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Garlic cloves up your nose? What to know about the health trends taking TikTok by storm

NBC News health editor Madelyn Fernstrom takes a closer look at some of TikTok’s most popular health trends and weighs in on whether they’re safe and effective.
Woman holding garlic bulb, close-up
Skip the advice to stick garlic cloves up your nose to relieve congestion. It won’t help, and can actually make you feel worse, says NBC News health editor Madelyn Fernstrom. PM Images / Getty Images

Health advice is everywhere, and TikTok is no exception. While viral posts about the latest crazes are alluring, they can also be potentially dangerous. So how do you tell the difference?

From the "12-3-30" method to liquid chlorophyll drops, I'm going to take a closer look at some of TikTok’s most popular health trends and weigh in on whether they’re safe and if they work.

If you’re interested in trying one of these health trends, it's always a good idea to first check in with your doctor — especially if you take medications or have any underlying medical conditions. When it comes to your health, the best way to protect yourself is to be an informed consumer.



This combo is what it sounds like: protein powder plus coffee. Whether you add a scoop of protein powder to your coffee or add a shot of espresso to your protein shake, this one-two punch of protein and caffeine can be a healthful, pre-workout boost, or a more nutrient-rich start to your day when your breakfast is “coffee only.” One major caveat: use a protein powder without caffeine or other additives. If your protein shake or powder does contain caffeine, aim for no more than 300 mg of caffeine for the total combo (and half that if you’re caffeine sensitive).

Nature's Cereal

Basically a big bowl of fresh fruit, Nature’s Cereal is a mixture of berries and coconut water. The recipe is half a cup, each, of blueberries, raspberries, and blackberries along with six ounces of coconut water. Any combination of fruit counts —just get up to one-and-a-half cups. And make sure to skip sugary coconut waters. Consider adding a little crushed ice to keep it extra cold. Take out your cereal spoon, and you’re ready to go!

Consider Nature’s Cereal a healthy snack or part of a meal. It’s not sufficiently rich in nutrients or calories for the energy boost of a full meal. It’s also a great way to tame your sweet tooth.


A simple enough sounding activity, these numbers represent the settings on a treadmill. You set the incline at 12, the speed at 3 miles/hour, and the time for 30 minutes.

But like all other fitness routines, it’s important to work up to it, and not jump right in. This is especially true if you’re sedentary, because you want to avoid an overuse injury. For example, if you’re new to fitness (especially a treadmill) start without an incline and walk for 15 minutes. You can gradually increase both incline and duration for your own comfort.

Why does “12-3-30” work? Your muscles work harder on an incline, providing a shorter, more efficient workout. It’s also great for an energy boost and muscle building. But remember that any treadmill use counts as “high impact”—a hard surface—so you’ll want to rotate this activity with low-impact cardio activities (like a bike or elliptical).


Dry Scooping

Dry scooping, which is when you swallow a scoop of dry protein powder, is becoming popular. But it’s not a good idea. There are no benefits, and the risks can be big. For example:

  • Accidental inhalation of the powder into your lungs can cause lung irritation or possibly an infection
  • Cardiac issues might occur like rapid heartbeat, palpitations, or irregular heart beat that could lead to a heart attack (especially if there are different “energy boosters” to the protein powder)

Garlic cloves up your nose

Feel a cold coming on? Skip the advice to stick garlic cloves up your nose to relieve congestion. It won’t help, and can actually make you feel worse.

Some people wrongfully think that when the clove is removed, lots of mucus comes out. What’s actually happening is that the garlic clove causes increased mucus buildup—so when you take it out, that extra mucus is released.

Garlic is strong and pungent, and can cause irritation to the lining of your nose. Plus, anything stuck up your nose runs the risk of getting stuck, breaking off, and causing general trauma to your nose (like bleeding or broken skin).


Frozen Honey

While this sounds like a good way to tame your sweet tooth, you’re still providing your body with another name for “sugar.”

While honey is not sucrose (white sugar), it is pure fructose (one half of the type of sugar in sucrose). And while fructose is the kind of sugar found in fruit, it’s not like fruit at all—which is loaded with water and fiber to slow down the digestion of this naturally-occurring sugar. Depending on how much you eat, frozen honey can lead to digestive issues, like stomach cramping, bloating or diarrhea.

And frozen honey goes down very easily, so your portion is likely a lot bigger than you think. Just one tablespoon of honey has 17 grams of sugar! Compare this to the USDA guidelines for added sugar intake (24 grams daily for women and 32 for men) and you’re closer to your limit than you might think. This sugar load can lead to sharp fluctuations in blood sugar, especially for those who are diabetic or pre-diabetic. Most healthy people can likely handle a small serving of frozen honey (a tablespoon or so) without an issue.

Your best bet is to stick with honey along with food, adding it as a drizzle.

Liquid chlorophyll

Chlorophyll is a naturally-occurring pigment in plants (it’s what makes them green) and has been used as a health promoter since the 1950s. But there’s no convincing proof of any health benefits for people. A few studies claim it can help ailments from bad breath and constipation to cancer prevention and weight loss.

So, what’s the downside? First, there’s no dosing recommendations, so you’re on your own about what is the “right” amount to support health. Next, what you get in chlorophyll drops is not pure—it’s a semi-synthetic water soluble form of chlorophyll call “chlorophyllin”.

Reports of skin rashes or risk of sunburn have been reported. And some people have minor digestive upset.

While chlorophyll drops appear safe enough for some people, beware of the negatives that might occur. Plants need it more than we do! And fresh or frozen produce is a lot cheaper and safer.

Madelyn Fernstrom, Ph.D. is NBC News' health editor. Follow her on Twitter @drfernstrom.