Veterinaria 2015 | Volume 3 | Issue 1 | pages 32-39
Antibiotic growth promoters have been extensively used in the poultry feed to improve weight gain, feed efficiency, lessen the
number of harmful bacteria, enhance immunity etc. However, they have role in development of the resistance in the pathogenic
bacteria and impose negative impact on the consumers due to residues. Medicinal plants are the best replacement option of
ABGP. Garlic is the king of the medicinal plants which have growth promoting effect in chicken production. It has antibacterial,
antiviral, antifungal and antiprotozoal properties. Moreover, it boosts the immune system, improves the body weight gain,
heighten the digestibility of ingredients, decrease the bad cholesterol, and also augment the meat quality parameters. This article
describes the detail about the use of garlic in poultry feed which can enhance the productivity and can attain the growth
promotion potential without causing adverse effects unlike antibiotic growth promoters.
Keywords: Garlic, Poultry, Feed, Immunity, Growth promoter
Received May 15, 2015; Revised June 19, 2015; Accepted June 28, 2015
*Corresponding author: Muhammad Tanveer Munir E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Effect of garlic on the health and performance of broilers
Zaib ur Rehmana, Muhammad Tanveer Munirb*
aDepartment of Poultry Science, FV&AS, PMAS Arid Agriculture University, Rawalpindi. 46300, Pakistan
bPoultry and Wildlife Section, National Agricultural Research Centre, Islamabad. 46000, Pakistan
To cite this manuscript: Rehman Z, Munir MT. Effect of garlic on the health and performance of broilers. Veterinaria 2015;
Feed additives are added in poultry feed to
improve nutritive value of ingredients and enhance
broiler performance by increasing growth rate and
improving feed conversion efficiency. Chemical
feed additives e.g. Antibiotic growth promoters
(ABGP), have been intensively used in broiler’s
ration to improve productivity. However, they are
notorious for bacterial resistance and their negative
impacts on the consumers’ health . Thus, use of
ABGP has been banned in poultry industry. Now,
nutritionists are shifting from chemical growth
promoter to phytogenic growth promoters. Thus,
it is important to explore the potential of innate
feed additives to replace the chemical ones. Herbs
could be expected to serve as feed additives due to
their suitability and preference, lower cost of
production, reduced risk of toxicity, minimum
health hazards and environment friendliness .
Recent research works on phytogenic feed
additives have shown promising results as regards
weight gain, feed efficiency, lowered mortality and
increased livability in poultry birds [3-7].
Phytogenic substances are supposed to increase
performance of birds by stimulating secretion of
digestive enzymes, leading to enhanced digestion
and absorption [8, 9]. Furthermore, the presence of
active ingredients and phenolic compounds can
reduce numbers of intestinal pathogens, thus
minimizing nutrient loss and improving
performance. Both effects may result in better
intestinal health and may lead to more protein
deposition in body tissues. But, the effects of
active ingredients on performance and health of
animals are in-consistent, as affected by the
number of environmental and agronomical factors
leading to differences in amount and activities of
active ingredients. In literature, no clear-cut effect
of phytogenic compounds on performance
parameters in different species of poultry has been
Herbs spices like garlic (Allium sativum) have
been reported to possess useful pharmacological
substances . Freshly crushed garlic contains
allicin, alliin, ajoene, diallylsulfide, dithiin, S-
allylcysteine. Garlic as natural feed additives in
poultry nutrition may be of great benefit and value
especially for broiler growers. This is due to their
antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, anti-
parasitic and immunomodulatory properties of
garlic. In Pakistan, farmers are already using this
specie in scavenger poultry feed to attain the
Garlic is used as flavoring agent in different
dishes and medicament, antioxidant,
antihypertensive, anti-ageing, hypo-lipidaemic,
anti-platelet and detoxify the heavy metal [11, 12].
Due to its antimicrobial properties, garlic is the
highly studied medicinal plant used as growth
promoter in broiler chickens [13, 14]. Therefore,
trials have evaluated garlic as an alternative of
growth promoters in poultry and revealed its
Veterinaria 2015 | Volume 3 | Issue 1 | pages 32-39
excellent effects on growth, digestibility and
carcass characteristics .
The objective of this article is to gather the
large amount of research literature into a refined
summery so that it can be used as guideline for
standard development of garlic use in poultry. For
this purpose, antimicrobial and performance
enhancing properties of garlic has been discussed
in this review.
