We’ve all heard of antibiotics—most likely synthetic antibiotics in the form of prescriptions, as well as the topic of antibiotic resistance due to overuse of antibiotics. But did you know that there a number of natural antibiotics, too? There are and here are some to be aware of:
Andrographis: Dr. Pina Logiudice, a world expert on natural medicine and a graduate of Bastyr University, the leading accredited university for science-based natural medicine, shares her knowledge of natural antibiotics. Among those she discusses is andrographis, a powerful anti-inflammatory herb that has been tested on a variety of bacteria, and has been shown to be effective in inhibiting the bacterial growth of many gram positive and gram negative bacteria. The antibacterial effects of this plant are thought to be from its carbohydrates, tannins, flavonoids and saponins content.
Echinacea: As one of the most popular and oldest herbals in the world, echinacea has been used by herbalists as a natural infection fighter and to help purify the blood. The Clayton College of Natural Health says that echinacea stimulates the immune system and increases white blood cell counts to fight off invaders. It works indirectly—killing the germs by strengthening the immune system. Echinacea also prevents bacteria from secreting an enzyme called hyaluronidase, which enables them to break through protective membranes, such as the lining of the intestines and respiratory tract, and invade tissues. Echinacea has been studied in Germany using double-blind, placebo-controlled studies, the gold standard for scientific research.
Garlic: Known as “Russian penicillin” during World Wars I and II, garlic is known to combat unwanted bacteria as well as parasites and fungal infections. The chemical part of garlic, allicin, is equivalent to 15 standard units of penicillin. One study, published in Applied and Experimental Microbiology, examined how garlic interacted with bacteria and found that it was effective against C. jejeuni. It’s also been found to be effective against other forms of bacteria.
Goldenseal: With antibacterial and anti-fungal properties, goldenseal is primarily used as an antibiotic, says New York University. It contains active ingredients called alkaloids, one of which—berberine—has the ability to kill or inhibit the growth of bacteria, fungi and protozoa. Dr. Logiudice points out that goldenseal works (when used as a gargle) by preventing bacteria from adhering to the cells’ walls.
Grapefruit Seed Extract: The extract of the inner rind and seeds of grapefruits, when used at various concentrations, can kill unwelcomed bacteria. In fact, it’s active against a wide range of bacteria and fungi, and has also been shown to be highly effective against some parasitic organisms, such as giardia.
Manuka Honey: Perhaps one of the most delectable natural antibiotics, Manuka honey can come in medical-grade quality and has a strong antibiotic component. You can eat it or use it on cuts and wounds—wrapping them with gauze. There are even bandages and wraps you can buy with Manuka honey built into them due to its antibiotic power.
Oil of Oregano: Also used in a medical grade, oil of oregano can address unwanted bacteria, while keeping beneficial bacteria intact. It’s also antifungal and antiviral. Its primary antimicrobial component is carvacrol, so make sure your oil of oregano is at least 70 percent carvacrol in order to be effective.
Of course, you should always consult your healthcare professional before trying any natural antibiotics, but they are available.