Ten Natural Substitutes for Antibiotics

natural antibiotics

When was the last time you used garlic or ginger to mend a cough or cold? We bet you never did, and instead, you probably googled what conventional medication is there for colds or went straight to the pharmacy. A fairly typical response today, when dealing with mild health issues, and do not worry about it, you’re not wrong. The majority of the population favor meds automatically for even the simplest cold. But can you imagine using onions, garlic, and even raw honey as an antibiotic? 

Our ancestors used herbs and food to heal a lot of ailments.1 Many still do, especially in places where medicine is hard to come by or are simply expensive. Herbal foods are natural antibiotics too. The discovery of penicillin was a monumental achievement in science. Penicillin could have paved for modern medicine and the use of medication for illness.2 But for a time, the modern world has forgotten the use of natural herbal antibiotics. 

However, the use of natural plant-based antimicrobials is enjoying a resurgence.3 People are embracing natural ways to kill bacteria that cause mild infections and diseases. In this list, we will discuss some of the most common natural herbal antibiotics at home that you can find in your kitchen, local grocery, even your garden, and why you should consider these herbs and spices before getting traditional drugs.

Remember that these antibiotic foods have limitations. Consider consulting a physician when you are unsure about the symptoms you are experiencing. Natural antibiotic supplements are available like capsulized garlic powder, powdered turmeric, and ginger, and oregano tinctures. We recommend preparing the herbs yourself from fresh sources. Before we move to our list of foods and herbs helpful against common antibacterial infections, let’s discuss first what natural antibiotics are.

What Are Natural Antibiotics?

We often hear the term “natural antibiotics” in integrative medicine, where its use has great emphasis. Natural antibiotics or herbal antibiotics are natural products (plants, herbs, roots, herbo-minerals) that have therapeutic benefits against the pathogenic bacterium, fungi, protozoa, and even viruses.4 The selection includes supplements and herbal concoctions with strong antimicrobial properties. Technically, penicillin is a natural antibiotic, but most of the penicillin we have today are manufactured in laboratories and comes from synthetic sources.

Scientific testing shows that plants have antimicrobial properties.5 Plants develop these for themselves to thwart infection, and our bodies react well with the same compounds. Scientists credit the antimicrobial action to the presence of saponins, tannins, flavonoids, phenolic compounds, and essential oil. Antimicrobial properties keep whether the herbs were freshly picked, dried, turned into a powder, or made into a tincture. 

Natural Alternative to Antibiotics

There are plenty of herbs that help against microbial infections we did not include in the list. The antibiotic alternatives below are common, day to day ingredients, and can be made into homemade antibiotics and unique herbal formulations.

  • Garlic
  • Ginger
  • Honey
  • Apple Cider Vinegar
  • Onions
  • Turmeric
  • Oregano
  • Cumin
  • Cranberry
  • Eucalyptus

Allicin in garlic is responsible for its natural antibiotic properties.

Garlic

Garlic has been used for centuries as an herbal antibiotic and is enjoying a resurgence for that very purpose today.6 During World War 2, medics resorted to using garlic as an alternative to penicillin. Various scientific studies support the use of garlic as an antibiotic, so there is no question that using it for common gut problems is a simple yet effective solution. The broad-spectrum antibiotic properties of garlic are courtesy of the compound allicin, a sulfur-based compound.7 Take note that cooking destroys allicin along with its microbial properties, so eating wonderful cooked garlic, may not help if you at all. Eating garlic raw or as a seasoning may be the way to go.

The best way to use garlic as an antibiotic is to eat it raw. Heat quickly diminishes allicin effectivity. Chopping, crushing, and slicing cloves help increase the release of allicin into food.

Always use fresh garlic, and eat a generous amount of it if you want the allicin to work its best. Avoid garlic pills, dried or fried garlic flakes, and garlic powder. These products already lost most of the allicin and are mainly for flavor. Eating a clove of raw garlic does best on an empty stomach.