Use of garlic and ginger as a medicine and
condiment goes back to written history. It is
thought that these are originated in traditions of
both India and China. Egyptian medical papyrus,
Codex Ebers, interpreted in 1937; has more than
800 medical formulations, of which 22 contains
Recently the first evidence of its antimicrobial
properties was established when four men were
employed to remove the dead bodies during a
plague in Marseilles in 1721 in France. None of
them became infected. When research is done to
identify the secret then it was known that they use
garlic and wine tincture . The precursor alliin,
a cysteine sulfoxide, and the corresponding
alliinase enzyme are the main components of
garlic . Garlic has been used for centuries in
many countries to control infectious diseases. It
has been used to prevent wound infection and food
spoilage in India .
Historically it is believed that Louis Pasteur first
scientist who demonstrate the antimicrobial effects
of garlic ‘juices’ in 1858, however, no reference is
available. Recently it is proved that garlic is
effective against many acid-fast, gram-positive and
gram-negative bacteria. These include Escherichia
coli (E. Coli), Salmonella , Clostridium ,
Staphylococcus aureus, Pseudomonas, Proteus
, Klebsiella , Micrococcus, Bacillus
subtulis  and Helicobacter . So, garlic can
be used to treat Colibacillosis, Salmonellosis and
Cholera in poultry. Garlic exerts a differential
inhibition between beneficial intestinal microflora
and potentially harmful enterobacteria . For
the same garlic dose inhibition zone observed in E.
coli was more than 10 times than that seen in
Lactobacillus casei . The exact mechanism of
this differential inhibition is not known, but one of
the possible reasons may be the change in
chemical composition of membranes of different
bacteria and their absorptivity to allicin . An
inhibitory synergism of antimicrobial properties of
garlic was observed when it was used in
combination with vancomycin .
Mostly the commercially available antibiotics are
not affective against viruses. That is the reason
these cannot be used to control the viral diseases of
poultry. Very less research is done on antiviral
properties of garlic compared to antibacterial.
Allicin and allicin-derived substances are active
against viruses and no activity has been indicated
with alliin or S-allyl cysteine. It has been proved
that garlic shows in vitro activity against influenza
A and B viruses, rhinovirus, HIV, herpes simplex
virus 1 and 2, cytomegalovirus, viral pneumonia
and rotavirus [29-33].
Use of garlic in poultry feed exhibits antiprotozoal
effects in poultry but the exact mechanism of
action remains to be explored. Several studies have
shown that it is effective against a host of protozoa
including Opalina ranarum, Entamoeba
histolytica, Balantidium entozoon, O. dimidicita,
Trypanosomes, Leishmania, and Leptomonas .
Diallyl trisulfide a component of garlic is
commercially available in many countries like
China in commercial preparation named Dasuansu
and has been prescribed for treatment of diseases
caused by Trichomonas vaginalis and Entamoeba
histolytica . Allicin, ajoene and organosulfides
are the main components of garlic which have
antiprotozoals properties. Thiol content of
microbial cells are not quite enough, to
counterbalance the thiol oxidation by allicin and
allicin-derived products that why these are more
affected than animal cells .
Alike other antimicrobial properties antifungal
activity of garlic has also been proven to be
thanksgiving. The first ever report of antifungal
activity of garlic in epidermophyte cultures was
Veterinaria 2015 | Volume 3 | Issue 1 | pages 32-39
reporterd by Schmidt and Marquardt . Studies
suggest that garlic can prevent the growth of
Aspergillus, Torulopsis, Trichophyton,
Cryptococcus, Candida, Trichosporon and
Rhodotorula [37-39]. Garlic has oxygen scavenging
molecules which decrease the oxygen uptake ,
reduce the growth of the organism, stops the
synthesis of protein, lipids, and nucleic acids 
and denature the membranes . A sample of pure
allicin was shown to be antifungal. Solvent
extraction of allicin from garlic decreased the
antifungal activity . Activity has also been
observed with diallyl trisulfide against cryptococcal
meningitis , and ajoene, against Aspergillus
, Candida .
Broiler Growth Performance
Many scientists investigated the effects of long
term feeding of garlic and its’ preparations on the
performance of broilers. Most of these studies
reported a statistically significant improvement in
cumulative feed conversion ratio. Garlic increases
growth and improves feed conversion ratio  by
increasing height of villus of small intestine,
activation of absorption process. To support these
ideas a study has proven that dietary fermented
garlic supplementation in broiler ration can
increase the intestinal villus height, villus area, cell
area, cell mitosis in the intestine and results in
better feed efficiency .
Garlic, being the king of medicinal plants, imposes
beneficial effects on body metabolites. Several
clinical studies have supported this idea [49-52].
