this paper from way back in 2001: Preventing the common cold with a garlic supplement: A double-blind, placebo-controlled survey.


One hundred forty-six volunteers were randomized to receive a placebo or an allicin-containing garlic supplement, one capsule daily, over a 12-week period between November and February. They used a five-point scale to assess their health and recorded any common cold infections and symptoms in a daily diary. The active-treatment group had significantly fewer colds than the placebo group (24 vs 65,P < .001). The placebo group, in contrast, recorded significantly more days challenged virally (366 vs 111,P < .05) and a significantly longer duration of symptoms (5.01 vs 1.52 days,P < .001). Consequently, volunteers in the active group were less likely to get a cold and recovered faster if infected. Volunteers taking placebo were much more likely to get more than one cold over the treatment period. An allicin-containing supplement can prevent attack by the common cold virus.

Those are some pretty damn significant differences. So I got a supplement specifically with the allicin in it. I take a couple per day. Haven’t had a cold since (had a bad one in the fall before doing this), so there’s that. Of course, that’s pretty much the norm for me. Ever since supplementing with vitamin D3 and also K2 vitamin way back, colds are pretty rare. Anyway, it’s reasonably priced, so it’s on the list of a few things I take on some, but not all days.

I kept thinking about the commenter who just swore by eating garlic raw for gut heath. So I had an idea. What if I just peel a few small and skinny cloves, and swallow them with the rest of my supplements, like pills? So I did. And holy shit, and I mean that very literally. It was quite remarkable. I don’t like to get heavy into the TMI, so just try it yourself and you’ll see what I mean. Don’t be surprised if you’re asked what you’re cooking once you exit the bathroom in the morning.

The next day I mixed it up a little bit. Two small skinny cloves whole, and a couple of larger ones sliced lengthwise in order to make them swallowable without choking to death. Holy immaculate shit. So that’s how I do it now, typically about four cloves each morning, on a fasted empty stomach, mostly sliced in half lengthwise with one or two small whole ones some days. The idea is to have them whole enough that they only get partially or minimally digested by enzymes, and so more of whatever goodness is available for gut bacteria in the colon gets there first.

But otherwise, after a few days of this, I felt remarkably awesome, and that continues. I very quickly was experiencing energy and motivation levels that I hadn’t for a while. See, everything I research on garlic, like this—Comparison between swallowing and chewing of garlic on levels of serum lipids, cyclosporine, creatinine and lipid peroxidation in Renal Transplant Recipients—is all about what sort of things it’s doing to standard human biological phenomena, and not what it might be doing to gut flora which in turn has human biological downstream effects.

Anyway, I highly recommend it, and I’ll probably also crush the garlic, wait 10 minutes as some insist upon, and do that some days as well. Let me know your results in comments. And be careful. Don’t choke yourselves to death out there.

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  1. Stuart on April 11, 2016 at 18:35


    here is the latest worth noting
    New study shows aged garlic extract can reduce dangerous plaque buildup in arteries

    now this bwlow dowtails with the potato hack
    Diet that mimics fasting appears to slow aging

    vitamin has to have a high trans content and not the cis form
    so the supplement should have it marked as this one which has the high trans form

    there is a higher dose one which I take

  2. Steven on April 11, 2016 at 18:58

    I used to rough chop. Not whole and not crush but somewhere in between.

    I did it for a long while and yes it seemed like it was a good thing. But like most things I got lazy.

    Time to fire it up again.

  3. LeonRover on April 12, 2016 at 02:26

    Hmm, Rich

    In the Autumn here í dTír na hÉireann wild garlic can be eaten like new spuds are in June.
    (Course, we washes ’em first.)

    Just as the rhyming ditty w r t Corkmen – c f me Ma!

    “Are u from Cork?
    I am, are u ?

    Do yeh ate praties ?
    Yus, I do.

    How does yeh ate ’em ?
    Shkins an’ all.

    Do dey choke yeh ?
    Not at all.”

    So here’s deh t’ing, wit’ mature bulbs, one gets slooooowwww digestion & deh wholebulb shkins.)

    (Tho’, if you’re from Llarregub, S Wales do not do this with tulips – unless you’ve paid your penny.)



    Please note what Llarregub spells arsewards.

