A scenario that many preppers consider is what happens when easy access to antibiotics is no longer a reality? Many of the infections we consider a mere inconvenience use to kill a lot of people. Consider that the average life expectancy was low before antibiotics. Childhood illnesses or even just a cut could be the end. Natural antibiotics can help when pharmaceuticals are not available.
Many preppers have a stash of antibiotic ointments and pills labeled for fish. During the COVID-19 pandemic, many fish antibiotics sold out over fears that medications and supplies from foreign countries would run out. Unfortunately, many antibiotics are made overseas. Our dependence on nations halfway around the world for lifesaving medications is a major problem brought on by vast globalization and outsourcing.
While natural antibiotics are no substitute for those discovered and compounded by mankind, it’s helpful to know what you might have around you that could provide some prevention or relief during a long emergency or SHTF scenario.
Remember that while store-bought antibiotics last many years and remain somewhat usable well after their expiration date, they will eventually run out in a serious situation. Although I believe that humanity would try as hard as possible to keep producing medical supplies, a scenario like nuclear war would put a damper on any good intentions.
I’ve compiled a list of herbs and plants that have natural antibiotic properties. I have no formal medical training, so this advice is based on homeopathy and herbalism. Like any medication, the results will vary from person to person.
It’s easier to successfully treat bacterial infection if you start taking something for it as soon as possible. During a SHTF situation, you might want to start taking some natural antibiotics before infection sets in. If your injury is one that is likely to cause a problem, this is especially important. Bites, animal or human, are practically guaranteed to fester. Hot and humid weather promote infection, so be very careful during the summer months about cleaning and treating even small cuts and abrasions.
Disclaimer: This article discusses natural medicine. I am not a medical professional. The advice in this article is not a replacement for professional medical advice or care.
Table of Contents
It’s hard not to love honey. It has some great antibacterial and antibiotic properties on top of being a delicious and satisfying natural sweetener, so every prepper should have some in their stockpile.
However, be careful about where you get your honey. There are many adulterated products. For best results, buy a brand that certifies it only bottles honey from the USA. If you can find a local beekeeper or honey house, that’s an excellent way to ensure you get real honey.
We can thank the active compound allicin for the outstanding antibiotic properties of garlic. It’s widely documented that garlic is effective against gram-positive and gram-negative bacteria which means that it’s an excellent broad-spectrum antibiotic. Garlic is tolerated by practically everyone. The only negative side effect is the odor, and a few people may experience some stomach issues if they consume too much. Garlic extract has also been found to prevent harmful bacteria from forming on your gums.
This beautiful and easy to grow flower is a strong immune system booster. Echinacea has been shown to boost your body’s white blood cell count so you can fight off infections more easily. Echinacea can be taken in pill form, as a tea, or in lozenges.
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There are many ways to add ginger to your diet and gain some powerful antibiotic protection. Ginger is an extremely easy root to grow at home. In fact, you can even grow it inside in containers. During a SHTF situation, growing your own herbal remedies could be quite valuable.
Where I live, goldenseal grows wild, but it has become harder to find because of people overharvesting. It’s effective against infections of the mucus membranes. If you’re prone to sinus or eye infections, goldenseal may prevent and treat these maladies. You can buy goldenseal in capsule or tincture formulas. There are also herbal teas that contain goldenseal.
Cloves and clove essential oil are effective against several types of bacteria, including E. coli. Cloves can also provide relief for those suffering from a toothache.
Oregano Oil has been found to be very effective at preventing and treating infections of the skin. Studies have shown that when used with pharmaceutical antibiotics, it can reduce the dosage required, minimizing the side effects of taking a pharmaceutical. Oregano essential oil is effective against a wide range of bacteria. The compounds responsible for Oregano’s benefits include the following:
- Carvacrol—Stops the growth of many types of bacteria
- Thymol—Boosts the immune system and inhibits fungal growth
- Rosmarinic Acid—Acts as an antioxidant, preventing cell damage and helping your immune system fight off infection
There is a lot of controversy around using silver as an antibiotic. Clearly, it has some antibacterial properties or you would not see pharmaceutical companies, such as Curad, commercially producing Silver Solution ointment.
Colloidal silver comes in many concentrations. Some people make their own at home using some basic equipment. If you buy commercially produced colloidal silver, make sure that you purchase it from a reputable company. I’ve been using Silver Wing’s Colloidal Silver for many years. It helped me get severe cystic acne under control. There was a time when I had to take antibiotics more than most because of skin infections. Now, if I have a whitehead on my face, I soak the absorbent part of an adhesive bandage in 500 ppm colloidal silver, put it on the affected area, and leave it on overnight. The results are amazing. The swelling goes down and the redness starts to fade. I cannot guarantee it will work for you, but it does for me.
