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13 Most Powerful Natural Antibiotics Graphic © healthpowerboost.com. Bacterial Background: Pixabay (PD)
Introduction: The Problem Of Antiobiotic Resistance
Did you know that lower respiratory infection ranks fourth in the WHO’s leading causes of mortality worldwide? Lower respiratory infection is touted as the deadliest communicable disease in the world, with over 2.6 million deaths attributed to it in 2019. Diarrheal diseases also came in at eight place, with 1.5 million deaths in the same year. 
Why not just take regular antibiotics? It’s important to understand that “regular” antibiotics, while still considered the frontline approach in medicine, have some serious and growing problems. The first problem is that they are something of a “nuke” approach – in that they tend to wipe out beneficial bacteria as well as harmful ones, leaving a scenario in which recolonization with less desirable types is commonplace. Users of antibiotics might be left with ongoing nagging stomach issues, which numerous people (myself included!) have reported are well addressed by probiotic supplementation.
The second and possibly more serious problem with antibiotics is that of antibiotic resistance. Over time, bacterial strains become immune to prescription antibiotics, which necessitates “escalation of arms”; with progressively stronger antibiotics being prescribed. You can see that ultimately, this approach is destined to fail – and we are reaching that point: There are now some strains of disease which are resistant to all prescription antibiotics. This is a serious problem and it’s thought that this may potentially cause many millions of deaths in the coming decades. 
While various standard medical treatments are available to treat typical infections, one noted quality of natural antibiotics is that they don’t seem to cause an escalation of antibiotic resistance. In some cases also, they have been found very effective: Eucalyptus oil has for example been used in Australian hospitals’ cleaning protocols due to its efficacy in addressing MRSA bacteria. We’ve also seen probiotics tested in hospitalized pneumonia patients with very encouraging success.
Here’s The List: 13 Most Powerful Natural Antibiotics
Natural methods are slowly gaining popularity as more and more studies are being done on their antibiotic properties. Here we illustrate 13 powerful natural antibiotics, with references to over 30 scientific studies:
1. Apple Cider Vinegar
Apple Cider Vinegar or ACV has long been touted as a weight-loss secret, but did you know that it actually has significant antibacterial properties as well? A study by Gopal, et. al. published in 2017 proved that ACV had “unequivocal antimicrobial activity” at full-strength, with strong antimicrobial activities even at 25% concentrations. They also reported ACV’s antioxidant activity because it has high phenolic content.  Yagnik, et. al. in 2018 showed that ACV could be used therapeutically to manage infections caused by Escherichia coli (E. Coli), Staphylococcus aureus (SA), and Candida Albicans.  Beyond this, it also has widespread use as a natural cleaning agent.
Garlic is a powerhouse that has significant biological activity against infection and even chronic diseases like hypertension. Borlinghaus, et. al. in 2014 focused on allicin, a molecule of garlic, that was able to kill bacterial microorganisms including an antibiotic-resistant form of Staphylococcus aureus or MRSA (methicillin-resistent SA).  A study also found that garlic supplementation was able to treat a stomach infection caused by the H. pylori bacteria and reduce the risk for gastric cancer. 
Ginger is one of the oldest herbal remedies in the world, used for thousands of years in Indian and Chinese traditional medicine to manage various conditions from gastrointestinal problems to heart disease.  Ginger essential extracts have been shown to exhibit antibacterial activity against E. Coli and SA by disrupting their cell membranes. 
4. Horseradish Root
Horseradish is part of the mustard family, albeit the spicier, more pungent cousin (wasabi, yes the green paste served with sushi, is a kind of horseradish). Tedeschi, et. al. in 2011 discovered that both garlic and horseradish exhibited strong insecticidal and fungicidal activity, with horseradish being twice as effective as garlic.  A more recent study in 2021 reported that isothiocyanate (found in horseradish) was able to treat uncomplicated UTI; with the researchers reporting that this form of therapy could help reduce the need for antibiotics. 
Onions are a universal staple in the kitchen, used in a variety of dishes to add depth and flavor. However all over the world, onions have also been used in natural medicine. Suleria, et. al. in 2015 reports on onion’s various health benefits, including anticancer and antibiotic abilities, to name a few.  We can attribute these to onion’s antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activities, which come from their significant phenolic content. 
6. Habanero Peppers
Habanero peppers, or chili peppers in general, have been studied for years regarding their antibiotic properties. Research by Fuchtbauer, et. al. in 2021 concluded that capsaicin could be used to complement existing antibiotic therapies or even potentially replace them in cases of antibiotic resistance.  Similarly, Akbas, et. al. in 2018 published a study on capsicum extract and E. coli and SA, showing both antioxidant and antimicrobial effects on the microorganisms. 
7. Oregano Oil
In 2017, Liu, et. al. published a study on various spices, with oregano being one that showed the most potent antimicrobial characteristics.  Oregano was able to exhibit antimicrobial effects on different kinds of Salmonella.  Santoyo, et. al. in 2006 studied essential oils from oregano and found that they were effective against SA, Bacillus subtilis, E. Coli, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Candida albicans, and Aspergillus niger.  In modern times, oregano tinctures and oil are regarded as valuable antibacterials in the natural health community.
Turmeric, a member of the ginger family, is well-known for its use in Indian cuisine — curry in particular. Traditionally, it has been used to treat conditions that affect the skin, upper respiratory tract, joints, and digestion.  Today, various studies have homed in on turmeric and its antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, anticancer, and antibacterial properties.  A 2014 review found that turmeric was most effective against the bacteria, H. Pylori, which affects the gastrointestinal tract. 
