14 natural antibiotics you can find in your kitchen

Antibiotics are indispensable in modern healthcare. Today they are synthesized artifixially, but some of them can be found in foodstuffs you have at home.

14 natural antibiotics you can find in your kitchen
Viktor Simunović, Dr.med.
Dr.med. Viktor Simunović
26 Mar 2024.

Natural antibiotics, a term encompassing diverse bioactive compounds produced by plants and microorganisms, are crucial in combating bacterial infections.

These substances, characterized by their antibacterial and antimicrobial properties, have been the focus of extensive research due to their potential as alternatives to synthetic antibiotics. Among the most studied natural antibiotics are oregano oil, manuka honey, and clove.

Oregano oil, rich in phenols such as carvacrol and thymol, demonstrates significant antimicrobial activity against many pathogens. Manuka honey, known for its unique methylglyoxal content, exhibits potent antibacterial effects, particularly against antibiotic-resistant strains. Clove, containing eugenol, has been documented for its broad-spectrum antibacterial properties.

These natural compounds highlight plant-based antimicrobials' diversity and potential efficacy in therapeutic applications.

Manuka honey

Derived from the nectar of the Manuka tree, this honey has been scientifically validated for its efficacy against a broad range of bacterial strains and fungal infections.

Unlike conventional antibiotics, Manuka honey operates through multiple mechanisms, including an osmotic effect that dehydrates bacteria and the presence of methylglyoxal (MGO), which confers its powerful antibacterial action. It contains compounds akin to carvacrol, found in certain essential oils, known for their anti-inflammatory properties.

Also, manuka honey can produce hydrogen peroxide and other bioactive compounds, contributing to its bactericidal activity. This multifaceted approach inhibits the growth of pathogens and reduces inflammation, making Manuka honey a holistic treatment option for infections without contributing to antibiotic resistance.


Research indicates that the compounds found in onions, such as allicin, exhibit a broad spectrum of antibacterial activities, making them effective against various bacterial strains. These properties suggest that onions could be vital in combating bacterial infections, including those that lead to tract and urinary tract infections.


Central to garlic's medicinal acclaim is allicin, a sulfur-containing compound that forms when garlic is chopped, crushed, or chewed. This compound has been shown to exhibit broad-spectrum antimicrobial activity against various pathogens, making it particularly beneficial for treating and preventing domain infections.

Research indicates garlic's efficacy extends to gram-positive and gram-negative bacteria, underscoring its potential as a natural therapeutic agent. Additionally, garlic's impact on the immune system—enhancing its ability to fight infections—further amplifies its significance in natural antibiotics, especially concerning gastrointestinal tract health.

Chilli peppers

Chilli peppers, known for their intense flavor and heat, also possess significant antimicrobial properties that contribute to their role as natural antibiotics. The primary bioactive compound responsible for these properties is capsaicin, which has been extensively studied for its ability to combat many pathogens.

Research indicates that capsaicin can inhibit the growth of bacteria and fungi, offering potential applications in food preservation and disease prevention. Additionally, the antimicrobial activity of chilli peppers extends to various strains of bacteria, including those resistant to traditional antibiotics.

Tea tree oil

Extracted from the leaves of the Melaleuca alternifolia, a plant native to Australia, tea tree oil contains compounds like terpinen-4-ol that have been proven to kill certain bacteria, viruses, and fungi upon contact. Scientific research underscores its efficacy against a variety of pathogens, including those resistant to conventional antibiotics, making it a potent alternative in the fight against microbial infections. Additionally, its application in treating skin conditions, such as acne and athlete's foot, demonstrates its versatility and potential as a holistic treatment option.


The primary bioactive compound in turmeric, curcumin, has been shown to possess potent antibacterial, antiviral, and antifungal capabilities. Research indicates that curcumin interferes with the cell membrane function of various pathogens, disrupting their growth and replication. Also, studies highlight its potential to synergize with traditional antibiotics, enhancing their efficacy and possibly reducing the development of antibiotic resistance. This suggests that turmeric could play a significant role in developing novel antimicrobial treatments.

Apple cider vinegar

Scientifically recognized as acetic acid, apple cider vinegar has been studied for its ability to inhibit the growth of certain bacteria and fungi. Its efficacy can be attributed to its acidic environment, which disrupts microbial cell walls, leading to their destruction.

Research published in the *Journal of Food Protection* has demonstrated apple cider vinegar's capacity to target foodborne pathogenic bacteria, suggesting its potential role in food preservation and safety. Its application extends beyond ingestion; topical uses have been explored for skin infections due to its bactericidal properties.

Myrrh extract

Derived from the resin of the Commiphora myrrha tree, myrrh has been utilized in traditional medicine across various cultures for millennia. Modern scientific investigations have substantiated its efficacy, attributing its antimicrobial activities to the compound terpenoids found within.

These compounds demonstrate broad-spectrum antibacterial effects, inhibiting the growth of several pathogenic bacteria, including those resistant to conventional antibiotics. Additionally, myrrh's anti-inflammatory properties contribute to its therapeutic potential, offering a dual approach to combating infections by directly attacking pathogens and modulating the body's immune response. This multifaceted action underscores myrrh extract's relevance in the search for effective natural alternatives to synthetic antibiotics.

Thyme oil

Thyme oil is extracted from the leaves of the Thymus vulgaris plant. This essential oil contains thymol, a compound known for suppressing microbial growth, effectively defending against various pathogens.

