Garlic head on a cutting board.

Garlic is an age-old home remedy for pinworms. Studies on its effectiveness are scarce, but it’s worth a try.

by James Hubbard, M.D., M.P.H.

Warning: Gross-out level 8/10.

Someone on the Homestead Survival Facebook page asked me, if there’s no way to get to a doctor, how does a person get rid of pinworms? Good question. There are plenty of home remedies, but there’s little objective proof they work.

Garlic for Pinworms: Worth a Try(?)

Using garlic is an age-old remedy for pinworms. We know it kills the worms and eggs through direct contact in a lab, but that’s different than going through the digestive system. The only study I could find using the stuff in a person showed a seven percent cure rate. Even the authors were surprised and suggested further study, but I found none.

I suspect some reasons for the lack of studies are: (1) There are good pharmaceutical cures, such as prescription mebendazole and over-the-counter pyrantel (not to be taken if pregnant). (2) No one’s going to pay for a study using garlic. (Is there a Garlic Association?) (3) A pinworm infestation is not considered life-threatening. But I hear it can make your butthole itch like crazy. They like to come out at night, so that can certainly mess with your sleep.

Two Steps to Killing Pinworms at Home

So, what do you do if you can’t get the medicine? I’ve done a little research, and here are some suggestions for getting rid of those nasty creepy crawlies.

First, it helps to know the pinworm life cycle: You ingest or inhale a bunch of eggs (where there’s one, there are hundreds); they hatch in your intestine, have sex, the males die. In about two to three months, the females crawl out your anus and lay eggs—up to ten thousand per worm. Then, the females die.

Wait a couple of hours after bedtime, and you can usually see a few worms with a flashlight. Just spread the cheeks, and you’ll see what looks like little half-inch pieces of wiggly thread. The wiggling causes the itching. Sometimes you can see the same thing in a bowel movement. If someone has a microscope, you can stick a strip of clear tape next to the anus, rip off the tape, and see the eggs under low power.

Getting Rid of Pinworms, Step 1: Ingest a Killer.

The mebendazole or pyrantel kills the worms, and either works well. Take another dose two weeks later to kill the new worms that have hatched. Pinworms are easy to get, so everyone in the house is going to need to be treated at the same time.

If you don’t have medication, try the garlic. You can eat the cloves if you dare, or sprinkle it on food. The book Where There Is No Doctor suggests you crush or finely chop four garlic cloves and mix in milk, water, or juice. Drink one glass four times a day. Again, everyone must be treated.

Eating pumpkins seeds is another home remedy.

Getting Rid of Pinworms, Step 2: Groom and Wash.

This is also your best bet to avoid reinfection, even if you took the medicine.

Remember the life cycle: eggs out the butt, ingested back into the mouth. That’s much easier done than you would expect. In fact, it’s a sure thing if you don’t take precautions. And it can take three months from ingestion to egg laying.


Everyone’s going to have to do this for three months:

  1. Clip fingernails short. At night, everyone’s going to scratch. Clipping will help keep those microscopic eggs from getting under the fingernails and avoid damaging your skin at night.
  2. Wear snug-fitting underwear to keep the worms from getting on bedsheets.
  3. First thing every morning, wash the rectal area with soap and water. In hot water, wash underwear, bed linens, and anything else that might have been exposed. If you have the resources, vacuum the area. Wash your hands thoroughly.
  4. Apply petroleum jelly around the rectum at night. It helps the itching. If you have garlic, add a little to the jelly to kill the eggs.

How to Keep Pinworms Out in the First Place

You get pinworms from other people. The eggs are not just in the outdoor air floating around. Your best bet to avoid getting them is to avoid anyone with symptoms and avoid anything that person might have touched. Many times that’s not an alternative, so:

  • Don’t sleep in the same bed with someone who has pinworms.
  • Wash your hands with soap and water frequently. Wash for thirty seconds. Be sure to clean under your fingernails.
  • Consider wearing a surgical mask if you’re the one having to clean up. Wash your hands immediately after cleaning.
  • Avoid touching your face. It’s such a habit that that’s almost impossible, hence the frequent washing of the hands.
  • If the medicine is available, and there’s no reason not to, take it and make sure everyone else does as well.

If anyone has any experience with these treatments or others, I’d love for you to comment.

**Update: I’ve answered your FAQs about pinworms here.**

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