My Top 10 Natural Alternatives to Antibiotics – for Cold, ‘Flu, and InfectionsDr. Zoltan P. Rona, MD, M.Sc. October 10, 2023
A CTV News story filed on Nov. 13, 2019 reported that a B.C. woman had initiated a lawsuit against a Vancouver hospital for the wrongful death of her husband due to a hospital-acquired infection and subsequent failed antibiotics. This is just one example of what some describe as a growing epidemic of antibiotic-resistant superbugs killing patients. In fact, experts say that drug resistant bacteria could kill as many as 400,000 Canadians and cost the economy about $400 billion over the next 30 years. I’m certain that more lawsuits are to follow.
Is Canada returning to the pre-antibiotic era of the early 20th Century? Penicillin and many other antibiotics no longer work because of clever bacteria that have adapted to resisting them. Major media outlets are reporting more and more about the rise of antibiotic-resistant superbugs. Many of you may have now heard of the ever increasing deaths as a result of C. difficile and MRSA infections, just to name a few. These bugs are responsible for 5,400 deaths in Canada a year, a figure that just might be an underestimation of the total number of deaths caused by bacteria that have learned how to avoid being affected by commonly, and even uncommonly, prescribed antibiotics. The annual death rate from superbugs now rivals that of the number of people dying from Alzheimer’s disease in Canada annually.
What can be done about this growing public health concern? Is improving personal hygiene the only effective plan of action? Is using less antibiotics in our food supply something that should be done? Do we force doctors to prescribe fewer antibiotics for infections? Aside from pushing vaccines, and something called phage therapy (the use of viruses to kill bacteria), mainstream medicine hasn’t got much else that’s effective to treat infections. More toxic and expensive drugs and amputations are not exactly desirable treatments. Is there anything you can do on your own initiative to prevent or treat an infection without antibiotics? What about natural antibiotics?
The Role of Diet and Lifestyle
Health care practitioners will often tell you to wash your hands frequently to reduce the spread of microbes. You see antibacterial soaps in hospitals, doctor’s offices, banks, tennis clubs, gyms, grocery stores, and elsewhere. But I recommend that you avoid using these products, which are not only toxic to your skin but can only make matters worse for your immune system. These soaps contain triclosan and triclocarban, two ingredients recently exposed by the U.S. FDA to be neither safe nor effective infection for preventing infection. Keep your hands clean but use natural soaps, tea tree oil cleansers, or those containing neem, aloe, or oregano oil.
Sugar, allergenic foods, and stress can feed microbes and spread disease. Instead, try to follow a high protein, sugar-free, gluten-free, and dairy-free organic diet with copious amounts of vegetables. In addition, exercise regularly and get enough sleep.
Get yourself tested for food intolerances if you are unsure of the right kinds of foods to eat. This can be done through a physician, a naturopath, or even online on your own from a selection of labs offering testing to the public. Stress weakens your immunity and it’s often difficult to keep it under control. This is why most people require at least one or more of the natural health products listed below to prevent influenza, colds and other infections.
Best Natural Antibiotics
1) VITAMIN D – Vitamin D deficiency is likely responsible for the high incidences of colds and ’flus during winter
in Canada. By nature, vitamin D is anti-inflammatory. Deficiency causes immune system weakness and chronic inflammation. Supplementing with 5,000 – 10,000 IU daily from October to May of each year is safe for most adults. It is effective for prevention of ’flus, colds, cancer, and approximately 200 different diseases. Humans manufacture their own antibiotic through vitamin D stimulation. Vitamin D promotes the production of cathelicidin, a protein with natural antibiotic properties. Cathelicidin kills viruses, bacteria, fungi, and parasites. The more vitamin D in the system, the more the body makes this antibiotic.
For those unfortunate enough to get the ’flu, Dr. John Cannell of the Vitamin D Council recommends taking 50,000 IU daily of vitamin D at the first sign of the ’flu for 5 days, then dropping the level down to 5-10,000 IU daily for the winter season. This strategy can also be employed if you get the ’flu or a cold right after receiving the ’flu shot. Most conventional doctors do not believe you can get the ’flu after a ’flu shot. Then again, most conventional doctors continue to ignore the overwhelming evidence that vitamin D prevents infection. In any event, vitamin D is both great prevention and effective treatment for colds, ’flus, and probably many other infections.
Vitamin D works even better if taken with vitamin K2. Both vitamins are anti-inflammatory and can prevent as well as treat infections successfully.
