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Does Garlic Help or Hurt Psoriasis?

Medically reviewed by Lisa Booth, RDN
Written by Sarah Winfrey
Posted on March 18, 2024

If you live with psoriasis, you’ve probably heard that finding your triggers and avoiding them can help improve your skin symptoms. A lot of things can trigger psoriasis, including the weather, stress, and even some types of food. On the other hand, you may also find that eating certain foods helps you to feel better because they help lower your levels of inflammation.

One food that some people ask about when it comes to psoriasis is garlic. If you’ve wondered whether garlic might help you feel better with psoriasis, here’s what you should know.

What Is Garlic?

Garlic is a plant that comes in bulb form, like a tulip or a daffodil. However, instead of growing garlic for its blossoms, people all over the world use it as a seasoning and consume it for functional purposes. Many of garlic’s health properties are attributed to a compound called allicin, though it also has high levels of the minerals potassium, sulfur, phosphorus, and zinc, along with other health-enhancing ingredients.

Most of the time, people consume garlic by adding it to meat or vegetables while they are cooking. It has an aroma and a flavor that many enjoy. A few consume it raw, though that is much less common as it has a strong flavor.

Some people prefer to consume black garlic, both for its taste and health benefits. This garlic has been fermented and aged, then goes through a chemical reaction where it turns black and develops a different taste.

Garlic as a Topical or Supplement

Sometimes, people use garlic extract as a topical ointment or a supplement instead of the plant itself. This concentrated form of garlic may deliver more of the plant’s health benefits, but this depends on the processing and quality of the product. Some researchers have also studied the effects of aged garlic extract, which is similar except that it’s stored for some time before it’s used. If you’re considering trying a garlic supplement or topical ointment, check with your physician first.

Does Garlic Have Health Benefits?

There are several known health benefits of consuming garlic or applying it topically. It’s most frequently promoted to help cardiovascular conditions, like high blood pressure or high cholesterol.

Garlic also has some antibiotic properties, and some people use it to help kill bacteria, such as the type that can cause acne. Importantly, garlic may cause some burning sensations, and it’s important to check with your dermatologist before trying it.

Garlic may also help boost immunity — that is, the functioning of your immune system. However, more research is needed to determine when and how this happens. Garlic also seems to have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties — as well as antifungal properties, which means it may help fight some fungal infections.

Note that most of the research on the health benefits of garlic is focused on its potential cardiovascular benefits. Although some studies suggest it can help in other ways, more research is generally needed to determine how it can help and the best way to use it to reap those benefits.

Can Garlic Help Psoriasis?

Garlic may be able to help psoriasis symptoms in a couple of different ways. However, it depends on the way it’s prepared and your personal condition and health status.

Anti-Inflammatory Properties

Garlic may have anti-inflammatory properties. Since psoriasis is an inflammatory skin condition, this benefit may be useful for your psoriasis.

One study showed that using a topical ointment that contained garlic extract helped decrease inflammation in skin ulcers, though these were unrelated to psoriasis.

Several studies have found that consuming aged garlic extract helped with inflammation and immune response. However, there are also a few studies that have found no anti-inflammatory effects from consuming garlic. This may sound confusing, but the truth is that this is an area that needs more research before we can conclusively talk about the anti-inflammatory benefits of garlic. However, if you are interested in trying it for psoriasis, talk to your dermatology provider.

Immune System Inhibition

Garlic may also have some benefits specific to people with psoriasis. The presence of one substance in the body, called kappa-B, has been associated with psoriasis. Garlic contains chemicals that can interrupt the functioning of this substance and thus may be useful for people with psoriasis. Garlic can also modulate (change) how the immune system works in ways that might be helpful to people with psoriasis.

Note that this research was done on the topical application of garlic. It’s unknown if consuming more garlic as part of your diet would have any effect on psoriasis symptoms.

Can Garlic Hurt Psoriasis?

In some situations, garlic may also make your psoriasis worse, so it’s important to assess how you respond to it while working with your medical care team.

Psoriasis Flare-Ups

Sometimes, psoriasis flares up when you come into contact with certain triggers — which can include certain foods. If you can find your triggers and stay away from them, you may experience fewer symptoms and flares.

While garlic is not a common trigger food for people with psoriasis, it could be one for you. You’ll need to test it carefully to make sure it doesn’t make your symptoms worse. If it does, you should avoid it, as some people on MyPsoriasisTeam have done. One member said, “Because of an expanded food list, I know my triggers and stay away from them.”

Another added, “I’ve had nutritional testing done to determine my triggers.” This may be a good option if you are struggling to identify triggers.

Once you know your triggers, you can plan meals and snacks that help you avoid them.

Allergic Reactions

People with a garlic allergy may find that they experience skin-related symptoms, like contact dermatitis, whenever they come into contact with it. While this is not directly related to psoriasis, it could be confused with psoriasis in some cases. Additionally, this allergic reaction puts the body under stress, which can be another trigger for psoriasis flare-ups. Garlic allergies are rare and usually come with other symptoms, like swelling in your mouth, vomiting, and trouble breathing. If you suspect a garlic allergy, avoid it and talk to your doctor.

Burning Sensations

Garlic contains chemicals that can be irritating to the skin and cause a burning sensation when applied topically — especially if you rub raw garlic directly onto your skin. This may not trigger your psoriasis, but it won’t make your skin feel any better. If you experience burning after applying any form of topical garlic, talk to your doctor before using it again.

Talk to Your Doctor About Garlic and Other Dietary Changes

Anytime you consider trying a new treatment option or changing your diet for your psoriasis, talk to your doctor first. They can help you decide if the new treatment or change is right for you and help guide the process if you decide it is. A health care provider can also help you monitor any change that occurs and identify any potential pitfalls, like a garlic allergy or skin sensitivity.

If you want to use topical products that contain garlic, talk to your doctor to find out what they recommend. While you can get garlic extract over the counter, it’s not regulated, so it can be hard to know if you are getting a quality product and how concentrated it is. There are no common over-the-counter brands that include garlic, but your doctor may know of some that they can prescribe or have a brand of garlic extract that they recommend.

Talk With Others Who Understand

MyPsoriasisTeam is the social network for people with psoriasis, psoriatic arthritis, and their loved ones. On MyPsoriasisTeam, more than 126,000 members come together to ask questions, give advice, and share their stories with others who understand life with psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis.

Are you considering trying garlic to help your psoriasis? Have you found it triggers your psoriasis? Share your experience in the comments below, or start a conversation by posting on your Activities page.

Posted on March 18, 2024
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Lisa Booth, RDN studied foods and nutrition at San Diego State University, in California and obtained a registered dietitian nutritionist license in 2008. Learn more about her here.
Sarah Winfrey is a writer at MyHealthTeam. Learn more about her here.

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