Bear's garlic (Allium ursinum)
Natural Standard Bottom Line Monograph, Copyright © 2013 (www.naturalstandard.com). Commercial distribution prohibited. This monograph is intended for informational purposes only, and should not be interpreted as specific medical advice. You should consult with a qualified healthcare provider before making decisions about therapies and/or health conditions.
While some complementary and alternative techniques have been studied scientifically, high-quality data regarding safety, effectiveness, and mechanism of action are limited or controversial for most therapies. Whenever possible, it is recommended that practitioners be licensed by a recognized professional organization that adheres to clearly published standards. In addition, before starting a new technique or engaging a practitioner, it is recommended that patients speak with their primary healthcare provider(s). Potential benefits, risks (including financial costs), and alternatives should be carefully considered. The below monograph is designed to provide historical background and an overview of clinically-oriented research, and neither advocates for or against the use of a particular therapy.
Ajoenes, Alliaceae (family) Allium ursinum, buckrams, flavonoid glycosides, lectins, ramsons, thiosulfinates, wild garlic, wood garlic.
Bear's garlic, so named because brown bears in Europe tend to feast upon it, is a wild relative of the chive that is popularly used as a flavoring or dietary vegetable in Central European cuisine. It grows in swampy fields and wooded areas in slightly acidic soil and is often picked as a vegetable for salads or steamed dishes by people who live in indigenous areas.
Bear's garlic has been confused with lily of the valley and autumn crocus, especially in the spring before flowering. Several cases of colchicine poisoning due to consumption of autumn crocus mistaken for bear's garlic have been reported in recent years. Colchine is a highly poisonous alkaloid that can lead to gastroenterocolitis, followed by multiple organ failure, and sometimes death.
Although there is a lack of human evidence describing the use of bear's garlic for any indication, bear's garlic may have inhibitory effects on human platelet aggregation. Bear's garlic is not listed on the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS) list.
These uses have been tested in humans or animals. Safety and effectiveness have not always been proven. Some of these conditions are potentially serious, and should be evaluated by a qualified healthcare provider.
No available studies qualify for inclusion in the evidence table.
*Key to grades:A: Strong scientific evidence for this use; B: Good scientific evidence for this use; C: Unclear scientific evidence for this use; D: Fair scientific evidence against this use (it may not work); F: Strong scientific evidence against this use (it likely does not work).
The below uses are based on tradition or scientific theories. They often have not been thoroughly tested in humans, and safety and effectiveness have not always been proven. Some of these conditions are potentially serious and should be evaluated by a qualified health care professional.
Antiplatelet (blood thinner), food use.
The below doses are based on scientific research, publications, traditional use, or expert opinion. Many herbs and supplements have not been thoroughly tested, and safety and effectiveness may not be proven. Brands may be made differently, with variable ingredients, even within the same brand. The below doses may not apply to all products. You should read product labels, and discuss doses with a qualified healthcare provider before starting therapy.
Adults (over 18 years old)
There is no proven safe or effective dose for bear's garlic in adults.
Children (under 18 years old)
There is no proven safe or effective dose for bear's garlic in children.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration does not strictly regulate herbs and supplements. There is no guarantee of strength, purity or safety of products, and effects may vary. You should always read product labels. If you have a medical condition, or are taking other drugs, herbs, or supplements, you should speak with a qualified healthcare provider before starting a new therapy. Consult a healthcare provider immediately if you experience side effects.
Avoid in individuals with a known allergy or hypersensitivity to bear's garlic or other members of the Alliaceae family such as garlic, leeks, shallots, or onions.
Side Effects and Warnings
Bear's garlic is likely safe when consumed in food amounts.
Although there is a lack of known toxicities associated with consumption of bear's garlic, several reports of colchicine poisoning, resulting in gastroenterocolitis and sometimes fatal multiple organ failure, have been reported in people who consumed autumn crocus that was mistaken for bear's garlic. Toxic effects appear to be more severe when autumn crocus leaves are eaten after being cooked and when eaten by people ages 65 and older.
