8 Natural Antibiotics You Can Try At Home

by John Staughton (BASc, BFA) last updated -

Natural antibiotics are non-pharmaceutical substances, including spices, flowers, oils and other organic products, that can protect against or treat infections. Regular use of such natural aids helps in reducing our dependence on pharmaceutical antibiotics.

Effective Natural Antibiotics

The development of antibiotics in the 20th century remains one of the most important breakthroughs in human history and has undoubtedly saved millions of lives. However, as antibiotic-resistant diseases continue to evolve, and given that some people have negative reactions to pharmaceutical antibiotics, natural antibiotics are also very important. These substances can reduce the spread or viability of potentially infectious agents, or they can completely eliminate microbes in your system.

There are hundreds of spices, plants, herbs, oils and traditional remedies that claim to be antibiotic in nature, but the research remains limited on many of these claims. Fortunately, some of the most trusted and widely used natural antibiotics have been studied extensively. Their active ingredients and effects are well known, making them the best option for someone who wants to avoid the potential side effects or inefficacy of antibiotics from the doctor. Some of the most effective natural antibiotics include garlic, echinacea, Manuka honey, and clove, among others.

Garlic

Perhaps the most commonly used natural antibiotic is garlic. It is easy to add to different types of meals. It is a rich source of allicin, an active ingredient that inhibits some of the key metabolic functions of bacterial cells. It inhibits the bacteria from replicating and thriving. Garlic can prevent the development of biofilms that inhibit the treatment of infections. It also contains ajoene, which is known to prevent and treat certain fungal infections. Garlic supplements, often in an extract form, usually have dosages in a range of 600-1,200mg. But tossing a few extra minced cloves into your pasta also works! Side effects include nausea, vomiting, bad breath, bloating, flatulence and diarrhea, as well as a burning sensation in the mouth, throat or stomach. However, these side effects shouldn’t occur when used in moderate amounts.

Clove

Cloves are the dried buds of the clove tree and find wide use in recipes for cakes and cookies. Their potential as a significant antibiotic in alternative medicine is less known. This spice possesses certain antimicrobial properties that can defend against E. coli, one of the most common bacterial pathogens, and other common infections. When it comes to dental health, cloves are especially potent and are linked with a reduction in gum disease-causing bacteria. Cloves in food are not potent enough for a therapeutic effect, but clove supplements do exist in tablet and capsule form. Do not consume clove oil by mouth, and only use topical clove substances in limited quantities. Little conclusive research has been done on the proper dosage, so speak with a trained herbalist before use.

Tea Tree Oil

One of the most powerful natural antibiotics on the planet, this Australian oil is also anti-fungal, antiviral and anti-inflammatory in nature. This oil should always be used topically, on the hair, feet, hands and skin, but never any mucus membranes. It can eliminate the microbes responsible for Athlete’s foot, dermatitis, allergic reactions, and Candida albicans. It is even effective for acne, cradle cap, and nail fungi. This versatile oil should be used in small to moderate amounts, due to its concentrated strength. Some people may experience contact dermatitis when using this oil. In such cases, they should discontinue use. Never ingest tea tree oil, as the side effects can be severe.

Ginger

Trusted for its antimicrobial properties, ginger has been a part of traditional medicine for thousands of years. According to a study published in Food Reviews International, ginger contains a wide variety of terpenoids, phenolic compounds, esters and alcohols, which gives it a broad antimicrobial ability for infections in the body. Some side effects of eating ginger include heartburn, diarrhea and general stomach upset. You can use ginger extract topically in various forms, or you can add ginger to your diet for a tangy, antibiotic bite! Common dosage ranges from 250 mg to 1 gram of ginger per day, in either its whole/raw form or powdered variety.

Oregano Oil

Oregano essential oil is a potent antibacterial agent, including against E. coli and Pseudomonas aeruginosa, and also demonstrates anti-fungal and antiviral capabilities. Carvacrol is the active ingredient in oregano oil and functions by poking holes in the cell membrane of bacterial cells, effectively preventing the bacteria from thriving in the environment. While adding oregano to your dishes may help the flavor, you will want to use oregano oil for therapeutic purposes. You can diffuse oregano oil in a room, dilute it in a carrier oil to less than 1% for topical purposes, or purchase supplement capsules that include the oil. Side effects of using this oil include allergic reactions, skin irritation, nausea, vomiting, and gastric distress. This is extremely potent oil and should not be taken for extended periods or at high doses.

Spoon of honey dripping into a bowl

Manuka Honey

Perhaps the most delicious natural antibiotic, Manuka honey is a rich source of phenolic compounds and methylglyoxal. It can prevent bacteria from spreading in an environment. The honey can even alter a bacterium’s shape and size, according to this study published in Microbiology, making it more difficult to propagate. The use of this honey is also linked to a decrease in gingivitis, in addition to fending off antibiotic-resistant strains of certain diseases, such as MRSA. Manuka honey can be added to shakes, smoothies, breakfast cereals, and fruit salads, or simply mixed into milk or eaten off a spoon. There is no recommended dosage, although it is high in sugar and could cause a spike in blood sugar. Some people also experience allergic reactions. However, this is uncommon.

Turmeric

This brightly colored spice famed in Indian, Vietnamese and Cambodian cuisine is also a potent natural antibiotic thanks to its high content of curcumin. This active ingredient of the spice has demonstrated its clear antibacterial ability against the formation of biofilms, as found in this study from the Journal of Basic and Clinical Pharmacology. Consuming turmeric is associated with a reduction in fungal infections and wound healing without infection. Turmeric can be added to your diet, but for therapeutic uses, a supplemental form is suggested, in a dose ranging from 500-2,000mg per day. Side effects may include stomach upset, dizziness, nausea, vomiting and abnormal heart rhythm when taken in excess.

Echinacea

The final natural antibiotic is echinacea, an herb that has been used by native populations in North America for thousands of years. This is often the first herb that people turn to when they come down with the cold or flu, and with good reason. Echinacea has good amounts of caffeic acid, rosmarinic acid, and other phenolic compounds that can inhibit the propagation of bacteria and prevent them from thriving in your body, whether that is fighting sinus infections or acne breakouts. You can consume echinacea as a tea, in topical ointments, or as a supplement in doses of 300-500 mg, three times daily. Some side effects may include rashes, itchy skin, stomach pain, nausea, or respiratory distress. Chances of developing these side effects are higher in people with allergies to closely related plant species, such as ragweed or chrysanthemums.

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About the Author

John Staughton is a traveling writer, editor, publisher and photographer with English and Integrative Biology degrees from the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana (USA). He co-founded the literary journal, Sheriff Nottingham, and now serves as the Content Director for Stain’d Arts, a non-profit based in Denver, Colorado. On a perpetual journey towards the idea of home, he uses words to educate, inspire, uplift and evolve.

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