  4. Tracy on April 12, 2016 at 02:28

    Do leaves count? As wild garlic is everywhere during March and April (in the UK), I use the leaves to make several jars of pesto (just with olive oil and various nuts) which freezes well (lovely mixed with plain cooked potatoes!), and the very young leaves, flowers and chopped young bulbs (just dust any dirt off) on salads etc.

    • LeonRover on April 12, 2016 at 02:52

      Of course leaves count – they do it monotone, at 20-40 cycles (10-20 bicycles).

      : )) ; ))

    • Richard Nikoley on April 12, 2016 at 08:05

      I doubt they would have the same effect of the cloves, but eat ’em anyway. Just swallow clove chunks too.

      I stress being very careful about that. A couple of times they’ve been just slightly a bit too big for comfort. Make sure someone is around to render a friendly Heimlich.

  5. Anand Srivastava on April 12, 2016 at 04:30

    My father has been using garlic to cure his colds for 20 years. He just swallows the garlic cloves (Indian garlic is very small, and much more pungent than the hybrid ones we get now).

  6. James H. on April 12, 2016 at 05:20

    Has anyone tried the jars of pre-minced garlic one finds in grocery stores? I would think the allicin would be formed already but I don’t anything about the product; I’m just enough of a food snob to avoid such a thing.

  7. cremes on April 12, 2016 at 05:52

    I’m not so sure this will be a mainstay for me. I usually have no trouble swallowing even large pills, but this little experiment didn’t feel so good going down. At minimum I’ll have to trim the ends off too since they are a bit spiky.

    I’ll give it a go for 3 days. If I don’t notice anything positive, I’m out.

    • cremes on April 13, 2016 at 04:50

      I had to chop the two cloves into smaller pieces. I just can’t get the larger pieces down. They are somewhat sticky in my throat. I needed to drink about 8oz of water to get two cloves (roughly chopped) down.

    • cremes on April 15, 2016 at 05:11

      After 4 days of this I think I will stick with it for a while longer. This morning I woke up with very swollen lymph nodes in my throat. That is usually indicative of my body fighting an infection. I am not sick (I feel fine) so something is going on. I know that garlic is considered a potent supporter of the immune system, so perhaps it has kicked something into high gear.

      Of course, it might just be coincidence too. Anyway, I’ll remain on this through next Tuesday. I have a trip planned and do not desire taking a garlic bulb with me.

    • cremes on April 18, 2016 at 06:26

      I am crushing the garlic and then slicing the results into small enough chunks that I can swallow without choking. I have noticed two changes (one I covered earlier but I’ll recount again).

      1. TMI is better all around. Similar improvement to adding RS into diet.

      2. My lymph glands are swollen about every other day. I must have some low level infection that my body is fighting.

      I haven’t noticed garlic breath or garlic body odor which might be explained by nose blindness. However, my wife would let me know if I were suffering from this malady and she has thus far been silent. Therefore, I conclude there isn’t a problem with odor.

      I’ll probably dial this back from every day to every other day. We buy 4 bulbs of garlic per month which, if not used within that time period, dry out and need to be tossed. I’ll make sure to slowly work my way through the garlic in excess of what we use for our cooking. Waste not, want not and all that.

  8. jdmitch on April 12, 2016 at 10:07

    So… more reason to buy the bag of peeled garlic cloves at CostCo… I’ve always worried about not being able to use them up fast enough…

  9. Kate on April 12, 2016 at 10:54

    So, I have a question… Albeit maybe a bit silly. How bad is garlic breath / garlic body odor after doing this? I’ve always loved garlic and eat it frequently, but at the risk of offending my “friends” haha. My roommate in college was Italian and we would regularly eat whole cloves together. Strength in numbers, you know…. at least we both smelled like it.

    But these days I have zero sense of smell (maybe the garlic will help!). I’d like to know what I’m getting into before I go around breathing on my coworkers and loved ones.

    • Richard Nikoley on April 12, 2016 at 11:08

      This was actually surprising to me. After all the marketing BS over odorless garlic pills (so, what did you do to fuck it up).

      I’m sure chewing them would give you garlic breath. Swallowing sure doesn’t. And, having them big allows for them to not fester in the stomach. I know this, because I’ve seen nearly whole cloves in poop.

      The only odor I have been able to detect, confirmed by the wife, is that my bathroom smells ridiculously like garlic every morning. That’s why I said, people might ask what you’re cooking. And hey, what better, “smells like shit,” or “smells like garlic.”

