Top Antibacterial Herbs and Food for Preventing Infection

Antibacterial by nature, these foods and herbs can help prevent infection.

| November/December 2012

  • Cranberries are potent E. coli fighters.
    Photo By Loupe
  • Honey helps support a healthy immune system and can help fight respiratory infections.
    Photo By iStockphoto
  • Studies show oregano can help kill the fungus that cause yeast infections.
    Photo By Loupe

Long before the discovery of penicillin in the 1920s, cultures around the world turned to plants for their antibiotic needs. Ancient Egyptians used honey on wounds to help heal and prevent infection, and everyone from the ancient Romans to the early Americans relied upon garlic to treat infections. With the advent of conventional antibiotics, however, Western medicine began to leave medicinal plants behind. But today, with growing concerns about the overuse of antibiotics and the emergence of drug-resistant bacteria, interest in plant medicines is being restored.

Unlike antibiotics, which wipe out all bacteria in the body regardless of whether they’re harmful or beneficial, plants can be used to target an infection while leaving the body’s supply of good bacteria intact. Although medical professionals don’t suggest avoiding antibiotics altogether (many bacterial infections are serious enough to warrant their use), in many cases, antibacterial herbs and foods can help prevent infection and work synergistically with antibiotics to treat infection. Always talk to your doctor—and be wary of taking antibiotics for upper respiratory infections, many of which are caused by viruses and therefore will not respond to antibiotics.

Fabulous Fruits

It’s a long-held belief that drinking cranberry juice is good for bladder infections, and research backs that up. A 2006 study from the Worcester Polytechnic Institute showed that cranberries and cranberry juice can prevent urinary tract infections by preventing E. coli bacteria from adhering to bladder walls and beginning an infection. In a clinical trial of women with urinary tract infections, researchers also found that women who drank one cup of cranberry juice a day were less likely to have recurring infections than those who took Lactobacillus, a beneficial bacteria, or those who took nothing.

Cranberries work better as a preventive measure than as a treatment. To help prevent infection, drink one cup of unsweetened cranberry juice (sugar feeds the growth of bacteria) daily or take 400 to 500 milligrams (mg) of cranberry extract capsules twice daily.

Pomegranate is another powerful antibacterial. Although the antioxidant activity of this superfood has been well-documented, recent studies have also been diving into pomegranate’s antibacterial properties. In a study published in the International Journal of Microbiology, pomegranate extract showed antibacterial activity against bacteria such as E. coli, Bacillus cereus and Staphylococcus aureus. Additionally, a clinical trial of kidney disease patients on dialysis found that those patients who drank pomegranate juice three times a week for one year were less likely to be hospitalized from infection.

Although the juice provides some antibacterial effects, of the parts tested, the fruit’s rind showed the strongest inhibitory effect against bacteria. To make a tea from the rind, cut its peel into nickel-size pieces, lay them in the sun to dry, then steep 4 to 5 pieces in boiling water. You can also drink one cup of pomegranate juice daily.

7/29/2016 3:42:49 AM

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7/30/2013 11:41:34 AM

Oregano oil is NOT TOXIC when taken internally, we have used this for many years AND you can purchase it at Hi Health it works awesome,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,

10/23/2012 5:01:25 PM

Useful article, but it should be mentioned that oregano, if taken as an essential oil internally, is toxic. I am sure the capsules in the article are made from a whole plant liquid extraction. In Europe aromatherapy is administered a number of ways, including internally. some essential oils are safe to take this way, say a drop on a sugar cube, but others should only be administered by a professional.

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