Garlic has been widely used for years to stave off the symptoms of the common cold, but, apparently for the first time, scientists have provided some hard evidence of its medicinal properties.

Research led by Peter Josling, director of the Garlic Centre in East Sussex, has shown that taking a garlic supplement every day significantly decreases the chances of contracting a common cold.

Josling worked with 146 volunteers over a 90-day period during the winter. Half of the group were instructed to take every day one capsule of Allimax, a garlic supplement containing allicin – the purified garlic component believed to be the major biologically active agent in the plant. The other half of the group took a placebo.

The researchers found that colds developed in 65 of those volunteers taking a placebo. Only 24 garlic takers recorded getting a cold however, and those people also appeared to recover from the symptoms more quickly than those taking the placebo.

Josling told the BBC that his research could revolutionise common cold treatment: “We have been searching for a cure for the common cold for years. Now we have gone one step further and even found a prevention.”

“The common cold is something that affects everyone in this country for extended periods of time,” he added, and everyone in the world contracts a cold between two and five times every year.

Experts have welcomed the study but stressed that more research will need to be conducted to corroborate Josling’s data.