Getting your doctor to prescribe you antibiotics is a tall order these days, but our GPs aren’t trying to make us suffer. Modern reliance and over-use of the drugs for decades have led to new strains of bacteria that are resistant to many commonly used antibiotics. This means GPs are extra careful not to give out antibiotics if they believe you have a viral infection, and you may feel short changed walking away from your visit empty handed.
If you’re prescribed antibiotics, it’s because you really need them to get better and fight infection, but for minor ailments, coughs and colds, and to boost your immune system, there are many foods, herbs and extracts that boast bacteria, fungus and viral-fighting properties.
Five natural antibiotics to try
The sulphur in onions that gives them their strong smell and distinct taste is thought to have diuretic and anti-bacterial properties. As well as traditionally being used in a similar way to garlic for fighting minor colds, syrups made from onions are thought to work as an expectorant for nasty coughs. They also improve blood flow and are anti-inflammatory. So make sure you’ve got a big helping in your spag bol tonight.
One of the oldest medicinal plants, garlic has been used in many cultures for its antibiotic properties and ability to ward off colds and flu. The chemical allicin that gives garlic its strong taste and smell is thought to also give it its therapeutic power. Studies have suggested it can lower blood pressure and reduce cholesterol levels. Plus, a recent study found that it was more effective at treating food poisoning than standard drugs.
3. Green tea
Though not quite an antibiotic food, green tea has been shown in scientific studies to help antibiotics work well, so you’re less likely to need to take another course of them. As well as being chockablock with antioxidants and generally great for you, it’s a fairly low caffeine choice and could also make even resistant bacteria susceptible to antibiotics.
Good externally for cuts and infections, honey, and especially Manuka honey, from bees that feed exclusively on the manuka bush in New Zealand and Australia, is well known for its antibiotic properties. Containing antimicrobial enzymes that release hydrogen peroxide, honey can help prohibit the growth of bacteria and has been used to treat external and internal bacterial infections, including stomach ulcers. A dab of Manuka honey on wounds keeps infection way.
A plant extract, Echinacea is known for battling a wide range of bugs, both bacterial and viral. It also stimulates your immune system so that your white blood cells fight off infections more effectively. Studies have shown that taking a daily Echinacea supplement can reduce your chance of catching a cold by around 58 per cent and will reduce the amount of time you are sick. Its effectiveness can wear off though, so it’s recommended you only take it in bursts of a few weeks, particularly during the sickly winter months and if you feel you’re coming down with something.