Antibiotics are medicines used to cure bacterial infections. They work by either killing or stopping the growth of bacteria.
Prescription antibiotics such as penicillin help people recover from diseases and have been used for a long time. These antibiotics harm the digestive system and many people experience side effects after taking them (1).
However, there are many natural substances that are as effective as antibiotics and are used by people as a primary preference.
The natural antibiotics are basically, plant extract, essential oil and even foods. Herbs also can be used as antibiotics. A study found herbs to be as effective as a chemical antibiotic in the treatment of small intestine bacterial overgrowth disorder (2).
Few of the natural antibiotics are described below:
Honey is one of the commonly used natural antibiotics since ancient times. It contains hydrogen peroxide which gives it the antibacterial properties (3)
Also, the high sugar content of honey, help stop bacterial growth.
It can be directly applied to the wounds or inflamed areas. Honey helps kill bacteria and helps in aiding the healing process.
To treat the internal infection, honey can be ingested either directly or mixed with herbal tea.
Honey should not be given to an infant below one year of age.
Just like honey, garlic has also been known since long for the antibacterial properties. A study found its concentrate to be effective against bacteria (4). The concentrate can be made by mixing a few garlic cloves in olive oil. It can also be used directly on the wound and blemishes.
Garlic is safe to be ingested but in large quantities can lead to internal bleeding.
Those taking blood-thinning medication should also consult the doctor before taking garlic as antibiotic.
Neem and neem oil are known for their purifying properties it can be applied locally.
Applying neem paste on face helps get rid of acne and blemishes. It is because of its antibacterial properties.
It is often prescribed in Ayurveda to cure many ailments.
Neem leaves can be eaten as well but for longer duration consumption, consulting a doctor is important.
Thyme Essential Oil
Thyme is used in the household cleaners. It is helpful against antibiotic-resistant bacteria.
A study done on thyme and lavender essential oil found thyme to be more effective in killing the bacteria than lavender essential oil (5).
It is to be noted that thyme should be used for external use only, it should not be ingested. Also dilute it with other carrier oils such as coconut oil or olive oil before applying to the affected area. This prevents any inflammation or irritation caused due to essential oil application.
Those suffering from high blood pressure or thyroid problem should not use this essential oil.
The antibacterial property of myrrh is not known to many.
Myrrh extract has an ability to kill many everyday pathogens such as E.coli, Staphylococcus aureus, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, and Candida albicans.
Most of the people can tolerate myrrh well, but it may cause diarrhea in some. If directly applied on skin, some might experience small rash.
Overdose of myrrh can lead to heart problems.
Oregano Essential Oil
Oregano essential oil contains Carvacrol, an ingredient which has therapeutic properties. It activates healing in the body when inhaled.
Oregano oil is known to help heal gastric ulcers and reduce inflammation.
To treat a fungal infection one drop of oregano oil mixed in the carrier oil can be applied on to the affected area. Never use undiluted essential oil on skin.
Oregano oil can be diffused in the air to help clear sinus infection.
Echinacea has been in use since hundreds of years to treat infections and wounds.
A study shows that the extract of Echinacea can kill different kinds of bacteria including streptococcus pyogenes (6), which cause strep throat, and toxic shock syndrome.
Echinacea is also helpful in fighting inflammations associated with bacterial infections.
Goldenseal helps in treating respiratory infections, bacterial diarrhea, and urinary tract infections.
It can also treat skin infections (7).
It can interfere with the certain medicines. Therefore, those taking prescription drugs should consult a doctor before starting goldenseal.
Although taking them is safe, be sure to discuss when planning to take a natural antibiotic with your doctor. He would guide you to the best option possible and the associated risk of and benefits.