Natural Alternatives To Antibiotics

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Introduction

Traditional medicine since early humans has received widespread acclaim. The unresponsiveness of bacteria to medical antibiotics is emerging as a significant worry. The literature evidence proved benefits of natural alternatives to antibiotics cannot be sidelined. Together with the researchers' opinions, we can confirm the demand for rising awareness of potential ground-breaking research developments in future antibiotics within this field. 

Antibiotics are chemical compounds that attack bacteria and play an action in diminishing bacterial infections.1 In healthcare, antibiotics are broadly implemented in treatment of the bacterial infections.1 However, there is an undoubtedly rising concern against their overuse and misuse because of their ability to result in bacterial resistance.2

Those setbacks linked with antibiotics initialized the search for natural alternatives to antibiotics. Subsequently, people have started to focus on the ingredients used in antibiotics and re-adaptation of plant and plant products as natural antibiotics, like in ancient years.

Essentiality of natural antibiotics 

There are various cases where antibiotics can give more harm than benefit. Subsequently, natural alternatives are preferred by society to heal by using nature. The main concerns about antibiotics are as follows:

Overuse

If antibiotics are being overconsumed then the infectious bacteria which caused the underlying disease is triggered to develop resistance against the antibiotics.3 The resistance bacteria eventually stops responding to the treatment.

Cost

The cost of antibiotics is rising due to rising demand.2 The treatment should remain accessible and affordable to continue the motto of “providing accessible health service for everyone without any discrimination”.

Misuse

Wrongly prescribed antibiotics or wrongly prescribed doses of an antibiotic can result in serious side effects such as:1 

  • Acute tubular necrosis
  • Renal failure
  • Crystallization in renal tubules
  • Thrombocytopenia
  • Leukopenia
  • Rash
  • Abnormal platelet aggregation
  • INR increase (often due to drug interactions)
  • Seizure
  • Drug-induced fever
  • Drug-induced diarrhoea

Additionally, antibiotics used for viral infections do not affect the viruses.4 Even, they have side effects such as causing diarrhoea, nausea, stomach or bowel problems, skin rashes, and, in women, vaginal thrush who have taken antibiotics for their common cold.

Natural substances with antibiotics effect

The World Health Organization (WHO) approves and supports the use of natural remedies during cases of lack of conventional treatment.5 Natural compounds have antimicrobial, antiviral, anticancer, and antifungal properties. The antibiotics are either created with the main ingredient of natural products or the chemical structure inside the natural compound is copied infrastructure of the drug synthesis. There are many natural resources of antibiotic production such as plants, animals, or microorganisms. We will focus on the popular ones that are available in our daily lives and have easy access.

Natural antibiotic: Honey

Honey has had long-lasting popularity in its antimicrobial properties since ancient years.16 Honey is predicted to suppress the growth of bacteria. Also, the antimicrobial property of the honey provides an additional feature of providing a moisturized environment which eventually leads to wound healing. Interestingly, the effectiveness of honey in killing bacteria changes with the species of honey. The Leptospermum scoparium (L. scoparium) honey, which is one of the most impactful honey, is known to have an antimicrobial effect on 60 different bacteria. 

Natural antibiotic: Garlic

We all love garlic, don’t we? Some of us use it as a spice, some use it as a flavour, and garlic bread is something out of this world. This gorgeous vegetable has organosulfur compounds in it that give its antibacterial properties.7 In all the cultural heritages, garlic has the fame of being used as an organic antibiotic to fight bacterial infections. Remarkably, research data has already shown the capability of garlic in killing the bacteria resistant to multiple antibiotics. The rising concern towards antibiotics and already gathered research on the properties of garlic captivates researchers' interest to use it as raw material for new antibiotics. 

Natural antibiotic: Turmeric

It is very common to hear “Drink some turmeric tea” when we get a cough. Turmeric is highly regarded as a cure for a variety of diseases and is consumed as a treatment.8 Accordingly, literature data supports its deadly effect on bacteria as well. The curcumin compound within turmeric is the leading actor in the microbe-fighting features of turmeric. However, the rebellion of turmeric on antibiotic-resistant bacteria requires further investigation as there are uncertainties about its strength.

Natural antibiotic: Echinacea

Echinacea extract has been proven to have antimicrobial effects on dental cavity bacteria.9 The origins of this property have yet to be explored, however, the hydroalcoholic nature of the echinacea extract is blamed for causing the death of bacteria.10

Natural Antibiotic: Oregano Oil

Essential oils are products of aromatic plants and herbs.11 Oregano oil, which is included in the essential oils family, has been used for wounds that occurred after burning and got infected by bacteria. Both traditional use and laboratory-based studies have confirmed the antimicrobial properties of oregano oil. As a bonus point, oregano oil lies within the list of safe-to-use essential oils by the United States Food and Drug Administration (U.S. FDA) approval.

Benefits of natural antibiotics

Natural antibiotics do not induce the development of resistance in bacteria and this is the foremost benefit of them in consideration to the crucial battle between the health sector and bacteria.12 On the other hand, the side effects are lessened and they do not affect life quality compared to chemical antibiotics. Also, natural compounds contribute to overall health by providing immune support, anticancer, antifungal, and antiviral profits.

On the other hand, using natural compounds and natural compound-derived antibiotics can help sustainability and promote environment-friendly medicines. This is another advantage of traditional medicine without harming the environment relative to the disposal and production of artificial chemical products.

Applications and usage 

As natural products are highly available in our everyday lives, they can be consumed in various forms and have ease of access. 

