Do you apply antibiotics to cuts and scrapes, or take them when you aren’t feeling well? To prevent dangerous – and sometimes fatal – complications from illnesses and injuries, doctors have been treating patients with antibiotics for over 70 years. During that time, scientists have developed an enormous range of antibiotics that have been prescribed for a wide variety of conditions.
However, antibiotic use goes back much further than that. People have been using natural antibiotics for thousands of years. Although the ancients didn’t know about germ theory or bacteria, they knew that ointments, poultices and drinks derived from certain plants could help ensure good health.
Today, scientists are starting to realize that prescription antibiotics could be doing more harm than good. Doctors were prescribing them so often that disease-causing organisms have become resistant to them, leading to deaths from “superbugs” like MRSA. As doctors attempt to prevent new epidemics, scientists are reconsidering the remedies our great-great-grandparent once knew. Some now suggest the use of natural antibiotics to fight drug-resistant microorganisms.
Here are 5 natural antibiotics to try:
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Cultures around the world have recognized the healing properties of garlic. This pungent spice has a chemical called allicin, which kills dangerous microbes. Allicin contains sulfur and gives garlic its distinctive smell.
Some people suggest eating a clove of garlic a day to help prevent illness. If the taste is too much for you, consider taking garlic pills instead. You can use a poultice made with a few garlic cloves to relieve a stuffy chest.
Garlic has other health benefits in addition to its antibacterial properties. It reduces blood pressure and cholesterol levels, and prevents damage to your liver.
Cinnamon is another spice that acts as an antibiotic. Cinnamaldehyde, the chemical that gives cinnamon its smell and taste, kills bacteria and fungi.
You can use cinnamon gum to kill the bacteria that causes bad breath. Gargling with cinnamon flavored mouthwash can help clear up a sore throat.
The ancient Egyptians and Greeks used honey to treat wounds. Since then, many scientific studies have shown that honey kills bacteria. A study performed in 2009 showed that honey kills many types of bacteria that are resistant to prescription antibiotics.
Manuka honey, which comes from New Zealand, contains very high levels of methylgloxal; one of several antibacterial compounds in honey. Research suggests that manuka honey could fight MRSA.
You can apply honey to cuts, insect bites, minor burns and athlete’s foot. Because it’s more acidic than many other forms of honey, manuka honey is especially soothing when applied to wounds.
Treat a sore throat with a spoonful of honey, or with a mouthwash made with honey and garlic.
4. Eucalyptus Oil
You can find eucalyptus oil in many personal care products, including soaps, ointments and toothpastes. Lozenges with eucalyptus oil can clear up a stuffy nose.
Research shows that it kills Escherichia coli (E. coli) and Staphylococcus aureus (S. aureus) bacteria.
Apply eucalyptus oil to cuts to help prevent infection.
Eucalyptus oil should always be diluted before it is applied to the skin or taken by mouth. Pure eucalyptus oil is poisonous.
5. Tea Tree Oil
Aborigines in Australia used crushed tea tree leaves to treat coughs and colds, and added them to poultices applied to wounds.
Today, tea tree oil is found in shampoos and skin care products. It is often used in products designed to fight acne.
Research shows that tea tree oil kills bacteria, fungi, viruses and protozoa.
You can use tea tree oil to fight dandruff, athlete’s foot and fungal nail infections.
Always make sure tea tree oil is diluted before applying it to skin. It should never be taken internally.
Antibacterial activity of the essential oils from the leaves of Eucalyptus globulus against Escherichia coli and Staphylococcus aureus, Asian Pacific Journal of Tropical Biomedicine
Antibacterial Potential of Garlic-Derived Allicin and Its Cancellation by Sulfhydryl Compounds, Bioscience, Biotechnology and Biochemistry
Can honey fight superbugs like MRSA?, UK National Health Service
Mechanisms of Bactericidal Action of Cinnamaldehyde against Listeria monocytogenes and of Eugenol against L. monocytogenes and Lactobacillus sakei, Applied and Environmental Microbiology
Melaleuca alternifolia (Tea Tree) Oil: a Review of Antimicrobial and Other Medicinal Properties, Clinical Microbiology Reviews