      In my book, this is a feature, not a bug.

    • Hegemon on April 12, 2016 at 20:03

      I gave this a go last time Richard mentioned doing it. TMI was improved but it radiated out of my pours for days; you could smell me coming down the hall.

      That being said, I’m game to try it again and see. I’ve got some Milk Thistle extract that I’m told should help with that.

    • Richard Nikoley on April 12, 2016 at 20:15

      Make sure to swallow in the largest pieces you can, first thing in the morning, empty stomach.

    • Ben on April 13, 2016 at 01:43

      With garlic it’s less cell damage = less stink, at least from your mouth. So swallowing cloves whole should help in that department.

      A couple of days ago I read a bit about garlic in Harold McGee’s On Food & Cooking, which filled me in on some of the details.

      Garlic has a chemical defense mechanism which is triggered once cells are damaged. The chemicals (sulphur compounds) are contained in its cells, with a “detonator” enzyme (alliinase) stored separately in a vacuole. Once the cell is damaged, the enzyme mixes with the sulphur compounds and breaks them down into the characteristic smelly/tasty chemicals, some of which will further react with oxygen.

      (The resulting chemicals might have health benefits, which would be another reason to leave minced garlic for ~10 minutes.)

      A quick browse of the Wikipedia article on allicin learns that a pH <3 permanently deactivates the enzyme, which should prevent any smell forming at least in your stomach. Not sure about further down the line.

  10. paul witsaman on April 12, 2016 at 11:26

    Penzey’s Spices has freeze-dried garlic, it comes in small chunks. 4, about a 1/4 teaspoon equals 1 clove. I’ll check that option and compare with clove consumption per the FTA post.

  11. LeonRover on April 12, 2016 at 15:19

    Rich, u wrote:

    “I’m sure chewing them would give you garlic breath.”

    Do not peoples lurve garlik bred – especially when it Passover blessed.

    chew — tchew

    Beck mon tchew.

    Embrasse mon tchew.


  12. Alex on April 13, 2016 at 02:15

    About three weeks ago I took 2-3 whole or sliced in half cloves. Felt fine, so next day I took 4 large ones. On that day I had diarrhea, which lasted about 3 days, and I felt afterwards that my microbiota was totally screwed. I didn’t change my diet in any way at that time except for garlic, so I it’s highly probable that this upset was caused by raw garlic. I’ve read that garlic has powerful antibacterial properties, so my suspicion is that it killed off a bunch of bugs in my colon, just like an antibiotic. Can this be the case? Or perhaps I should’ve started with smaller doses; perhaps I’ll experiment with this some time. What do you think?

    • Richard Nikoley on April 13, 2016 at 08:04


      Could be you overdid it on the antibacterial side. But garlic also has prebiotic properties and prebiotics and probiotics can be anti bacterial as well, either by direct action or shifting PH in the gut to favor more beneficial typically gram positive strains and create and environment where less beneficial or more likely pathogenic can’t survive.

      In other words, it’s complicated. What you experienced may have been a good thing. People often automatically assume that the runny shits is bad, same with a fever. Not always the case by a long shot.

      But perhaps four large is a bit er, ‘overkill’. My dose, which isn’t every day, just most days, is the equivalent of 3-4 small, or two large. Seems plenty and results are good and pretty marked. One thing interesting is having the ability to ‘go’, but no great urgency where you gotta go right now. Just a very mild awareness that very slowly builds to a mild urgency.

  13. Alesia on April 13, 2016 at 17:09

    Men who eat more garlic might also be more attractive to women. Tim Steele blogged about the study a little while back, I think the garlic was crushed, but I’m not sure if it makes a difference. Anyway, just an additional benefit.

  14. golooraam on April 21, 2016 at 12:15

    well… let’s just if one eats just meat and fat like me most of the time, this raw garlic swallowing hack has pretty much eliminated any TMI issues with no fiber – yowza!!! good times – once again, thank you Richard!

  15. Antonio on April 24, 2016 at 12:28

    Just wondering, do you remove the germ from inside the garlic?

    • monica on April 24, 2016 at 19:09

      I don’t think so, since he swallows it whole.

  16. Dan H on February 26, 2017 at 07:34

    Still on the garlic Richard? I havent seen it mentioned recently. I had great success with it when you posted this. Cant remember why, but I backed off after a few months…

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