  • Incorporating natural beverages into our lifestyle and consuming them as food
  • Taking natural antibiotic compounds as herbal tea
  • Using natural oregano oil as body cream
  • Consumption as capsules

Safety warning for traditional antibiotics

Before deciding to use natural products for your infection, a proper diagnosis of your condition is required. You need to get advice from your healthcare providers. In cases of multidrug resistance bacterial infections, in cases of serious underlying health conditions, and in cases of consumption of other drugs with natural compounds your health can be under severe risk and conventional treatment is essential to recover. Some studies have already highlighted that the combination of some antibiotics with natural products may have both increased the efficacy of treatment and lessened the effect of the treatment.13 Moreover, allergic reactions can also occur depending on the nature of the product. Some allergic reactions are deadly. In conclusion, expert advice is highly recommended instead of home-made diagnosis and treatment.

Ongoing research in the field

Currently, there is no publicly announced ongoing research about natural antibiotics. However, recent research has shown laboratory evidence of the therapeutic effects of natural compounds in tackling infections. Those researchers have proposed induction of research to create natural drugs based on those compounds. Hopefully, there will be more awareness and solid steps in this field which will be announced to the public soon.

Summary 

  • Organic substances produced in nature have special compounds in them giving their antimicrobial characteristics. 
  • Those compounds kill or inhibit the growth of bacteria species via a variety of biological or chemical mechanisms. 
  • Antibiotics are accused of resulting in bacterial resistance development, eventually leading to inhibition of response to antibiotics treatment.
  • Natural alternatives to antibiotics do not result in the development of resistance mechanisms.
  • Those organic products have shown to be effective in battling multi-drug resistance bacteria.
  • Honey, turmeric, oregano oil, echinacea, and garlic are among the natural antimicrobial products that have research-supported evidence.
  • Natural alternatives to antibiotics still require expert opinion before usage. 
  • Natural alternatives to antibiotics can cause harm when they are combined with other drugs therefore, close monitoring is required.
  • The future of antibiotic production is predicted to rely on natural compounds to help tackle with global concern of bacterial resistance to antibiotics.

References

  • Calhoun C, Hall GA. Antibiotics [Internet]. National Library of Medicine. StatPearls Publishing; 2019. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK535443/ 
  • Yacob Habboush, Nilmarie Guzman. Antibiotic Resistance [Internet]. Nih.gov. StatPearls Publishing; 2018. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK513277/ 
  • Llor C, Bjerrum L. Antimicrobial resistance: Risk associated with antibiotic overuse and initiatives to reduce the problem. Therapeutic Advances in Drug Safety [Internet]. 2014 Oct 16;5(6):229–41. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4232501/   
  • Do antibiotics help fight common colds? [Internet]. Nih.gov. Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care (IQWiG); 2017. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK279540/ 
  • Stan D, Enciu AM, Mateescu AL, Ion AC, Brezeanu AC, Stan D, et al. Natural Compounds With Antimicrobial and Antiviral Effect and Nanocarriers Used for Their Transportation. Frontiers in Pharmacology. 2021 Sep 6;12.
  • Mandal MD, Mandal S. Honey: its medicinal property and antibacterial activity. Asian Pacific Journal of Tropical Biomedicine [Internet]. 2011 Apr;1(2):154–60. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3609166/ 
  • Bhatwalkar SB, Mondal R, Krishna SBN, Adam JK, Govender P, Anupam R. Antibacterial Properties of Organosulfur Compounds of Garlic (Allium sativum). Frontiers in Microbiology [Internet]. 2021 Jul 27;12(613077). Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8362743/ 
  • Adamczak A, Ożarowski M, Karpiński TM. Curcumin, a Natural Antimicrobial Agent with Strain-Specific Activity. Pharmaceuticals [Internet]. 2020 Jul 16;13(7):153. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7408453/ 
  • Yazdanian M, Rostamzadeh P, Alam M, Abbasi K, Tahmasebi E, Tebyaniyan H, et al. Evaluation of antimicrobial and cytotoxic effects of Echinacea and Arctium extracts and Zataria essential oil. AMB Express. 2022 Jun 15;12(1).
  • Garzoli S, Maggio F, Vinciguerra V, Rossi C, Matthew Gavino Donadu, Serio A. Chemical Characterization and Antimicrobial Properties of the Hydroalcoholic Solution of Echinacea purpurea (L.) Moench. and Propolis from Northern Italy. Molecules [Internet]. 2023 Feb 1 [cited 2023 Dec 15];28(3):1380–0. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9921591/ 
  • Lu M, Dai T, Murray CK, Wu MX. Bactericidal Property of Oregano Oil Against Multidrug-Resistant Clinical Isolates. Frontiers in Microbiology [Internet]. 2018 Oct 5;9. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6182053/ 
  • Pancu DF, Scurtu A, Macasoi IG, Marti D, Mioc M, Soica C, et al. Antibiotics: Conventional Therapy and Natural Compounds with Antibacterial Activity—A Pharmaco-Toxicological Screening. Antibiotics [Internet]. 2021 Apr 7;10(4):401. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8067816/ 
  • Hacioglu M, Dosler S, Birteksoz Tan AS, Otuk G. Antimicrobial activities of widely consumed herbal teas, alone or in combination with antibiotics: an in vitro study. PeerJ [Internet]. 2017 Jul 26;5:e3467. Available from: https://peerj.com/articles/3467/?utm_source=TrendMD&utm_campaign=PeerJ_TrendMD_1&utm_medium=TrendMD 

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This content is purely informational and isn’t medical guidance. It shouldn’t replace professional medical counsel. Always consult your physician regarding treatment risks and benefits. See our editorial standards for more details.

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Selun Ilseven

Masters of Cancer Research and Precision Oncology- MSc, University of Glasgow, Scotland.

Selun, with a robust foundation in genetics, cancer research, and precision oncology, she combines her extensive scientific knowledge with years of expertise in science writing, communication, and managing scientific societies.

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