Allicin may reduce the levels of serum cholesterol,
triglyceride and LDL . Diets comprising garlic
powder has ability to lower down serum and egg
cholesterol level in hens . An investigation has
reported that supplementation of garlic powder at
the levels of 0, 2, 6 and 8% does not affect the egg
weight, egg mass, feed consumption and feed
efficiency in the laying hens . However,
lowering effect on the serum and egg yolk
cholesterol concentrations was observed with
dietary garlic . Garlic paste, solvent-extracted
fractions or garlic oil reduced the concentration of
serum cholesterol by 23% and 18% in twelve
week-old Leghorn pullets and broilers,
respectively, when diets were fed for 4 week .
Decrease in hepatic cholesterol concentration in
chickens was observed when 2% garlic was fed for
14 day . Similar effects of garlic were found in
rats fed diets containing either cholesterol or
The mechanism which involved in decreasing
the cholesterol, triglyceride and LDL is that it
reduces the activities of hepatic lipogenic and
cholesterogenic enzymes such as fatty acid
synthase, malic enzyme, 3-hydroxy-3-methyl-
glutaryl-CoA (HMG CoA) reductase and glucose-6
phosphate dehydrogenase . Garlic also
increased the excretion of cholesterol, as
demonstrated by enhanced excretion of acidic and
neutral steroids after garlic feeding . LDL
isolated from human, given aged garlic extract 
and aqueous garlic extract  was found to be
decisively more resistant to oxidation. Suppressed
LDL oxidation may be one of the controlling
mechanisms for the benefits of garlic in
atherosclerosis . Allicin was identified initially
as the active compound responsible for depressing
the atherosclerotic effect. However, in vitro studies
revealed that organosulfur compounds especially,
diallyl-di-sulfide, present in garlic oil and water-
soluble S-allyl cysteine, present in aged garlic
extract are also potent inhibitors of cholesterol
Garlic supplementation in poultry imposes positive
effects on hematological parameters of poultry
birds. Hematological analysis reported by Kung-chi
et al.  demonstrated that intake of garlic oil
significantly increased white blood cell and
reduced red blood cell counts, hemoglobin,
hematocrit and mean corpuscular hemoglobin
values in rats. Addition of garlic in diet of fish
increase the red blood cells and mean corpuscular
volume when it was used at the concentration of
20, 30 40g/Kg . The scientists reported that
hematocrit values reached a significant increase in
fish fed on 20 g garlic but no significant differences
in mean corpuscular hemoglobin concentration was
It is also possible that the end product of garlic
metabolism in the body stimulates the kidney
directly to cause formation and secretion of
Veterinaria 2015 | Volume 3 | Issue 1 | pages 32-39
erythropoetin. Now, scientists are trying to
determine the effect of garlic on erythropoetin
level. Another experiment concluded that garlic
supplementation increases the white blood cells,
lymphocytes and immunoglobulin G in broilers
. In contrast, it has been reported that garlic
does not affect leukocyte numbers in broilers .
With regards to WBC counts, it was reported that
dietary addition of garlic increased lymphocyte
concentration in peripheral blood of pigs. The
enhanced lymphocyte proliferation by garlic
treatment along with the possible protection of the
cells from oxidative stress seemed to contribute for
the increased WBC count [70-75].
Although garlic kills viruses, bacteria and other
microorganisms directly, it also excites the body’s
natural defenses against these antigens. Garlic’s
amazing and famous power against diseases is due
to a combination of both these properties. Aged
garlic extracts have an immunomodulatory effect
and lessens the age-related deterioration of the
immune response. Garlic supplementation in
chickens increase the relative weights of the
spleen, bursa of Fabricius and thymus [68, 73].
In vitro garlic extracts excites the rat and
human lymphocytes. A protein fraction (F4),
isolated from aged garlic extract, boost the
cytotoxicity of human peripheral blood
lymphocytes against natural killer-sensitive and
resistant cell lines and induced lymphocyte
infiltration and cytokine release [74, 75].
Diallyltrisulfide and protein fraction, the
components of garlic has been shown to enhance
activation of T lymphocytes [76, 77] and also
progresses the ratio of helper to suppressor T cell
in AIDS. It also enhances antibody production
against Salmonella enteritidis, Pasteurella
multocida and Leptospira Pomona bacteria ,
which indicate that it increase the activity of B
lymphocytes. Alliums at low levels in the diet
improved the humoral immune response against
Brucella abortus (non-replicating T-cell
independent antigen) in chickens .
Garlic extracts have been found to suppress
pro-inflammatory cytokines like IL-2 and elevate
inter lukin (IL) -10 and IL-12 in monocytes .
Garlic preparations encouraged the macrophage
infiltration and cytokine release. Garlic
components boost the immune stimulation by
mitogenic activation (e.g. allicin). Scientists have
reported that addition of garlic extract to a
macrophage culture of laying hens at 50 µg/mL
tended to enhance Sheep red blood cells uptake; on
the other hand, high concentration of the extract
(200 µg/mL) inhibited phagocytosis .