Studies have shown that thyme oil can disrupt bacteria's cell membranes, leading to cell death. This mechanism of action is particularly critical in the fight against antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria. Moreover, its efficacy extends beyond bacteria to combat fungal infections, showcasing a broad-spectrum antimicrobial capability.

Oregano oil

Similarly to thyme oil, oregano oil, derived from the leaves of the Origanum vulgare plant, exhibits potent antimicrobial properties, positioning it as another promising candidate in the search for effective natural antibiotics.

Its primary active component, carvacrol, has been the subject of numerous studies, revealing its broad-spectrum antibacterial activity against various pathogenic bacteria, including those resistant to conventional antibiotics. Research indicates that oregano oil disrupts bacterial cell membranes, leading to cell lysis and death. This mechanism of action, distinct from that of many synthetic antibiotics, means a lower likelihood of developing resistance. In addition, its efficacy extends to antifungal applications, targeting strains like Candida albicans.


Studies have indicated that Echinacea exhibits potent antiviral and antibacterial activities, primarily attributed to its rich profile of phytochemicals, including alkamides, polysaccharides, and glycoproteins. These compounds stimulate the immune system, enhancing the body's ability to fight infections. Research has focused on Echinacea's efficacy against respiratory tract infections, with findings suggesting a reduction in symptom severity and duration. However, the mechanism of action is complex, involving multiple immune pathways, and requires further elucidation.


Goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis) is a perennial herb native to North America. Native Americans have utilized it for centuries, primarily for its health benefits, including its ability to combat infections.

Scientific studies have identified two key components, berberine and hydrastine, which are believed to contribute to its antimicrobial capabilities. These compounds have shown effectiveness against various pathogens, including bacteria, fungi, and protozoa, making Goldenseal a subject of interest for its potential as a natural antibiotic. Furthermore, its application extends beyond internal use, showing promise in treating skin conditions and eye infections.


Clove (Syzygium aromaticum), a potent natural remedy revered for centuries, possesses significant antimicrobial properties that merit scientific exploration for its potential use as a natural antibiotic. Its main component, eugenol, has been the focus of numerous studies, demonstrating broad-spectrum antibacterial activity against various pathogens.

Research indicates that clove oil can disrupt the cellular structure of bacteria, leading to cell lysis and effectively inhibiting bacterial growth. Also, clove's efficacy against fungi and certain viruses adds to its potential as a complete antimicrobial agent. Its application in treating infections while minimizing the adverse effects commonly associated with synthetic antibiotics underscores the need for further clinical studies to understand its mechanisms and fully optimize its therapeutic potential.

Coconut oil

Coconut oil, characterized by its rich content of medium-chain fatty acids, has garnered attention in scientific research for its antimicrobial properties, suggesting its potential as a natural antibiotic agent. Notably, lauric acid, a primary component, has been extensively studied for its ability to disrupt the lipid membranes of harmful microorganisms, including bacteria, fungi, and viruses. This disruption leads to the inactivation and destruction of these pathogens, thereby demonstrating a potent antimicrobial effect.

Additionally, studies have explored the application of coconut oil in various medical conditions, highlighting its effectiveness in reducing the colonization of Staphylococcus aureus on the skin and its potential in oral health maintenance by reducing dental plaque formation.

Risks of natural antibiotics

Herbal medicines are unregulated

One notable concern with the use of herbal medicines as natural antibiotics is their lack of regulatory oversight, which can lead to inconsistencies in quality and efficacy. Without standardized processes for cultivation, harvesting, and production, the concentration of active compounds in these herbal remedies can vary significantly from one batch to another. This variability complicates determining effective dosages and poses a risk of contamination with harmful substances, including heavy metals, pesticides, and microbial pathogens.

The absence of a regulatory framework means that consumers rely on manufacturers' claims without independently verifying the product's safety, purity, or potency. Consequently, the therapeutic value of herbal medicines remains uncertain, undermining their credibility and acceptance as viable alternatives to conventional antibiotics.

You can't regulate the dosage

A significant challenge in utilizing natural antibiotics lies in the difficulty of accurately regulating dosages, a factor critical to ensuring both efficacy and safety in treatment. Unlike pharmaceutical antibiotics, whose active ingredients are quantified and standardized, natural antibiotics—derived from plants, fungi, and other organisms—exhibit variability in concentration and potency.

This inconsistency arises from the natural variability in species, environmental conditions under which the organisms are grown, and the extraction methods used. Consequently, without precise dosage guidelines, there is a risk of under-dosing, which may lead to ineffective treatment, or overdosing, which could cause toxicity or adverse reactions. Additionally, the lack of standardized dosing can hinder the ability to conduct rigorous clinical trials, further complicating the assessment of their therapeutic value.

So, should I use natural antibiotics?

Deciding whether to use natural antibiotics involves evaluating their efficacy, potential side effects, and the specific health condition being treated. A thorough review of current research is essential to understand natural antibiotics' therapeutic potential and limitations.

For instance, certain plant extracts have demonstrated antibacterial properties in vitro, but clinical evidence supporting their use in humans is often limited. Additionally, the lack of standardization in dosage and preparation can lead to variability in effectiveness and potential safety concerns.

It is also critical to consider the interaction between natural antibiotics and conventional medications, as they may either diminish the effectiveness or exacerbate each other's side effects. Ultimately, consulting with healthcare professionals is indispensable for making an informed decision, considering the individual's medical history and the severity of the condition.

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