Ever since drug-based antibiotics came around in the 1940s, natural antibiotics have taken the back seat.
Well… until recently that is. Now that we’ve come to realize drug-based antibiotics have some nasty side effects, the demand for natural antibiotics has exploded.
Every time you swallow a drug-based antibiotic, you cause significant harm to your digestive system by destroying the healthy bacteria in your gut.
This can result in
- A weakened immune system
- Gut-related diseases (such as Crohn’s)
- Food sensitivities
- Nutrient deficiencies
- Chronic Inflammation
And it’s not like drug-based antibiotics damage the gut for a just few weeks.
The Journal Microbiology, claims that even a short course of antibiotics can cause undesirable changes in the gut microbiome that persist for up to 4 or more years! (1)
That being said, here’s an overview of the natural antibiotics I mention in this article. If you don’t feel like reading too much, just click on the natural antibiotic that interests you the most to jump to it.
|Natural Antibiotic||What It’s Best For|
|Manuka Honey||Skin or oral infections, immune system boost|
|Oregano Oil||Skin & sinus infections, foot & nail fungus|
|Garlic||Colds, flu, ear infections, immune system boost|
|Cinnamon||Fungal infections (candida, athlete’s foot), immune system boost|
|Fermented Foods||Significantly improves immune system and gut health|
|Ginger||Prevent foodborone illness, best when combined with other remedies|
|Pau D’ Arco||Candida in the gut, viral & bacterial infections|
Popping Antibiotics Like Candy
As you could imagine, the damage to your body increases with the amount of antibiotics you take.
Which is a huge concern since prescription antibiotics have become one of the most over-prescribed “medicines” today.
And there’s no sign it’s slowing down.
In fact, data from the CDC indicates that…
“1 of every 3 patients are given antibiotics when they aren’t even needed.”
This behavior is the main reason why antibiotic-resistant bacteria, or “superbugs,” have developed. And scientists can’t figure out how to fight them.
The bottom line is that drug-based antibiotics are causing a significant amount of harm. And their overuse is only making things worse.
Drug-based antibiotics should only be used as a last resort.
Most natural antibiotics, on the other hand, don’t cause harm to your digestive system (with a few exceptions). And they certainly aren’t over-prescribed.
So if you want to fight infection without destroying your health at the same time, here are the top 7 most powerful antibiotics backed by science.
1. Manuka Honey
Manuka honey is one of the most unique and beneficial forms of honey on the planet— it’s like honey on steroids.
Among its many other health benefits, manuka honey has a powerful infection-fighting punch.
Unlike normal raw honey, manuka honey is made from bees that pollinate the Manuka bush.
The result is a honey rich in naturally occurring hydrogen peroxide, methylglyoxal, and dihydroxyacetone. This trifecta of substances is responsible for the potent antimicrobial properties of Manuka honey (2).
Studies have even found that manuka honey can kill off staph infections (MRSA), an antibiotic-resistant superbug. Most drug-based antibiotics, on the other hand, are completely useless for treating MRSA.
How to use Manuka Honey
Primary Uses: Skin or oral infections (e.g., helps fight bacteria that causes plaque), general immune booster.
Manuka honey is primarily used topically (on the skin).
But since it’s honey, you can also eat it to give your immune system a boost. It’s the most delicious way to fight infection.
- Skin Infections: Take a small dab and lather the honey on the infected area. Cover with gauze or a band aid.
- Internal Immune Boost: If you notice people around you are getting sick or you recently caught a cold, you can take a tsp 1-2 times per day. This can help prevent you from getting sick in the first place or reduce the duration of your illness. I like to combine manuka honey with ginger and cinnamon to make it even more powerful.
I just wouldn’t suggest eating it every day for long periods of time since it would get expensive. Manuka honey is more medicine than food. Treat it like something you would put in your medicine cabinet.
Where Do I Buy Manuka Honey?
Like any supplements out there, the range of quality is massive. And since it’s really expensive, you want it to work, right?
I really dug deep into the research to find a high quality and high potency manuka honey. This is the brand I finally decided to use:
Warnings: Avoid getting the cheaper manuka honey brands with lower UMF ratings. They will be a complete waste of money. Also, don’t use while immune compromised unless it’s medical-grade.
2. Oregano Oil
Oregano oil is nothing like the herb you would put in your pasta sauce.
It’s a distilled extract of medicinal-grade oregano. Like manuka honey, it’s more of a medicine than a food.
Oregano oil contains two potent compounds called carvacrol and thymol. Both of which can fight off an impressive range of pathogens (harmful microbes).
Carvacrol, for example, is extensively studied for its antimicrobial effects. Over 1,000 studies have indicated that it can fight (3)
- Bacterial infections
- Fungal infections (like thrush which is caused by candida)
The point is, oregano oil is one of the most powerful natural antibiotics on the planet.
