Using Garlic For UTIs: 10 Facts You Need to Know

Using herbs and spices to treat illnesses isn’t a new idea. Historically, herbs and spices have been used to relieve symptoms of lots of different illnesses, and while they haven’t always been successful, there are actually a lot of cases where herbs and spices work. 

Modern medicine has come a long way, but if you are still wary of the overuse of antibiotics, you might be searching for alternative ways to ease your discomfort and resolve your UTI. One alternative treatment that you may see suggested is garlic. 

Unlike some other alternative treatments for UTIs that have become popular in recent years, garlic actually works. Many people use it to alleviate the symptoms of their UTI because it is a tried and tested method with proven results. But before you attempt to use garlic to alleviate your UTI, there are some things that you should know. 

Keep on reading to find out more.

Table of Contents

1. Garlic Isn’t Just For Cooking

So, first things first, garlic isn’t just for cooking. There is no denying that garlic is an excellent herb and that it works incredibly well in a wide array of foods. While we now mainly use garlic for cooking and to flavor different dishes, historically garlic has been used for a wide variety of different things. 

While antibiotics are now widely available, there was a time when antibiotics didn’t exist. Back then, people died of infections a lot more frequently than they do now, and that is because treatment wasn’t readily available. Even minor infections were deadly, so people had to be creative with what they used to treat them. 

Garlic has been recorded as being used to treat illness as far back as the 14th century. A Welsh manuscript from the 14th century called the Meddygion Myddvai recommends garlic as a plant with outstanding antimicrobial properties. Then antibiotics were discovered and they became the main source of treatment for any infections that people may develop. 

But, the world is now in something known as the “post-antibiotic” era. Traditional antibiotics are starting to become ineffective due to overuse, as infections and bacterial strains have learned to adapt into superbugs. These superbugs are immune to traditional antibiotics, and they are a real threat if new antibiotics are not found. 

So, a lot of people are literally going back to their roots and using plants and herbs as medical treatments, and the same can be said for medical research. In recent years, plenty of research studies have been completed in labs focusing on garlic extract, and there is plenty of evidence that it works as a treatment for various bacteria. 

There is yet to be a study that specifically focuses on the use of garlic extract as a treatment for UTIs. There have been plenty which have connected garlic with having a positive effect on weight loss, cholesterol, and lots more. It has even been associated with a reduced risk of cancer. 

Until a study is done into the effectiveness of garlic extract for treating UTIs, it cannot be safely recommended to take garlic extract as a treatment for your UTI. However, it is clear that this plant has a good track record when it comes to body health. 

2. It Has Antibacterial Properties

A huge part of the reason why garlic extract is linked with health and well-being is because this plant has antibacterial properties. The antibacterial properties of garlic contribute to how healthy it is, and even though it is under-researched, it is clear that garlic has health benefits. 

When you consume garlic, either in the form of a juice or as a raw plant, the garlic will transform within your body. These transformations will lead to new compounds being formed, compounds that weren’t in your body previously, and that weren’t present in the original garlic that you consumed. 

This can be a little confusing to understand, but an excellent example is Allicin. Allicin is derived from garlic, but it isn’t found in garlic cloves when they are intact. Allicin is only released when the garlic cloves are crushed or altered because it requires cell disruption to be created. 

Once released, Allicin can be used as it is an antimicrobial substance. In lab studies, Allicin has been proven to disrupt the growth of a wide variety of microorganisms, and some studies have even tested its effectiveness against antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria. So using garlic extract as a treatment could be a real possibility in the future. 

3. It Can Affect Bacterial Biofilms

One of the most promising things about garlic extract when it comes to treating UTIs is the fact that it can affect bacterial biofilms. 

One of the most common causes of UTIs is E.coli bacteria. E.coli is a bacteria that is able to form biofilms, and this protects it against attack. So if your immune system tries to fight off the infection, then it is protected. This is why a lot of people end up having persistent UTIs as their body’s immune system cannot beat the bacterial infection. 

While garlic cannot entirely break down bacterial biofilms, it can disrupt the biofilm and disperse it. Damaging the biofilm will cause it to become weakened which will lead it to break down. This means that your body’s immune system will then be able to fight the infection in a way that it was previously unable to. So, the garlic doesn’t directly fight the infection, instead it essentially acts as a weapon to help your body fight it. 

However, it has also been suggested that garlic extract is able to decrease the adhesion ability of bacteria too, as well as the swimming motility too. These components are essential for the formation of biofilm. So the garlic will not only give your immune system the upper hand, but it will also help prevent biofilms from forming in the future. 

4. It Is Safe For Your Kidneys

Some alternative treatments for UTIs aren’t ideal because they are not safe for your kidneys. A lot of people do not consider the side effects of the alternative remedies they take, so while the medication could help their infection, it might damage their body in other ways. Specifically, a lot of people take medications that fight bad bacteria while also killing good bacteria, and this can be detrimental to your health. 