Echinacea, a flowering plant by the common name of coneflower, is commonly used as a supportive supplement for the common cold and other infections. This is largely due to echinacea’s ability to boost the immune system.  The results of a trial were published in 2021 and showed that echinacea was able to reduce antibiotic usage among children affected by respiratory tract infections, as well as prevent said infections from occurring. 
10. Raw honey
Raw honey has been used for over thousands of years because of its antibiotic ability, particularly in wound healing (used topically). There is literature on the medicinal uses of honey dating back to 8000 years ago during the Stone Age, as well as the age of the Ancient Egyptians, Chinese, Greeks, and Romans.  Research shows how honey is effective against E. Coli, Enterobacter aerogenes, Salmonella, and Staphylococcus aureus. 
11. Colloidal silver
Silver is probably the best established and most commonly used in the orthodox medical world out of all the items on this list, having a long history of use from antibacterial silver water vessels in Graeco-Roman times through to silver sutures in the 1800s. In modern times, silver is used in various wound healing treatments or medicines, like silver sulfadiazine (SSD) which is used on burns and open wounds  and silver-impregnated bandages. This is because of silver’s potent antibiotic abilities that prevent infection. A study in 2020 used silver to prevent hospital-associated infections by disinfecting surfaces  and similarly, could also be used in dental work as an antibiotic treatment . It’s claimed that silver acts selectively against harmful bacteria in the body, preserving healthful bacteria. Colloidal silver is a suspension of silver particles in water. Colloidal silver sprays are now often seen in alternative health circles, where they are used for throat infections, eye infections, colds, flu, light scrapes / wounds, stomach bugs caused by food-borne bacteria and more.
12. Eucalyptus Essential Oil
The scent of eucalyptus makes it an excellent choice for freshening up the air in a room but it also has pretty amazing antibiotic properties: In 2010, Sadlon and Lamson studied eucalyptus oil and concluded that it had a variety of antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, analgesic and immune-system boosting effects, but most importantly it was primarily antimicrobial. It affected various bacteria, viruses, and fungi, including tuberculosis and MRSA. In fact, eucalyptus could be used to manage various respiratory problems such as bronchitis, asthma, and COPD.  Earlier in 2008, eucalyptus essential oil was tested on different microorganisms and was found to be effective against H. influenzae, parainfluenzae, S. maltophilia, and S. pneumoniae. 
Novel treatment of gastrointestinal diseases like diarrhea often include probiotics. Erceflora is one example, which is made of Bacillus clausi, a polyantibiotic resistant probiotic that is part of our normal intestinal flora.  In 2012, Hempel, et. al. reviewed randomized, controlled trials that involved the use of probiotics and concluded that they were able to reduce the symptoms of AAD, or antibiotic associated diarrhea.  A recent publication in 2020 also found that probiotics could be used as supplemental therapy for infections caused by H. Pylori, because of its significant antibiotic effects. 
While much research has been done on the antibiotic medicine you get prescribed at the doctor’s office, there is a lot of work going into natural antibiotics as well. If you do decide to go the natural route, be sure to consult with your doctor first; especially if you are also taking other medications as well (to prevent any interactions).
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 The World Health Organization. (2014) WHO’s first global report on antibiotic resistance reveals serious, worldwide threat to public health. http://www.who.int/mediacentre/news/releases/2014/amr-report/en/
 Gopal, J., et. al. (2017). Authenticating apple cider vinegar’s home remedy claims: antibacterial, antifungal, antiviral properties and cytotoxicity aspect. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/14786419.2017.1413567?journalCode=gnpl20
 Yagnik, D., et. al. (2018). Antimicrobial activity of apple cider vinegar against Escherichia coli, Staphylococcus aureus and Candida albicans; downregulating cytokine and microbial protein expression. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29379012/
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 Tedeschi, P., et. al. (2011). Insecticidal activity and fungitoxicity of plant extracts and components of horseradish (Armoracia rusticana) and garlic (Allium sativum). https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21726146/
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 Albishi, T., et. al. (2013). Antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and DNA scission inhibitory activities of phenolic compounds in selected onion and potato varieties. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1756464613000637
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 Akbas, E., et. al. (2018). Physicochemical and Antimicrobial Properties of Oleoresin Capsicum Nanoemulsions Formulated with Lecithin and Sucrose Monopalmitate. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30311173/
 Liu, Q., et. al. (2017). Antibacterial and Antifungal Activities of Spices. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5486105/
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 Santoyo, S. et. al. (2006). Supercritical Carbon Dioxide Extraction of Compounds with Antimicrobial Activity from Origanum vulgare L.: Determination of Optimal Extraction Parameters. https://meridian.allenpress.com/jfp/article/69/2/369/171809/Supercritical-Carbon-Dioxide-Extraction-of
 National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. Turmeric. https://www.nccih.nih.gov/health/turmeric
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 Moghadamtousi, S., et. al. (2014). A Review on Antibacterial, Antiviral, and Antifungal Activity of Curcumin. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4022204/
 National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. Echinacea. https://www.nccih.nih.gov/health/echinacea
 Ogal, M., et. al. (2021). Echinacea reduces antibiotic usage in children through respiratory tract infection prevention: a randomized, blinded, controlled clinical trial. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1186/s40001-021-00499-6
 Eteraf-Osokouei, T. & Najafi, M. (2013). Traditional and Modern Uses of Natural Honey in Human Diseases: A Review. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3758027/
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