Polysporin is an antimicrobial compound that is available in ointment form to treat minor skin wounds. It is also used in combination with one or more other antimicrobials in preparations for ophthalmic care. Polysporin kills bacteria or slows their growth to reduce the likelihood of infection. Some people experience unpleasant side effects from polysporin. Fortunately for them, natural alternatives can produce results comparable to those seen for polysporin. Consult your doctor before using any alternative remedy.
Stephen Harrod Buhner, author of “Herbal Antibiotics: Natural Alternatives for Treating Drug-Resistant Bacteria,” strongly recommends echinacea, which is derived from the flowers or the roots of the purple coneflower. He says the herb not only has potent antibiotic properties, but also stimulates the body’s immune system, corrects tissue abnormalities and combats inflammation. All of these qualities make echinacea ideal for use in the treatment of external wounds, in which the primary aims are to promote healing and prevent infection.
James A. Duke, author of “The Green Pharmacy Herbal Handbook,” points out that Germany’s Commission E, the agency responsible for reviewing herbal remedies, approves the use of echinacea to treat superficial wounds. However, botanist Duke says that drinking a cup of echinacea tea to strengthen the immune system might be the best way to fight off possible infection. Check with a medical professional to see if treatment with echinacea is appropriate for you.
Aloe and Cayenne
Although each is recognized primarily for characteristics starkly different from the other, both aloe and cayenne can be used as an alternative to polysporin or other antibiotic ointments in the treatment of minor external wounds. Long recognized for its usefulness in treating burns, aloe also has natural anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties, according to Linda B. White and Steven Foster, authors of “The Herbal Drugstore.” The plant also contains allantoin, which stimulates cellular growth, thus hastening healing. Slice an aloe leaf and generously slather the area of the wound with the aloe gel. Repeat as needed.
Capsaicin, a compound in the cayenne pepper, relieves pain, inhibits bleeding, promotes healthy circulation, fights infection and speeds healing, according to White and Foster. They report that tests comparing the speed of healing from antibiotic ointments with that from capsaicin-based creams confirmed that the latter were more effective. Use capsaicin-based creams only and not cayenne pepper or the spice itself, as those substances can irritate the skin. Consult your doctor before using aloe, cayenne or any other alternative treatment.
Tea Tree Oil
Tea tree oil, a pale yellow-colored oil derived from the leaves of the Melaleuca alternifolia, native to Australia, has some pretty impressive properties for the treatment of minor skin wounds, according to botanist Duke. In “The Green Pharmacy Herbal Handbook,” he says much of the credit goes to terpinen-4-ol, a potent antiseptic compound found in the oil. He warns, however, that the oil in undiluted form sometimes causes irritation, particularly in those with sensitive skin. To reduce the chances of such side effects, Duke suggests dilution by mixing several drops of tea tree oil into 2 tbsp. of vegetable oil. If irritation should occur, dilute it further or discontinue use. However, talk to a medical professional before using tea tree oil or any other alternative remedy.
- “Herbal Antibiotics: Natural Alternatives for Treating Drug-Resistant Bacteria”; Stephen Harrod Buhner; 1999.
- “The Green Pharmacy Herbal Handbook”; James A. Duke; 2002.
- “The Herbal Drugstore: The Best Natural Alternatives to Over-the-Counter and Prescription Medicine”; Linda B. White and Steven Foster; 2000.