Onions contain sulfur compounds, called cysteine sulphoxides, that have an antibiotic-like effect. They are also anti-inflammatory. These compounds are best absorbed if they are cooked. Even briefly sauteing onions in a pan will help bring out their medicinal advantages.
Good quality apple cider vinegar with the “mother” has many health benefits. I usually buy Bragg’s Apple Cider Vinegar, but there are a few comparable brands. Apple cider vinegar is safe for almost anyone to use but it is very acidic, so you don’t want to overdo it.
Many people have turned to turmeric to get relief from myriad health issues. Although you should consider the most outrageous claims with caution, this plant does have some promising characteristics. Curcumin gives turmeric its color, and it’s the compound that is effective against cold and flu viruses. It is also clinically proven to be an antifungal and antimicrobial.
12. Coconut Oil
Extra virgin coconut oil is something you should have on hand. You can use it as a carrier oil for other natural antibiotics, and it also has its own bacteria-fighting properties. Coconut oil has become very popular and is readily available. For best results, buy good quality extra virgin coconut oil that is unrefined. It is also effective on skin infections.
I was happy to discover that pineapple is an effective natural antibiotic thanks to bromelain. Pineapple juice is shelf stable and easy to get at the moment. It can help with urinary tract infections, and it eases inflammation. Pineapple is effective enough that you should consult your doctor before using it if you are already taking antibiotics or other medications.
We plant horseradish on our farm not only because we like the flavor it adds to sauces and other foods but also because it’s very good at treating sinus and upper respiratory infections. The volatile oil in horseradish has been proven to kill the bacteria that commonly cause urinary tract infections.
- Respiratory problems
- Sciatic nerve pain
- Edema (water retention)
- Coughs, colds, and asthma
- Skin blemishes and dandruff
- Gallbladder disorders
- Intestinal parasites
Grapefruit seed extract has been found to be clinically effective against more than 60 strains of bacteria. It also has antifungal properties. Doctors have found it to be as effective as some prescription antifungals and antibacterial.
Studies have found that contact with grapefruit seed extract causes the cell walls of a bacterium to burst in a mere 15 minutes.
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The power of lemons comes from their high acidity as well as the active compounds that cause that acidity. Lemon juice can quickly kill bacteria, fungi, and yeast. Lemon juice is highly acidic, so use it with caution as it can burn or irritate skin. Be sure to use organic lemon juice if applying it to the skin. Although nonorganic lemon juice is less expensive, I do not recommend it for skin contact based on a particularly bad allergic reaction I had to a cheaper store brand juice. I’ve never had any problem with lemon juice over the years.
17. Vitamin C
Vitamin C powder is inexpensive, but you need to mix it with juice or something to hide the taste. The taste is why so many people take capsules or buy drink mixes like Emergen-C that contain high levels of vitamin C. The problem with Emergen-C is that it contains a lot of other vitamins and minerals, so you have to be careful if you’re taking other supplements so that you don’t take too much of any one mineral or vitamin. Zinc is one that comes to mind.
A study published in Clinical Biology and Infection found that eucalyptus was effective against some pathogenic bacteria, particularly Haemophilus influenzae.
According to the CDC, conditions that could be relieved by eucalyptus include
- Pneumonia* (lung infection)
- Bloodstream infection
- Epiglottitis (swelling in the throat)
- Cellulitis (skin infection)
- Infectious arthritis (inflammation of the joint)
Eucalyptus is also effective against fungal infections.
19. Tea Tree Oil
Many skin remedies contain tea tree oil, and for good reason. This oil has amazing healing properties. Tea tree oil has been found to be effective against E. coli, S. pneumoniae and H. influenzae. When added to commercial liquid soaps, it makes them more effective against E. coli.
Tea Tree oil can treat acne, a major cause of skin infections.
20. Peppermint Oil
Of all the essential oils, peppermint is one of the easiest to get and the least expensive. Peppermint oil is effective at treating and preventing not only infections but also fungal and parasitic problems. I regularly use peppermint-based soaps and sprays to keep our dogs from having skin problems.
Common peppers can help fight infections. All peppers seem to have some antibiotic properties. Even sweet red bell peppers can fight food-borne bacteria. The most common side effect is gastrointestinal distress from consuming too much or getting pepper into mucus membranes. You can buy capsules for the benefits of peppers without the burn factor. Pepper is sometimes combined with garlic in capsules to help treat blood pressure conditions.