Countless people have successfully treated foot / nail fungus, sinus infections, yeast infections, and even MRSA with oregano oil.
How Do I Use It?
Primary Uses: Skin infections, foot & nail fungus, sinus infections.
The way you use oregano oil will largely depend on what kind of infection you’re dealing with.
- Foot or nail fungus: Put a few teaspoons of oregano oil in a tub of water and soak your feet in it. You can also dilute the oil by combining a drop of oregano oil with a teaspoon of coconut or cold-pressed olive oil. From here you can apply it to your nails or skin.
- Sinus Infections: Put a few drops of oil into a big pot of steaming water and inhale the steam (be careful it’s not too hot). Alternatively, you can use a neti pot (just use one small drop) which works great when you’re too stuffy to breathe in steam.
- Oral infections (like thrush): Dilute a drop of oregano oil with a teaspoon of cold-pressed coconut oil. Swish for a few minutes and rinse it out. Repeat 3-4 times a day.
Where Do I Get it?
Due to possible pesticide contamination, I always suggest going organic.
It’s also important to use the right oregano species. There are over 40 different species of oregano, and not all of them will have the medicinal effect you’re looking for.
The two most effective species are Origanum vulgare and Thymus capitatus. So the supplement should contain one of these species to get the best results.
Warnings: Don’t use internally. It’s really powerful stuff so it can actually kill off some beneficial bacteria in your gut.
3. Garlic (extract)
Garlic isn’t just a delicious vegetable to add to your meals. It’s also a powerful antibiotic that’s been used for thousands of years by cultures around the world.
And it turns out, these cultures were spot on for using garlic as an antibiotic.
One study, for example, found that an active substance in garlic (diallyl sulphide) is up to 100x more effective than antibiotics (4).
Pretty amazing, right?
Garlic is known to fight a wide range of infections including bacteria, viruses, fungi, and even parasites (5).
But garlic doesn’t just kill infectious microbes. It also bolsters your immune system.
Studies have found that eating garlic on a daily basis can reduce the number of colds a person gets by 63% and reduce the duration of cold symptoms by up to 70% (6).
And unlike drug-based antibiotics, garlic provides a long list of additional health benefits including its ability to
- Lower blood pressure
- Improve cholesterol levels
- Prevent Alzheimer’s disease with antioxidants (7)
- Boost athletic performance
- Sulfur compounds bind to heavy metals (like lead or mercury) so they can be excreted from the body
But if you want to use garlic as an antibiotic, there’s a big catch…
How to Use It
Primary Uses: Internal, general colds, flu, ear infections, immune system booster
Cooking your garlic to add a flavor bomb to your food is perfectly fine. But if you want to use it medicinally, it needs to be raw.
That’s because when you cook or dry garlic, you destroy the ingredients that are responsible for its antibiotic effects.
To get all the antibiotic goodness from garlic, this is what I do…
- For Skin Infections: Combine 1 tbsp. cold-pressed olive oil with 1 clove of crushed garlic. Place the garlic in the oil and let it sit for 30 minutes, then strain. Set in a cup that’s sitting in warm (NOT hot) water if you want it warmed. Place a few drops of the oil on the infected area. Alternatively you can dilute one drop of garlic essential oil in the tbsp. of coconut / olive oil.
- For Ear Infections: According to Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride MD, you can use the above garlic-infused oil to treat ear infections. Take the oil, slightly warm it and put a few drops in the affected ear(s) hourly. This will also help loosen up ear wax buildup.
- To Boost The Immune System: Crush 1 clove of raw garlic. Crushing is better than chewing so your breath won’t be as bad and you won’t lose any friends with your rancid breath in the process ?. Swallow the garlic and you’re all set. Consume once per day.
Where Do I Get it?
It’s very important to make sure your garlic is from a safe source.
When selecting garlic at the store, I ensure it’s organic and that it’s not from China (they have very poor regulations).
Cinnamon is one of the world’s oldest and most common spices (8).
But cinnamon isn’t just any ordinary spice as you may have guessed.
Science has shown that cinnamon can fight off a wide range of dangerous bacterial and fungal infections (10).
For example, one study found that cinnamon inhibits the growth and mycotoxin production of certain fungi (11).
This is just a highbrow way of saying, cinnamon kills off fungal infections and stops it from making compounds that cause disease or tissue damage.
Cinnamon is also well known for its countless medicinal benefits including its ability to treat
- Acne caused by bacteria (9)
- Oral infections & bad breath
- Gut discomfort
There’s really nothing bad to say about cinnamon. It’s delicious AND loaded with health benefits.
