Natural Antibiotics: You Don't Have to Buy Them From a Pharmacy

Tanu Ganguly, NDTV  |  Updated: September 13, 2017 23:11 IST

Natural Antibiotics: You Don't Have to Buy Them From a Pharmacy
  • Synthetic antibiotics may have side effects like headaches or diarrhea
  • Antibiotic resistance is one of the biggest threats to global health
  • Kitchen ingredients like neem, garlic & honey act as natural antibiotics
When you think 'antibiotics', you immediately think of popping pills. Isn't it? For most part that is true. Antibiotics are medicines prescribed to cure a range of bacterial infections. These work either by killing the bacteria or stopping the bacteria from multiplying. But, did you know that the use of anti-bacterials has been going on since ancient times and much before the chance discovery of Penicillin by Alexander Fleming in 1928 to cure and control bacterial infections?

That’s right, a host of common food items possess the quality to not just provide relief when an infection strikes, but also help prevent future episodes by boosting the immune system. These are ‘natural’ antibiotics, not made in a laboratory, and easily available around us. 

It is important to remember that antibiotics (when prescribed by Doctors) do not help with viral infections. Common ailments like flu, cold and upper respiratory-tract infections are mostly caused by viruses. In a healthy body, the natural immune system is able to fight bacteria with the help of the white blood cells. Once the body detects an infection in the system, it naturally increases the production of White Blood Cells (WBCs) that fight the bacteria and help the body recover. Sometimes though, the body might need outside help if the infection is too severe. This is when antibiotics are used to help. But synthetic antibiotics can come with many side effects like gastric irritation, vomiting, diarrhea, allergies or headaches. These side effects may vary from mild to severe and are different for all of us. Natural antibiotics have no adverse effects. So, if you are not generally allergic to this type of food, you can reap its anti-bacterial benefits. 
Antibiotic Resistance

As modern science develops and we break new ground with revolutionary discoveries, we also risk misusing antibiotics. According to the World Health organization (WHO), ‘Antibiotic resistance is one of the biggest threats to global health, food security, and development today’. At the heart of this drug resistance is misuse and overuse. This is also why using natural antibiotic, when possible, may help. 

Antibiotics and Children 

Children falling sick makes us worry more than when adults fall ill. We want to provide quick relief and make sure the kids get back to being healthy soon. However, this must not prompt us to quickly self-prescribe a round of antibiotics. Dr. Rajeev Chabra, HoD, Pediatrics at the Artemis Hospital in Gurgaon, strongly advises against self-medicating. "In most cases with children, it’s a viral infection and so antibiotics will not help. I would strongly discourage against self-medicating and getting the medicines directly from a pharmacist without a prescription." He further adds, ‘It is also equally important to complete the course, if it says 7 days then please have it for the full duration." Here is a list of natural antibiotics easily available in every Indian kitchen

1. Honey

Honey is one of the oldest known antibiotics. It is an anti-bacterial and now even modern medicine believes in its benefits. According to Dr. Chabra, ‘Honey has been proven, beyond doubt, to be helpful in both prevention and treatment of respiratory illnesses. Honey provides great relief to children suffering from constant respiratory troubles’. 

(Also read: 11 Amazing Benefits of Honey)

2. Neem

The Neem tree is a common sight across India. We already know the health benefits of neem. But ever wondered why applying neem paste on your face helps you get rid of pimples? It is because of neem’s anti-bacterial properties! Neem and neem oil have been recommended in Ayurveda for their purifying abilities. Neem can be eaten as well as applied locally. Though, consumption for a longer duration must be done only after consulting a health care practitioner. 

(Also read: 10 Wonderful Uses of Neem)
neem new 625

3. Garlic

Garlic is also one of the most commonly available antibiotics. In small doses, it is not only safe to consume garlic but it is also heart friendly. Up to two cloves per day is considered an acceptable dosage.

(Also read: Foods That Are Good for Your Heart)

4. Thyme Oil

Thyme has many uses around the house. The herb is not only used in cooking but its extract is also used for its anti-microbial properties. Thyme essential oil is particularly effective in the treatment of acne. A word of caution: do not consume thyme essential oil as it is meant for external use only. 
You could mix a few drops with carrier oils like coconut or olive and apply externally. 

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(Also read: The Healing Power of Essential Oils)
hair oil

5. Oregano Essential Oil

Don’t confuse this with the oregano-infused oil we put on our pizzas and pastas. Medicine grade oregano leaves are used to make a pure extract which retains its anti-bacterial properties. Oregano oil has been specifically helpful in addressing several infections related to the stomach and gut. Carvacrol, an ingredient found in oregano essential oil, is known to have important healing properties. Oregano oil can be consumed in small quantities by mixing it with coconut oil.

CommentsIn addition to these natural remedies, an overall heaths lifestyle is a must. The lifestyle choices we make through the foods we eat and the physical exercises we indulge in go a long way in preparing our body to ward off infections. Eating well, exercise consistently and getting a good night’s sleep are most important for a balanced approach to health and wellness. 

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