Believe it or not, a conventional doctor recently put in a complaint to the College of Naturopathy about a naturopath who prescribed 10,000 IU daily for a mutual patient. The claim was that this dose was toxic and would cause kidney failure. This is nonsense since our bodies can make over 20,000 IU of vitamin D in our skins at high noon in the summer without any sign of toxicity. (What that doctor failed to disclose was that the patient was already on several prescription drugs that listed kidney failure as one of the numerous side effects.) World authorities on vitamin D verify that up to 30,000 IU daily for a healthy adult is perfectly safe and that periodic higher doses (50,000 IU daily for 5 days) are also of no concern.
2) PROBIOTICS (lactobacilli, bifidobacteria and numerous others) – are friendly bacteria that usually inhabit the gut, the oral cavity, and the skin. They are very well documented optimizers of the immune system. Probiotics function as natural antibiotics against unfriendly bacteria, viruses like the ’flu and cold virus, as well as yeast like Candida albicans.
Cultured dairy products like raw non-pasteurized cheese, yogurt, acidophilus milk, buttermilk, sour cream, cottage cheese, and kefir are the best-known sources of friendly bacteria. Equally effective probiotic sources include cultured/fermented vegetables (cabbage, turnips, eggplant, cucumbers (pickles), onions, squash, olives and carrots), soy products like organic tempeh and miso, as well as kombucha, natto, and apple cider vinegar. Other food sources of probiotics are sauerkraut and sourdough breads. Ideally, one can get a good supply of probiotics from one or more of these diverse foodstuffs. If dietary sources are not easily available, supplemental probiotic powders and capsules are good alternatives. Choose a brand that has at least 10 different strains of friendly bacteria and between 10 – 15 billion live organisms.
3) COLOSTRUM – is the first mammary secretion nourishment that any mammal, including humans, provides for its newborn during the first 24 to 48 hours of life. First milking colostrum is available at most health food stores as a natural health product. Most people wanting to prevent infections will take between 3 and 6 capsules daily to prevent viral infections.
Polio vaccine developer, Dr. Albert Sabin, discovered that colostrum contained antibodies against polio and recommended it for children susceptible to catching the disease. Well known colostrum components include interferon, gamma globulin, growth hormone (GH), IgF-1, along with protease inhibitors used by medical specialists in the treatment of cancer, chronic viral infections including HIV, and autoimmune diseases.
Dr. Jeffrey Dach is one doctor who provides evidence in one of his recent publications that colostrum is three times more effective at preventing the ’flu than the ’flu shot. (Ed: See Resource List at end.)
4) VITAMIN C (ASCORBIC ACID) – 1000 mg or more daily has anti-viral and immune enhancing effects. Mega doses above and beyond bowel tolerance (dose that produces diarrhea) can be given intravenously to fight serious infections like Lyme disease as well as cancer. The daily requirement of vitamin C is still in debate but most would agree that the RDA of 60 mg is too low an estimate of actual human need. Vitamin C is used up quickly during conditions of stress, allergies, diseases like diabetes, and by tobacco smoke, drugs, antibiotics, alcohol, mercury, and other toxic heavy metals like lead and cadmium. Some vitamin C is stored in the adrenal glands, pituitary, brain, eyes, ovaries and testes and is in greater demand whenever the immune system or any connective tissue is stressed.
The best food sources of vitamin C are the citrus fruits. Other fruits with high amounts of C include rosehips, acerola cherries, papayas, cantaloupes, and strawberries. The best vegetable sources are red and green peppers, garlic, onions, broccoli, Brussel sprouts, tomatoes, asparagus, parsley, dark leafy greens, cabbage, and sauerkraut.
Vitamin C was first isolated from lemons in 1932 but it was well known to be a factor in the prevention of scurvy back in the 18th century. Vitamin C is used by the body in the formation of collagen, a protein required by all joints, ligaments, skin, cartilage, capillary walls, bones, teeth and connective tissue. Vitamin C is needed to help heal wounds and to maintain healthy blood vessels. It has been proven to help speed healing of burns, fractures, bedsores, ulcers and post-surgical wounds.
Vitamin C may well be the most controversial of all the vitamins. Most of the medical establishment still objects to the use of mega doses of vitamin C for treatment of cancer, the ’flu, allergies, stress, adrenal fatigue or just about anything else. Yet there is a growing body of medical literature supporting the use of vitamin C in very high doses to both prevent and treat infections.