How to Use It
Primary Uses: Internal immune booster with powder, external with oil (namely fungal infections like candida or athlete’s foot), best used in combination with other natural antibiotics.
The way I use cinnamon to treat infections largely depends on where the infection is.
- Skin-based infections: I use few drops of a high-quality ceylon cinnamon oil. I combine it with manuka honey and lather it on the infected area. This works really great because it’s a “wombo combo” of two different natural antibiotics.
- Internal infections: For things like the cold or flu, I combine a high quality organic Ceylon cinnamon powder with manuka honey or regular raw organic honey. I use this combo twice a day when I notice people getting the cold or flu. This usually helps prevent me from getting sick. Or at the very least, it significantly decreases the length of my colds.
Where Do I Get it?
Whether you’re using cinnamon as a spice or medicine, you need to make sure it’s organic Ceylon cinnamon.
The most common form of cinnamon you find in stores (Cassia) has high levels of coumarin, which is a toxin that can cause liver damage for certain people (12).
5. Fermented Foods
I know…I know…fermented foods don’t directly have antibiotic effects.
But fermented foods are extremely important for a strong immune system (among many other things).
You see, fermented foods like sauerkraut or kombucha contain healthy bacteria. So when we eat fermented food, it boosts and preserves the beneficial bacteria in our gut—this is called our gut flora.
Our gut flora is destroyed by the pesticides in our food, antibiotics, alcohol, and NSAID drugs like Aspirin.
That’s why our gut needs to get an extra dose of healthy bacteria to stay healthy and function properly. But how does this relate to our immune system?
It’s estimated that up to 70% of our immune system is found in the gut. So when our gut flora is imbalanced (and believe me it is for most of us), our immune system becomes weak.
As a result, we get sick much easier and we’re more prone to autoimmune diseases like psoriasis.
Not only does it make sense, scientific studies have also validated the importance of fermented foods.
A scientific review by the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, for example, explored the evidence of how bacteria in the gut is essential for a strong immune system (13). They went on to explain
“Probiotic bacteria are shown to promote the endogenous host defense mechanisms…[and] stimulate nonspecific host resistance to microbial pathogens.”
This is just a nerdy way of saying, healthy bacteria can improve your body’s ability to fight off infection. And fermented foods are, hands-down, the best source of healthy bacteria you can get.
How to Use
Primary Uses: Supports a healthy immune system
This one is pretty straight forward.
Just aim to consume 2-3 different fermented foods every day to give your immune system a significant boost.
Some of the most popular fermented foods include
- Kombucha (a great substitute for soda)
- Sauerkraut & Kimchi
- Kefir (I like coconut water kefir)
- Fermented grains (like real sour dough)
You can make it yourself using lacto-fermentation. It’s a relatively simple process that takes 4-7 days. You can ferment basically anything. And it’s surprisingly tasty!
Where to Get it
You can buy fermented food in most grocery stores now. When I don’t have time to make it myself, I will usually buy kombucha, kimchi, or sauerkraut at the store.
If you can’t get ahold of or don’t have time to make fermented foods, the next best option is taking a high quality probiotic supplement.
Probiotics aren’t as ideal because they don’t provide a broad spectrum of healthy bacteria like fermented foods do. Because that’s what your gut needs.
To get the best of both worlds, I eat fermented foods AND take a probiotic as a form of insurance.
But not all probiotics out there are beneficial. And to be honest, most of them out there are crap. In the past, I spent a lot of time sifting through the different brands. One of the best probiotic brands I could find is called Primal Defense, by Garden of Life. It can be found here:
Ginger is another promising natural antibiotic.
That’s because ginger contains natural compounds that can
- Fight infections
- Soothe digestive issues & discomfort
- Relieve nausea
- Reduce inflammation
- Increases stomach acid to calm digestion after a meal (14)
These properties are the reason why raw ginger is always served with raw foods like sushi. It helps prevent foodborne illness.
Like garlic, ginger should be raw if you want to get the antibiotic effects from it.
But it’s not known if ginger is as effective compared to the other natural antibiotics I mentioned because it hasn’t been well studied.
In other words, we know ginger is an effective antibiotic, we just don’t know how effective it is against a broad spectrum of pathogens.
How to Use It
Primary Uses: Used in combination with other natural antibiotics to increase effectiveness, general immune & health booster.
Since there aren’t many studies on ginger, I prefer to use ginger in combination with other antibiotics to get better results.
For example, I will use raw honey with raw ginger and cinnamon to fight the flu. The added ginger really helps since it can alleviate nausea that comes with the flu.
Plus, raw ginger is rugged if you try to eat it by itself. So I like to combine it with other things to make it taste better.
