Garlic bulbs (file image)
The study was commissioned by the Australian Garlic Producers. Image by Tracey Nearmy/AAP PHOTOS

Garlic COVID cure claim crushed by experts

Kate Atkinson June 8, 2023
WHAT WAS CLAIMED

A study has found Australian garlic can cure COVID-19.

OUR VERDICT

False. The study found a type of garlic can reduce the infectiousness of viruses in test tubes. The research was not conducted on humans.

Social media users are claiming a common cooking ingredient can cure COVID-19.

Research conducted by the Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity into the antiviral effects of garlic against viruses has been used as evidence to support the claim.

However, this is not what the study found. It tested garlic extract against COVID-19 and influenza in-vitro – meaning in lab conditions – and did not prove garlic could cure the virus in humans.

Anti-vaccine mandate campaigner Graham Hood, who has previously made false statements about COVID-19 and vaccines, made the claim in a video posted to Facebook on June 5.

Channel 7 News promoting an Australian brand, an Australian-grown garlic, which is a deadset cure for COVID, according to research published today, or yesterday. They’re now admitting that garlic can cure COVID ÔǪ why on earth have people been put through all of this when a good Italian feed with some good home-grown Australian garlic could’ve solved the problem,” he said (video mark 1min 40sec).

A screenshot of the one of the Facebook posts.
 Misinformation about the garlic study’s findings are spreading across social media. 

Others are spreading similar misinformation across social media, as seen on Facebook (here, here), Instagram (here, here, here, here), Twitter (here, here, here, here) and TikTok (here).

The Doherty Institute’s research, which has not been published or peer-reviewed, was commissioned by a private company called Australian Garlic Producers (AGP).

An AGP press release on May 31, announcing the findings, stated the research found a certain garlic variety demonstrated antiviral activity against COVID-19 and the flu in-vitro testing.

The Doherty Institute’s senior research officer, Dr Julie McAuley, said the tests found one of AGP’s products could reduce the infectiousness of SARS-CoV-2 and Influenza A by 99.9 per cent.

The press release did not specify which garlic variety or why its antiviral properties were so high.

A scientist at the Doherty Institute in Melbourne (file image)
 The antiviral effects of garlic were tested at the Doherty Institute in Melbourne. 

In an email to AAP FactCheck, a Doherty Institute representative said the research “involved in-vitro testing only of a range of garlic extracts to investigate potential antiviral activity against two viruses”.

They added: “The findings of this lab-based study, released by AGP, do not show medical treatment application.

“Stringent clinical trials would need to be conducted to determine if these findings translate from test tubes to humans.”

Ian Musgrave, a molecular pharmacologist at the University of Adelaide, told AAP FactCheck there was a long way to go before these garlic extracts could be considered as preventatives or treatments.

“Absorption and metabolism of the active components of garlic extracts may mean that the levels of these compounds may not reach levels that are effective in the body,” Dr Musgrave said.

“In the previous in-vitro studies, large concentrations of garlic extracts were needed to have an effect and garlic compounds are readily broken down and do not enter the body at the levels required to inhibit viral reproduction.

“Overall, while the results reported by the Doherty Institute are interesting, until clinical trials have been done, no claims can be made about the effects of these extracts for the prevention and/or treatment of influenza let alone COVID.”

Dr Musgrave also pointed to a clinical trial testing the effects of garlic extract in hospitalised COVID-19 patients which showed no significant effect on infection recovery.

Garlic bulbs (file image)
 Previous clinical trials found garlic didn’t help recovery for COVID patients. 

Gideon Meyerowitz-Katz, an epidemiologist from the University of Wollongong, said without published data, it was impossible to know if this specific garlic had any benefit for COVID or the flu.

“In addition, this sort of research is done in petri dishes in a lab – to know if garlic is beneficial we would need actual clinical trials in human beings,” he told AAP FactCheck.

Dr Musgrave also told the ABC’s Media Watch program that ingested garlic rarely survived the digestive tract to reach a useful concentration in the body.

“The major issue and really serious effects is the virus binding in the lungs (and the effects on circulation and the heart), so affecting the GI tract is not likely to have a significant impact on the course of COVID.”

The Verdict

Claims research conducted by the Doherty Institute found garlic can cure COVID-19 are false.

The findings are based on in-vitro testing and do not show any medical treatment applications in humans.

Experts told AAP FactCheck that until clinical trials are done on humans, no claims can be made about the effectiveness of these garlic varieties for curing or treating COVID-19 and influenza.

False ÔÇô The claim is inaccurate.

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