Ginger

Ginger is a spice valued for its antibiotic properties. Several studies (In vitro) show that it can help fight many strains of bacteria. Ginger’s bioactives combat the activity of many microbes, including Salmonella, E Coli, and Bacillus subtilis too. The active compounds in ginger include gingerol and shagenol. Gingerol has antifungal properties, too, showing strength against Candida Albicans.8

Ginger contains carminatives too that helps soothe an upset stomach.9 You can use ginger to deal with motion sickness and nausea as well. For antibacterial use, up to 6 grams, taken orally, and divided throughout the day is more than enough. Making a tea out of ginger is best for an upset stomach and coughs. You can also eat it directly or add it to food. You can dry the ginger too for storage and as a seasoning. Honey ginger tea is a popular remedy for the upset stomach. The honey helps add flavor to the unique pungent and spicy flavor.

Honey is one of the oldest natural antibiotic known to man.

Honey

Is honey antibacterial? Are you surprised that it is? The sweet taste of honey and the fact that it contains sugar might not spell antibacterial but as it turns out, honey has long been used as an antiseptic, and many health care professionals still use it today for simple wounds, burns, and ulcers. Many even consider adding honey to wound dressing to help wounds heal faster and keep bacterial growth on the dressings at bay.10

Honey contains hydrogen peroxide and very high sugar content help against common bacteria. Low ph level also helps remove moisture from bacteria, slowing most of the bacteria’s actions and ultimately killing it off.11

Many swear that Hanuka honey contains the best antibiotic qualities. It contains methylglyoxal, which is a natural strong antibiotic effect.12 Manuka honey is indigenous in New Zealand and Australia, pollinating the native manuka bush.

You can use honey directly on the skin or wound. You can also swallow the honey or add it to any of the drinks you take in the morning. Honey is sweet, which might put off some people, so adding it to foods and drinks may help.

Apple Cider Vinegar (ACV)

Vinegar contains acetic acid that helps kill pathogens, and an effective antiseptic. Apple cider vinegar is another kind with many other purported health benefits, including glucose management and weight loss. As an antiseptic, apple cider vinegar helps fight pathogens and common bacteria just like the regular vinegar.13 It has traditionally been used as a disinfectant and for cleaning wounds. Vinegar helps fight food spoilage by inhibiting food bacteria like E. coli.

Some have used apple cider vinegar against acne by diluting it in water. For urinary tract infection, you can add Apple Cider Vinegar to a few teaspoons in glass water and take it throughout the day. You can also add Apple Cider Vinegar to other foods, like a salad, as well as drinks like tea. Make sure to dilute Apple Cider Vinegar.

Onions on anything greatly enhances food quality.

Onions

The humble onion has excellent antibacterial properties, just like vinegar, and honey, and like garlic, onion has been used for centuries to keep wounds bacteria-free.14 Recent reports say that the different chemicals in onion may help against Tuberculosis (TB). TB patients are usually given a cocktail of antibiotics, but the bacteria is quickly developing resistance against common TB drugs making them ineffective for long term treatment. Unlike those drugs, however, onions have shown promise against TB while keeping microbial resistance relatively low.

So unique the bacterial action of onions that even the vapor from a freshly sliced piece is enough to deter bacterial, fungi, and protozoan growth.15

To clear bacteria in an enclosed space, you can prepare onion slices and place them all over your living space. For various infections like coughs and colds, making a poultice is a great idea.

For flu and sinus infections, we recommend onion soup mixed with garlic and ginger for the best impact. A soup made of ginger, onion, garlic and some turmeric is a traditional home remedy for infection. You can also make juice drinks and shakes with onions and garlic, which help clear sore throats quickly. 

They say that onion can help detoxify the body. You can do this by adding slices in your socks while you sleep.

Turmeric

Turmeric looks similar to ginger but has a unique golden color. Asian cuisine value turmeric for its many qualities, and the Indians sometimes refer to it as the Indian Saffron. It is the main ingredient in many curry dishes.

