What Are the Different Types of Natural Antiseptics?

J. Gonzalez

A great many things have natural antiseptic qualities, and in general they can be classified into two broad “types”: animal products and plant products. Plant products can usually be broken down further; leaves and plant extracts, often in the form of essential oils, are very popular in many places, and many roots and bulbs also qualify. In addition, the juices of many fruits and the extracts of some seeds can provide germ-killing services, though usually only in high concentrations.

Garlic is a known antiseptic that can be eaten and applied topically.
Garlic is a known antiseptic that can be eaten and applied topically.

Antiseptic Basics

Broadly speaking, antiseptics are substances that help prevent bacterial infections. They primarily work by killing bacteria on contact, or at least preventing strains from reproducing. People typically use antiseptic products as a way of cleaning wounds and calming inflammation. Chemically synthesized antiseptic ointments are often popular additions to first aid kits, for instance, though people who know what they’re looking for can often find a number of these same qualities in nature. A number of plants and animal products are natural antiseptics.

Grapefruit seed extract is often added to tea due to its antifungal properties.
Grapefruit seed extract is often added to tea due to its antifungal properties.

Using antiseptics from nature often requires a bit of finesse, but much of this depends on a person’s ultimate goal. Some of the most popular natural options are reduced down into essential oils, which can often be applied directly to the skin. Other things like fruits or leaves can be rubbed on, certainly, but people usually need to use caution not to introduce new irritants to skin that is broken or inflamed. For certain conditions, actually eating the antiseptic food or plant can help control internal inflammation or affliction.

Honey stops the growth of bacteria.
Honey stops the growth of bacteria.

Animal Products

Honey is one of the most widely available antiseptics that comes not from plants but actually from animals — insects in this case. The secretion, which is made by honeybees, works as a natural healing agent because it has antimicrobial agents that stop and kill the growth of bacteria. Placing honey over a wound not only may help prevent infection from starting or spreading, it may also reduce swelling and redness in the skin. Rubbing honey over a cut or scrape promotes healing and may aid broken skin to repair and re-grow, and swallowing it can help treat inflammation and infection in the throat and upper digestive tract.

Leaves and Plant Extracts

Many of the most widely marketed “natural antiseptics” come as distilled or compressed oils that have been derived from the leaves of a range of plants. The tea tree is one of the most popular. Tea tree oil is known for having multiple benefits and works well for skin care. The oil works as a natural antibiotic as well as an antiseptic, both of which are beneficial when fighting and preventing skin infections. If using to clean and disinfect wounds, full strength tea tree oil should be diluted slightly with water to protect the skin and avoid further irritation.

Spices including cinnamon, nutmeg, and clove also fall into this category. Simply eating these spices can provide some benefit, as can putting them directly on the skin. They are usually the most powerful in concentrated form, though.

Roots and Bulbs

Garlic, ginger, and onion are three of the most common roots and bulbs that carry antiseptic properties. They like leaves can be condensed into oil form, but people often get good results simply using them whole. They can be rubbed onto an injury or consumed to help prevent problems in the digestive tract and to alleviate internal injury and inflammation.

Fruits and Juices

A great many natural antiseptics come from fruit, particularly tropical fruit. Lemon juice works as an antibacterial cleanser and also has sterilizing properties, for instance. Applying lemon to a bleeding cut is said to help stop the flow of blood. The juice of a lemon is also good for treating and relieving irritated bug bites and bee stings. Although lemon juice has healing benefits for broken skin, the acid in the lemon may carry a slight sting when it is exposed to a wound.

Pineapple also works as a topical antiseptic and astringent. Fruit and juice from the pineapple also has antibiotic properties, and typically contains a number of vitamins such as vitamins B, A, and C. Not only does a pineapple help with healing wounds on the skin, it can also help to clean out tooth abscesses or other cuts in the mouth. Like the juice of a lemon, using pineapple juice on open wounds may sting.

Grapefruit seed extract can be harder to make at home, but is just as powerful. People can use grapefruit seed extract by placing up to 40 drops in a bottle of water and using the solution on the wound a few times a day until it has healed. Grapefruit solution can also be put in a spray bottle for large areas or for easier application.

Lemon juice can help treat a bee sting.
Lemon juice can help treat a bee sting.

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Can we use orange seed as an antiseptic?

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