5 Surprising Natural Alternatives to Antibiotics

If you ask most naturopaths about taking antibiotics, you’ll likely see us shutter. Why? Well, we know the havoc they wreak on gut health.

But we also know there are many natural alternatives to antibiotics that aren’t regularly discussed but have been shown to be just as effective as those pharmaceutical drugs!

Intrigued? Many are when they hear this news! So, I want to dive into the science behind some of the top antibiotic alternatives and discuss why you should consider trying them first.


Antibiotics: Why a Prescription Should Give You Pause

There’s no doubt that prescription antibiotics have their purpose. In fact, they’ve even saved lives. But it should come as no surprise that they also carry risks, especially given the fact that they’ve been so readily prescribed in recent decades.

For example, did you know that up to 20 percent of all patients who take prescription antibiotics experience adverse side effects? [1]

These can range from pretty mild allergic reactions to extreme gastrointestinal issues, such as C. difficile, a bacterium that often causes symptoms such as diarrhea or even life-threatening inflammation of the colon.

Then there’s the issue of emerging antibiotic resistance, which is being more and more common. In fact, according to the World Health Organization, antibiotic resistance is one of the greatest threats to global health today. [2]

Why? Well, many of our most concerning infections such as pneumonia, tuberculosis, salmonella poisoning, and more are becoming harder to treat since antibiotic misuse (i.e., over-prescribing) has caused the antibiotics to become less effective.

Fortunately, this isn’t a situation where we have no other options. There are actually many plant-based sources in nature that have strong anti-microbial properties.

By trying these first, it’s very possible that you can avoid those stronger prescription antibiotics, saving them for when they’re only absolutely necessary.

In fact, a friend of mine used to get regular sinus infections each spring and fall due to severe seasonal allergies. Once she started taking oil of oregano at the first sign of allergy symptoms, she was able to avoid doctor’s office visits and antibiotics altogether for this reason.

Recently, she told me it’s been almost two years since she was put on an antibiotic for a sinus infection. Before tapping into this natural alternative to antibiotics, she was on at least four prescriptions a year!

Now, obviously, this is just one story … and I can’t promise the same results for you. And there will be times when you absolutely need a prescription antibiotic, so you should always discuss your situation with your doctor first.

That said, this gives you an idea of how powerful natural alternatives to antibiotics can be!

So, let’s take a look at some of the top natural alternatives to antibiotics you should know about so you can stock up and always be prepared in case you need them. There are even a few you can add to your dietary rotation for preventative measures!

Top 5 Natural Alternatives to Antibiotics

So, what are some natural antibiotics you can turn to in a pinch? Take a look at five of the top all-natural sources with anti-microbial properties you should be aware of.

1. Garlic

Whether you love to cook and know how versatile this spice is or you just have a healthy appreciation for Italian food, most people love garlic for its rich flavor. But did you know that garlic offers some pretty powerful anti-microbial benefits?

Numerous studies have shown that garlic is a powerful remedy to help protect against many different bacteria, fungal, and viral infections, making it one of my top natural alternatives to antibiotics.

Interestingly, it’s the allicin in garlic that provides both these powerful benefits along with the strong odor associated with crushed garlic.

In fact, a 2015 study revealed that garlic helped fight C. albicans (fungus) and MRSA (an antibiotic-resistant bacterial infection). [3]

Meanwhile, a 2017 in vitro study confirmed that simply inhaling the vapor of garlic is useful in fighting lung infections caused by some drug-resistant bacterial strains. [4]

Personally, I like to regularly add garlic to sauces, soups, and stews. If you’re interested in taking a garlic supplement, though, speak with your physician first to determine your optimal dosage.

2. Oil of oregano

As I mentioned above, I’m a fan of oil of oregano, especially for upper respiratory concerns.

Here’s why: Studies have confirmed that the compounds in oil of oregano are so powerful that it’s actually been shown to both directly kill and even prohibit the growth of intestinal bacteria, such as E. ColiSalmonella typhimuriumStaphylococcus aureus, and others, as well as fungi, such as Candida. [56]

But that’s not all. Oil of oregano is also known to help shorten the duration of viral illnesses such as the common cold and the flu. And it’s been shown to decrease the severity of symptoms associated with these illnesses by supporting the health of your immune system. [7]

Finally, oil of oregano is a fantastic supplement to consider taking anytime you’re suffering from a sore throat. Why? Many sore throats are caused by postnasal drip, which is often the result of a viral or bacterial infection upper respiratory infection.

