Claim: Viral TikTok post suggests that sticking garlic into the nose unclogs sinuses.
There is no scientific evidence that garlic can be used to unclog sinuses. Health experts say that sticking garlic cloves or anything up the nose blocks the mucus flow and causes irritations that may result in the buildup of mucus, which explains the outcomes seen in the video.
In the video, it is seen that in each nose, she inserts one clove of garlic. She then urged viewers to leave the garlic for 10-15 minutes in each nose. She later claimed that after removing the cloves from her nose what comes out after is a stream of mucus that shows that garlic presumably has unclogged her sinus.
The video has amassed over 4 million views, 5,000 likes, 8,680 comments with 47,000 shares across other social media platforms including YouTube.
Many TikTok users have jumped on the bandwagon, confirming that the health hack works.
What are sinuses?
Sinuses are air-filled chambers located in the bones of the face.
A non-profit multi-specialty academic medical centre that integrates clinical and hospital care with research and education, Cleveland Clinic describes it in detail.
It explains that sinuses are four paired chambers in the head. They are connected by narrow channels. The sinuses make thin mucus that drains out of the channels of the nose. This drainage helps keep the nose clean and free of bacteria.
The U.S. National Library of Medicine defines sinusitis as an inflammation of the tissue lining of one’s sinuses, and it is usually due to an infection or allergy. This swelling causes that unpleasant sensation of sinus pressure. And when your nose is swollen or stuffed up, it can block the sinuses from draining mucus properly, causing even more congestion and pain.
Normally filled with air, when your sinuses become sore, the mucus gets thick and sticky leading to your sinuses getting blocked and filled with fluid preventing it from flowing out of your nose through the tiny openings called Ostia.
But can your sinuses, blocked with sticky and thick mucus, be clogged with garlic?
What are experts saying about garlic use to unclog sinuses?
Dubawa spoke to Dr Kofi Agyeman, an Ear, Nose and Throat (ENT) specialist at the Jubail Specialist Center who clarified that blocked noses can be caused by different things, all requiring their own kind of treatment. Pertaining to the issue of sticking peeled garlic into the nostril, Dr Agyeman stated that:
“The runny nose people get from using garlic is likely from stimulation of the trigeminal nerve (same thing an onion does) and not from unblocking the sinus as they think.”
He added that people should be cautious as sticking garlic into their noses could be dangerous.
“I will discourage the practice because it assumes you can treat everything the same way (everyone’s blocked nose is not from the same cause). Also, it is dangerous because you can accidentally inhale the garlic, resulting in it getting into your lungs and windpipe,” Dr Agyeman said.
Dr Richard Wender, the Chairperson of Family Medicine and Community Health at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, said the claim is not scientifically proven.
“Shoving garlic cloves up your nose can actually have the reverse effect, it might irritate your nostrils and make them less effective,” he said.
He added that “the results may be due to the garlic generating excess mucus that wasn’t there before, as the nose produces mucus when it is irritated. And that sticking cloves up the nose blocks the mucus flow for a bit, which is why it all comes pouring out after.”
Similarly, a Medical Doctor and Assistant Professor of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery at the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine, Katie Phillips, is quoted to have debunked the claim, explaining that garlic itself will not help clear up your sinuses, but instead, it will obstruct them.
“People feel like they’re not getting enough air through their nose, or they’re having a lot of drips down the back of their throat or the front of their nose, and garlic itself is not going to exactly help with that nasal congestion. Instead of clearing your sinuses; you’re obstructing them,” Dr Phillips told Health.com.
Like Wender, she said the reason why mucus runs down your nose after blocking it with garlic or any object is that you produce excess mucus in your sinuses, so when it is blocked and removed after some time, it automatically comes out.
“If you’re blocking the ability of the sinuses to drain, you’re going to get a backup of mucus. Once the obstruction is removed and, in this instance, a pair of garlic cloves, automatically that “goo” is going to come out,” she added.
“I think, as usual, this is people taking some basic health information and going too far. Yes, it’s true that garlic has some antibacterial properties, which means it may be useful to treat a variety of common ailments. In one study, those who took garlic supplements for three months had fewer colds than those who did not. But this is not the same as actively treating a stuffy nose or blocked sinuses. Garlic is not a decongestant, and in fact, may just irritate the lining of the nose and airways and make symptoms worse.
“It’s never a good idea to stick objects up your nose. There is the potential for these to get lodged in the back of the throat, or even obstruct the windpipe, which could be very serious,” she said.
Medical Doctor Anthony Youn from America’s Holistic Plastic Surgeon in a reaction video on Tik Tok also debunked the claim. According to him, garlic cloves irritate your nasal lining, thus causing your nose to be runny, which is very dangerous. He advised against sticking anything, except the finger, in one’s nose.
Despite the numerous health benefits garlic possesses, it is not scientifically proven that it can clear up sinuses. Instead, sticking garlic cloves up the nose causes irritation which leads to the buildup and subsequent release of large quantities of mucus. Also, obstructing the nostril with anything can block the mucus flow, which is why it all comes pouring out after.
This report was produced under the Dubawa Student Fact-checking Project aimed at offering students in tertiary schools aspiring to take up roles in the profession the opportunity to acquire real-world experience through verification and fact-checking.