What are Herbal Antibiotics?

Erin J. Hill

Herbal antibiotics are any herbal remedies which have antibacterial properties to help fight infection. There are various types of herbs that help ward off bacteria, and they can be found in health food or grocery stores in pill or suppository form. Some practitioners advise taking herbal antibiotics instead of conventional ones because bacteria are becoming increasingly resistant to commonly used antibiotics.

Ginger is available in capsule form, but it is also commonly brewed as a tea.
Ginger is available in capsule form, but it is also commonly brewed as a tea.

Examples of herbal antibiotics are goldenseal, garlic, echinacea, ginger, and rose hip. They work by inhibiting the growth of bacteria in certain areas of the body and can be taken orally or occasionally via suppository, in the case of vaginal infections. Commercial forms are often available, although using the whole herb is also a viable choice in many cases. There are also supplements available which contain various types of herbal antibiotics combined together to help fight more serious or recurrent infections.

Garlic can be added to many foods as an herbal antibiotic.
Garlic can be added to many foods as an herbal antibiotic.

Herbal antibiotics are not always recommended for bacterial infections that are serious or prolonged. More conventional methods may be recommended in these cases, as they are able to kill bacteria faster and more efficiently. Mild infections, however, may be better treated using natural means because it helps prevent bacteria from becoming resistant to modern drugs. Sometimes herbal and traditional antibiotics will be combined to treat and prevent the recurrence of infection.

Some herbal antibiotics, such as garlic or vitamin C, can be taken on a regular basis to prevent infections from occurring in the first place. Garlic can be added to many foods, and ginger can be taken in supplement form or by being added to tea or food. Oftentimes the regular use of herbal antibiotics keeps infections from reoccurring in those with persistent bacteria, helps medications work more efficiently, and keeps bacteria at bay until a doctor’s appointment can be made to treat a current infection.

The use of herbal antibiotics is somewhat controversial, and some doctors do not advocate their use without the consent of a licensed physician. The belief is that herbs are not as potent as conventional medicine, and their exclusive use may not halt or slow down the growth of harmful bacteria. This could result in patients becoming sicker than need be and requiring higher doses of drugs when a visit to the doctor is finally made. Others disagree and maintain that herbal antibiotics can be just as potent as drugs with fewer side effects when given in high enough doses by a licensed herbalist or homeopathic practitioner.

In any event, signs of infection should be reported to a physician or practitioner of some sort. This will allow the bacteria to be cultured in order to determine what type is causing the problem, and for the correct treatment options to be found. Not all bacteria respond well to all medications or herbal remedies, so determining the strain of bacteria present is important for proper treatment and prevention.

Herbal antibiotics may be purchased from local pharmacies.
Herbal antibiotics may be purchased from local pharmacies.

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