Peanut butter and jelly. Peas and carrots. Garlic and honey? The last one might not be a classic pairing — yet. But the buzz around garlic and honey benefits is real. Each ingredient is packed with antioxidant and antimicrobial compounds that help you feel better when a cough or sniffles hit. And they can be even more potent when used together.
“Honey and garlic have been used for centuries in traditional medicine,” says Lauri Wright, PhD, RDN, Director of Nutrition Programs at the University of South Florida in Tampa, FL. “Together, they have a synergistic effect and do even better.”
The best part: These two kitchen staples can help keep you healthier in other ways, too. Here’s a look at the garlic and honey benefits you can reap during sick season — and all year long.
Garlic and honey benefits: Nature’s sick soother
When you have a cold or another bug, your immune system sets off an inflammatory response to fight off the illness. And it’s that inflammation that can leave your throat sore, your nose runny or your body achy, Dr. Wright explains.
That’s where honey and garlic can come in. Garlic is a known immunity booster on its own. And when you add honey to garlic, you up the benefits. “Both have a lot of antioxidants that will help bring down that inflammation,” Dr. Wright adds. “That can help with some of the pain from a sore throat.”
In fact, taking just 1 to 2 tsp. of honey works as well as cough syrup at easing throat discomfort, found a Pennsylvania State University study. And when it comes to bouncing back from a bug, that’s where garlic shines. Its antioxidant compounds can help you get over a cold faster, suggests a study in the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. (Click through to learn how spicy honey can help ease a cold, too.)
And while the duo excels as helping you quash a cold, garlic and honey each pack a payload of other health benefits, too.
More health benefits of garlic
“Garlic has over 2,000 compounds, 500 of which we know have some sort of potential effect on health,” says Michael Fenster, MD, Adjunct Professor of Culinary Medicine at the University of Montana College of Health in Missoula, MT.
Most of the research on garlic has looked at taking garlic extracts or supplements. But our experts say that simply using fresh garlic cloves in your cooking is a better option that can still serve up big benefits. (Tip: Worried about a funky odor? Don’t be. Click through to learn how to get rid of garlic breath quickly and easily.)
“You’ll get the synergistic effects of garlic combined with other antioxidant-rich foods like fruits, vegetables and whole grains,” Dr. Wright says. “Plus, garlic supplements can interact with medications like blood thinners, but that’s not a concern with fresh garlic.” Aim to work 1 to 2 cloves of fresh garlic into your daily diet to shore up your health in these important ways.
1. It boosts your heart health
“Studies consistently show that a diet rich in garlic decreases total cholesterol, but specifically the bad LDL cholesterol,” Dr. Wright says. One New York Medical College review revealed that having just one clove of garlic per day could lower total cholesterol up to 9%.
Garlic’s good for your blood pressure, too, which takes strain off your ticker. Supplementing with garlic regularly has been found to decrease systolic BP (top number) by up to 5 points and diastolic BP (bottom number) by up to 2 points, according to a review in Journal of Nutrition.
2. It soothes arthritis aches
Achy knees making it harder to get around? “For those of us that have arthritis, the antioxidants in garlic can help decrease pain,” Dr. Wright says. Women with knee osteoarthritis who supplemented with garlic daily experienced a 26% decrease in pain and 13% decrease in stiffness after 12 weeks, a study in the International Journal of Clinical Practice found.
4. It balances your blood sugar
Blood sugar swings can leave you hangry and prone to cravings, not to mention raise your risk for type 2 diabetes. But allicin, an antioxidant compound in garlic, could help keep your glucose leaves more stable. In fact, it lowers levels of fasting blood sugar by up to 3 points in 2 weeks, and up to 32 points in 24 weeks, per a Food & Nutrition Research review. (Click through to learn how the chlorogenic acid in coffee steadies your blood sugar, too.)
More health benefits of honey
Next time your tea or oatmeal needs a flavor boost, opt for a drizzle of honey over a spoonful of sugar for some extra health perks. Here’s what honey can do for you:
1. It wards of chronic disease
“I wouldn’t say someone should do spoonfuls of honey every day unless they have a sore throat — it’s still a sugar and the calories can add up,” Dr. Wright says. “But if you need a sweetener, then honey is a nice choice.”
Here’s why: “It certainly has antimicrobial, antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties,” says Ginger Hultin, MS, RDN, author of Anti-Inflammatory Diet Meal Prep. That can help keep your cells healthy and fight off damage that, over time, can lead to chronic conditions like heart disease and type 2 diabetes, found a review in Molecules.
2. 1t improves gut health
Honey does more than just tickle your tastebuds. It’s good for your gut, too. Honey’s loaded with prebiotics. These beneficial compounds “feed” the good bacteria in your gut to support a healthy microbiome. They work so well at nourishing your gut that researchers reporting in Integrative Medicine Insights say that a diet rich in prebiotics can support a healthy immune system and even boost your mood!
Get the benefits of garlic and honey with a DIY elixir
To tap into the healing benefits of both garlic and honey, Dr. Fenster likes to make this easy garlic-infused honey.
Fermented garlic honey
- 300 g (about 1 cup) of garlic cloves, peeled and lightly crushed
- 250 mL (about 1 cup) of raw, preferably local and organic honey. Avoid pasteurized or processed honey
- Several sprigs of your favorite herb (optional)
- Place the peeled garlic cloves into a wide-mouth jar (that makes removing the cloves much easier). Add enough honey to cover the garlic completely.
- You can add additional depths of flavor by adding and herb such as fresh thyme. Like the garlic cloves, make sure the herbs are completely covered and submerged in the honey.
- Place the lid on the jar, but do not tighten it completely unless you are using self-venting jars.
- Store in a cool, dark place for at least several days and up to several weeks. As you allow the garlic to ferment, you will develop different flavors.
- It will be ready when you start to notice small bubbles on the surface of the honey. As long as you keep it in a cool, dark place, you can use it over several months’ time.
How to get the benefits of a garlic and honey elixir
Once your garlic honey infusion is ready, you can keep it on hand to take at the first sign of a cold. “It would be worth having a spoonful of that honey a couple times a day to help with a sore throat,” Dr. Wright says. Or add a clove of the marinated, crushed garlic and a spoonful of the honey to a mug filled with hot water to make a soothing garlic tea.
You can use the honey and garlic for more general cooking purposes, too. The honey’s garlicky flavor adds a welcome sweet-savory note to things like marinades and salad dressing, Dr. Fenster says. “You can also take out the garlic cloves and use them in savory dishes” like sautes or sauces. The garlic will still taste garlicky, but it’ll also have a mellow sweetness from the honey. Yum!
For more ways to soothe a sore throat:
This content is not a substitute for professional medical advice or diagnosis. Always consult your physician before pursuing any treatment plan.