As much as we try to evade the insufferable sniffles, lingering cough, and down-for-the-count fever, the cold and flu season is inevitable. You likely have your go-to remedies that you swear by for comfort and relief (read: chicken soup), but there’s one age-old concoction you’d find in grandma’s recipe book that’s making a major comeback: honey garlic. Just ask the millions of people (120 million and counting, to be exact) who are flocking to TikTok’s #honeygarlic trend. While the DIY remedy is nothing new or out of the ordinary, the ingredients it calls for may lessen the severity and duration of the common cold and flu. Ahead, experts weigh in on the natural standby and whether it’s worth giving a shot.
What exactly is the honey garlic remedy?
“Honey garlic is fermenting honey and garlic cloves together in a jar and then leaving it at room temperature for around a month or so,” explained Allison Vincento, MS, RDN. “You eat a teaspoon of the honey garlic mixture or drizzle it on top of food or in warm drinks to act as a natural cold remedy.” Why ferment them? “During fermentation, natural microorganisms like bacteria and yeast break down the sugars in the mixture, creating a fermented product with potential health benefits,” explained Catherine Gervacio, a registered dietician. We’re talking health benefits like antioxidant, antimicrobial, anti-fungal, and anti-inflammatory activity. Translation: When you combine and ferment honey and garlic, immune-boosting magic happens.
What are the health benefits?
Before you dismiss the remedy as just another TikTok fad that’ll come and go, there’s no denying the two kitchen staples—honey and garlic—have individual health perks worth noting. Honey is not just a Queen Bey-approved healing superfood—the ancient Egyptians, Assyrians, Chinese, Greeks, and Romans used honey for medicinal purposes that date back as far as 8,000 years ago. With phytochemical, anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, and antioxidant properties, honey is a natural therapeutic agent that can boost immunity and soothe a sore throat and cough. What’s more, one study found that it decreased the frequency and severity of coughing and improved symptoms of upper respiratory tract infections.
Garlic also delivers more than just flavor. The plant was used by the Egyptians, Greeks, Romans, Chinese, and Indians to treat various medical conditions. Thanks to sulfur compounds found in garlic that enter your body from the digestive tract and release their antiviral, anti-inflammatory, and anti-fungal powers, garlic can do no wrong (except for garlic breath, of course). Garlic has been shown to have significant antiviral activity against pathogens that cause common illnesses like respiratory infections and some types of influenza. Some studies have proven that garlic can help prevent and lessen symptoms of viral infections, such as the common cold and flu.
While honey and garlic have bragging rights in their own right, together, they become a powerhouse and can have the potential to give your immune system some extra fighting power. “The mixture may have enhanced antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties compared to consuming honey and garlic separately,” Vincento affirmed.
Is it worth trying?
Referred to as a life-changer and “liquid gold,” TikTokers are praising the DIY brew as a cure-all. But is it just an old wives’ tale, or does it actually work? Based on our research, it seems like it could be a valid natural alternative to relieve cold and flu symptoms. But as with any wellness hack, there’s no one-size-fits-all formula. Gervacio cited that results may vary from one person to another, and there is not enough scientific data for why the fermented process makes the mixture any more beneficial than simply consuming garlic and honey together. “While fermentation can introduce probiotics and potentially enhance nutrient bioavailability, the specific health benefits of fermented honey and garlic may not be well-established through scientific research,” she stated.
Although a study has yet to be conducted to prove the effectiveness of fermented honey and garlic, the aforementioned scientific evidence supports the individual benefits of honey and garlic, and both are easily accessible and fairly inexpensive enough to give the elixir a go. “Barring any food allergies and pre-existing medical conditions such as diabetes, I don’t see a downside to trying it out after consulting your healthcare provider who knows your medical history,” Vincento conveyed. “You would need to enjoy the taste of this combination while keeping in mind the high sugar content.”
How to make it at home
To make your very own honey garlic remedy, all you need is some honey, garlic, a jar—and patience. However, not all honey is created equal. Opt for raw, unfiltered, or Manuka honey so you’re getting the real deal (AKA a product that retains the beneficial nutrients and antioxidants that honey naturally contains) rather than a processed version with added sugar. Whether you follow the recipe below à la @herbalishapothecary or take the Bon Appétit route, the gist is adding garlic cloves to a jar, covering them in honey until your jar is two-thirds full, and letting the tincture sit at room temperature for at least one to two weeks. Then, voilà! Eat it by the spoonful as is, add it to water or your favorite tea, or use it as a marinade for your proteins. Your tastebuds and immune system won’t be disappointed.