Garlic Scent Moves from the Feet to Breath

garlic test

soles of feet

Many years ago, when I first began exploring Aromatherapy, I heard that if you rub garlic on your feet then you will taste it in your mouth soon after. It sounded kinda crazy, and also somewhat disconnected to my essential oil studies. I wasn’t sure why garlic breath was important to my education. But that test is now explained by Robert Tisserand Essential Ol Training in the Facebook post entitled How is the ‘taste garlic with your feet’ experiment relevant to aromatherapy?

“Did you know you can taste garlic through your feet? Try it. Just rub some fresh garlic on the soles of your feet and wait a while. You should be able to taste it in your mouth and smell it in your breath in 15 minutes or less. …

Let’s look at the science behind garlic “feet tasting”. When you cut or crush garlic, the mechanical action acts as a catalyst, bringing aliin into contact with an enzyme, aliinase, which reacts with it, forming a new compound, allicin. Allicin, together with some other compounds, then penetrates through the skin and gets into the bloodstream. Just like any other chemical that enters our body, it is then metabolized, mainly into methyl allyl sulfide, diallyl sulfide and diallyl disulfide, three of the compounds responsible for the pungency of garlic and onions. These are then partially excreted through our lungs, and pulmonary excretion of sulfur compounds is the reason for “garlic breath”. …

Garlic is perfect for this experiment – we smell it on the breath so readily because sulfur compounds can be detected at lower concentrations than almost any other volatile compound – in low parts per billion in the air.

The foot and garlic experiment shows us that garlic compounds can be absorbed through the skin of your feet, and creates a hypothesis that other molecules can also enter the body in the same way – through the skin. This doesn’t tell us that all volatile molecules will be absorbed equally – that’s quite another story. So what we are NOT seeing is evidence that significant amounts of any volatile compound are in the bloodstream, and we know that transdermal absorption does not achieve this (from tests that involved blood analysis).

Now, does this prove that the feet are the best place to apply essential oils? The simple answer is no. You would get the same effect if you rubbed garlic anywhere else on your body. If you choose a particularly thin-skinned area, such as your abdomen, you might get a higher level of absorption. The reason being that parts of our feet have the thickest layer of corneocytes – the outer layer of dried and flattened skin cells, and these present more of a barrier. …

If you want to taste garlic, eating it is clearly the simplest route. In the same way, if you want to enjoy the benefits of essential oils, putting them on your feet may not be the most efficient thing to do – unless you’re treating a foot problem.”