This great smelling, but fairly expensive oil, can directly kill bacteria and stimulate the immune system to produce more white blood cells, which hastens recovery and healing while reducing the chances of other infections. More studies are being conducted, but a fascinating study recently found that diluted myrrh oil killed dormant Lyme disease bacteria, which can persist in those that have recovered from the first phase of the disease. This is a huge breakthrough that could offer some natural relief to those suffering from the ongoing effects of Lyme disease.
The active ingredient in this common kitchen herb is thymol , a compound that is in a class known as biocides. These naturally occurring compounds kill harmful bacteria. When used with regular antibiotics, it can help prevent antibiotic resistance, an all too common problem in modern medicine.
24. Wolf Lichen
When you look up at a tree and see things growing on the bark or branches you may not think much about it. However, you may be looking at a natural antibiotic. Wolf lichen contains vulpinic acid, which is effective against bacteria.
25. Salt Water
Salty water has been used for many years to flush and kill bacteria. Yes, it can hurt to put salt on a wound, but it could help save your life in a SHTF situation. However, be careful when using salt. You can definitely overdo it. Salt dehydrates and a certain amount of moisture is needed for healing. To make a saltwater rinse, add ½ teaspoon of salt to 8 ounces of hot water. For best results, boil the water and allow it to cool enough to comfortably use on skin. Water can hold bacteria, and although salt can kill a lot of it, it’s best to keep things as sterile as possible.
26. Activated Charcoal
Activated charcoal absorbs toxins and creates an inhospitable environment for bacteria. Many people take activated charcoal regularly to prevent chronic gastrointestinal distress. It also absorbs the byproducts that bacteria produce, so you can get better faster. For more info on what activated charcoal can do for you, check out “How To Make Activated Charcoal and Use It Correctly”.
Your body needs a balance of bacteria. Yogurt contains a lot of beneficial bacteria that can help you fight infections. Even when taking commercial antibiotics, it’s a good idea to consume yogurt. Pharmaceutical grade antibiotics don’t just kill the nasty bacteria you are trying to fight; it also kills the good stuff.
Extracts from cruciferous vegetables have been found to have compounds with antibacterial properties. Red cabbage is a rich source of phenolic compounds, with anthocyanins being the most abundant, which might explain its potent antimicrobial action.
29. Fermented Foods
People who eat fermented foods have less disease-causing bacteria in their guts. Eating fermented foods during and after a course of traditional pharmaceutical antibiotics can help replenish the good bacteria and microbes the medication kills. Kimchi and sauerkraut are good examples of easy to make fermented foods. Just be sure that they haven’t been processed after fermentation. Sauerkraut in a can is an example of a fermented food that doesn’t have any live bacteria present for you to benefit from.
While Astragalus may be new to many, it has actually been used for a very long time to treat upper respiratory infections. The root of the Astragalus plant is dried and powdered. It can be taken as a capsule or mixed into food or drink. It enhances the immune system, but it might interact with some medications, like immune system suppressants. Speak to your doctor before taking Astragalus if you take any prescription medications.
31. Fragrant Water Lily
There is nothing quite like seeing a pond with fragrant water lilies adorning its surface. This aquatic plant has antimicrobial properties. Although the entire plant is edible and high in some vitamins and minerals, the seeds of the fragrant water lily are known to have the greatest antimicrobial effect when consumed.
Wintergreen is mostly used as a flavoring agent, but it does have mild antimicrobial properties. It’s also very easy to grow. Although it’s not as potent as some natural antibiotics, it’s still worth mentioning.
This plant, sometimes called “Dragon’s Tongue,” has been used for many years by Native Americans to treat chronic urinary tract infections. It boosts the immune system and has astringent properties when used on the skin.
The bloodroot plant gets its name from its roots that bleed red when cut. Native Americans have traditionally used bloodroot as a natural antibiotic. It’s becoming harder to find in the wild because of overharvesting by foragers. You can buy it from a supplier or grow it yourself. It likes moist locations, and it transplants well.
35. Pomegranate Rind Extract
The pomegranate is a tasty fruit. It’s no wonder that it’s sometimes called a super fruit. Pomegranate rind extract has been found to be effective against all pathogenic bacteria. It is also known to be anti-inflammatory and anti-viral. Furthermore, its antibiotic properties are available in both powders and juices and do not seem to be affected by processing.
