Bacteria and other pathogens are nearly omnipresent in our world. While our immune system has the ability to protect the body from their harmful effects, it is when these invaders reach toxic levels that infection can occur. Bacterial and other infections should be treated by a trained health care professional. In addition, certain herbs may help kill bacteria and strengthen the body's natural defenses. Consult your doctor before trying herbal remedies.
Echinacea, or purple coneflower, is a popular herbal remedy for the common cold and flu. It is considered antibacterial, antiviral and antimicrobial. It grows throughout North America and was used traditionally by Native Americans to treat infections and help heal wounds. Herbalists today use echinacea as a natural antibiotic. According to a 2010 study published in "Phytomedicine," extracts of echinacea were found to be effective in combating several common bacteria, including the bacterium Streptococcus pyogenes, which causes sore throats; Hemophilus influenzae, which causes ear and sinus infections; and Legionella pneumophila; which causes Legionnaires' disease. It is commonly taken in tincture or liquid extract form. Talk to your health care practitioner regarding proper use of echinacea to treat bacterial infections.
Garlic is a prolific herb revered by chefs and herbalists alike. Its active ingredient, allicin, is antibacterial, antifungal and antiviral. It has been used for centuries to treat a variety of conditions, including influenza, the common cold and the plague. During World Wars I and II it was known as Russian penicillin. Herbalists today use it as a natural antibiotic to fight bacterial infections. According to an early study from 1985 published in the journal "Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy," scientists confirmed that garlic inhibits the growth of as many as 30 different strains of bacteria.It can be eaten fresh or taken in tablet form. Consult your health care provider before using garlic for medicinal purposes.
Goldenseal is a flowering plant that grows throughout North America. It was used traditionally in Native American and folk medicine to treat wounds, skin infections, digestive disorders and other infectious conditions. It is often combined with echinacea in herbal cold and flu remedies. In a 2010 study from "Planta Medica," researchers explained that berberine, the main chemical constituent in goldenseal, is naturally antibacterial and anti-inflammatory. Researchers observed antibacterial activity in extracts of goldenseal when tested against Staphylococcus aureus, the bacterium responsible for staph infections. The herb can be found in herbal teas, liquid extract or capsule form. Talk to a trained health care practitioner for proper administration of goldenseal.
Melaleuca, better known as tea tree, is native to Australia and New Zealand. It has potent antibacterial properties and is often used in natural cleaning products and herbal preparations. In a 2010 study of melaleuca's antimicrobial action, researcher Mary Fitzpatrick notes that it is effective in controlling or combating several common bacteria, including Bacillus sutilis, a prolific bacteria found in ground soil; Escherichia coli, found on produce and other plants; Micrococcus roseus, found in soil and water; and Serratia marcescens, which is responsible for urinary tract infections and infections of surgical wounds. While melaleuca tea is taken internally, tea tree oil should only be used topically. It may also be found in gargles or mouthwash, but large quantities have been known to cause adverse affects. Consult your medical doctor before trying melaleuca.
- "Phytomedicine"; Bactericidal and Anti-Inflammatory Properties of a Standardized Echinacea Extract; S. Sharma, et al.; July 2010
- "Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy"; Inhibition of Mycobacteria by Garlic Extract; E. Delaha, et al.; April 1985
- "Planta Medica"; Goldenseal (Hydrastis Canadensis L.) Extracts Synergistically Enhance the Antibacterial Activity of Berberine; K. Ettefagh; December 2010
- "Antimicrobial Action of Tea Tree Oil (Melaleuca Alternifolia) on Five Common Bacteria"; M. Fitzpatrick; February 2010