5 Effective Natural Antibiotics

Learn about some of the world’s more effective natural antibiotics, and get a few recipes to put them to use in your own home.

| January/February 2016

  • Artemisia annua can be used in an antibacterial wash for wounds.
    Photo by Kristian Peters via Wikimedia Commons
  • Artemisia annua, the most potent of its genus, is famous for its effectiveness in treating malaria.
    Illustration courtesy Wikimedia Commons
  • Berberines can be used to treat bacterial and fungal infections of the GI tract and skin.
    Illustration by Rabo Karbakian
  • Berberine plants can be applied topically to treat cuts, scrapes or infected wounds.
    Photo by James Steakley via Wikimedia Commons
  • Cryptolepis root is used medicinally for bacterial infections as a powder, tincture, tea or capsule.
    Illustration courtesy Wikimedia Commons
  • The Cryptolepis genus of herb is one of the top five systemic herbal antibiotics in the world.
    Photo by Robert v. Blittersdorff
  • Juniper can inhibit SARS coronavirus, herpes simplex 1 and various cancer cell lines.
    Illustration courtesy Wikimedia Commons
  • Herbs are some of the world's most effective natural antibiotics, and can be used in a variety of forms to treat infections, wounds and other maladies.
    Photo by Fotolia
  • Leptospermum scoparium flowers are used to make manuka honey, a potent wildflower honey that can be used medicinally.
    Illustration by Franz Xavier via Wikimedia Commons

By now most of us know the many problems associated with the overreliance on antibiotics—these life-saving marvels are key to modern medicine, but their overuse in both medical settings and in the treatment of farm animals has helped develop antibiotic-resistant superbugs. Although of course we always recommend caution in the use of herbal medicine, and seeking the advice of a trained medical professional, this article can help you learn about some of the world’s most potent antibiotic plants. If you have an irritating but mild upper respiratory infection, ear infection or sinus infection, for example, you just might be able to cure it with these astounding plants.

This article is excerpted from the second edition, completely revised and expanded, of Stephen Harrod Buhner’s book Herbal Antibiotics. The authoritative text on this topic, Buhner’s book offers an immense amount of information—much more than we could ever include in an article—and is critical reading for anyone hoping to become truly knowledgeable about natural medicine. I highly recommend it. —Jessica Kellner

Herbal Antibiotic Remedies

Herbal Glycerite Ear Infection Treatment
Natural Nasal Spray for Sinus Infections
Herbal Antibacterial Wash
Honey and Sage Decoction for Colds and Flu
Eucalyptus-Juniper Steam for Upper Respiratory Infections


Cryptolepis is one of the top five systemic herbal antibiotics in the world. There are 20 to 30 species of the genus Cryptolepis. Tests have found the plant to be a stronger antibacterial than the pharmaceutical antibiotic chloramphenicol. The primary systemic antibacterial among the genus is Cryptolepis sanguinolenta. Some sources say all the members of this genus contain the antibacterial alkaloids cryptolepine, quinoline and neocryptolepine. I have been unable to verify this by finding any in-depth chemical analysis of the other species. Of the plants in the genus, C. buchanani and C. obtusa have stimulated the most interest outside C. sanguinolenta. Given the importance of C. sanguinolenta, in-depth chemical research needs to be done on the entire genus.

Parts Used

The root is usually the part used medicinally. The leaves can be used medicinally but rarely are. The root of the plant is generally about the thickness of a pencil, and has a light tannish color on the thin exterior bark and a brilliant yellow on the interior. It’s pretty. The root is exceptionally bitter due to the many alkaloids present.

Preparation and Dosage

Cryptolepis can be prepared as a powder, capsules, tea or tincture.

1/30/2018 10:56:07 AM

Wonderful and thorough!

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