Garlic, Ginger and 6 More Stellar Herbs That Are Natural Antibiotics

Your body is constantly interfacing with bacteria, viruses, parasites and other microbes that are a natural part of our environment. Many times the overload of these microbes gets the best of us, and we get sick. It's difficult to know if you're doing enough to protect yourself. You wash your hands regularly, get plenty of sleep, eat a healthy diet and exercise. Yet, somehow, you still catch a cold or flu that takes you out of commission for a few days. You ask yourself, "what else can I do?"

The fact is: germs are everywhere, and they're impossible to avoid. The microbiological world can be absolutely amazing. There are potentially more than one trillion species of microbes on Earth. Some of these microscopic beings are allies and help your body fight against infection and aid in digestion. Others can wreak havoc once they make their way into your system.

If you want to arm your body’s immune system with an infection-fighting boost, there are a number of herbs that can help fight infection. While herbs don’t act as quickly as drugs and may lack the same potency, they may produce fewer side effects and are less associated with microbial resistance than antibiotics. Dive into the world of natural herbal antibiotics for infections with our quick guide.


This article is not intended as a substitute for the advice of a healthcare professional.
Before we start looking at our immunity allies, it’s important to note that some microbes are incredibly harmful, and vulnerability to these microbes varies between individuals. Innocuous germs in people with stronger immune systems can lead to life-threatening infections in people with compromised immunity. Newborn babies are vulnerable because their immune systems are immature. Elders face declining immune function.

In the face of overwhelming infection, antibiotics can save lives and prevent serious complications. You should call your doctor or healthcare provider if:

  • You feel very ill.
  • Two to three days of home care haven’t led to improvement of your symptoms.
  • A skin lesion grows larger, becomes red, hot and swollen, produces pus or honey-colored crusts, produces red streaks (that stretch toward the heart), or enlarged lymph nodes (usually in the groin or armpit).
  • You have a sick infant (call your doctor right away).

Make sure to take serious infections seriously. Now, let’s start arming our immune systems with some herbs that you might find in your kitchen or local grocery store.


While infections can slow you down, several culinary herbs, such as garlic, ginger, oregano, thyme and cayenne pepper, have antimicrobial effects. That means no matter where you are, an herbal ally isn’t too far away. It’s a great idea to prepare for cold and flu season with various bulk herbs and spices from a reputable herb supplier.

#1. Garlic’s Antimicrobial Abilities

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While it’s known for its strong smell and flavor, garlic (Allium sativum) can help counteract a number of harmful microorganisms and promote immune function.

Civilizations around the globe have used garlic as food and medicine for thousands of years. In 18th-century France, a group of thieves was accused of robbing victims of the bubonic plague without contracting the illness. Their alleged secret? Consumption and external use of vinegar made with garlic and other antimicrobial herbs. Their legendary heist was so influential that 'vinaigre des quatre voleurs' (Four Thieves Tonic Vinegar) is still sold in France today.

What makes garlic so powerful as an antimicrobial agent? According to the American Society for Microbiology, it is a chemical compound called allicin that naturally occurs when garlic is crushed. This nifty component of fresh garlic clove can help disrupt the formation of a variety of pathogens. Garlic can help tackle three types of infections: bacterial, viral and fungal.

The best part of garlic’s antibacterial activity is that the allicin tends to only interfere with disease-causing bacteria rather than the “friendly” bacteria, such as Lactobacillus, that colonize and benefit the intestines.

One study found that people who took a garlic supplement for 12 weeks from November through February had fewer colds than those who took a placebo. Other Allium species (chives, onions, leeks) have shown antimicrobial activity too.

Garlic Preparation and Usage for Infections:

Much of the information about garlic’s antimicrobial power comes from lab studies. Less is known about how well garlic preparations work in humans with these infections. The same can be said about most of the other herbs listed below. Heat deactivates garlic’s antimicrobial ingredients.

For that reason, it’s best to consume it raw or as a tablet that promises a certain amount of allicin, the key active chemical. If you apply garlic topically as a paste, protect the skin with olive oil or another type of oil, cover it with gauze or a clean cloth and remove after an hour.

#2. Calm the Digestive System with Ginger

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Like allicin in garlic, active ingredients in ginger, like gingerol, may aid in disrupting bacterial and microbial activity, helping relieve the effects of infections.

Ginger (Zingiber officinale) may help address a variety of infections, but it is most well-known for its ability to calm the stomach. Ginger has scientific backing as an anti-nausea agent and may offer benefits to those stricken with intestinal infections and diarrhea. Alcohol extracts of ginger or ginger root tea are active against a variety of intestinal bacteria infections.

Ginger can help address other skin (Staphylococcus aureus), soft tissue and respiratory tract infections (Streptococcus pyogenes, Streptococcus pneumoniae, Haemophilus influenzae).

Ginger has antifungal activity against the yeast Candida albicans. It also discourages intestinal worms. Because studies have shown that heat may deactivate the antibacterial effect, it may be best to consume ginger raw or in tincture or capsule form.

Stick with us as we explore the refreshing effects of the mint family on our ability to fight infections.


Infection Fighting Mint image

Several mint family plants are commonly used as culinary and medicinal herbs to counter infection. Members of this family owe their characteristic tastes, smells, and medicinal effects to their essential oils, some of which are antimicrobial.

