Is Fermented Garlic Honey Good for Colds?

On their own, honey can help soothe a sore throat and garlic has immunity-boosting properties, but you don’t need to go the fermented route

Jar of honey and fresh garlic on cutting board

By now, we all know that TikTokkers love a so-called home remedy. One of the latest to go viral is fermented garlic honey, which proponents say can clear up a cold. But is it too good to be true? (Spoiler: As usual, the answer here is “yes.”)

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Registered dietitian Beth Czerwony, RD, LD, explains what fermented honey garlic is and what it can (and can’t) do for you.

What is fermented garlic honey?

Fermented garlic honey is a homemade concoction that combines two popular foods and allows them to ferment together for about a month. The results are two-fold: Cloves of fermented garlic that are sweet and potent, and fermented honey with a thin texture and a strong, garlicky taste.

But wait, what is fermentation, anyway?

“Fermentation is a natural process that causes the microorganisms in food to break down on a chemical level,” Czerwony explains. “You’re probably already familiar with other fermented foods like sauerkraut and kimchi, which have a different taste and texture than their original versions. They also have good bacteria that can benefit gut health.”

To make fermented garlic honey, you place raw cloves of garlic in a jar, cover them with honey and then leave the sealed jar in a cool space to ferment for at least a month (though you should turn the jar upside down every other day to ensure that all the garlic is covered). The fermentation process begins when the juice from the garlic mixes with the honey, breaking down both ingredients on a chemical level.

There’s not really anything harmful about fermented honey garlic (though there are a few risks that we’ll cover momentarily). But is it really as good for you as social media “wellness” influencers claim? Let’s explore.

Does fermented garlic honey work for colds?

Fans claim that fermented garlic honey can help boost your immune system and relieve symptoms of the common cold, but there are no scientific studies to confirm that this combo has any special power.

Both garlic and honey do have known health benefits of their own. They may help ease some of your symptoms or keep you more comfortable when you’re stuffy or have a sore throat.

“Eating cloves of garlic and consuming honey that has been fermenting with garlic can definitely help blow out your sinuses a bit,” Czerwony says, “and honey, in general, can help soothe a sore throat. On the whole, though, fermented garlic honey doesn’t have any magical curative or preventative properties.”

What are the benefits of garlic and honey?

All of the hype around fermented garlic honey isn’t all that surprising, when you consider the health benefits of garlic and honey individually.

Honey has been shown to help:

“When you have a sore throat, taking a teaspoon of honey in hot water or tea can coat the mucosa of the throat and provide you with some of those healing properties that are found within honey,” Czerwony says. “That’s a home remedy that’s been around a long time.”

Manuka honey, in particular, has more antibacterial properties than other popular types of honey. In fact, research shows that taking manuka honey may help decrease Streptococcus mutans, a type of bacteria that causes sore throats — but this doesn’t mean that it’s going to prevent you from ever getting sick.

And then there’s garlic. This pungent vegetable, which is part of the onion family, gets its strong smell from an organic compound called allicin. It’s behind many of garlic’s health benefits, like:

  • Immunity-boosting properties.
  • Anti-inflammation properties.
  • Heart health benefits, including helping to expand the blood vessels (which makes it easier to regulate blood pressure).

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But overall, fermented honey garlic is a bit like fire cider, another recently revitalized home remedy gaining popularity on TikTok: “It’s made with healthy ingredients, but that doesn’t mean they’re healthier when you put them all together,” Czerwony clarifies. “There are even some risks to keep in mind, too.”

Potential risks of garlic and honey

There are a few possible risks of consuming both garlic and honey, whether individually or together:

  • Can lead to botulism: Both raw honey and garlic carry the risk of botulism, a rare but serious illness that attacks your body’s nervous system.
  • Not safe for babies: Honey isn’t safe for children under the age of 1, who are at high risk of infant botulism.
  • High in sugar: Like any form of sugar, honey should be consumed in moderation. And though honey has a lower glycemic index than white sugar, it can still raise glucose levels in people with diabetes.
  • May contain contaminants: Though honey is generally considered safe, studies have found many forms of it to be contaminated with pesticides, heavy metals and bacteria.
  • Potential allergens: Of course, you’ll want to avoid fermented honey garlic if you’re allergic to either honey or garlic.

If you do make fermented honey garlic, it’s important to store it properly in an airtight container. If it smells rancid or looks strange, it’s best to toss it.

Should you try it?

Fermented garlic honey comes with few overall risks, and its ingredients have properties that may help relieve some of your cold symptoms, like a cough or a sore throat. But like other so-called home remedies, it isn’t going to suddenly steel your immune system, cure your cold or work any other type of magic.

There’s no cure for the common cold, but there are lots of things you can do to help manage your symptoms as it runs its course (including adding some regular honey to your hot tea, no fermentation necessary).

“When you have a cold or the flu, what’s most important is getting enough rest, staying hydrated, avoiding caffeine and alcohol — things like that,” Czerwony states. “Fermented garlic honey isn’t going to clear up your illness or keep you from getting sick in the first place.”

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