Thankfully, garlic isn’t one of these remedies. Garlic extract is perfectly safe for your kidneys and it is perfectly safe for the good bacteria in your body too. As you can see, garlic is able to improve your health because it helps your body fight infection, rather than fighting the bad bacteria itself, while also fighting the good bacteria. 

Specifically, it is the kidneys that tend to become damaged through the use of antibiotics and similar medication to treat infections. Thankfully, garlic will not damage your kidneys, so it is one of the safer alternative treatments.

5. How to Calculate How Much You Need?

It is clear that there are tons of benefits of garlic extract as a plant for medical treatment. While there are not many studies into the specific use of garlic extract for UTIs, there are plenty of studies into the antibacterial properties of garlic. This is why many people choose to take garlic extract for their UTIs. 

Calculating how much garlic that you need to take is incredibly important. But unfortunately, until there are studies completed on humans about the use of garlic as a treatment for UTIs, it will be impossible to calculate just how much you need for the job. 

Scientists that are working on studies in labs conduct them using Petrie dishes, and this allows them (through trial and error) to discover exactly how much of each “medicine” is needed to fight the bacteria. Without these studies, it is impossible to say how much garlic is enough to treat a UTI, and so there will always be a risk associated with using this as a UTI treatment. 

6. The Correct Dosage For UTIs

Due to the lack of human clinical studies into the use of garlic for UTIs, it is impossible to determine the perfect dose to treat your UTI. However, there are now a lot of people who use garlic to treat their UTIs, and so it is possible to get rough measurements based on the amount of garlic that others take. 

Until garlic has been clinically proven as a treatment for UTIs, it would never be recommended to use this as a sole method of treatment. However, many people choose to take garlic to supplement their antibiotics as they are probably already eating garlic as part of their diet. 

Generally, this is something that is perfectly okay to do, and something that will not disrupt the effectiveness of your antibiotics. However, it is always best to check with your doctor before you do this. Just in case anything should go wrong. 

7. Be Careful How Much You Consume

Garlic is something that is commonly used in cooking, so it is something that most people will consume regularly in their diet. It is used in tons of different foods, and it is something that many people eat every single day. So, it is generally okay to consume a fairly large amount of garlic. 

That being said, it is possible to consume too much garlic, and in incredibly large amounts, garlic extract can actually be toxic. So it is very critical to monitor your intake. A good benchmark to follow is that your supplementation should never go beyond 5% of your total diet. 

Generally, there is no need to worry about consuming garlic. The only time you really need to be concerned about consuming too much is if you are taking the supplements on an empty stomach in large amounts, as this will increase their toxicity. So to be on the safe side, consume your garlic supplements alongside your meal and never allow more than 5% of your daily intake to be garlic. 

8. And How You Consume It

The way that you consume the garlic is critical for the effectiveness of the anti-bacterial properties of the garlic. You have two options: garlic supplements or real garlic. 

Garlic supplements are easy to take because they are designed to be taken as supplements in the same way that vitamin-D supplements or cod liver oil supplements are designed to be taken. Each tablet will contain a set amount of garlic and you can simply take the supplement each day to give your body the nutrients of the garlic. 

In contrast, real garlic is just garlic in its natural form. If you don’t want to pay the money for supplements, as they are generally more expensive, then you may choose to purchase a bulb of garlic and consume that instead. Once you have bought your garlic cloves, you have two options: eat the garlic raw, or cook it. 

It doesn’t taste like the nicest thing in the world, but raw garlic is safe to eat. The flavor is incredibly strong, but the nutrients in raw garlic are very high, which is why a lot of people choose to consume garlic raw. 

The other option that you have is to consume your garlic cooked. Never microwave it as this will kill the antibacterial properties. However, grilling or roasting the garlic is perfectly safe, and it will allow you to get the nutrients from the garlic while also making it taste a little better than raw garlic. 

9. It Works Quickly

While there aren’t any studies specifically looking at the consumption of garlic in connection with UTIs, there have been studies that have looked at the consumption of garlic in general. 

One of these studies found that garlic extract reaches its maximum concentration in urine roughly one hour after it is consumed. So, it can be assumed that the same principle will apply when taking garlic to help with your UTI. 

10. Proceed With Caution

Finally, it is important to take caution when taking garlic extract. Even if you are only taking it to supplement your antibiotics and increase their effectiveness. 

You should always speak with your doctor before you take garlic supplements. Especially if you are somebody who is already on existing medication, as the garlic could interfere with your existing medication and cause unpleasant side effects. Likewise, if you have any strong allergies, you should be cautious. 

Specifically, you should take caution when using garlic supplements if you take warfarin or saquinavir, as studies have shown that garlic supplements interfere with these medications. 

How Can DrHouse Help You With Your UTI?