The common juniper berry is an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory agent, and it can help those with diabetes. This is all in addition to its antibacterial and anti-fungal properties. Crushed juniper berries are typically used for medicinal treatments.
Doctors have long told patients with urinary tract infections, or a history of them, to drink cranberry juice. The active compounds in cranberry juice create an inhospitable environment for the bacteria that like to attach to the bladder walls.
I recently realized that fennel is a good addition to my kitchen. Now I know that it can be used to prevent and treat upper respiratory tract infections. It is also useful for treating cholera, bronchitis, and can be used as a poultice for snake bites.
39. Narrow Leaf Plantain
This plantain is commonly found in forests on the east coast of the United States. The juice from crushing the leaves is known to be an effective anti-inflammatory and antibacterial, and it can be used as an astringent. The leaves can be eaten stir fried or boiled.
Feverfew has anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, antibacterial, and antifungal properties so it’s useful for treating a variety of conditions, including infections and arthritis.
41. Guava Leaf Extract
Guava leaf extract is effective against a number of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. It’s also effective against the common staph and salmonella bacteria that make millions sick each year. The bioactive compounds in guava leaf fight pathogens, and they can help maintain a healthy body weight.
42. St. John’s Wort
While St. John’s wort is known as a natural solution for depression, it is also effective against staph bacteria. However, be careful when using St. John’s wort as it can interact with some medications, including birth control and antibiotics. It’s easy to find in capsule form at any pharmacy or health food store.
This plant is actually a pest, but it has some antibacterial properties. It’s effective against gram-positive and gram-negative bacteria, including
- Klebsiella pneumoniae
- E. coli
- Staphylococcus aureus
Mullein is an antiviral that has shown promise in treating and preventing herpes and viral pneumonia.
The geranium flower can be used as a natural antibiotic in hard to heal wounds. In some studies, it was found to be as effective as amoxicillin at treating some strains of staph. However, it was not as effective on some other bacteria. Germanium essential oil can be applied to wounds to help them clot and heal. Since it is also antifungal and antibacterial, it would be good to have on hand when you cannot use commercially produced antibiotic ointments.
Not only does lavender smell great, it has some interesting medicinal uses. It kills bacteria on the surface of the skin. In studies, lavender oil has been found to promote the healing of skin tissue. This can reduce the chance of an infection. It also acts as an anti-inflammatory agent. Lavender oil is affordable and easy to find. It’s many uses make it a favorite of natural medicine practitioners and essential oil enthusiasts.
Common Lemongrass is an excellent wide spectrum natural antibiotic. As a bactericidal agent, it has been found to be effective against many bacterial species, such as Acinetobacter baumanii, Aeromonas veronii, Enterococcus faecalis, Escherichia coli, Klebsiella pneumonia, Salmonella enterica, Serratia marcesens, Proteus vulgaris, Enterobacter aerogenes, Corynebacterium equii, Staphylococcus aureus.
The flowers that so many people just kill are actually good for many things from tea to helping treat and prevent infections. It’s good to find something helpful that literally grows like a weed.
An extract from burdock leaves is effective against Influenza viruses and a range of bacteria. Burdock has also been used to boost the efficiency of manmade antibiotics. This is important when treating antibiotic resistant bacteria or major infections. Burdock is extremely easy to come by since it is generally considered a pesky weed.
The ingredient that gives beer much of its unique flavor is also good for preventing and treating infections. Hop extracts at low concentrations can kill gram-positive bacteria. It has also been found to stop hepatitis C from replicating. Many people are turning to hop extracts for help with mood disorders and sleep. It also acts as an anti-inflammatory.
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In Appalachia, allheal is basically a weed. It grows in many disturbed areas, including gardens, fields, and yards. The entire plant has many active compounds that can heal and prevent an amazingly large range of conditions, hence the name it’s commonly known by. Heal-all or allheal is anti-inflammatory and antibacterial, and it acts as an astringent. For more details on the variety of conditions it treats, check out this article.
51. Staghorn Sumac—Not to be confused with poison sumac!
Sumac is a great source of vitamin C and some other vitamins and minerals. It is prolific once established. It’s important to learn to positively identify this plant to avoid confusing it with its poisonous relative, poison sumac. Look at pictures and know the difference before consuming any sumac!
Staghorn sumac produces a beautiful cluster of red berries. Sumac extracts have a mean free radical scavenging and peroxyl radical scavenging activity higher than ascorbic acid and green tea according to this study. Sumac tea or extracts also have antimicrobial properties. Sumac has been used in Native American medicine for a very long time.
