Garlic for Back Pain: Does it really work?

Test it out yourself! Spaghetti, Garlic and Oil. Buon Apetito!

In my endless quest to learn everything I can about how to reduce back pain, I conduct research online frequently. Everything from tried and true remedies—like yoga, the latest scientific studies about nutrition as well as foods that claim to have anti-inflammatory properties—are all on my radar. My intention is to leave no stone unturned if the information I uncover can decrease someone’s suffering.

So, the other day, I Googled “natural remedies for back pain” and wasn’t surprised when several pages of results turned up. Granted, not everything you read on the Internet is accurate—in fact, finding credible information requires some sophistication. Briefly, it makes sense to figure out the source, evaluate the motive of the source and consider the domain name when making a judgement call about it.

The search result that intrigued me most was, “Scientific evidence on garlic and the anti-inflammatory response." We all know that inflammation alone can trigger pain, so controlling or minimizing it may be effective. If it’s true that in addition to being a vampire repellant, garlic is also an anti-inflammatory power food (as some are claiming), I’m game to start adding more to my diet.


On my way down the research rabbit hole, I came across some amazing facts from the Journal of Immunology (1), Journal of Immunology Research (2) and the University of Maryland Medical Center (3).

  • Plants of the genus Allium are known for their production of organic sulfur compounds, which possess interesting biological and pharmacological properties. Among these, garlic (Allium sativum) is one of the most widely used.
  • When extracted and isolated, these compounds exhibit a broad spectrum of beneficial effects against microbial infections and are used to protect against heart disease.
  • Garlic is currently being studied for its ability to boost the immune system and possibly fight cancer.
  • Garlic contains allicin, a potent, sulfur-based compound that is responsible for the distinctive aroma, but may also be the reason for garlic’s antibacterial properties.

Don’t Rush the Rose
Garlic, often referred to as the “stinking rose,” does seem to have a full bouquet of health benefits. But preparation matters. Research confirms that heating garlic too soon interferes with the health-promoting benefits of allicin.

  • Cooks take note: Be sure to allow minced, chopped or crushed garlic to sit for 5 to 10 minutes before heating. If you are inpatient and throw it into that hot olive oil or boiling water too soon, you will deactivate the beneficial enzyme. Patience is definitely a virtue when it comes to preparing this gold nugget!

Another benefit of garlic—it’s cheap! At my last visit to the grocery store, a good-size bulb of garlic was priced at 99 cents. Heaven for less than a dollar! All this adds up to what seems like a total no-brainer to me. Add more garlic to my diet. Gain numerous health benefits. What have I got to lose? It couldn’t be much simpler or more cost-effective than that.

Over the summer, I decided to make a concerted effort to eat more garlic, and you know what? I’ve noticed I have more energy and feel better all around. Now it may be pure coincidence, but I’m going to continue my regime of taking one clove in the morning (I simply chop the garlic, wait for allicin to activate, and then swallow the little pieces with water). I’ve also been incorporating it into the main meal of the day. After all, except for ice cream, what doesn’t taste better with a little garlic? 

So I encourage you to give it a try and, as the famous, Greek philosopher Hippocrates once said: “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.”

I’d love to hear how your adventures with garlic are going. Please fill me in on how it helped you, or if it didn’t. Share your comments on our Facebook page. Recipes also welcomed!

In the meantime, enjoy this deliciously simple and healthy meal. And consider giving garlic a standing invitation to your dinner table!

Spaghetti, Garlic and Oil. Buon Apetito!

  • Cook spaghetti according to directions
  • Save 1 cup of starchy pasta water when you drain it.
  • Chop 4 gloves of garlic—allow to breathe 5 to 10 minutes and then brown in olive oil
  • Add pasta water to help create a sauce that will stick to the pasta.
  • Transfer pasta noodles to garlic and oil
  • Mix and top with a sprinkle of lemon zest and parsley
  • Add freshly-grated Parmesan cheese to taste. Enjoy!

garlic pasta

1. Ok CY, Lee SK, Park YJ, Jung YS, et al. Therapeutic effects of a natural compound isolated from garlic (Allium sativum L.), against experimental polymicrobial sepsis (INC6P.335). Abstract. The Journal of Immunology May 1, 2014 vol.192 (1 Supplement) 121.2. Accessed October 3, 2016.  

2. Arreola R, Quintero-Fabian S, Lopez-Roa RI, Flores-Gutierrez EO, et a. Immunomodulation and Anti-inflammatory Effects of Garlic Compounds. J Immunol Res. 2015; 2015:401630. Accessed October 3, 2016.

3. Ehrlich SD. University of Maryland Medical Center. Garlic, Overview. Last reviewed on June 22, 2015. Accessed October 3, 2016.