Antibiotics have helped save lives and have played a significant role in making advances in medicine and surgery (1). They have successfully treated or prevented infections that can occur in patients with compromised immune systems, such as cancer patients receiving chemotherapy treatments, for those who suffer from chronic diseases such as diabetes or rheumatoid arthritis, and for patients recovering from complex surgeries. Antibiotics have also been a lifesaver in developing countries where the absence of adequate sanitation leads to foodborne and other poverty-related infection.
Despite the positive impact antibiotics have had in recent years, their overuse has reached an all-time high, and as a result, antibiotics are losing their effectiveness. As antibiotic-resistant bacteria known as “superbugs” become more common, doctors have started to look into alternative therapies to these increasingly ineffective drugs. Let's take a look at five natural remedies to help fight infections and keep you healthy, particularly as we enter flu and cold season.
For centuries, garlic has been considered a powerful antibacterial agent (2). Garlic can fight off a wide range of bacteria, and if you don’t know what you’re dealing with, garlic is a good starting point. You can also make garlic extract by soaking a few garlic cloves in olive oil like Olea True! Garlic is generally safe to ingest but stay away from large doses as that may be detrimental to the gut. Up to two cloves per day is considered an acceptable dosage.
The use of honey as a healing agent dates back to ancient times. A Sumerian tablet, dating back to 2100-2000 BC, mentions honey's use as a drug and an ointment. Aristotle (384-322 BC) referred to honey as being “good as a salve for sore eyes and wounds.” The healing properties of honey are mostly due to its antibacterial activity and to its high viscosity - which provides a protective barrier to help prevent skin infections (3). It also maintains a moist environment that helps promote healing. Manuka honey, in particular, has been reported to exhibit antimicrobial activity against pathogenic bacteria such as Staphylococcus aureus (S. aureus) and Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) making honey a promising holistic option for the for treatment of wounds and stomach ulcers.
3. Olive leaf extract
Olea True has discussed the health benefits of high phenolic olive oil at length, particularly about the anti-inflammatory properties contained in oleocanthal. However, the olive leaf contains oleuropein which is another naturally occurring compound with health benefits (4). Oleuropein acts as a natural anti-viral compound which exerts antioxidant and antibacterial effects that strengthen the body's immune response. And unlike antibiotics, it destroys only the bad bacteria without harming the good.
4. Elderberry tea
Elderberries are rich in flavonoids and anthocyanins, which are highly bioactive antioxidants that help the body absorb vitamin C (which is essential for immune function) and support a healthy inflammatory response. Black elderberry extracts and flower infusions have been shown to reduce the severity and length of influenza (5). In fact, one study of 60 people with influenza found that those who took 15 ml of elderberry syrup four times per day showed symptom improvement in two to four days, while the control group took seven to eight days to improve (6).
5. Grapefruit Seed Extract
Grapefruit Seed Extract has been reported to be a highly effective, natural antibiotic for killing a wide range of bacteria including E. Coli, Staph, and Strep germs (7). In one study, drops of concentrated grapefruit-seed extract were tested for antibacterial properties against a number of gram-positive and gram-negative organisms (8). The researchers concluded that GSE was comparable to “proven topical antibacterials. Although the GSE appeared to have a somewhat greater inhibitory effect on gram-positive organisms than on gram-negative organisms, its comparative effectiveness against a wide range of bacterial biotypes is significant.”