Why Does Garlic Burn?


Reading Time: 6 minutes

The internet has hyped up the benefits of eating raw garlic (and with good reason). However, most sites fail to mention the burn that follows if you eat raw garlic the wrong way. If you’ve recently been a victim of a garlic chemical burn, you are probably wondering how it’s possible.

Here’s the abridged version of the overly technical answer:

Crushing garlic triggers a chemical reaction that forms allicin, a powerful Sulfur-containing molecule similar to that contained in wasabi and chili peppers. The allicin attaches itself to an ion channel, a structure found on nerve cells, causing it to open.

Once open, other molecules rush into the channel, flooding the nerve cell, causing it to fire up and send garlic fire signals to the spinal cord and the brain. Though seemingly long, this chain reaction takes place in split seconds. 

In the end, pain nerves fire, the mouth, burns, stings, waters, swells, and reddens. At this point, some people reach for some ice water or a piece of bread or cannot wait for another hit to their taste buds. 

Why Would You Want to Eat Raw Garlic?

Garlic has boatloads of health benefits courtesy of allicin, the organic sulfur compound responsible for the self inflicted garlic burns in your mouth.

But before we dive into these benefits, which one is healthier, eating cooked or raw garlic? Taking advantage of garlic’s health benefits can be complicated. For instance, studies linking garlic to improved immunity determined these benefits are from cooked and raw garlic, not garlic supplements.

Heating garlic or having it as part of a recipe alters its pH balance. Allicin enzymes need a couple of minutes to activate, so you should let chopped or crushed garlic sit for a while before eating it.

Scientists insist that you’ll benefit more from consuming raw garlic than cooked garlic. However, don’t heat it above 60 degrees Celsius if you prefer cooked garlic. Beyond this temperature, allicin is killed. Because of this, you should add garlic when you’re about done cooking.

With that said, let’s dive into the health benefits.

Boosts Immunity

Prevention is better than cure. According to a study involving 40,000+ women between 55 and 69, those who regularly ate vegetables, fruits, and garlic experienced a 35% lower chance of colon cancer.

Nutritious With Low Calories

One garlic clove weighing 3 grams contains

·       Vitamin B6 – 2% of the daily value

·       Vitamin C – 1% of the daily value

·       Selenium – 1% of DV

·       Fiber – 0.06 grams

·       Manganese – 2% of one’s daily value

The sale clove comes with 4.5 calories, 1g of carbs, and 0.2 g of protein. Garlic also has trace amounts of other nutrients.

Can Lower Blood Pressure?

Cardiovascular diseases like stroke and heart attacks are responsible for many deaths than other conditions. Hypertension and high blood pressure are important factors causing these conditions. Research suggests that garlic supplements significantly reduce blood pressure in persons with high blood pressure.

In a study, aged garlic extract between 600 and 1,500 mg has effects like Atenolol in reducing blood pressure over 24 weeks. Garlic supplement doses need to be high enough to achieve similar results, and the amount required is equal to four cloves of garlic every day.

Contains Antioxidants

Free radicals in the body cause oxidative damage, which contributes to aging. Garlic contains antioxidants that support the body’s protective mechanism against this oxidative damage. Garlic has been proven to increase antioxidant enzymes in humans and reduce oxidative stress in persons with high blood pressure.

The combined effect of blood pressure and cholesterol plus antioxidant properties can help reduce the risk of developing dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

Clear the Skin

The antioxidant and antibacterial properties of garlic can help clear acne caused by bacteria. Studies reveal that rubbing raw garlic over skin pimples can clear them. As you test this, be forewarned that garlic can have a burning sensation. As such, you should always consult your dermatologist before trying this or if you are using other skin care products.

It’s Good for the Liver

Studies reveal that garlic can protect your liver from some toxins and help lower blood sugar levels. This helps the body get rid of toxins efficiently, benefiting the body as a whole.

It Can Help Prevent Osteoporosis

As we age, the risk of osteoporosis increases, especially in women. However, health experts suggest that eating raw garlic can help prevent it, and garlic helps increase estrogen levels in women approaching menopause.

During this time, the bones are at a high risk of getting osteoporosis, and some studies reveal that it slows down the effects of osteoarthritis. While preliminary studies seem promising, much research must be done to confirm the connection.

How to Eat Garlic?

Wrong Methods

·       Chew and swallow – this method has been recommended multiple times. If you ask me, this method is reserved for those with stainless steel mouths. Garlic is hot, and chewing it floods your mouth with sulfuric flames.

·       Swallow a whole clove – Although this method isn’t common, some people swallow an entire clove to evade the hotness. Unfortunately, this approach can end in a trip to the ER since a garlic clove is roughly the size of the esophagus’ circumference.