52. Sweet Gum
This pretty tree boasts compounds that are effective against gram-negative and gram-positive bacteria. Serious studies have shown that sweet gum extracts are promising for treating antibiotic resistant bacteria, including the dreaded MRSA that is becoming common in major medical centers and doctor’s offices. It is very effective against E. coli bacteria, which creates a difficult to treat condition that plagues many nations.
53. Baking Soda
It’s good to keep baking soda on hand for a variety of purposes. Like salt water, it creates a salty environment that causes the cell walls of bacteria to break down. Baking soda is a cheap natural remedy and cleaner.
Using Essential Oils
Many of the natural antibiotics listed in this article are available in essential oil form. It’s important to understand how to use essential oils correctly. They are very concentrated, and often should be used with carrier oils. If you intend to use essential oils for medicinal purposes, always read any warnings or interactions listed for an oil. Some essential oils should not be used by anyone with certain underlying medical conditions.
Because dosage can vary based on the condition being treated and a variety of other factors, I recommend buying a reference book you can consult as needed. It’s impossible to learn and remember everything there is to know about oils and dosages. Here’s a list of the books that essential oil experts use as references.
- The Complete Book of Essential Oils and Aromatherapy by Valerie Ann Worwood
- Surviving When Modern Medicine Fails by Dr. Scott A. Johnson
- Essential Oils, Ancient Medicine by Dr. Josh Axe
Good Carrier Oils
Buy reputable essential oil brands
There are many cheap and counterfeit essential oils out there. That’s the last thing you want when trying to treat a medical condition. Some essential oils are more expensive to produce than others because it takes a lot of plant to get a small amount of extract. If a price seems too good to be true, that’s a sure sign that it’s fake. Essential oils are very concentrated, so a little goes a long way.
Recommended Brands of Essential Oils
Some oils are ok to use on infants and children, but others are not. The dosage for children is much different than for that of an adult.
Any substance or remedy can be toxic in excess. As many of us know, reading the warning label on any medication or remedy can make you question whether it’s worth it. Just because something is natural doesn’t mean it is safe to take more than you should. You might want to start at the lower end of the dosage range to see how a new treatment affects you before taking a stronger dose. It can also take a few doses to get used to how a natural remedy makes you feel. Some oils and meds are meant for external use only.
You’ve probably heard how important it is to take the full course of antibiotics even if you start to feel better within a few days of starting them. Natural antibiotics are the same way. You should continue to use them after the infection clears to ensure it’s completely gone. This reduces the risk of the infection returning, possibly even harder to get rid of the second time.
Always keep wounds clean and covered to prevent any other germs or bacteria from causing complications.
Assemble a Natural Antibiotic Essential Oil Kit
Below, I list a good assortment of essential oils to start with if you want to keep a variety on hand to deal with infections naturally.
These oils are all available at a very reasonable cost.
We are lucky to live in a time when modern antibiotics are cheap and plentiful. However, that could change in a major disaster. Manmade or natural, things happen, and it’s better to know multiple ways to handle problems. Essential oils and plant knowledge show promise in treating some conditions. It’s important to start any treatment as soon as possible and be consistent.
Use natural remedies with caution unless there is no other choice. If medical care is available, getting antibiotics from your doctor and using them in combination with natural remedies might be a reasonable solution. Those with pre-existing conditions should be very careful with the treatments they choose.
Remember the old saying that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Do what you can to prevent infections, especially when something happens that puts you at risk. Keeping a wound clean and not touching it is a good start. Many of the natural solutions in this article can also be effective in preventing an infection from starting, so you might consider using them before an infection develops. During hard times, prevention will be one of the first lines of survival until conditions improve and better medical care is available.
Oregano oil has been proven to be a strong natural antibiotic. Since there have been more studies conducted using oregano oil, it is believed by many to be the strongest natural antibiotic known at this time.
Natural antibiotics can help fight off some infections but not all. It is important that you take infections seriously and seek medical attention if symptoms worsen. If you have underlying medical issues, natural antibiotics may not work as well for you. Some infections will not go away with natural antibiotics.
Essential oils have different properties. Some essential oils should not be used on children, by pregnant women, or those with certain health conditions. Consulting with your doctor or at least looking up how to use specific oils correctly can help prevent misuse. When using any essential oil for the first time, you should watch out for any signs of an allergic reaction. If you take prescription medications, you might want to ask your pharmacist or doctor if specific oils are safe for you.