Turmeric and curcumin have strong antibacterial properties and scientific testing discovered that it can inhibit the growth of bacteria. It also counters fungal activity by disabling the cell membrane of fungi.16

Turmeric goes well when you combine it with other antibacterial spices and herbs. Blend wonder root, ginger, coconut oil, and honey together and use a teaspoon a day on your morning toast.

If you can also take turmeric tea whenever you have an infection, adding other powerful antimicrobial herbs like garlic, mint, oregano, and some honey to sweeten the drink helps too.

Oregano

Oregano is part of the mint family, and according to historical books, Hippocrates used it himself as an antiseptic. The antibiotic essential oil carvacrol is responsible for oregano’s potent antibacterial properties. Oregano show a strong antimicrobial effect on many clinical strains of bacteria.17

You will need oregano oil if you want to use the herb as an antibiotic. Mix with water, coconut oil even honey if you like. Take small drops regularly. If the infection does not go away after a few days, consult a doctor.

You can find oregano in capsulized form as well. But we would recommend going for the oil or simply add oregano to your food.

Cumin

Cumin comes from the seeds of the Cuminum cyminum plant. It is a spice common in Mediterranean cuisine. Cumin gives dishes a wonderful flavor and goes well with many other herbs and spices like curry and chili. Cumin seed oil shows robust antibacterial properties in various bacteria and fungal isolates. Megalomicin is responsible for the antibiotic effects of cumin and according to a study megalomicin may even prevent drug resistance in bacteria.18

The best way to use cumin is to add it to food. Black cumin seed oil is a popular remedy for acne and many swear about its property to clear away acne. Cumin seed oil is used in the skincare industry for that very purpose.

Freshly cranberry juice, even the canned ones is effective against UTI.

Cranberry

Cranberry juice is a popular remedy for simple urinary tract infections (UTI), and clinical tests verify this claim.19 Cranberry juice is one of the safest, if not one cost-effective way to treat UTI conditions and it is nutritious too. Scientists believe that the unique compounds in cranberry can survive the strongly acidic environment of the stomach, allowing the compounds to combat bacteria there without having to deal with the acidity.

UTI is a unique infection affecting many parts of the urinary system. We suggest consulting a doctor immediately if your home remedy does not work.

There are so many recipes and ways to use cranberry juice for UTI infection. You can drink it cold or hot. No specific guidelines are available when it comes to making juice for UTI. But the usual recommendation is 400ml of water with 25% juice.

Eucalyptus

Eucalyptus has long been used as an antiseptic and shows strong properties against fungi. Eucalyptus oil is placed on the skin for antiseptic purposes. 20 Eucalyptus tea, along with other powerful herbs, can help against cough and colds. Inhaling the steam from a freshly prepared eucalyptus decoction can help too.

What Other Foods Have Natural Antibiotics

Other herbs and spices with natural bacterial killer qualities include myrrh, grapefruit juice, thyme, echinacea, goldenseal, olive oil, cinnamon, cayenne pepper, and chili.

There are other natural and powerful aids to fight off bacterial infection. One such example is colloidal silver.

 

One of the oldest "natural antibiotic" colloidal silver is effective against many microbes.

Colloidal Silver

Colloidal silver is one of the oldest remedies for keeping wounds bacteria-free.21 In its colloidal (preferably coated) form, silver has strong antibiotic properties.22 You can drink coated silver or use a humidifier to dispense in a room effectively killing air-borne pathogens. The US government is believed to carry colloidal silver for antiseptic and disinfectant purposes during field operations.

You can drink colloidal silver preparations or apply colloidal silver on your skin. To clean the air in enclosed living spaces, you can add a few drops to a humidifier or a diffuser and let the device emit water vapor and steam filled with silver ions. Humidifiers or diffusers are designed to increase humidity in a living space or prevent health problems that dry air brings. Humidifiers and diffusers can help with flu and colds too so using colloidal silver might help increase the chance of recovery.

