TikTokers Put Raw Garlic Up Their Noses to 'Unclog Sinuses' in Potentially Dangerous Trend

A strange and stinky "hack" is popping up on social media, all thanks to claims that putting cloves of raw garlic up one's nose can help with congestion and other sinus-related issues. Medical experts, however, appear to caution against the burgeoning trend, warning that it could be more dangerous than it appears.

While the practice of using garlic as a decongestant has roots going back years, it has received newfound media attention over the past week, likely due to one viral TikTok post in particular. Rozaline Katherine posted her attempt at the garlic trick earlier this week, and in just four days, the clip has been viewed 4.3 million times and counting.

"Saw on TikTok if you put garlic in your nose it unclogs your sinuses," she writes in the video's onscreen text. Meanwhile, she sticks a clove of peeled, raw garlic in each nostril. "Lets [sic] give this a try," she adds.

About ten to fifteen minutes later, the "moment of truth" has arrived: after pulling out the cloves, she shows an impressive quantity of mucus dripping out of her nose. "IT WORKSSSS!!!" she writes. "LIKE REALLY WORKS!"

While Katherine's video might be the most popular to feature this trend, she's far from the only TikToker who's tried it—and it appears the outcomes have been varied. User @daniaudas, for example, explained that she "[couldn't] breathe" through her nose, so she wanted to give it a shot. However, at the end of the experiment—which she noted caused an uncomfortable burning sensation—she said it did "literally nothing" and called it a "fail." She joked: "Put me in a stew, I guess."

TikToker @kindminds_smarthearts had similar results. "My best friend made me put garlic in my nose because I told her I was sick," she explains in her video. While she notes that the garlic made "water" come out of her nose, she ultimately concludes: "Not worth it, guys. Still can't breathe. Now it smells like garlic."

The concept of using garlic as a decongestant is not a new one: in 2018, for example, actor Busy Phillips received attention for shooting a syringe of "distilled garlic water" up her nose, says Health. For her, the experience also appeared to be an unpleasant one. She reportedly said, in an Instagram Live that documented the attempt, "Oh, that's terrible...oh no...oh my god it really burns...my eyes are immediately watering."

Meanwhile, all over the internet, various lifestyle and wellness sites praise the health benefits of garlic, especially with respect to sinus and nasal problems. Some sites, for example, advise stuffy-nosed individuals to steep garlic in boiling water and then inhale the steam, while others suggest eating a raw clove as a flu and cold remedy.

According to Shape, however, medical professionals strongly advise against the use of garlic as a decongestant, at least in the trend's current iteration, which has people putting whole cloves in their nostrils.

"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," said Neil Bhattacharyya, M.D., an ear, nose, and throat doctor who spoke with Shape on the matter. It's this type of contact dermatitis, or irritation of the skin, that would explain the burning sensation that many of the TikTokers experienced in their videos. Another scary possibility is that the garlic clove might become lodged inside the nostril, making the issue far more serious than it was to begin with.

And while some TikTokers—like Katherine—did experience nasal drainage, Bhattacharyya called it a "false effect" caused by irritation. "You may feel like, 'Wow, something is mobilizing' but in reality, you're just reacting to the compound," he explained.

Instead, Bhattacharyya recommends using an "over-the-counter nasal steroid spray," an option that is "studied, approved and safe." The garlic, meanwhile, is likely better off saved for cooking.

Garlic Bulbs
Freshly-picked heads of garlic in Gilroy, California, 2019. Justin Sullivan/Getty Images