Experiments in humans and mice revealed that
addition of aged garlic extract to a culture
enhances the phagocytosis of peritoneal cells and
increases the production of interleukin (IL)-2, IL-
12, interferon-y and tumor necrosis factor-a from
spleenocytes , and the addition of different
garlic extracts enhances the engulfment ability of
phagocytes , as well as the secretory
metabolism of macrophages [77, 82, 83].
Aged Garlic Extract excites the proliferation of
spleen cells, release of cytokines and phagocytosis
(the ability of immune cells to engulf foreign
agents) of peritoneal macrophages. Immune
enhancing effects of commercial garlic
preparations was studied and it was found that
aged garlic extract was the most effective for
improving immune factors, specifically
macrophage and T-lymphocyte activity .
Hanieh et al.  reported supplementing
chickens with garlic exerted enhancing effect on
the humoral immune responses against Newcastle
disease virus and sheep RBC (non-replicating T
cell-dependent antigens). It has been studied that
supplementing broilers with a liquid product
including garlic, feed acidifier and microbial cell
extract increase antibody production against
Newcastle disease vaccine  and infectious
bursal disease vaccine [85, 86]. These
inconsistencies in the results may be due to
preparation method of the garlic. However, there
might be possibility that immunomodulatory
property could be antigen- dependent [87, 88].
Aged Ginger has antibacterial properties and kills
cold viruses so, indirectly stimulate the immune
system. Nidaullah et al.  concluded that
aqueous extract of garlic bulb and ginger (Zingiber
officinale) rhizome plays a very important role as
immunstimulant against Coccidiosis, Newcastle
disease, Infectious bronchitis and infectious bursal
Veterinaria 2015 | Volume 3 | Issue 1 | pages 32-39
One of the new insights in poultry industry is to
improve the quality of meat with nutrition
modelling. Alteration in the quality of intact
muscle is possible by nutrition. Direct addition of
antioxidants or feed additives to improve the
quality of meat are too effective because these
compounds are not deposited in the muscles where
these are required and this can be done by adding
them in the feed .
To prevent the oxidative deterioration of meat
by free radicals, antioxidants have been
extensively used as feed additives. Synthetic
antioxidants are extensively used for industrial
processing in order to prolong the storage stability
of meat. Antioxidants like butylated
hydroxyanisole and butylated hydroxytoluene have
been widely rejected by the consumers due to their
supposed carcinogenic potential as demonstrated
by toxicologists . Rejection to synthetic food
additives by the consumer has been increasing in
advanced countries. That’s why scientists are
searching for the natural additives which have the
greatest potential of anti-oxidation.
Garlic supplementation has an antioxidant
effect that is why lowers the thiobarbituric acid-
reactive substance value and might protect lipid
oxidation . Garlic has many kinds of
antioxidant compounds such as flavonoid and
sulfur containing compounds . Besides,
Leonarduzzi et al.  reported that LDL particles
may have significant amount of cholesterol
oxidation products. Therefore, the decrease in LDL
cholesterol could also mirror the antioxidant
effects of garlic supplementation. The anti-
oxidative impact of garlic in meat becomes more
authoritative in less developed nations, considering
storage problems and increasing use of alternative
feed resources without due consideration for meat
quality . By using garlic as feed additive in
broiler ration we can get the bioactive components
in meat that directly cannot be consumed by
Research findings indicated that pH plays a
significant role in the extent of microbial spoilage
. Glycogen concentration in muscle is the main
factor on which pH relies. If birds are exposed to
stress before slaughtering then glycogen is
depleted in the muscles . Meat having higher
pH, holds more water during storage and will
produce more juice after meat preparation. If more
juice is produced from the meat then it will give
juicier, more succulent and tender eating
experience. The pH values of chicken sausage can
be increased by the treatment of garlic . The
pH of meat of finishing pigs can also be increased
by garlic treatment .
Garlic is king of medicinal plants and it has
wondrous effects in poultry. The garlic
supplementation of poultry feed has shown better
performance of birds, ultimately enhancing the
production potential. Additionally, garlic reduces
the number of pathogenic bacteria like
Campylobacter, E. coli and Salmonella,
clostridium, etc. It has beneficial effects on
consumer’s immunity. So, it can be effectively
used to replace the antibiotic growth promoter in
poultry feed. Although, there is huge pile of
research literature in this area, but still there is a
need to establish standards of garlic use in poultry
feed. To fulfill this purpose more research is
needed in this economics friendly supplement.
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