Folio News Story
March 2, 2007

Effect of garlic on kids needs further research: study

Dosage, benefits unclear

by Bev Betkowski
Dr. Sunita Vohra says research on garlic's effects on kids is insufficient.
Dr. Sunita Vohra says research on garlic's effects
on kids is insufficient.

Parents and practitioners should know more about garlic before using it to treat children, according to a review of data conducted in part by a pediatrics professor.

After reviewing several studies on the use of garlic for childhood ailments, researchers found using garlic to treat children appears to be generally safe, but more research needs to be done on its specific effects. They also found that garlic is not recommended in at least one treatment.

"Data are insufficient to recommend precise dosages when treating children," said Dr. Sunita Vohra, a U of A pediatrics professor. While garlic has been used in many cultures for its purported pharmacologic benefits, further research will help answer questions surrounding its effects on children, she added.

The data review revealed that garlic tablets did appear to aid upper respiratory tract infections, resulting in a 1.7-fold reduction in morbidity compared with a placebo, and a 2.4-fold reduction compared with dibazole, a commercial parasiticide containing medication. Garlic applied briefly to warts also proved effective, with resolution reported in all children after three to nine weeks of treatment.

A naturopathic eardrop preparation of garlic and three other herbs was as effective as a conventional eardrop when used to treat pain associated with ear infections in children. However, it was unknown how much the garlic itself contributed to the pain relief.

There were no significant improvements when using garlic to treat cardiovascular disease in youngsters, and more research is needed to explore its effects on blood pressure and lipid concentrations in children at cardiovascular risk.

As with conventional medical treatments, there is potential for adverse effects with garlic use, Vohra said. Unfavorable effects of garlic described in adult and pediatric studies were generally minor, with garlic's pungent smell on both the breath and body being the most commonly reported. The most serious adverse effect was associated with topical use. Three pediatric studies reported second-degree burns when raw, crushed garlic was directly applied to children's skin as an antipyretic or antiviral treatment. Vohra cautions parents against applying garlic directly to the skin as a topical medication.