#3. It’s Time to Take Thyme Seriously

Thyme (Thymus vulgaris) is known for its mild, pepper-like flavor that pairs well with cheese, potatoes, rice and eggs. This hardy herb can grow almost anywhere, including poor soil and rock walls. Thymol, one of the main ingredients in thyme, has been shown to have antiseptic, antibacterial, antifungal and antiviral action in some studies. Its antiseptic nature makes it a perfect ingredient for oral washes such as Listerine®.

#4. Know Your Oregano

Oregano (Origanum vulgare) has been used for centuries to treat various illnesses. Traditional Chinese physicians used oregano to treat fever, vomiting, diarrhea, jaundice and itching skin conditions. Europeans use it for coughs, colds, flu and chest congestion. Like Thyme, Oregano also contains the potent chemical Thymol. Some studies have shown oregano oil to have antimicrobial, antiviral and antifungal properties when taken in small doses.

Other Members of the Mint Family You Need to Know

Besides Thyme and Oregano, here are a few more members of the Mint family you should get to know include:

Mint-family Herb Preparation and Usage

Mint-family herbs can help your body fight infections and manage the symptoms of a variety of illnesses. Four easy ways you can use the mint-family herbs include:

  • Vegetable Soup Adding them to a broth-based vegetable soup. Broth-based soups can be as nourishing as they are comforting when dealing with cold or flu-like symptoms. These soups help us get essential nutrients and keep us hydrated. Adding mint-family herbs like thyme, rosemary or oregano can give your body the boost it needs with these antibacterial compounds.
  • Using them in steam inhalation.* If you have a cough or nasal or sinus congestion, you can boil a pot of water, add a handful of mint-family herbs (which are also decongestant and expectorant), cover the Mint Teamixture and steep for 10 to 15 minutes. Remove the lid, lean over, corral the vapors with a towel, and inhale deeply. Alternatively, you can add one or two drops of peppermint essential oil in just-boiled water and inhale the vapors.
  • Making tea with mint-family plants to soothe a sore throat. If you have a sore throat, you can gargle with a tea made from mint-family plants or their essential oils. Sage tea is often recommended for this purpose. If you wish to gargle with it, add ¼ teaspoon salt to ½ cup hot (not scalding) tea.
  • Throat Spray Creating a refreshing throat spray. Sage paired with echinacea together can create a soothing throat spray that can help you manage a sore throat.

*Thyme and oregano are too irritating to use in steam inhalation. If you have asthma, inhalation of essential-oil-laced steam may provoke bronchospasm (tightening of the airways) and is therefore not recommended. Do not take essential oils internally. Caution: steam inhalation can be very hot!

Now that we’ve covered some herbs you might find in your pantry or grocery store, let’s take a look at one more group of herbs that can support your body when fighting infection.


Other Big Hitters image

#5. Get a Head of Steam on Respiratory Infections with Eucalyptus

You may have heard of eucalyptus (Eucalyptus globulus) when searching for herbs to help recover from colds, flu and other respiratory infections. It’s known for its aromatic effect in teas and steams, as it opens up nasal passages naturally. Some studies have shown antibacterial activity in essential oils from eucalyptus, which can help you better manage the symptoms of your illness.

#6. Follow the Oregon Grape Root Trail Toward Digestive Relief

Berberine is an antimicrobial plant alkaloid found in a variety of herbs, including the state flower of Oregon, the Oregon grape root (Mahonia aquifolium). A few other herbs with berberine include:

Your body isn’t able to absorb this chemical in the intestinal tract, so berberine may inhibit some bacterial activity in the digestive system, especially diarrhea-causing bacteria like Vibrio Chlorea and E. coli. Berberine in Oregon grape root has also shown some anti-parasitic activity.

It can be used topically to help deal with other types of infections. For instance, a well-strained decoction (with ¼ teaspoon salt added for each cup) could be used as a nasal rinse for sinusitis, a vaginal douche, or an eyewash for mild pinkeye (omit the salt for an eyewash).

Studies have demonstrated success in treating a serious eye infection caused by Chlamydia trachomatis. Nevertheless, you should see your doctor if the whites of one or both of your eyes look inflamed, especially in the presence of a yellow-green discharge.

#7. Black Elderberry Is a Staple for Cold & Flu Season

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Black elderberry (Sambucas nigra) is great to keep handy during the cold and flu season. It has antiviral activity against influenza viruses and enhances immune function. An elderberry extract can help shorten the severity and duration of influenza. Also, a delicious tea can be made with elderberries.

You can get the full scoop on the basics of elderberries and their perfect pairings on our Herbal Insights page.

#8. Licorice Root Gives Viruses the Boot

Licorice root (Glycyrrhiza glabra) is soothing, antiviral, immune enhancing and helps expel respiratory congestion. Because it acts on the kidneys to stimulate the retention of sodium and water (and loss of potassium), it can’t be taken for more than a few days running. It should not be taken by pregnant women or people with heart disease, kidney disease, or high blood pressure. Licorice can also be added to help improve the flavor of your tea.


If your body needs a serious punch against pesky invaders, don’t fret, you can find a plethora of quality herbs and spices on our website today. Each ingredient has to pass our rigorous standards to make it to the front step of your home or business. Get great herbs at competitive prices today.