Bear's garlic is not listed on the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS) list.
Pregnancy and Breastfeeding
There is a lack of sufficient data on the use of bear's garlic during pregnancy or lactation.
Most herbs and supplements have not been thoroughly tested for interactions with other herbs, supplements, drugs, or foods. The interactions listed below are based on reports in scientific publications, laboratory experiments, or traditional use. You should always read product labels. If you have a medical condition, or are taking other drugs, herbs, or supplements, you should speak with a qualified healthcare provider before starting a new therapy.
Interactions with Drugs
Bear's garlic has demonstrated anti-inflammatory activity and may increase the effects of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS).
Bear's garlic may increase the risk of bleeding when taken with drugs that increase the risk of bleeding. Caution is advised in patients with bleeding disorders; dosing adjustments may be necessary.
Interactions with Herbs and Dietary Supplements
Bear's garlic may increase the risk of bleeding when taken with herbs or supplements that are believed to increase the risk of bleeding. Multiple cases of bleeding have been reported with the use of Ginkgo biloba, and fewer cases with garlic and saw palmetto.
Bear's garlic may increase the activity of herbs with anti-inflammatory activity.
This information is based on a systematic review of scientific literature edited and peer-reviewed by contributors to the Natural Standard Research Collaboration (www.naturalstandard.com).
Natural Standard developed the above evidence-based information based on a thorough systematic review of the available scientific articles. For comprehensive information about alternative and complementary therapies on the professional level, go to www.naturalstandard.com. Selected references are listed below.
Brvar M, Kozelj G, Mozina M, et al. Acute poisoning with autumn crocus (Colchicum autumnale L.). Wien.Klin Wochenschr. 3-31-2004;116(5-6):205-208. View Abstract
Carotenuto A, De Feo V, Fattorusso E, et al. The flavonoids of Allium ursinum. Phytochemistry 1996;41(2):531-536. View Abstract
Gabrscek L, Lesnicar G, Krivec B, et al. Accidental poisoning with autumn crocus. J Toxicol Clin Toxicol 2004;42(1):85-88. View Abstract
Hermanns-Clausen M, Schindler F, Stedtler U, et al. [Poisoning by the autumn crocus plant]. MMW Fortschr Med 3-23-2006;148(12):45-47. View Abstract
Klintschar M, Beham-Schmidt C, Radner H, et al. Colchicine poisoning by accidental ingestion of meadow saffron (Colchicum autumnale): pathological and medicolegal aspects. Forensic Sci Int 12-20-1999;106(3):191-200. View Abstract
Sendl A, Elbl G, Steinke B, et al. Comparative pharmacological investigations of Allium ursinum and Allium sativum. Planta Med. 1992;58(1):1-7. View Abstract
Smeets K, Van Damme EJ, Van Leuven F, et al. Isolation, characterization and molecular cloning of a leaf-specific lectin from ramsons (Allium ursinum L.). Plant Mol.Biol 1997;35(4):531-535. View Abstract
Stern N, Kupferschmidt H, Meier-Abt PJ. [Follow-up and therapy of acute colchicine poisoning]. Schweiz.Rundsch.Med Prax. 5-28-1997;86(22):952-956. View Abstract
Sundov Z, Nincevic Z, Definis-Gojanovic M, et al. Fatal colchicine poisoning by accidental ingestion of meadow saffron-case report. Forensic Sci Int 5-10-2005;149(2-3):253-256. View Abstract
Copyright © 2013 Natural Standard (www.naturalstandard.com)
The information in this monograph is intended for informational purposes only, and is meant to help users better understand health concerns. Information is based on review of scientific research data, historical practice patterns, and clinical experience. This information should not be interpreted as specific medical advice. Users should consult with a qualified healthcare provider for specific questions regarding therapies, diagnosis and/or health conditions, prior to making therapeutic decisions.
March 22, 2017