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.
* 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 for this use (it may not work) F: Strong scientific evidence against this use (it likley does not work)
Tradition / Theory
The below uses are based on tradition, scientific theories, or limited research. 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 healthcare provider. There may be other proposed uses that are not listed below.
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.
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.
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.
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Gabrscek L, Lesnicar G, Krivec B, et al. Accidental poisoning with autumn crocus. J Toxicol Clin Toxicol 2004;42(1):85-88.
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.
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.
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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.
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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.
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.