Coated Silver

Coated silver is a unique form of colloidal silver and is safer. Adaptive Energy LLC the company behind Pürblack has their own novel colloidal silver product, under the brand name Coated Silver. 

Coated Silver has several benefits unique to its form compared to traditional colloidal silver. 

  • The coating makes the silver particles more stable. The coating also operates in a time-released fashion slowly dispersing silver ions throughout the body.
  • The coating helps prevent clumping, which is common to uncoated colloidal silver. Uncoated varieties including ionic silver tend to stick to tissues making it difficult for the body to remove any excess.
  • Unlike regular colloidal silver, there are no known cases that coated silver has caused argyria.
  • Coated silver chemically neutral and will not interact with body tissues.
  • Any excess is excreted and does not accumulate in the body.
  • 2010 US government-sponsored study shows coated silver to have strong antiviral property against Arenavirus, and the study shows close effectiveness of coated silver against hemorrhagic viruses and Ebola type viruses.

If you wish to know more about our own Coated Silver product, please visit our website at coatedsilver.com.

Shilajit: Amplify Herbal Benefits & Improve Immunity

Taking any of these natural substitutes for antibiotics is no doubt sound advice, but another helpful tip against infection caused by microbes is to make sure that your immunity is strong. Shilajit is an uncommon remedy or replacement for antibiotics. We know little about its direct effect against pathogens or whether its unique bioactives help against the proliferation of bacteria. 

One thing we know, however, is that it can help the body maintain a healthy immune system. A healthy immune system will help significantly in thwarting the invasion of pathogenic bacteria, fungi, and protozoa. It can also amplify the benefits of herbs, including the antimicrobial compounds found in herbs and spices listed above.23

A popular natural antibiotic made into a ginger smoothie to boost immunity

Why Use Natural Antibiotics?

Many people are making the switch to herbs for curing mild infections because not knowing how to use antibiotics may do more harm than good properly. For one, using too many antibiotics kill helpful gut bacteria. Antibiotics do not discriminate whether bacteria are good or bad. It kills both, causing disturbances in our gut ecosystem. Second, Bacteria can develop resistance to antibiotics over time, which leads to the use of even stronger antibiotics. The cycle goes on, with the new bacteria developing more active strength requiring even more robust, more potent antibiotics. Using too little may help the harmful bacteria produce resistance also.  

Third and probably one that most people are not aware of is how the body works when responding to infections. Antibiotic use is like a shortcut. It deals with the problem head-on. The immune system often develops its defensive mechanism when pathogens attack, and why we develop immunity to some diseases and conditions over time. Using antibiotics deny the immune system that chance to learn from the attack. It will not be able to respond on its own when the same pathogens come back.

We are not saying that you should abandon the use of synthetic antibiotics. The development of antibiotic drugs already saved millions of lives and will continue to do for many years to come. They certainly have a place in your home, and we are not saying either that these natural substitute antibiotics can heal every bit of infection. They do have their limitations, but herbal antibiotics may be a better and holistic approach when dealing with the common cold, cough, sore throat, diarrhea, and even UTI. You get essential nutrients, too, in the process.

References:

  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19291695
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2731226/
  3. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/307139343_Herbal_Antibiotics_Moving_back_into_the_mainstream_as_an_alternative_for_Superbugs
  4. https://academic.oup.com/jac/article/51/2/241/748873
  5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5486105/
  6. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4332239/
  7. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10594976
  8. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/286936027_Antimicrobial_activity_of_ginger_Zingiber_officinale_extracts_against_food borne_pathogenic_bacteria
  9. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3609166/
  10. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23782759
  11. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29575121
  12. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5788933/
  13. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9354029
  14. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/j.1365-2621.2009.02169.
  15. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4375173/
  16. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19783523
  17. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5486105/
  18. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3370320/
  19. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.3109/13880209.2011.553625
  20. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6315945/
  21. https://new.hindawi.com/journals/amse/2014/371483/
  22. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27546551
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