Do natural antibiotics really work?
Antibiotics are used to kill or inhibit bacteria growth. Although you might think of antibiotics as modern medicine, they’ve actually been around for centuries. The original antibiotics, like a lot of today’s antibiotics, are derived from natural sources.
Certain plant extracts, essential oils, and even foods have antibiotic properties. For example, some food and vegetable extracts can prevent the growth of bacteria in food.
Sometimes, these properties extend beyond the food and can aid in your personal hygiene. Cranberry extract contains both antibacterial and antioxidant compounds, making it a home remedy for urinary tract infections (UTIs).
Herbs can be antibiotics, too. A small sampling of 58 Chinese plants found that 23 had antibacterial properties and 15 had antifungal properties. One 2014 study found that an herbal therapy was just as effective as a chemical antibiotic in treating a small intestine bacterial overgrowth disorder.
Keep reading to learn about five popular antibiotics that you can try at home.
Option #1: Honey
Honey is one the oldest known antibiotics, tracing back to ancient times. Egyptians frequently used honey as a natural antibiotic and skin protectant.
Honey contains hydrogen peroxide, which may account for some of its antibacterial properties. It also has a high sugar content, which can help stop the growth of certain bacteria.
Additionally, honey has a low pH level. This works to pull moisture away from bacteria, causing the bacteria to get dehydrated and die off.
To use honey as an antibiotic, apply it directly to the wound or infected area. The honey can help kill off the bacteria and aid in the healing process. If possible, opt for raw Manuka honey. This form of honey offers the most health benefits.
You can also ingest honey to aid in the treatment of internal infections. Simply swallow a whole tablespoon or stir it into a warm cup of herbal tea for a soothing treat.
Honey is generally safe to use on the skin or in the body, though you should never give honey to an infant under 1 years old. Instead, consult your doctor for an appropriate alternative.
Option #2: Garlic extract
Garlic has long been thought to have antimicrobial properties. One 2011 study found that garlic concentrate is effective against bacteria. You can purchase garlic concentrate or extract at your local health food store. You may also be able to make your own by soaking a few garlic cloves in olive oil.
Garlic is generally safe to ingest, but large doses might cause internal bleeding. Up to two cloves per day is considered an acceptable dosage. If you’re taking a garlic supplement, be sure to follow the dosage directions as provided.
If you’re taking blood-thinning medication, consult your doctor before using garlic as an antibiotic. Large doses of garlic can amplify the effects of this medication.
You can also apply garlic concentrate directly to a wound or blemish.
Option #3: Myrrh extract
Many people are familiar with myrrh, but its ability to ward off harmful germs isn’t as widely known.
Researchers in a 2000 study concluded that an extract of myrrh could kill off several everyday pathogens. This includes:
Myrrh is generally well-tolerated, but ingesting it may cause diarrhea. If applying myrrh to the skin, it’s possible to experience a small skin rash. If consumed in large doses, myrrh may cause heart problems. Myrrh is typically prepackaged, so be sure to follow the dosage instructions on the label.
Option #4: Thyme essential oil
Many all-natural household cleaners use thyme essential oil. This oil has been shown to be especially helpful against antibiotic-resistant bacteria.
In a 2011 study, researchers tested the effectiveness of both lavender and thyme essential oil. Both oils were tested in a pool of over 120 strains of bacteria. The researchers found thyme essential oil to be more effective at killing bacteria than lavender essential oil.
Thyme essential oil is for external use only. You shouldn’t take thyme oil by mouth. Before applying to the affected area, be sure to dilute the essential oil with equal parts carrier oil. Common carrier oils include coconut and olive oils.
Applying undiluted essential oil to the skin may cause inflammation and irritation.
Option #5: Oregano essential oil
Carvacrol is an ingredient found in oregano essential oil. It has important therapeutic properties that further activate healing in the body when inhaled. Oregano oil has been found to help heal gastric ulcers and reduce inflammation.
To treat fungal infections on your skin, add a few drops of oregano essential oil to water. Apply the mixture to the affected area. You can also diffuse oregano oil in the air to help clear sinus infections. You shouldn’t ingest oregano essential oil or use undiluted essential oil on the skin.
You may also be able to eradicate bacteria in the home with a homemade cleaning agent made of oregano essential oil, vinegar, water, and lemon.
The bottom line
Be sure to discuss your interest in natural antibiotics with your doctor. They can help you explore your options and help you weigh the potential benefits and risks of each regimen.
You shouldn’t take antibiotics unless absolutely necessary. Taking antibiotics for the sake of taking antibiotics can lead your body to build up a resistance to the medication. You can learn ways to help prevent antibiotic resistance here. If your doctor does prescribe you antibiotics, be sure to finish the entire treatment regimen.