Is It Safe to Put Garlic In Your Nose?
Including why people are even asking that question in the first place.
TikTok is jam-packed with unusual health advice, including plenty that seems…questionable. Now, there's a new one to put on your radar: People are putting garlic up their nose.
Several people have gone viral on TikTok after literally shoving garlic up their nose to try to relieve stuffiness. One is TikTokker @rozalinekatherine, who has amassed 127,000 likes on a video walking people through her experience. "Saw on TikTok if you put garlic in your nose it unclogs your sinuses," she wrote in her video. Cue Rozaline putting a clove of garlic in each nostril.
Rozaline said she waited 10 to 15 minutes, before pulling out the cloves. She leaned forward in the video, and mucus poured out of her nose. "It workssss!!!" she wrote.
People were definitely interested in the comments. "YESSS thank you I'm so doing this," one wrote. But some were doubtful. "I feel like this happens to anyone who has a runny nose and blocks it from coming out for a little," another said.
Hannah Milligan also tried the hack on TikTok, sharing video of herself pouring glass of wine while having garlic shoved up her nose. And, according to Milligan…nothing happened after 20 minutes. "Ready for sinuses to pour but not crap," she wrote. (Related: Liquid Chlorophyll Is Trending On TikTok - Is It Worth Trying?)
But whether it works or not, is putting garlic up your nose even safe? Here's what doctors think about the latest TikTok trend.
Wait - why are people putting garlic up their noses?
It seems to be an attempt to unclog stuffy sinuses. No one has explicitly explained this in the TikToks, but there are reports floating around online of people doing this because garlic has natural anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory properties. Some people - including actress Busy Philipps - have used a DIY garlic nasal rinse to try to clear out their sinuses.
Is it safe to put garlic up your nose?
That's a hard "no" from doctors. A big potential issue is irritation, says Neil Bhattacharyya, M.D., an otolaryngologist (ear, nose, and throat doctor) and surgeon at Mass Eye and Ear.
"If you do this enough, the body will start to react to the oils and chemicals in the garlic and cause contact dermatitis in the nose," he says. Contact dermatitis, in case you're not familiar, is a skin condition that can presents as itchy skin, a rash, and even blisters, per the American Academy of Dermatology. Basically, it's not something that you want in your nose.
You can even get irritation after just one use, says Dr. Bhattacharyya. "Some garlic cloves are really strong, and if you get enough leaching of the chemicals and oils into your nose, it will definitely irritate it," he says.
There's also this to consider: You might not be able to get the garlic back out. "I would not put full garlic cloves or pieces in your nose, as it can get stuck and exacerbate blockage and congestion," says Purvi Parikh, M.D., an allergist and immunologist with Allergy & Asthma Network.
Putting garlic up there can even spark inflammation in your nose that may lead to more issues, says Omid Mehdizadeh, M.D., an otolaryngologist and laryngologist at Providence Saint John's Health Center in Santa Monica, Calif. "Not only does it have the potential to rot or cause a nasal obstruction, it can induce an episode of sinusitis [aka a sinus infection]," he says.
FYI: You may get some kind of seemingly satisfying mucus-draining reaction if you shove garlic up your nose, but Dr. Bhattacharyya says it's not what you think. "Garlic has a strong smell and, when it starts to irritate the nose, you'll definitely have some mucus drainage," he says. "You may feel like, 'Wow, something is mobilizing' but in reality, you're just reacting to the compound." Dr. Bhattacharyya says that gives off a "false sense" that you're getting relief.
As for those claims that this can help tamp down on inflammation in your nose, Dr. Parikh says the verdict is still out. While crushed garlic can release a compound called allicin that can act as an antimicrobial and may be anti-inflammatory, "strong evidence is lacking," for actually placing the stuff in your nose, she says. Dr. Mehdizadeh agrees. "There's not enough evidence," he says. (Related: The Surprising Health Benefits of Garlic)
FWIW, Dr. Bhattacharyya isn't shocked that people are doing this. "I've been practicing for 23 years, and people come in all the time with odd things they've up their nose," he says.
What else can you do to fight nasal congestion?
Luckily, you don't need to choose between shoving garlic up your nose and doing nothing - there are other options. If you're struggling with stuffiness, Dr. Bhattacharyya recommends trying an over-the-counter nasal steroid spray like Flonase or Nasacort and oral antihistamine like Zyrtec or Claritin. Unlike garlic cloves in the nose, "these are studied, approved, and safe," he says. (Related: Is It a Cold or Allergies?)
If you really, really want to give garlic a go for nasal congestion, Dr. Parikh says you can crush it, put it in boiling water, and inhale the steam from a safe distance. (Steam in itself can be helpful for sinus infections and congestion.) But, again, she points out, this tactic isn't backed by strong studies.
If you've tried OTC medications and you're still not getting relief, it's time to see an ear, nose, and throat specialist or allergist. They can help figure out what's behind your stuffiness and recommend a personalized plan to help you get relief - sans garlic.