Updated: Mar 8
In today's world, with the rise of antibiotic-resistant infections, it is more important than ever to look for natural alternatives to fight infections. Luckily, nature provides us with a range of powerful antimicrobials and probiotics that can help us stay healthy without relying on antibiotics.
Antimicrobials are natural compounds that have the ability to kill or inhibit the growth of microorganisms such as bacteria, viruses, and fungi. Many plants produce antimicrobial compounds to protect themselves from infections, and we can harness these compounds to support our own health.
There are many natural antimicrobial supplements that can help fight infections. Here is a list of natural antimicrobials to consider for your medicine cabinet:
1) Garlic contains allicin, a compound that has been shown to have broad-spectrum antimicrobial activity used for candida overgrowth, respiratory infections, and skin infections.
2) Oregano oil contains carvacrol and thymol, two compounds with strong antibacterial and antifungal properties.
3) Tea tree oil has been shown to be effective against a range of pathogens, including MRSA.
4) Berberine: a bitter‑tasting, yellow plant alkaloid found in the roots, rhizomes, and stem bark of various plants, including Oregon grape, barberry, and goldenseal. Berberine has been shown to have antimicrobial, antiviral, and anti‑parasitic properties, including properties against potential pathogens in the GI microbiome. It has been shown to inhibit the growth of Giardia lamblia, Vibrio cholera, and Entamoeba histolytica. Studies have also demonstrated its potential to inhibit yeast and several species of bacteria, including S. aureus, E. coli, and P. aeruginosa, H. pylori and Clostridium difficile. Berberine may support GI health by strengthening intestinal tight junctions and reducing gut permeability.
5) Goldenseal: Commonly consumed as a tea or taken as a supplement, the herb goldenseal (Hydrastis Canadensis) often combined with Echinacea for the prevention or treatment of the common cold and other viruses. Also, in traditional medicine for the treatment of various infections related to the eyes, skin, and urinary tract, as well as for diarrhea, vaginitis, and canker sores.
6) Grapefruit seed extract: This extract has antimicrobial properties against a range of bacteria, viruses, and fungi, and may be helpful for treating infections like candida overgrowth, ear infections, and urinary tract infections.
7) Olive leaf extract: Contains oleuropein, a compound with antimicrobial properties against a range of pathogens, including bacteria and viruses. It may be helpful for treating infections like colds and flu and can also support the immune system.
8) Echinacea: This herb has been found to have antimicrobial properties against a range of pathogens, including viruses and bacteria. It may be helpful for treating respiratory infections like the common cold and flu. Take it as a supplement or enjoy it as tea.
9) Colloidal silver: This liquid supplement contains tiny particles of silver, which have antimicrobial properties against a range of pathogens, including bacteria and viruses. It may be helpful for treating infections like sinusitis, ear infections, and strep throat.
10) Andrographis: This herb has been found to have antimicrobial properties against a range of pathogens, including bacteria and viruses. It may be helpful for treating respiratory infections like the common cold and flu and can also support the immune system.
11) Tribulus Extract (Tribulus terrestris) is an annual shrub native to warm, subtropical, and desert climates such as Southern Europe, Southern Asia, and the Middle East. It has been used medicinally in traditional Chinese and Indian medicines for centuries. It contains many bioactive compounds including saponins and alkaloids that may have health‑promoting properties and has been shown to exhibit antibacterial activity against several types of pathogenic bacteria and yeast, including Enterococcus faecalis, Staphylococcus aureus, Escherichia coli, Candida albicans, Salmonella typhimurium, Proteus vulgaris, Cornybacteria diphtheriae, and Pseudomonas aeruginosa.
12) Artemisinin (Artemisia annua; Sweet Wormwood) is derived from the inner bark of the Artemisia annua tree. Its common name was dubbed “wormwood,” owing to its noted ability to kill parasitic worms. This compound has long been used as an antimalarial. It contains many bioactive compounds that may promote health and support a healthy microbial balance, including flavonoids, eriodicytol, luteolin, and quercitin. Studies have demonstrated its efficacy against parasites that induce GI symptoms and various pathogenic bacteria and fungi, including S. aureus, Staphylococcus epidermidis, E. faecalis, Enterobacter cloacae, E. coli, S. typhimurium, and C. albicans. It has also been shown to be effective against a range of viruses, including human cytomegalovirus, Epstein‑Barr virus, herpes simplex type 1, and hepatitis B and C. Artemisinin also supports antioxidant status and immune function.