At DrHouse we offer a telehealth platform that allows you to connect with a board-certified online doctor who can diagnose and treat your UTI. You can start visits on-demand, whenever you need them, and see a clinician within minutes.

The clinicians at DrHouse can provide you with individualized treatment plans, prescribe medications, if necessary, and offer additional advice and tips on how to manage your UTI.

So if you’re experiencing painful or uncomfortable symptoms from a UTI, don’t hesitate to start a visit with us today.

Summary

While there haven’t been any clinical studies into the use of garlic to treat your UTI, it is clear that garlic extract supplements could help with your UTI. 

They should never be used instead of antibiotics from the doctor, but garlic supplements could be used to supplement your antibiotics, as long as your doctor agrees that this is okay. Likewise, you may be able to use garlic supplements as a way to help your body’s immune system fight the infection causing your UTI. 

Until clinical studies are done, it will be impossible to say for certain if garlic can be used to treat your UTI. However, it is clear to see that many people use this to help their body fight against UTIs, even if it is used in addition to antibiotics. 

FAQ

Is Garlic Good for UTIs?

Yes, garlic is thought to be a good way to supplement antibiotics and help with the treatment of UTIs.

Can Garlic Get Rid of a UTI?

No, garlic can not get rid of a UTI on its own. Garlic is thought to be an effective way to supplement existing antibiotics, however, in order to treat the infection.

How Much Garlic Should I Take for a UTI?

There isn’t really a set amount of garlic that you should take for a UTI. Generally, it is best to stick to the recommended dosage on the product label and not exceed more than 5% of your daily diet.

How Do You Use Garlic for a UTI?

Garlic can be consumed either in the form of supplements or real garlic. When taking it as a supplement, follow the recommended dosage on the product label and when using real garlic, you should either consume it raw or cook it up in a healthy way such as by grilling or roasting. Never microwave garlic as this will kill its antibacterial properties.

Can Garlic Worsen a UTI?

Garlic is generally safe to take, however, it can interact with certain medications, so always speak to your doctor before taking garlic supplements. Additionally, if you are allergic to garlic then you should avoid consuming it.

Sources:

  • Urinary Tract Infections. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Available from: https://www.cdc.gov/antibiotic-use/uti.html 
  • Garlic. National Center For Complementary and Integrative Health. Avaialble from: https://www.nccih.nih.gov/health/garlic 
  • Li G, Ma X, Deng L, Zhao X, Wei Y, Gao Z, Jia J, Xu J, Sun C. Fresh Garlic Extract Enhances the Antimicrobial Activities of Antibiotics on Resistant Strains in Vitro. Jundishapur J Microbiol. 2015 May 31;8(5):e14814. doi: 10.5812/jjm.14814. PMID: 26060559; PMCID: PMC4458355.
  • Bhatwalkar SB, Mondal R, Krishna SBN, Adam JK, Govender P, Anupam R. Antibacterial Properties of Organosulfur Compounds of Garlic (Allium sativum). Front Microbiol. 2021 Jul 27;12:613077. doi: 10.3389/fmicb.2021.613077. PMID: 34394014; PMCID: PMC8362743.
  • Ankri S, Mirelman D. Antimicrobial properties of allicin from garlic. Microbes Infect. 1999 Feb;1(2):125-9. doi:10.1016/s1286-4579(99)80003-3. PMID: 10594976.
  • Garlic. Drugs.com. Available from: https://www.drugs.com/npp/garlic.html 
  • 11 Proven Health Benefits of Garlic. Healthline. Available from: https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/11-proven-health-benefits-of-garlic 
  • Ansary J, Forbes-Hernández TY, Gil E, Cianciosi D, Zhang J, Elexpuru-Zabaleta M, Simal-Gandara J, Giampieri F, Battino M. Potential Health Benefit of Garlic Based on Human Intervention Studies: A Brief Overview. Antioxidants (Basel). 2020 Jul 15;9(7):619. doi: 10.3390/antiox9070619. PMID: 32679751; PMCID: PMC7402177. 
  • Tattelman E. Health effects of garlic. Am Fam Physician. 2005 Jul 1;72(1):103-6. PMID: 16035690.
  • Gupta, S. & Kapur, S. & Padmavathi, D.V. & Verma, Apoorva. (2015). Garlic: An effective functional food to combat the growing antimicrobial resistance. Pertanika Journal of Tropical Agricultural Science. 38. 271-278. 

DrHouse articles are written by MDs, NPs, nutritionists and other healthcare professionals. The contents of the DrHouse site are for informational purposes only and are not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you are experiencing high fever (>103F/39.4C), shortness of breath, difficulty breathing, chest pain, heart palpitations, abnormal bruising, abnormal bleeding, extreme fatigue, dizziness, new weakness or paralysis, difficulty with speech, confusion, extreme pain in any body part, or inability to remain hydrated or keep down fluids or feel you may have any other life-threatening condition, please go to the emergency department or call 911 immediately.

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