Natural Antibiotics: What Are They & Do They Work?

While there is no doubt that antibiotics are effective treatments for many bacterial infections, the increasing rate of antibiotic resistance and unpleasant side effects that accompany them can lead many to search for a different route.

Natural antibiotics offer antibacterial properties against certain types of bacteria, potentially providing the closest thing to antibiotics available over the counter. However, some situations still require antibiotics to prevent more complications.

What Are Natural Antibiotics?

Natural antibiotics are substances that work similarly to antibiotics and possess antibacterial properties, offering a natural alternative to antibiotics.

The biggest problem with many natural antibiotics is that research surrounding them has not been able to completely verify that they are effective or through which mechanism they work. However, this does not mean that benefits are not observed for some people, with many of these remedies in use for centuries.

Best Natural Antibiotics

The following natural solutions are some of the most common ingredients with antibacterial properties; as such, they also have some of the most research surrounding their capabilities and are often considered the strongest natural antibiotics.

Honey

More than a sweet addition to your tea or dessert, honey has long been used as an ointment to help wounds heal, draw out infection, or prevent infection.

These same benefits are seen today, with a 2016 study showing that honey dressings help to heal wounds and lead to a smaller scar. This is likely because honey keeps the skin moist, which creates an environment that encourages tissue repair.

Studies have also been completed to find the bacteria that honey inhibits, and a 2011 study reported 60 kinds of bacteria that honey is effective against.

However, all the benefits seen with honey have been through topical applications, and no studies have shown the benefits of consuming honey for internal bacterial infections.

Garlic

Research has shown that garlic is an effective treatment against many types of bacteria, including E. coli and Salmonella.

On top of this, many studies have shown that garlic is more effective as a broad-spectrum antibiotic than some conventional antibiotics.

Echinacea

Echinacea extract has been shown to be effective in killing multiple types of bacteria, including Streptococcus pyogenes (S. pyogenes). This bacteria is responsible for multiple illnesses, including toxic shock syndrome, strep throat, and necrotizing fasciitis, which is a flesh-eating disease.

In addition to fighting the bacteria itself, echinacea may also help to reduce inflammation that is associated with a bacterial infection.

Ginger

Ginger is another recognized natural antibiotic, with a 2017 review demonstrating the antibacterial properties of ginger observed in multiple studies. The study also reported that ginger possesses antifungal activities. 

Goldenseal

Goldenseal is typically offered in a tea or capsule form and may treat bacterial diarrhea and urinary tract infections.

Additionally, a 2012 study examined the use of goldenseal in treating skin infections. The lab found that goldenseal was able to keep a particular type of bacteria, methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, from damaging the skin.

However, it is essential to check with a doctor before taking goldenseal, as it may interact with other medications you are taking.

Do Natural Antibiotics Really Work?

The above natural antibiotics have been used for decades or even centuries to treat infections and injuries, among other health concerns.

Studies surrounding some of these ingredients do support their antibacterial properties, although it is often for only a few types of bacteria. Additionally, more studies are needed to confirm the ability of these antibiotics to treat bacterial infections.

If you are interested in taking natural antibiotics, it is often best to discuss this with a doctor. They can help you explore the various options and ensure that you are not consuming anything that could interfere with other medication you are taking or certain health conditions that you have.

What Are the Risks of Natural Antibiotics?

While natural antibiotics occur naturally in nature, that does not mean that there are no risks associated with them.

The amount and concentration of a specific supplement can vary based on the brand, so it is important to follow the instructions of the product you are using. More is not always better, and you may end up causing more harm than good.

Even though a doctor does not prescribe these products, speaking to your doctor before taking them is still recommended. There is a possibility of negative interactions with medications that you are already taking, so it is best to check with your doctor before taking anything new.

Concentrated garlic, in particular, may increase the risk of bleeding, which can be dangerous for those who take blood thinners or those who are scheduled to receive surgery.

Concentrated garlic may also make HIV medications less effective.

There is also a risk in using other products labeled as natural antibiotics. For example, colloidal silver is often recommended to treat bubonic plague or HIV. However, the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health lists it as dangerous and states that no credible sources are backing up these suggestions.

For your safety, always check with a doctor before taking anything. 

When Should You Take Prescribed Antibiotics?

Antibiotic resistance is increasing, which is why many doctors try to avoid prescribing antibiotics unless they are necessary.

This may mean that a doctor prescribes antibiotics if you have an infectious disease and they are looking to prevent it from spreading. They may also prescribe antibiotics to prevent a condition from becoming more severe or even fatal. In these cases, it is best to take the antibiotics prescribed; otherwise, a worse illness may occur.

A doctor may also decide to prescribe antibiotics to prevent complications from developing or to speed along the recovery process. This is especially important in those with a weakened immune system who might struggle to get over an infection without the assistance of antibiotics.

