Garlic & Yeast Infections

Garlic (Allium sativum) 

Garlic is a potent antifungal, antibacterial, and antiviral herb that has a wide array of health uses.  The ancient egyptians would use honey and garlic mixtures to treat infected teeth.  You can use garlic internally or topically to get rid of a yeast infection.  Make sure you mix the garlic in a blender and let it set for a stronger remedy.  The mixing of garlic causes alliin and alliinase to mix and form allicin.  Allicin won’t be formed in your stomach as the strong acid deactivates the enzyme alliinase.  However, pureed garlic can be very strong and may cause skin irritation!

How to Use Garlic to Treat Yeast Infection

Yes, you can use garlic for treating a yeast infection.  And, due to the powerful chemical constituents in garlic, it will work very well!  Garlic is an ancient medicinal remedy; used since the time of ancient Egypt.  The ancient Egyptians would mix honey and garlic together to treat toothaches (Heinerman; 1994).  And, you can do the same to treat a fungal infection.  Both garlic and honey will stop the development of Candida.  You can even use another Candida killing oil–coconut oil–to mix your garlic in.  With just a few cloves of crushed garlic mixed with honey or coconut oil, you can apply the mixture to the vagina, penis, or any other area you have a yeast infection.  After a few days of treatment, you should see a drastic reduction in the yeast infection; if not be totally healed.  But, you may want to crush or blend up the garlic you use as this will create the chemical allicin–more on that later.  Yet, it’s a tradeoff because crushed garlic may irritate sensitive skin.  If you want to be safe, for vaginal yeast infections you can tie a string onto a few peeled cloves of garlic and insert them into the vagina.

Garlic can also stop Candida biofilm formation and germ tube (hyphal) growth.  Biofilm, when present, can drastically increase Candida’s resistance to antifungal drugs.  And, germ tubes also allow Candida to start a more vicious yeast infection.  If you have a stubborn, seemingly untreatable yeast infection, biofilm and germ tubes may be two key reasons you haven’t seemed to recover.  Later on we will discuss studies that have shown garlic is able to reduce biofilm and germ tube growth of Candida cells.  Thus, this natural herb is a very excellent choice when you want to naturally treat a yeast infection! Also make sure you use FRESH garlic.  Aged garlic doesn’t work as well and is probably a LOT more expensive.

As the renowned herbalist, Dr. James Duke, says in his book, The Green Pharmacy; mixing different herbs together will likely result in a more effective natural remedy for fungal infections.  Duke states that studies have shown that mixtures of antifungal plant oils often work much better than single oils alone.  There is a “healing synergy” that can result when you add a few different types of medicinal plants to a remedy.  

Garlic & Candida Research

The first study looked at the antifungal capabilities of both fresh onion and garlic bulb extracts.  This research was published in the journal Fitoterapia [77.4 (2006): 321-323].  The liquid extracts were created by the researchers and then reduced into a powder.  There were several different types of Candida the study tested their extracts on.  The species of Candida included the following: Candida albicans (18 strains), Candida glabrata (6 strains), Candida tropicalis (5 strains), and Candida parapsilosis (1 strain).  All of the strains of Candida in the study were inhibited by 90% by doses that never exceeded 2 mg / mL of garlic extract.  So, clearly, garlic makes a very powerful yeast infection remedy.  The geometric mean concentration required to achieve a 90% inhibition of the various yeasts are listed below:

  • Candida albicans — 0.569 mg / mL
  • Candida glabrata — 0.362 mg / mL
  • Candida tropicalis — 0.338 mg / mL
  • Candida parapsilosis — 0.258 mg / mL

Another study also examined the effects of garlic and other herbs on Candida albicans.  The study was published in the journal Clinical Biochemistry [44.13 (2011): S339].  The other herbs used in the study included marigold, cinnamon, and thyme.  The garlic and other herbs were all fresh, and they were percolated in a water and alcohol solution.  The resulting liquid was then evaporated to various concentrations and tested on Candida albicans.  The study found various minimum inhibitory concentrations (amount needed to arrest development) and minimum fungicidal concentrations (amount needed to kill).  Cinnamon extract was shown to be the most efficacious of the herbs at killing Candida albicans.  However, the use of alcohol may have altered the Candicidal ability of garlic and the other herbs; enhancing some, while reducing others.  The following lethal doses for the various herbs against Candida albicans are as follows:  

  • Garlic:  256 mg / mL
  • Cinnamon:  15 mg / mL
  • Marigold:  17 mg / mL
  • Thyme:  31.25 mg / mL

The next study, published in Microbial Ecology in Health and Disease [15.4 (2003): 193-199], looked at how a mixture of Lactobacillus acidophilus and garlic extract would affect Candida albicans.  The study found that Lactobacillus acidophilus alone could drastically reduce the amount of Candida albicans in a 24 hour period of time.  And, when the garlic extract was added to the Lactobacillus acidophilus, it only took 4 hours to totally wipe out all Candida albicans.  Thus, this study shows it would be prudent to use a probiotic (like L. acidophilus) along with herbal remedies for perhaps a much better result.  The following chart was taken from the study and shows how well the probiotic alone, and in conjunction with garlic, worked at eradicating Candida albicans cells.