According to a 2011 study, participants with an upper respiratory infection who used a throat spray containing oregano oil combined with other essential oils experienced decreased symptoms within 20 minutes of using the spray. [8]

As always, speak with your doctor before taking this supplement, especially if you’re pregnant or breast feeding.

3. Manuka honey 

Recently, we discussed the fact that I recommend including manuka honey in your at-home natural first aid kit. And this was due not only to its wound-healing and anti-inflammatory properties, but also its abundant anti-microbial properties.

According to a 2013 review, using Manuka honey not only promotes rapid and improved wound healing, but also relieves pain in burns, decreases skin inflammation, and fights bacterial infections in wounds. [9]

Moreover, studies have shown that Manuka honey is highly effective against many different bacterial strains, including MRSA. In fact, it was shown to completely inhibit it at 50 percent concentration. [10]

Another perk is of Manuka honey is that it can be used as a cough suppressant as well. Just keep in mind that it isn’t safe for children under the age of 1, though it’s best to speak with a pediatrician before use for any children.

You can find manuka honey at most health food stores and online. Common dosages are typically one-half teaspoon under the tongue two to five times daily, as needed, though you can also use it topically.

4. Tea tree essential oil

As with many of the other natural alternatives to antibiotics that we’ve discussed, tea tree essential oil is really an absolute must-have for your medicine cabinet for topical concerns.

You may be surprised to learn this, but tea tree oil is also known to have powerful anti-microbial properties.

As a result, it’s been known to help fight everything from MRSA (Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, a notoriously difficult strain of bacteria to eliminate) to other common strains of bacteria, such as E. coli.

Studies have shown that when compared to conventional treatments, tea tree oil was significantly more effective in treating MRSA carriage.

In fact, one study compared treatment using a 4-percent tea tree oil nasal ointment and a 5-percent tea tree oil body wash with mupirocin nasal ointment and Triclosan body wash in 30 participants.

Of the 15 patients receiving conventional treatment, two were cleared of MRSA while eight still carried MRSA. Meanwhile, of the 15 patients in the tea tree/melaleuca oil group, five were cleared of MRSA and only three still carried MRSA.

The remainder of patients did not complete therapy. Differences in clearance rates were not statistically significant, most likely due to the low patient numbers. [11]

Additionally, tea tree oil has been shown to be an especially effective ingredient in handwashes and hand sanitizers, making this natural antibiotic especially useful during our current COVID-19 era.

Scientists actually conducted a study on its effectiveness due to its known antiseptic properties—and the results were fascinating: A handwash containing 5 percent tea tree oil performed significantly better than soft soap. [12]

You can utilize tea tree oil by mixing it with a carrier oil and applying to areas of concern or by using it in homemade handwashes and homemade sanitizers.

Remember, tea tree oil cannot be consumed and should be used for topical purposes only!

5. Turmeric

Finally, let’s talk about one of my favorite natural alternatives to antibiotics: turmeric.

Turmeric is a spice derived from the Curcuma longa plant that’s commonly used in Asian cooking. And it’s one compound in turmeric that’s responsible for its powerful properties: curcumin.

Amazingly, curcumin has been found to contain some incredible anti-microbial and anti-inflammatory properties.

In fact, studies have shown that curcumin inhibited the spread and development against many different bacterial infections, including Streptococcus agalactiae, Staph. aureus, Staph. intermedius, Staph. Epidermidis, and more. [13]

It’s even been shown to be significantly effective in fighting Helicobacter pylori, a bacterial infection that occurs within the stomach. [14]

I like to use turmeric in golden milk and even keep this homemade mix on hand to make my own turmeric latte on a regular basis. Alternatively, you can choose to supplement with turmeric root for a myriad of benefits.


Natural alternatives to antibiotics - Dr. Pingel


Regardless of which natural alternatives to antibiotics you choose to use (perhaps even all!), I want to encourage you to discuss trying some of these with your doctor and maybe even incorporating a few into your regular routine (such as the turmeric and garlic).

You may be surprised to find how much better you feel just by adding a few natural alternatives to antibiotics to your regular regimen.


Key Takeaways