Garlic and Warfarin

 

Despite its pungent odor that can remain long after the dish has been consumed, the garlic plant has been associated throughout time with wellness and safety. It is one of the oldest cultivated plants in the world, finding its way into Sanskrit records of health remedies over 5,000 years old. The Egyptian pharaohs prized the garlic plant and its oils. They regularly fed it to their slaves to keep them fit and strong as they created the pyramids.1 Since garlic has long been considered a well-trusted remedy for health, it’s no wonder people are interested in its use in both food and medicine. 

 

Garlic as Food 

The bulb of the garlic plant is used for a variety of recipes and dishes throughout the kitchens of the world. While garlic is full of good minerals like calcium and potassium, it can also be a great source of vitamin B6, manganese, selenium and vitamin C.1 Garlic’s most active ingredient is allicin and it is what gives garlic its smell and taste. The ingredient becomes activated through the process of chopping or crushing the garlic.1 When used in cooking, garlic can be added to all sorts of dishes from dips to breads, usually recognizable by its flavor. 

Garlic for Healing 

Records indicate that garlic was used during epidemics of cholera and tuberculosis and in World War I it was used as an antiseptic applied to wounds and used to treat dysentery in the trenches.1 Garlic’s long history of being an “infection fighter” makes it an intriguing plant to study. Its antibacterial properties have been used to fight viruses, bacteria and fungi, including the use of garlic oil on skin conditions like warts and insect bites.1 Today, much of the research being done on garlic has focused on the plant’s possible ability to reduce the risk of heart disease, help manage cholesterol levels and reduce the risk of cancer.1 These studies suggest that ingredients in garlic make the platelets in your blood less likely to clot and stick to the walls of arteries and other blood vessels. Compounds within garlic have also shown an ability to inhibit cancer cells and slow or block the growth of tumors.1 In fact, the allicin in garlic is perceived to be one of the more beneficial ingredients.1 

Garlic and Warfarin 

As a patient on warfarin, the idea of a healthier heart may have you reaching for the garlic supplements. However, several herbs, including garlic, have shown the potential to interact with warfarin therapy. While garlic (also known by its latin name Allium sativum) is thought to provide cardiovascular benefits like blood pressure lowering, serum lipid lowering, and antithrombotic activity, it is also associated with the risk of bleeding.2 Patients who are on warfarin therapy are advised to stay away from garlic supplements. However, a diet that includes consistent ingestion of food products and dishes containing small amounts of garlic should not pose a problem.2 If you are worried about your garlic intake and warfarin, make sure to let your physician know. While information about the ability and adverse effects of alternative medicine products like garlic are limited, it is always a good practice to closely monitor your INR if you have any concern. 

References:

  1. Lewin, J. The Health Benefits of Garlic. BBC: Goodfood. 2017. Retrieved from the website: http://www.bbcgoodfood.com/howto/guide/ingredient-focus-garlic.
  2. Heck, A.M. et al. Potential Interactions Between Alternative Therapies and Warfarin. American Journal of Health-System Pharmacy. 2000;57(13).