5 Best Antibiotic Herbs

Learn how herbs such as oregano, thyme and chamomile fight bacteria and combat infections naturally.


| March/April 2017



Herbs

Herbs such as chamomile, thyme and garlic can help heal a variety of ailments.


Photo by Anneka DeJong

Back in the 1970s, some experts believed we’d all but defeated infectious disease thanks to our rapid leaps in the development of antibiotic medicines. But this view has proven woefully mistaken, as illness-causing bacteria have evolved to resist modern medicine. Today, antibiotic overuse and misuse is common, both in farm animals and in modern medicine. Antibiotics are often prescribed for colds and flu, which are caused by viruses, so are not treatable with antibiotics. As a result, we are experiencing a serious rise in antibiotic-resistant superbugs (for example, in 2014 the World Health Organization estimated that there were about 480,000 new cases of multidrug-resistant tuberculosis). 

Interestingly, many herbs have proven antibacterial properties, and researchers are turning to these herbs as they work to discover new ways to counter resistant illnesses. This list includes some of my favorite antibiotic herbs: German chamomile, garlic, ginger, oregano and thyme. In time, these ancient herbs may become some of the most potent medicines of the future, but they can also prove useful now to help prevent illness. Keep in mind, much of the research discussed in this article is very preliminary. We recommend consuming these herbs for general wellness and for use in the treatment of mild infections. For serious illness or infection, it is critical to consult a medical professional.  

Chamomile

This seemingly delicate flowering plant is actually potent medicine, particularly when it comes to skin and dental infections. The German Commission E monographs approve German chamomile as a skin treatment for bacterial infections. Researchers assessed the antimicrobial activity of a German chamomile extract against the fungus Candida albicans and the bacteria Enterococcus faecalis. Candida albicans is a common fungus associated with yeast infections, and E. faecalis is an antibiotic-resistant and often life-threatening infection that sometimes inhabits root canal-treated teeth. The Indian Journal of Dentistry published an assessment of a lab study of a high-potency chamomile extract and found that it helped kill both microbes. This study could help explain German chamomile’s longstanding reputation for healing dental abscesses and gum inflammation.

Chamomile goes by many names but the two main types are German chamomile, known as Matricaria chamomilla or M. recutita, and Roman chamomile, known as Chamaemelum nobile

It is best to avoid using chamomile if you are allergic to ragweed. Also, the drug warfarin has been found to interact with chamomile. Additionally, other blood thinners may interact with chamomile, so it is best not to use chamomile if you are taking these drugs.

Garlic

Garlic (Allium sativum) is best known for its heart-protecting and antiviral properties, but thanks to a growing body of studies on its other medicinal properties, we also know it is antibacterial. According to James Duke, botanist and author of The Green Pharmacy, garlic contains several antimicrobial compounds, including allicin, a powerful, natural broad-spectrum antibiotic. 





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