Ginger is for internal use only. I don’t suggest using ginger extracts or anything like that on the skin because it can cause irritation.
Where to Get it
This one is also straightforward. Get organic ginger at the store.
From here you can freeze any excess ginger you have. When you’re feeling run down, just grate it using a metal grater. Then you can add the raw ginger to your salad dressings, Asian-inspired dishes, or anything else you think it may be good in. But remember, it should be raw or only very briefly cooked.
Alternatively, you can get the antibiotic benefits of ginger with ginger extract pills (I suggest this one) or ginger candy.
7. Pau d’ Arco
Pau d’ Arco is a medicinal tree bark from the rain forest of South America.
It’s thought to help with a wide range of health complications such as
- Chronic inflammation
- Candida overgrowth
And of course, some evidence suggests Pau d’ Arco is effective at fighting viral, fungal, and bacterial infections.
Scientists believe a compound called beta-lapachone is responsible for Pau d’ Arco’s antimicrobial effects.
Pau d’ Arco is also thought to be one of the best herbs to fight against candida overgrowths in the gut. Some even claim that Pau d’ Arco can reduce sugar cravings by fighting the candida overgrowth.
While Pau d’ Arco has compounds that may help with infections, there ultimately needs to be more studies to be sure.
How to Use It
Primary Uses: Fight fungal infections like candida in the gut.
Pau d’ Arco can be used externally with a tincture or internally with tablets.
Some people don’t tolerate it well, and get nauseous with larger doses. If you’re one of these people, just keep it for skin or oral infections (you can just spit it out).
People also seem to have a lot of success with using Pau d’ Arco for oral candida (thrush), skin conditions, and sore throats.
It’s NOT recommended for children, infants, and it can negatively interact with blood thinner medications.
As always, consult a healthcare practitioner before trying any of these natural alternatives.
Where To Get It
According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, you can get Pau d’ Arco in tablet, tea, or tincture form (14).
But it’s best to stay away from the teas since the chemicals that give Pau d’ Arco its medicinal effects don’t dissolve in water. In other words, Pau d’ Arco tea is a waste of your money.
So you’re left with a tincture or tablets. With these, you can just follow the instructions on the packaging.
I did some research, and the brand as seen below seems to have the best product out there. It’s not perfect, but it’s the best option for a tincture I could find.
Replenish Your Good Bacteria No Matter What
Sometimes even natural antibiotics can kill off beneficial bacteria (particularly the stronger ones).
And since there’s so many things we’re exposed to every day that kills off our gut flora, it’s important to constantly replenish the healthy bacteria.
This is best achieved through eating fermented foods at least 2-3 times per day. As a form of insurance, you can also take a high-quality probiotic.
Natural Antibiotics to Avoid
I created this list in a specific order. The first 1-3 natural antibiotics are the best, whereas the remedies lower in the list have the least amount of evidence supporting their effectiveness for fighting infections.
That being said, there are a lot of other natural antibiotics out there that should be downright avoided, despite their popularity.
Some of them simply aren’t effective, whereas others cause significantly more harm than they’re worth.
So here’s the list of natural antibiotics you should AVOID:
- Colloidal Silver: Before refrigerators were invented, silver was used in foods like milk to prevent bacterial growth. It was even used to prevent the spread of certain diseases. Sure it works, but it’s never a good idea to expose your body to heavy metals. That’s just asking for health issues. The only time it’s useful is when all other alternatives fail to work or for short-duration topical uses.
- Grapefruit Seed Extract: Again, this is another alternative that works considerably well, but there’s a big issue. Grapefruit Seed Extracts can contain harmful chemicals or additives like benzalkonium chloride and triclosan—synthetic preservatives. These preservatives are thought to be the real reason why Grapefruit Seed Extract has antibiotic effects.
- Standard Store-Bought Honey: There’s a serious lack of regulation on honey products that aren’t raw. This means a large percentage of “honey” on the shelves contains things like heavy metals, antibiotics, and filler sweeteners such as corn syrup. The point is, store-bought honey can cause damage to your health and it will not fight infections (15).
The Bottom Line
There’s no denying that drug-based antibiotics are tremendously over-prescribed.
This misuse of antibiotics has led to the development of antibiotic resistant bacteria and an unfathomable amount of damage to people’s gut.
While prescription antibiotics do have their place, it’s not always necessary to use them. Instead, it’s perfectly reasonable to use natural alternatives like manuka honey and garlic (oil).
Taking the natural approach will help prevent antibiotic resistant superbugs from developing. And most importantly, it will save your gut from a lot of unnecessary damage that can lead to serious disease down the road.
If you have tried natural antibiotics before, comment below to let me know what your favorite is! If you have anything to add to this list, that would be even better ?