Garlic is a popular ingredient used in many savory dishes around the world. However, some people experience a burning sensation in their mouth after eating garlic. So what causes this reaction and is it dangerous?
What Causes Garlic Burn?
The burning sensation caused by garlic is primarily due to a chemical compound it contains called allicin. Allicin is formed when garlic cloves are chopped or crushed, causing an enzyme called alliinase to react with a sulfur compound called alliin.
Specifically, when a garlic clove is damaged, the enzyme and sulfur compound mix and rapidly produce allicin. The allicin generated is what gives garlic its famously pungent smell and flavor.
Allicin is an irritant and can cause a burning feeling in the mouth, throat, and even stomach in some people. The irritation is temporary and typically subsides within a few minutes to hours depending on the individual.
Who Experiences Garlic Burn?
Some people are much more sensitive to the effects of allicin and other compounds found in garlic.
Those who may be more prone to experiencing discomfort after eating garlic include:
- People with digestive issues like GERD or ulcers
- Those who consume raw garlic – cooking garlic reduces its allicin content
- Individuals with garlic allergies
- People who ingest garlic supplements rather than eating fresh cloves
In most cases, the burning sensation is temporary and subsides quickly. But for those with chronic digestive issues or known garlic sensitivities, the reactions could potentially be more severe.
Can Garlic Damage Oral Tissue?
In general, garlic is not considered harmful to oral tissues despite causing temporary irritation in some individuals.
There are a few factors that influence garlic’s potential effects on the mouth:
- Amount consumed – larger quantities are more likely to cause irritation
- Raw vs cooked – raw garlic contains more allicin
- Existing oral conditions – people with gum disease or sores may experience more discomfort
Additionally, improper brushing right after eating garlic could potentially exacerbate oral tissue irritation. However, there is no evidence that garlic exposure directly damages or burns oral tissue under normal conditions.
Ways to Prevent Garlic Burn
Here are some tips that can help prevent or minimize garlic burn:
- Avoid eating large amounts of raw garlic
- Cook garlic before eating to reduce allicin levels
- Combine garlic with other ingredients like oil or yogurt
- Consume garlic with other foods rather than eating cloves solo
- Drink milk or eat yogurt alongside garlic dishes
- Brush teeth gently after eating garlic
- Talk to your doctor if you have chronic garlic sensitivity
Implementing one or more of these strategies can help those sensitive to garlic enjoy it without as much oral discomfort.
When to See a Doctor
In nearly all cases, garlic burn is not a serious medical concern. The discomfort is temporary and does not reflect tissue damage or any dangerous underlying conditions.
However, it’s recommended to consult a doctor if you experience:
- Prolonged burning or pain lasting more than 24 hours after garlic exposure
- Visible damage to oral tissues
- Difficulty swallowing for an extended period
- A spreading rash or other potential signs of an allergic reaction
Severe reactions to garlic are rare but could potentially indicate a more serious sensitivity or allergy.
The Bottom Line
To summarize, here are the key points on garlic burn:
- A chemical called allicin causes temporary mouth irritation in some people
- Cooking garlic reduces its allicin content
- Discomfort is usually mild and subsides within hours
- Garlic is not considered harmful to oral tissue under normal conditions
- Those with chronic digestive issues are more prone to irritation
- Adjusting how garlic is consumed can help prevent burn
- Severe reactions may require evaluation by a doctor
So while garlic can temporarily cause an unpleasant burning feeling, it’s unlikely to cause lasting damage. Paying attention to how garlic is prepared and consumed can go a long way towards avoiding this effect.
|Raw Allicin Content
|Cooked Allicin Content
|1 Garlic Clove
|5,000 – 18,000 mcg
|2,000 – 7,000 mcg
|1 tsp Minced Garlic
|1 Garlic Supplement Capsule
This table compares the allicin content in raw vs cooked garlic, measured in micrograms (mcg). As shown, cooking significantly reduces the amount of burn-inducing allicin garlic contains.
Frequently Asked Questions
Why does garlic make my mouth burn?
Garlic contains a compound called allicin, which causes a temporary burning sensation in the mouth for some people. Allicin is created when raw garlic is chopped or crushed.
Is it bad to swallow garlic without chewing?
Swallowing whole garlic cloves is unlikely to cause any harm, but you miss out on the flavor and nutritional benefits. The allicin is not formed until the garlic is physically damaged, so whole cloves may not cause burn.
Does garlic kill good oral bacteria?
There is no evidence showing garlic kills beneficial oral bacteria. In fact, some studies suggest raw garlic has antibacterial effects selectively against certain harmful bacteria while leaving commensal bacteria intact.
What helps with garlic burn?
Consuming dairy products like milk or yogurt can help soothe garlic burn. Brushing teeth gently, rinsing with warm water, or chewing fennel seeds may also provide relief. Avoiding raw garlic can prevent burn.
Is garlic mouth burn a sign of allergy?
In most cases, no. Simple irritation from allicin is more common. Signs of a true garlic allergy can include symptoms like rash, swelling, or anaphylaxis. See a doctor if reaction seems severe.
Garlic adds wonderful flavor to many dishes, but can cause a temporary burning feeling in the mouth for some people. This irritation is mostly due to allicin, a compound formed when raw garlic is chopped or crushed. While uncomfortable, garlic burn is transient and harmless for otherwise healthy individuals. Strategies like cooking garlic, combining it with dairy and practicing oral hygiene can help prevent this effect. Most cases of garlic burn are not serious, but see a doctor if discomfort persists or any signs of an allergic reaction develop.