COPDGarlicLiver Disease

Growing evidence supports garlic to treat hepatopulmonary syndrome

It occurs in up to 20% of patients with cirrhosis of the liver and should be considered in anyone who develops difficulty breathing or shortness of breath.

In 1992, researchers from the University of Florida published a report of a patient with hepatopulmonary syndrome who failed drug therapy, refused surgery, but improved while taking garlic supplements.

Here’s the latest study from the Medical College Calcutta, in India.

First, the details.

  • 41 patients with hepatopulmonary syndrome were randomly assigned to a treatment group and evaluated monthly for 9 to 18 months.
    • Oral garlic supplementation
    • Placebo
  • The objective was to evaluate the effects of garlic on arterial blood gas parameters (lung function), and overall morbidity and mortality.

And, the results.

  • Lung function significantly improved during garlic therapy compared to placebo.
  • After 9 months, garlic was associated with a 25% increase in baseline arterial oxygen levels (83 vs 67 mmHg) vs 7% increase (69 vs 64 mmHg) with placebo.
    • Arterial oxygen is a measure of the ability to oxygenate blood — 80 to 100 mmHg is normal.
  • A 28% decrease in alveolar-arterial oxygen gradient (A-a gradient; 21 vs 30 mmHg) with garlic vs 11% decrease (29 vs 33 mmHg) with placebo.
    • A-a gradient measures the ability to transfer oxygen from the lung alveoli to arterial blood — a lower number is better.
  • Reversal of hepatopulmonary syndrome was observed in 14 of 21 patients (66%) on garlic supplementation vs 1 of 20 patients (5%) on placebo.
  • 2 of 21 patients undergoing garlic supplementation died during follow-up vs 7 of 20 patients taking placebo.

The bottom line?

The authors concluded, “Garlic supplementation may be beneficial in patients with hepatopulmonary syndrome for the reversal of intrapulmonary shunts as well as reducing hypoxemia and mortality.”

A 2009 review of the published research and case reports by researchers at the Hopital Universitaire Jean-Minjoz, in Besancon, France concluded, “There are currently no effective medical therapies for hepatopulmonary syndrome, but garlic powder and iloprost [Ventavis] inhalation demonstrate clinical improvements in the pre- and in the post-transplant period.”

5/5/10 11:44 JR

Hi, I’m JR

John Russo, Jr., PharmD, is president of The MedCom Resource, Inc. Previously, he was senior vice president of medical communications at, a complementary and alternative medicine website.