Plants, food, and herbal tinctures have been used as natural antibiotics to treat illness and disease for centuries. Then Big Pharma swept the nation. But with the advancement of Western medicine and pharmaceutical drugs, it’s easy to forget how effective ancient healing remedies and natural antibiotics can still be.
Now, I should mention: as much as I believe in taking a natural approach to healing, I also believe there’s a time and place for using over-the-counter drugs. But there are a few valid concerns that come with using pharmaceuticals.
First off, antibiotics are only effective as a “band-aid solution.” Pharmaceutical drugs can be powerful for getting rid of pesky symptoms, but they fail to consider why an illness is there in the first place. This failing leaves you at greater risk for developing the same health problem over and over again.
The easy accessibility of antibiotics can also cause you to rely too heavily on OTC prescriptions when something goes wrong with your health—rather than focusing on disease prevention through proper nutrition, exercise, and stress management.
Antibiotics are effective for killing off the harmful bacteria that wind up in your system. However, they also kill off your good bacteria, which keep your immune system healthy (1). Antibiotics force your liver to work harder to detoxify from pharmaceutical drugs, and may cause oxidative stress, which results in permanent damage to your cells (2).
As you can see, antibiotics can provide a short-term solution for helping you regain your health, but they also come with negative consequences. For this reason, it’s important to consider using natural alternatives in place of—or alongside—antibiotics.
Not only can herbal remedies help alleviate health symptoms, many “natural antibiotics” support the health of your immune system, liver, and gut. That’s important for supporting your body’s natural healing process and preventing you from getting sick in the future.
And since the root cause of many illnesses stems from compromised health in the gut and liver, foods and herbs that naturally support these systems can promote full-body healing, as opposed to simply covering up your symptoms and calling it a day.
8 Natural Antibiotics
So let’s take a look at the natural antibiotics Mama Nature has provided us with. In fact, I can almost guarantee that you have several of these natural remedies hiding in your kitchen right now.
Oil of Oregano
If you ask a holistic nutritionist which natural remedy they can’t live without during cold season, they’d most likely say oil of oregano.
As an herb that has antifungal and antiviral properties, oil of oregano can be used to help treat a wide variety of infections—from intestinal parasites and candida to warts and the common cold (3)(4). Oil of oregano is also said to have anti-inflammatory properties, which can help reduce symptoms of arthritis and stiff joints (5).
But you don’t have to be under the weather to take this glorious oil. Because of its naturally antibacterial properties, oil of oregano can be taken daily as a nutritional supplement—to help kill off odor-causing and acne-causing bacteria.
Oil of oregano can be taken in capsules, or as a liquid tincture diluted in water. And let’s not forget that oregano is the main herb used in delectable Italian dishes, so you can also use it liberally in your recipes. All varieties of oregano oil are different, so always be sure to read the label for instructions about whether it’s edible, how many drops to take, and if it’s safe for topical use.
Coconut oil contains a nutrient called lauric acid, which has natural antimicrobial, antiviral, and antifungal properties (6). And lauric acid is considered a natural antibiotic for candida, yeast infections, coughs, inflammation, and warts. When taken regularly, coconut oil may also help prevent harmful pathogens from entering your digestive system (7).
It’s no wonder that coconut oil is highly encouraged in a Paleo diet: It’s the “whole package” as a natural antibiotic. You can add coconut to your diet by using it for cooking, adding it to smoothies, including it in your healthy Paleo desserts, and blending it with your Bulletproof coffee. Personally, I just eat it out of the jar by the spoonful.
Garlic is said to be one of the world’s oldest, most effective natural antibiotics. In fact, garlic’s use as a natural healing remedy dates back at least 7,000 years (8).
Given its natural antibacterial, antifungal, and antiviral properties, garlic has been used to heal gangrene and respiratory diseases, and kill off harmful bacteria and pathogens in the gut (9). Studies have also showed that adding garlic to mouthwash can drastically reduce oral bacteria (10).
Garlic is said to have such powerful healing properties because of a compound it contains called allicin. In addition to clearing up infections, allicin has been shown to lower LDL cholesterol (the bad kind of cholesterol), and it may even prevent the development of cognitive disorders (e.g., dementia and Alzheimer’s disease) (11).
