Antibiotics are, by definition, medicines that kill bacteria. Prescription antibiotics are very aggressive and attack many kinds of bacteria, including some of the friendly bacteria the body needs.
This is why taking prescription antibiotics can lead to yeast infections and digestive problems. Yeast is normally controlled by friendly flora in body. Some of these reside in the digestive tract, and when their population is disrupted, they can cause digestive problems such as constipation or diarrhea.
Natural antibiotics work a little bit differently. They help strengthen the body’s natural defenses so the body can fight the infection on its own. Many natural antibiotics can be taken to fight bacterial infections such as sore throats, ear infections and even kidney infections without the risk of harming friendly flora and disrupting the body’s natural balance.
Different herbs and probiotics can be used to fight bacterial infections, and some are even considered generally safe for consumption by the US Food and Drug Administration. Some, like prescription antibiotics, protect against a wide range of bacteria, while other natural supplements are beneficial for only certain types of infections. The following list covers most of common herbs and supplements which treat ailments typically covered by prescription medication.
Astragalus is a Chinese herb used to treat a variety of conditions. It is naturally antibacterial, antiviral and anti-inflammatory. It also has antioxidant properties and is known to help strengthen the immune system. It may be used to treat colds and flu, fatigue and seasonal allergies.
Calendula is a flowering herb also known as pot marigold. It is rich in antioxidants called flavonoids. It is typically used as a topical treatment for cuts, bruises and dermatitis. It has been found to help fight inflammation, viruses, and bacteria. Of note, this herb is found on the US FDA GRAS list (plants generally recognized as safe).
Cranberries and cranberry juice are a well-known home remedy for urinary tract and kidney infections. Some evidence suggests that active ingredients in cranberries help to halt the growth of bacteria in the urinary tract. However, for full benefit, unsweetened cranberry juice should be used.
Echinacea, also known as purple cone flower, is a staple in the herbalists’ pharmacopeia. It is naturally antibacterial, antiviral and anti-fungal. It can be used to treat a variety of bacterial and viral infections, including: cold and flu, yeast infections, sinusitis, sore throat, hay fever, ear infections and athlete’s foot.
Gentian violet is a natural topical antibiotic used to treat minor wounds and skin infections. It is particularly effective against thrush, a common mouth infection in breastfed babies. The only drawback is it does stain the skin purple, but it is a powerful remedy. Check with your pharmacist as it is typically kept behind the pharmacy counter. This herb is also found on the US FDA GRAS list.
Goldenseal is a natural antibiotic that is often combined with Echinacea to treat colds and flu. It should not be confused with goldenrod, which is sometimes associated with seasonal allergies. It has been shown, in laboratory studies, to kill a wide range of bacteria, viruses and parasites, including E-coli. It strengthens the immune system and may help combat cold and flu, upset stomach and urinary tract infections.
Peppermint is another herb that is found on the FDA GRAS list. It is probably most commonly known as an additive in toothpaste and breath mints. However, it is also a powerful herbal remedy used to treat anything from headaches and upset stomach to sinus and chest congestion. It is even found in some over the counter chest rubs. Its active ingredient, menthol, is an effective decongestant and expectorant.
Melaluca is probably best well known as tea tree oil. It is a powerful topical antibiotic and can be used to treat cuts and scrapes, as well as dermatitis, warts and other skin infections. Melaluca should not be taken orally as it is considered toxic. Use only topically for minor skin problems.
Probiotics are friendly bacteria that are beneficial to the body. The “friendly flora” help keep other harmful bacteria in check. The most common probiotics are Lactobacillus acidophilus and Bifidobacterium bifidus. They can be found naturally in cultured milk products like yogurt. They are especially beneficial to combat yeast infections and other minor bacterial infections in the body.
Many herbs and natural supplements are safe alternatives to prescription medications. However, it is important to check with your doctor before trying them as they may cause allergic reaction in some or interact with other medications. Remember that herbs and other natural therapies should be used in conjunction with, and not in place of, conventional medical care.
- Botanicals Generally Recognized as Safe – http://www.ars-grin.gov/duke/syllabus/gras.htm
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Herbs – http://www.umm.edu/altmed/
Medicine Net: Probiotics – http://www.medicinenet.com/probiotics/article.htm#what