Vitamin C in larger than physiological doses are successfully used to treat a wide range of viral, bacterial, fungal and inflammatory conditions including colds, ‘flus, mononucleosis, herpes simplex infections and shingles. Vitamin C boosts the production of interferon, a potent anti-viral and immune enhancing substance. Chronic inflammatory conditions not necessarily related to infectious disease will also respond to vitamin C therapy. These include arthritis, bursitis, gout (vitamin C pushes uric acid out of the body), asthma, and chronic musculoskeletal pain of any origin.
One of the strategies that I have recommended for people who have just acquired an infection is something called “vitamin C to bowel tolerance.” When someone is plagued with a viral infection, the tolerance for high doses of vitamin C is greatly enhanced. It takes far higher doses of vitamin C to produce loose bowel movements which occur at the vitamin C tolerance dose. Pushing vitamin C to that level will produce a strong anti-viral and anti-histaminic effect, reducing all the signs and symptoms of the common cold and the ’flu. Doses of 20,000 mg or more might be required to reach that bowel tolerance level when, ordinarily in times of good health, the bowel tolerance dose might just be 3,000 mg daily. In other words, the sicker you are, the higher the dose required.
5) ECHINACEA – 1,000 mg or more daily of this very popular herb is well documented as an immune system booster used to both prevent and treat a long list of infections. Echinacea is best taken at the first sign of an infection. It is not only anti-viral but also anti-fungal. Lower doses yield poorer results. If you use echinacea, be bold and use a minimum of 1,000 mgs of the concentrated tincture or capsule a day. Side effects have been reported as minimal at virtually any dose.
It is often said that echinacea shouldn’t be taken for long periods of time beyond a few weeks but this has never been proven to be detrimental. This false advice on limiting the length of time that one should be using Echinacea originates from a German study that actually said the opposite. Things can be lost in translation. One can supplement echinacea continuously for years without concerns.
The other echinacea myth is that people who have autoimmune disease should not be taking it due to over-stimulation of their autoimmune disease. This too is nonsense since supplementing with echinacea increases the body’s production of hyaluronic acid, a well-known anti-inflammatory pain reliever. This is also one of the reasons why high dose Echinacea can be helpful to treat arthritis pain. Once again, to be healthier with autoimmune disease, take echinacea in large doses. Caveat: If you have a ragweed allergy you might react adversely to echinacea because it belongs to the same plant family.
6) OIL OF OREGANO – 2 to 4 drops, 3 times daily, is an effective natural antibiotic for numerous infectious diseases, including those that are proven to be resistant to prescription antibiotics. Oregano oil contains carvacrol, a phenol shown to stop the growth of multiple bacteria. It also contains thymol (a natural antifungal) and rosmarinic acid (a powerful antioxidant). Side effects are rarely, if ever, seen and the spicy taste can be offset by mixing it with olive oil, foods or beverages. For sinus and nasal infections, one can inhale vapours from a bottle of oregano oil several times daily to reduce or eliminate symptoms.
7) BLACK SEED OIL – It is often said that black seed oil will cure anything except death. Every few years a natural health product captures the imagination of the public and this year appears be the year of the black seed oil. It’s 2019 and health food stores have it flying off the shelves. This oil comes from the medicinal plant Nigella sativa (N. sativa) which has been used in various traditional systems of medicine like Unani and Tibb, Ayurveda, and Siddha. The list of diseases or health conditions that it is purported to help run into the hundreds. Most of the benefits have yet to be proven by clinical trials. Nonetheless, a great deal of scientific studies have been published supporting its use as a natural antibiotic.
It has been widely used as an antihypertensive, liver tonic, diuretic, digestive, anti-diarrheal, appetite stimulant, analgesic, anti-bacterial, and for skin disorders. Extensive studies on N. sativa have been carried out by various researchers and a wide spectrum of its pharmacological actions have been explored which may include antidiabetic, anticancer, immunomodulator, analgesic, antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, spasmolytic, bronchodilator, hepato-protective, renal protective, gastro-protective, antioxidant properties, etc. Asthma is one of the many chronic conditions that often responds well to black seed oil. Most of the therapeutic properties of this plant are due to the presence of thymoquinone which is the major bioactive component of the essential oil.
There’s a warning on the bottle of black seed oil that pregnant women shouldn’t take it. The so-called danger is pure speculation. There is no proof of harm. Given that black seed has been available for centuries and there is no record of hazards, this warning on the label is unscientific and scared off at least one of my patients who could have used it for her dry skin and fungus infection.