13) Black Walnut Extract (Juglans nigra) has a long history of use as an intestinal antiparasitic (vermifuge, anthelmintic) in botanical medicine. It also possesses activity against common bacterial and fungal pathogens that occur in GI dysbiosis. There have been at least six distinct bioactive compounds with antibacterial effects identified in black walnuts, some of which are also antiviral, antifungal, and antiparasitic/antiprotozoal. Black walnut extract also has potent anti‑inflammatory effects.
14) Bearberry Extract (Arctostaphylos uva‑ursi) grows in subarctic northern climates in Asia, North America, and Europe, and its medicinal use dates back to the 13th century. Uva‑ursi contains a compound called arbutoside, which is converted in the gut and liver to hydroquinone. Hydroquinone has antiseptic effects in the GI and urinary tracts. Uva‑ursi has been shown to have antibacterial action against pathogenic organisms including P. aeruginosa.
15) Caprylic Acid is found naturally in coconut oil and breast milk. It is able to penetrate and disrupt bacterial cell membranes and reduce biofilm formation as well! It has been shown to be effective against inhibiting the growth of C. difficile and inhibiting C. albicans and its biofilm formation.
16) Pau d’Arco: Derived from the inner bark of several Tabebuia tree species, Pau d’Arco—also known as taheebo or lapacho—is endemic to South America, where its earliest reported medicinal uses date as far back as 1873. Due to reported antifungal and anti-inflammatory properties, pau d’arco is consumed as an herbal tea for a wide range of inflammatory ailments and infections including; including arthritis, fever, prostatitis, candidiasis, bacterial infections, parasitic diseases, dysentery, boils, and ulcers.
17) Probiotics are beneficial bacteria that live in our gut and help keep our digestive system healthy. The science is catching up! Probiotics can also have antimicrobial properties and can help boost the immune system. Some strains of probiotics, such as lactobacillus and bifidobacterium, have been found to have antimicrobial properties and can help prevent the growth of harmful bacteria in the gut. Other strains, such as saccharomyces boulardii, have been shown to have antifungal properties and can help prevent candida overgrowth and fungal infections.
Note: Ear infections are a great example of an infection that really shouldn’t be prescribed antibiotics. Some natural antimicrobials that can be helpful in supporting the immune system and fighting the infection include:
- Garlic: Applying garlic oil (mullein drops) to the affected ear or taking garlic supplements may be helpful in treating ear infections. - Tea tree oil: Applying diluted tea tree oil to the affected ear may be helpful. - Colloidal silver: Applying colloidal silver drops to the affected ear or taking colloidal silver supplements may be helpful in treating ear infections. - Echinacea: Taking echinacea supplements may be helpful in supporting the immune system and fighting ear infections. - Olive leaf extract: Olive leaf extract contains oleuropein, a compound with antimicrobial properties against a range of pathogens, including bacteria and viruses. Taking olive leaf extract supplements may be helpful in supporting the immune system and fighting ear infections.
There are also many natural foods that have antimicrobial properties that can boost your immune system and help fight infections. Try to incorporate these foods regularly:
- Garlic - Ginger - Turmeric (anti-microbial and anti-inflammatory) - Oregano
- Raw honey (manuka honey in particular) - Coconut oil - Cinnamon - Apple cider vinegar (raw) - Cloves - Fermented foods (sauerkraut, kimchi)
- Cruciferous veggies (cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, horseradish, mustard, turnips, rutabaga) contain isothiocyanates which are reported antimicrobials against E. coli, salmonella, pseudomonas as well as fungus and yeast.
These are just a few examples of natural antimicrobial foods and supplement ingredients. By incorporating natural antimicrobials and probiotics into our diet and daily routine, you can help support your immune system, fight infections naturally and reduce the need for antibiotics.
Please keep in mind that sometimes antibiotics are necessary, however you can hold a lot of power in your natural medicine cabinet. Lastly, natural supplements can interact with prescription medications, so please reach out before consuming the above if you are on medications.