There are also some people who may be at a higher risk of bacterial infections, such as those who are:

  • receiving chemotherapy
  • scheduled for surgery
  • taking insulin for diabetes
  • HIV-positive
  • living with heart failure
  • under 3 days old
  • older than 75
  • recovering from serious wounds

For these individuals, taking a prescribed antibiotic is vital to avoid becoming more ill.

When you are given a prescription antibiotic, it is crucial to take it as directed by your doctor to completely clear the infection and ensure that it works as it is supposed to.

How Can I Get Antibiotics Without Seeing a Doctor?

All oral antibiotics require a doctor’s prescription. However, seeing a doctor in person is not necessary to receive these prescriptions.

An online doctor can write antibiotic prescriptions, allowing you to get the prescription you need to feel better without having to go to a physical doctor’s office.

How Can DrHouse Help You?

DrHouse makes it convenient and easy to meet with an online doctor. Simply download our app and create an account, then you can meet with an online doctor in just 15 minutes. No matter where you are, you can discuss your symptoms with a doctor and they can write you a prescription, completely virtually.

Key Takeaways

Antibiotics are some of the most commonly prescribed medications because of their ability to effectively treat bacterial infections. However, the increasing antibiotic resistance and unpleasant side effects that might accompany antibiotics can lead people to search for a natural alternative.

Natural antibiotics are ingredients with antibacterial properties that may help with the infection. Elements such as garlic, honey, echinacea, ginger, and goldenseal have shown promise in treating certain types of infections, although additional studies are needed to verify their effectiveness.

For those who require an antibiotic, an online doctor makes receiving a prescription easy and convenient, and they also serve as a great resource on natural antibiotics. 

Sources

  • Goharshenasan, P., Amini, S., Atria, A., Abtahi, H., & Khorasani, G. (2016). Topical Application of Honey on Surgical Wounds: A Randomized Clinical Trial. Complementary Medicine Research, 23(1), 12-15. doi: https://www.doi.org/10.1159/000441994 
  • Mandal, M., & Mandal, S. (2011). Honey: its medicinal property and antibacterial activity. Asian Pacific Journal Of Tropical Biomedicine, 1(2), 154-160. doi: https://www.doi.org/10.1016/s2221-1691(11)60016-6 
  • Bayan, L., Koulivand, P. H., & Gorji, A. (2014). Garlic: a review of potential therapeutic effects. Avicenna journal of phytomedicine, 4(1), 1–14.
  • Lu, X., Rasco, B., Jabal, J., Aston, D., Lin, M., & Konkel, M. (2011). Investigating Antibacterial Effects of Garlic (Allium sativum) Concentrate and Garlic-Derived Organosulfur Compounds on Campylobacter jejuni by Using Fourier Transform Infrared Spectroscopy, Raman Spectroscopy, and Electron Microscopy. Applied And Environmental Microbiology, 77(15), 5257-5269. doi: https://www.doi.org/10.1128/aem.02845-10 
  • Li, G., Ma, X., Deng, L., Zhao, X., Wei, Y., & Gao, Z. et al. (2015). Fresh Garlic Extract Enhances the Antimicrobial Activities of Antibiotics on Resistant Strains in Vitro. Jundishapur Journal Of Microbiology, 8(3). doi: https://www.doi.org/10.5812/jjm.14814 
  • Hudson, J. (2012). Applications of the PhytomedicineEchinacea purpurea(Purple Coneflower) in Infectious Diseases. Journal Of Biomedicine And Biotechnology, 2012, 1-16. doi: https://www.doi.org/10.1155/2012/769896 
  • Liu, Q., Meng, X., Li, Y., Zhao, C., Tang, G., & Li, H. (2017). Antibacterial and Antifungal Activities of Spices. International Journal Of Molecular Sciences, 18(6), 1283. doi: https://www.doi.org/10.3390/ijms18061283 
  • Cech, N., Junio, H., Ackermann, L., Kavanaugh, J., & Horswill, A. (2012). Quorum Quenching and Antimicrobial Activity of Goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis) against Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA). Planta Medica, 78(14), 1556-1561. doi: https://www.doi.org/10.1055/s-0032-1315042 
  • Garlic. (2020). National Center for Complimentary and Integrative Health.  https://www.nccih.nih.gov/health/garlic 
  • Colloidal Silver. (2017). National Center for Complimentary and Integrative Health. https://www.nccih.nih.gov/health/colloidal-silver 

DrHouse articles are written by MDs, NPs, nutritionists and other healthcare professionals. The contents of the DrHouse site are for informational purposes only and are not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you are experiencing high fever (>103F/39.4C), shortness of breath, difficulty breathing, chest pain, heart palpitations, abnormal bruising, abnormal bleeding, extreme fatigue, dizziness, new weakness or paralysis, difficulty with speech, confusion, extreme pain in any body part, or inability to remain hydrated or keep down fluids or feel you may have any other life-threatening condition, please go to the emergency department or call 911 immediately.

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