Garlic also contains a compound called sulfur, which assists with phase II liver detoxification (12). Phase II liver detox prepares the body to eliminate harmful substances, such as chemicals from pharmaceutical drugs (13).
I think it’s safe to say all the health benefits of garlic far outweigh a few hours of garlic breath.
Grapefruit Seed Extract
Grapefruit seed extract is said to have natural antibiotic properties; it contains a type of antioxidant called polyphenols (14). The first documented use of grapefruit seed extract occurred in 1750, but in 1990, it became popular as a natural antibiotic that treats bacterial infections in the GI tract (15). Grapefruit seed extract is most commonly used for candida, parasites, salmonella, E.coli, and staphylococcus (16).
Grapefruit seed extract is also said to help prevent bacteria from growing on fish, poultry, and fresh produce.
In addition to having natural antibacterial qualities, the polyphenols in grapefruit seeds are also said to help protect against UV damage, reduce joint inflammation, improve circulation, and promote cellular detoxification (17).
A word of caution about grapefruit seed extract: Grapefruit (and its seeds) negatively interact with several prescription drugs. It’s always best to check in with a qualified healthcare practitioner to ensure it’s safe for you to take any new medication or herbal supplement.
Apple Cider Vinegar
Health blogs rave about apple cider vinegar, which makes it seem like the holy grail of natural antibiotics. And in way, it kind of is.
Apple cider vinegar contains a powerful compound called acetic acid, which is the byproduct of the bacteria that ferments apples and produces vinegar (18). Acetic acid has natural antibacterial qualities, and has been used as an effective natural remedy for dandruff, high blood sugar, and constipation (19)(20). Apple cider vinegar is also said to be effective for reducing the inflammation associated acne, gout, and arthritis.
It never hurts to sip on a little apple cider vinegar, even when you’re not sick. In addition to acting as a natural antibiotic, acetic acid has been shown to boost energy and promote natural weight loss. As a fermented food, apple cider vinegar also contains strains of probiotics, which help improve digestive health and boost immunity (21).
You can add apple cider vinegar to your diet by diluting 1-2 tbsp in 250 ml of water. Since apple cider vinegar has a sour taste, you may want to jazz it up with some lemon juice, green leaf stevia, raw honey, and/or pure maple syrup. You can also take apple cider vinegar in capsules, but I personally recommend getting it from your diet whenever possible.
Goldenseal has strong, powerful antibacterial properties, which are effective for clearing up yeast infections, candida, colds, flus, urinary tract infections, and staph infections.
Goldenseal is an herb that’s also used as a natural remedy for improving digestive function in general. So it can be regularly taken as a nutritional supplement. Since 70% of your immune system is found in your gut, goldenseal can also help prevent you from getting sick in the future (22).
Before OTC drugs were used to treat cold symptoms, the echinacea flower was used as a natural antibiotic for stuffy noses, coughs, and ear infections.
Echinacea is said to help eliminate cold symptoms at any stage, but studies suggest it’s most effective when taken at the first sign of sickness. In fact, if you take echinacea before a full-blown cold hits, it may help reduce the severity of cold symptoms by up to 50% (23).
Based on its antibacterial properties, echinacea has also been used as a natural antibiotic for yeast infections, ear infections, athlete’s foot, sinus infections, and hay fever.
One of the most common ways to take echinacea is by drinking it in an herbal tea, but echinacea can also be found in tinctures, capsules, tablets, and topical ointments. Similar to grapefruit seed extract, echinacea should be used with caution; it may negatively interact with pharmaceutical drugs.
Since onion is garlic’s close cousin, antibacterial properties must run in the family. Also like garlic, onion has been referred to as one of the most powerful natural antibiotics on the planet.
Studies have shown that eating onions helps destroy harmful pathogens in the digestive tract, which boosts immune system health and helps eliminate bacterial infections (24).
In addition to having natural antibacterial properties, onions also contain several other superfood compounds, which have medicinal properties (e.g., quercetin). Quercetin has been studied as a natural antibiotic for hay fever and allergies (25).
Lastly, onion is a good source of sulfur. And as you now know, sulfur is a compound that assists your liver with phase II detoxification.
So the next time you go grocery shopping, why not stock up on a few of these natural antibiotics? Whether you occasionally or regularly include them in your diet, these superfoods may be the easiest way to boost your health year-round.
(Read This Next: The Ultimate Guide to Probiotics)