Garlic Breath

garlic bulbs

What causes garlic breath and how to get rid of garlic breath

Many chefs and health-conscious people around the world love garlic. It can add a unique flavor and aroma to any meal and it is also good for the heart and is loaded with anti-oxidants. Unfortunately, the sulphuric compounds that give garlic their health benefits and taste also give people an unpleasant odor which is known as 'garlic breath'. In this article, we will cover why garlic makes your breath smell and also how to get rid of garlic breath.

Why does garlic make your breath smell

Garlic and other members of the allium plant family (onions, shallots, leeks) produce cysteine sulfoxide and this gives them their distinct odor and taste. These sulfuric compounds are very similar to the compounds that are produced by the anaerobic bacteria that cause bad breath.

There are two ways that garlic makes breath smell bad. The first way is that when you eat garlic the sulfuric compounds get in your mouth and they will immediately give you garlic breath. These odorous compounds will remain in the mouth until they are brushed, flossed, scraped, or flushed out.

The second way garlic affects your breath is through your lungs. There was an interesting study (link to the study) done in 1936 where two doctors fed garlic soup to a patient who suffered from cancer of the esophagus. Due to the cancer, the patient was fed through a tube that entered the stomach through the abdominal wall, completely bypassing the mouth. They noticed that although garlic did not enter the patients mouth, they still detected garlic in his breath 3 hours later. This old study supports other studies that have been carried out recently.

The compound that causes the breath that comes from the lungs to smell like garlic is allyl methyl sulfide (AMS). AMS is a gas which is absorbed into the blood during the metabolism of garlic. From the blood it is transferred to the lungs where it is then exhaled. Some of this AMS is even excreted from the pores of the skin. This is why garlic breath is so hard to get rid of at times. No matter how much you clean and brush your mouth, the garlic odor will still be in the air you exhale because it comes from the lungs.

How to get rid of garlic breath

The best way to get rid of garlic breath is to stop eating it, this is the only way to completely eliminate garlic breath. Also it is difficult for you to know if you have garlic breath or how bad it really is. If removing garlic from your diet is not an option here are some remedies for garlic breath. Please note that although you may neutralize the garlic breath compounds in the mouth, the sulfuric compounds will still be exhaled from your lungs, still making your breath smell like garlic. The effectiveness of these remedies are therefore debatable, but at least these will lower the smell of garlic that comes from your mouth and lowering overall the smell of garlic on your breath.

Remedies for garlic breath

The single most effective way to get rid of garlic is breath is the mechanical removal of the garlic particles and volatile sulfur compounds in your mouth. This is carried out by brushing and flossing your teeth, using a tongue scraper, and swishing and gargling mouthwash. Using a tongue scraper is very important step in removing the sulfuric compounds from your tongue. The following list of remedies are additional things you can do before or after brushing, flossing, and scraping but should not replace the mechanical removal of the garlic particles. The following are only meant to cover up or neutralize the garlic compounds before or after you brush, floss, and scrape. If you only try these remedies without removing the garlic particles, you will do little to get rid of your garlic breath and it will return shortly.

  • WaterPik - Using a WaterPik is effective at removing the garlic compounds on and in between the teeth. You may also use the oral irrigator attachment to blow water in the back of your mouth to remove any particles that may be back there.

  • Parsley - A lot of the times recipes that use garlic also use parsley as well because parsley is effective in neutralizing the odors of garlic. Try chewing on parsley after eating garlic.

  • Cardamom, mint, fennel, cloves, anise seeds - these seeds and herbs are similar to parsley in the fact that they help neutralize or mask the garlic odor.

  • Lemon - Lemon is very effective in neutralizing the garlic odor and it is also has anti-bacterial properties that will kill bacteria. Try sucking on a lemon wedge after eating garlic. Also washing your hands with lemon juice helps to remove the odor from your hands.

  • Drink tea - Tea, especially green and peppermint, contain polyphenols that reduce the volatile sulfur compounds that the garlic produces. Drink tea while or after eating garlic.

  • Chew sugar-free gum - This will help to mask the odor of the garlic and will help dislodge garlic and food particles that might be stuck on or between your teeth.

  • Drink milk - In a study done in 2010 it was proved that drinking milk helped reduce the odor of garlic in one's breath. It is theorized that the fat content in milk helps neutralize the odors. Whole milk was more effective than skim milk and it is most effective when the garlic is mixed with the milk (gross!), instead of drinking it after.

  • Chew coffee beans - Various people have reported that chewing coffee beans or grounds for a bit and then spitting them out helps reduce garlic breath.

  • Switch to odorless garlic supplements - If you eat garlic because of its health benefits, consider switching to odorless garlic supplements.

Also do not neglect other necessary oral health care while trying to get rid of garlic breath. Read our article on How To Get Rid of Bad Breath for an overview of a basic oral care regimen that will help you have fresh breath.

Hopefully these will help you get rid of garlic breath or at least lower its effects. If you have any other tips please share them below. Thanks!

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Comments (6)
Pages | 1

bad breath

My boyfriend takes a blood pressure and cholesteral pill daily . It unfortunatley leaves a very strong smell of garlic on his breath. How can i fix it

by Jamea on Mar 7, 2015 | 8:18 AM


"the best way to get rid of garlic breath is to stop eating it" what brilliant scientist thought of that one? captain obvious no doubt!

by Ed on Feb 21, 2015 | 4:29 AM

My husband takes a b lood pressure and cholesteral pill each morning. It unfortunatley leaves a very strong smell of garlic on his breath. What to do?.

by mara on Jan 27, 2015 | 2:31 PM

My husband takes a lood pressure and cholesteral pill each morning. It unfortunatley leaves a very strong smell of garlic on his breath. What to do?.

by mara on Jan 27, 2015 | 2:30 PM


It is very good lesson

by kingsley on Jan 23, 2015 | 3:12 PM

garlic odourless supplement

I learnt garlic odourless capsules are not effective as raw garlic. I know the allicin content of it which makes the garlic more effective and beneficial. Becomes compromised

by mike on Oct 18, 2014 | 7:54 PM
Pages | 1
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