garlic: the big stretch between in vitro & actual RCTs

garlic: the big stretch between in vitro & actual RCTs

Image from Pixabay, via 

A couple of days ago TVNZ rather credulously carried a story under the headline that “garlic can help” cure flu or covid-19, seemingly based on this article in the  Financial Review. Presumably with the added benefit of keeping vampires away.

However… from the Financial Review piece

That is, the TVNZ headline is not supported by the actual research methods. Lots of things kill pathogens in vitro (in test-tubes or petri dishes, for example); that doesn’t mean they do the same thing in people. In the apparent absence of any form of clinical trials¹, promoting a garlic supplement seems a little premature.

What’s more, the Doherty Institute (which carried out the research) definitely doesn’t share their enthusiasm regarding garlic as a potential curative agent.


There’s also an appeal to antiquity (a logical fallacy):

Regardless of what people have done “since the days of the pyramids”, it doesn’t mean that this research will translate to actual health benefits – specifically, killing viruses – for those ingesting it. As the Doherty Institute said, we won’t know that until the actual RCTs have been done. And as the author of this site points out, the research finding does not apply to all garlic, only to one particular variant.

Science by press release always requires careful reading.



¹ The Australian Garlic Producers spokesman commented that garlic needs to be ingested raw in order to have any benefits. That could present some issues for for “blinding” in a clinical trial…


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