Garlic Breaks Down Candida Biofilm

Candida, like many other microorganisms, can form a thick layer of sludge to cover itself with.  This layer of sludge is known as “biofilm;” and, it can lend the yeast cells covered by it a much greater resistance to prescription antifungal drugs.  A study, conducted by Khan, et al. (2012),  indicate that biofilm can raise the resistance of Candida to drugs like fluconazole or amphotericin B by 1024 to 2000 times. Another study, by Chandra, et al. (2001), also showed that biofilm formation could drastically raise the dosage of 4 prescription drugs required to stop Candida. Fortunately, Chandra’s study also showed that lemongrass essential oil and clove essential oil could both cut through the biofilm and stop the yeast very effectively.  Many different strains of Candida are able to develop powerful biofilms; and, this could be one reason you have not seen results using a prescription antifungal or over the counter medication using a non-prescription dose of these artificial antifungals.  Thus, garlic is also a great choice to use when you have a yeast infection as it can reduce the amount of biofilm formed by Candida and can start attacking biofilm entrenched yeast.   

One study demonstrating how fresh garlic extract could reduce the development of biofilm was published in the journal Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy [49.1 (2005): 473-473].  The study found that garlic had a very low minimum inhibitory concentration for planktonic (cells not covered with biofilm) Candida.  And, after garlic was allowed just 1 hour of incubation with Candida that was allowed to develop a mature biofilm, there was quite a damaging effect against the biofilm covered yeast.  The effect did diminish when the yeast was examined at 48 hours of incubation.  The researchers speculated that this was due to the relatively short half-life of various chemical components of the garlic.  Allicin, for example, rapidly deteriorates after it is produced by crushing garlic.  The study found that garlic does reduce Candida biofilm.

Allicin, a key component of crushed garlic, was also shown to inhibit Candida biofilm in a study published in Phytomedicine 19.1 (2011): 56-63.  The study found that allicin suppresses the expression of the hyphal cell wall protein (HPW1) that plays a key role in the early stages of the yeast’s biofilm development.  The study found that allicin worked better than the prescription antifungal fluconazole at stopping biofilm.  And, in a dose dependent manner, allicin also help to reduce the amount of yeast cells developing.  The following quote comes from this study and relates the researcher’s findings:

In conclusion, our results demonstrated that allicin could display the potential to inhibit Candida bio?lms and also suppress the expression of HWP1 as a probable target gene. These encouraging results demonstrated that garlic and its related bioactive compounds such as allicin could be further developed into an alternative or supplementary therapeutic arsenal against Candida infections in humans.

Garlic and Candida Germ Tubes

As you may know, many species of Candida (including Candida albicans) grow germ tubes; the proper name for these tendrils is “hyphae.”  Those species of Candida that can exist as a single cell (blastoconidia) and as a hyphal tendril are dimorphic; i.e., they exist in two different forms.  When Candida starts transforming into its hyphal form, it is a key sign that the yeast is becoming more virulent.  With these long hyphal growths, the yeast cells are able to “dig into” the outer membranes of the body and get a better hold on the host.  It can also be why some yeast infections are harder to get rid of than others.  This transforming process is usually the case in most yeast infections that occur.  Fortunately, another amazing benefit of garlic is this herb can reduce the presence of this virulent form of Candida cells; thus, allow you a better chance of kicking the infection!  

A study in which garlic’s ability to obviate the transition of Candida into a hyphal form and suppress a gene expression responsible for this transition was published in the Journal of Applied Microbiology [105.6 (2008): 2169-2177].  The study used a mixture of water and fresh garlic that was ground up.  The study found that 80 mg / mL of garlic was enough to radically stop hyphal growth.  And, 100 mg / mL of garlic nearly completely stopped cell reproduction.  The study concluded by stating that the presence of garlic reduces the expression of a key hyphae associated gene and stopped the transitioning of the yeast from a single cell into a germ tube.

Allicin in Garlic

Among the primary reasons garlic is a efficacious antifungal is due to the presence of chemicals like allicin and ajoene.  Allicin is a very unstable compound that is formed when two chemicals in fresh garlic, alliin and the enzyme alliinase, are mixed together.  Thus, when you crush up a fresh garlic clove, allicin will be created.  But, because the stomach has very acidic fluids, this chemical reaction that creates allicin will be terminated by gastric juices.  So, you won’t get this essential chemical forming in your stomach if you eat uncrushed garlic.  Many studies have shown that allicin is a key chemical that provides garlic with significant therapeutic potential.

One study, published in the Microbes and infection [1.2 (1999): 125-129], discusses the medicinal properties of allicin.  According to the study, allicin has proven a wide range of antibacterial ability; even against certain drug resistant bacteria.  Allicin also has antifungal activity which is particularly strong against Candida albicans; and, this herb also has both antiparasitic and antiviral activity.  The study found that several species of Candida were very susceptible to allicin.  The minimum inhibitory concentrations (MIC) for each different species are listed in the chart below (taken from the study).  As you will see, most typically, just a fraction of a microgram per milliliter was all it took to inhibit the various yeasts.  Also, please note that Torulopsis glabrata is an old name for Candida glabrata.

Precautions when Taking Garlic

According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, some birth control pills contain the hormone estrogen, which the body naturally breaks down.  Taking garlic may increase the rate which estrogen breaks down.  Consequently, using garlic while taking birth control pills may lower the effectiveness of the contraceptive.

In addition to stopping some contraceptives, garlic may cause other interactions with medications you may be taking, producing unwanted physiological side effects.  As a result, consulting a licensed physician before taking garlic may be a prudent course of action.

Garlic and Botulism

It is not recommended that you use garlic stored in oil as a result of the possible danger of the garlic having the dangerous Clostridium botulinum bacterium in it.  Clostridium botulinum can produce botulinum toxin under anaerobic conditions (which are present when it is in oil) which causes botulinus intoxication.

The spores responsible for the production of botulinum toxin are not killed by the temperatures reached by normal sea-level-pressure boiling; consequently, the spores will remain alive even after boiling.  When the conditions are right, the spores can once again produce toxin in the right conditions.  Additionally, refrigeration will not guarantee that garlic kept in oil is safe.