Natural antibiotics have a twofold action: a direct effect against the germ and an indirect effect by means of making the terrain inhospitable to the germ.

Human beings have inhabited the earth for tens of thousands of years, but antibiotics—in the form we know them today—were discovered and perfected a mere hundred years ago.

How were our remote ancestors able to muddle through without them? Were methods of fighting infection completely unknown to them?

Since the dawn of time, human beings have turned to plants that possess antibiotic properties. Of course, they did not use the term antibiotic, nor did they speak of germs, but they knew that the use of these medicinal plants to treat certain specific illnesses was very effective.

The oldest evidence for the use of plants with antibiotic properties by human beings dates back more than 50,000 years.

Archaeologists have discovered in northern Iraq the skeleton of a man who was buried with a number of different objects, including medicinal plants that are effective against infections—and that are used by the populace of that region even today.

Studies have also provided evidence that around 40,000 thousand years ago, the aboriginal natives of Australia used numerous plants for healing purposes, particularly the leaves of the tea tree (Melaleuca alternifolia), which has powerful anti-infective properties with a wide spectrum of activity.

Ancient texts reveal that in India more than 7,000 years ago, “aromatic waters” were used to heal the sick. They were produced from anti-infective plants such as cinnamon, coriander, ginger and myrrh.

The oldest alembic known to human being was discovered in Pakistan and dates back to around 5,000 BCE. Other alembics dating back to 3,500 BCE have been found in China.

We can assume that in these remote eras, people knew that the active principles of certain plants could be found primarily in their essential oils, and they consequently manufactured objects that would allow them to extract those oils.

Mesopotamian inscriptions dating back almost 4,000 years have shown that medicinal plants were used during that time to combat epidemics.

The famous epic of Gilgamesh tells how the Chaldeans (3,000 BCE) treated themselves almost exclusively with plants. This was also the case at almost the exact same time on the other side of the ocean in America, with the pre-Columbian peoples.

For example, the latter used the bark of the cinchona tree (which contains quinine) to fight against fevers in general and those caused by malaria in particular.

Natural Antibiotics

What we call “natural antibiotics” are products of the plant world. They are produced not by germs but by medicinal plants. As we have discussed, the term antibiotic, in its broadest sense, means “a substance capable of killing pathological germs or curbing their growth.”

The adjective natural denotes the fact that these plant-sourced antibiotics are among the remedies at the disposal of holistic natural medicine and are used in accordance with the precepts of that approach.

Because, if you really think about it, standard antibiotics are also natural (with the exception of those of the second and third generations) insofar as they are produced by players in the natural world: germs!

Natural antibiotics are chemical substances produced by plants ranging from the most common weeds of our local surroundings to exotic, rare species.

Several hundred plants possess antibiotic properties, so our reserve of these remedies is quite extensive. People have been benefiting from their healing properties for thousands of years.

Natural antibiotics have a twofold action: a direct effect against the germ and an indirect effect by means of making the terrain inhospitable to the germ.

A plant’s direct action comes from the toxicity and caustic nature of the antibiotic substances that make contact with the germs. They have a variety of effects:

  • A bactericidal effect—the antibiotic substance initiates lysis, or dissolution, which is a process of enzymatic breakdown similar to the breakdown that takes place when the foods we eat come into contact with our digestive juices.

The antibiotic destroys one or more of the germ’s vital organs, which brings about the death of the entire microbial cell. The target organ could be the outer membrane, which would cause the cytoplasm and organelles to burst out of the cell. It could involve the ribosome, which would prevent the synthesis of new proteins and starve the cell, or the organelle responsible for breathing, which would lead to the germ’s asphyxiation.

Attacks on the germ’s genetic code, another possible target, would make multiplication impossible.

  • A bacteriostatic effect—the germs are not killed but are prevented from multiplying. When attacked by the toxic substances of the antibiotic, the microbial cell defends itself by thickening its outer membrane.

This means that the exchanges between the cell and its environment are severely compromised. The syntheses necessary for cellular multiplication are interrupted.

Blocked and rendered inert, the cell can no longer divide itself in order to reproduce; consequently, the germ population stops increasing and the infection process is arrested.

The Case for Oregano

Oregano is perhaps the best-known culinary herb. In the wild it grows in rocky, sunny areas; its purplish-pink flowers bloom at the tip of a tree-like stalk that grows from 1 to 2 feet high.

Known to the Egyptians, Greeks and Romans for its tonic, antispasmodic, stomachic and cough-suppressing properties, the essential oil of oregano is most often used today for its especially powerful antibiotic virtues.

Various experiments have shown that this essential oil (along with that of thyme) is very effective for disinfecting a solution teeming with germs.

In one instance, researchers found that 1 quart of meat broth mixed with sewer water could be sterilized by the addition of oregano essential oil at a dilution of merely one percent.

Of all the different varieties of oregano, the Greek version (Origanum heracleoticum) has been shown to have the most active properties.

The primary components of oregano essential oil are carvacrol (comprising 50 to 75 percent of the essential oil) and para-cymene (comprising 7 to 10 percent of the essential oil).

These antibiotic substances are quite effective not only against bacteria but also against viruses, fungi and parasites. They also possess a very broad-spectrum effect against these four groups.

Oregano essential oil is therefore a polyvalent natural antibiotic with multiple indications, and all the more so because it boosts immune system function.

Suggested Dosage

  • Oral: Take 2 to 4 drops, three to five times a day, in 1 teaspoon of honey or dispersant.
  • Topical: Dilute 1 to 3 drops in 1 teaspoon of sweet almond oil for use as an ointment.

Warning: Oregano essential oil is irritating to the skin and absolutely needs to be diluted. This article is not meant as a replacement for professional medical care.

Excerpted from Natural Antibiotics and Antivirals by Christopher Vasey, N.D. © 2018 Healing Arts Press. Printed with permission from the publisher Inner Traditions International.

About the Author:

Christopher Vasey, N.D., is a naturopath specializing in detoxification and rejuvenation. He is the author of many books, including The Acid-Alkaline Diet for Optimum Health, Natural Remedies for Inflammation, Liver Detox and Freedom from Constipation. He lives near Montreux, Switzerland.