Best Way of Eating Garlic

Now that you know how not to eat garlic, here are better options.

·       Garlic pills – chop a garlic clove into small shapes and swallow the tiny pieces with a drink you prefer. You can do this for half a clove for every mouthful of drink. But since garlic can be tough on the stomach, I suggest swallowing a small amount and having more later if need be.

Note: I prefer a fatty drink as it’ll help blunt the flavor, and a thick milkshake or smoothie will do the trick.

·       Garlic crush – Well, this isn’t eating garlic per se, but it’s effective for ear, mouth, and throat infections. Simply put a whole clove between the back molars and press down on it gently enough to crack it slightly. In this method, you don’t have to chew the clove. The slight crush activates allicin production, a powerful antimicrobial ingredient. Yes, you’ll get some flavor, but it’s not as bad as chewing a garlic clove since the juices flow down the throat as you swallow and don’t coat your tongue. Leave the clove between the molars for a minute before spitting it out.

·       Fresh garlic toast – dice the garlic finely and add 2 teaspoons of melted or softened butter. Pour the garlic paste over toast like they do in Italian restaurants. The melted butter mellows the garlic taste, and it’s surprisingly tasty. This option is even great for kids who’d benefit from raw garlic.

Garlic Allergies

Although Garlic adds great flavor to foods and has some great health benefits, it can have some adverse effects on some people. Garlic allergies are rare, but if you are, you’ll be allergic to any form of garlic.

Garlic allergies result from the body’s immune system mistaking garlic for a harmful foreign body and producing antibodies to help fight it off. The reaction might happen on contact or a couple of hours after touching or ingesting garlic.

You might also react to ingesting without necessarily being allergic to garlic. This is called food intolerance and is far more common than garlic allergies. Food intolerance to any amount of garlic can result in heartburn and indigestion. Unlike allergies, food intolerance doesn’t result from the immune system’s reaction. As such, the symptoms are less serious. Likewise, anaphylaxis isn’t a complication resulting from food intolerance.

You should consult your doctor if you experience discomfort after handling or eating garlic. They might refer you to an allergy specialist who will diagnose the allergy through a blood or skin prick test.

If it’s determined you’re allergic to garlic, you should avoid it to prevent adverse reactions. However, if you are intolerant to it, you might have to stop eating garlic or take over-the-counter medication to ease symptoms.

Symptoms of Garlic Allergy

Garlic allergy symptoms range from serious to mild and include:

·       Hives

·       Skin inflammation

·       Nasal congestion or a runny nose

·       Sneezing

·       The tingling sensation of the tongue, mouth, and lips

·       Watery or itchy eyes

·       Wheezing or shortness of breath

·       Diarrhea

·       Stomach cramps

If you are allergic to garlic, symptoms can occur immediately or several hours after ingesting, touching, or inhaling garlic. But if you are intolerant, symptoms might appear a couple of hours after your meal.

Cross-reactive Foods

Garlic falls under the allium sativum family. Therefore, if you are intolerant to garlic or are allergic to it, you may also have allergic reactions to other foods in this category, including leeks, onions, shallots, and chives.

You’ll need to be cautious about the ingredients in foods you purchase and order. Garlic is often used in recipes for pre-packaged foods, including frozen entrees, boxed pasta and rice, canned soup, and salad dressing.


Now that you know why garlic burns, its benefits, and how to eat it to avoid burns, you are ready to leverage it for better health. If you are on medication, contact your doctor to determine how your garlic intake will react with the medication.


Can You Take Garlic With Blood Pressure Medication?

A large intake of garlic, whether through supplements, raw or cooked, can thin your blood and increase your risk of bleeding when it’s consumed along with anticoagulant medication. Therefore, if you are taking these medications, you should consult your doctor before increasing your intake of garlic.

Is It Safe to Eat Garlic Daily?

Raw garlic is rich in allicin, the ingredient responsible for its health benefits. For great results, you should eat one or cloves a day and reduce the intake if you develop side effects like acid reflux, increased bleeding, or acid reflux.

What Temperature Should Garlic Bread Be Cooked at?

Garlic bread should be baked at 175 degrees Celsius for 15 minutes until the butter melts, and the bread is warm.

What Neutralizes the Garlic Smell on Your Breath?

Drink lemon juice to get rid of garlic breath. Squeeze fresh lemon juice into a glass (about 1 tablespoon) and drink it after eating raw garlic.

Can Garlic Lower My Blood Pressure Immediately?

Although garlic helps reduce blood pressure, the effects are gradual. If you need to reduce blood pressure fast, call 9-1-1 immediately. There’s no safe method of treating high blood pressure at home. Your best bet is to calm down and lie flat while waiting for professional medical help to arrive.