8) BERBERINE – is a natural compound found in several herbs including barberry, goldenseal, Oregon grape, phellodendron, and turmeric. Aside from its antibiotic properties, it has also been used to help lower blood sugar in diabetes, as well as treat obesity, inflammation, high blood fats, and high blood pressure. Berberine has been used for thousands of years in Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine. For most adults I usually recommend 1,000 mg twice daily. The only side effect is stomach upset in some sensitive individuals, but most adults tolerate it very well.
9) CURCUMIN – An extract of turmeric, curcumin has antibacterial, anti-fungal and anti-parasitic activity. It is well known for its analgesic and anti-inflammatory effects as well as its anti-cancer benefits. Curcumin is a stronger antifungal than most prescription antifungals. One study showed it to be superior to fluconazole, a very effective but expensive antifungal. If you happen to be on a prescription antibiotic, fungal infections can be one of the side effects. So, curcumin and probiotics could be very god things to supplement to avoid candida or fungal infections of other kinds. Doses are variable depending on the infection and the individual.
10) SILVER HYDROSOL – Be careful with taking colloidal silver in amounts higher than 23 ppm of silver. Higher non-nanoparticle sized amounts could accumulate in the system causing a blue skin discolouration. Small particle sizes of colloidal silver (10 to 20 ppm) are generally safe and effective for many different types of infections, especially those resistant to prescription antibiotics.
Well, those are my top 10 natural antibiotic choices. Of course, there are even more alternatives one can use but the evidence for effectiveness is not as strong. For example, there’s zinc, garlic, hypericum, lomatium, goldenseal, cloves, Manuka honey, elderberry, astragalus, grapefruit seed extract and ginger. Most of these will be effective for a large number of people to kill unwanted microbes. Consult a natural health care practitioner for personalized advice on one or a combination of the top 10 remedies.
(Editor’s note: This information is not intended to replace the advice of your doctor. For any changes to your healthcare regimen, please consult a qualified professional.)
- Sharon Kirkey. The National Post. More deaths, fewer joint replacements, huge costs: The superbug crisis is already here, report warns. https://tinyurl.com/rffrjb4
- CTV News. ‘The next epidemic’: B.C. woman warns of antibiotic resistance after husband dies from superbug. Nov. 13, 2019. https://tinyurl.com/wpz3pb4
- Bactericidal Property of Oregano Oil Against Multidrug-Resistant Clinical Isolates. https://tinyurl.com/wq2zan7
- Berberine benefits: https://tinyurl.com/wx9vue2
- Berberine uses. https://tinyurl.com/y5rvyk7a
- Benefits of Oregano oil. https://tinyurl.com/t93ztka
- Silver Hydrosol. https://tinyurl.com/u4qwa79
- Echinacea. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/252684.php
- Black seed oil. https://www.ideahacks.com/black-seed-oil-benefits/
- Antibacterial soaps dangers; CBC News report: https://tinyurl.com/hud9h5g
- Vitamin D Deficiency Likely Responsible for Flu Epidemic. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/releases/255604.php
- Vitamin D Protects Against Colds and Flus, Finds Major Global Study; Science Daily: https://tinyurl.com/j649e4v
- Rona, Zoltan P. Vitamin D, The Sunshine Vitamin. Tennessee, USA: Alive Books, 2010 https://www.amazon.com/Vitamin-D-Sunshine-Zoltan-Rona/dp/0920470823
- Dr. Jeffrey Dach, MD: Colostrum Three Times More Effective than Flu Vaccine. https://tinyurl.com/yapr3bpa
- Colostrum for Flu Prevention. https://tinyurl.com/yak8kzt6
- Clark, Daniel G. and Wyatt, Kaye. Colostrum, Life’s First Food. Salt Lake City: CNR Publications. 1996.
- Jensen, Bernard. Colostrum: Man’s First Food, The White Gold Discovery. Escondido: Bernard Jensen, 1993.
- Rona, Zoltan, P. Bovine colostrum emerges as immune system modulator. American Journal of Natural Medicine; March, 1998, pp. 19-23
- American Journal of Clinical Nutrition; Dec. 2001; 74(6): 833-9: Enhancement of immunity in the elderly by dietary supplementation with the probiotic Bifidobacterium lactis HN019.
- Levy, T. Vitamin C, Infectious Diseases, and Toxins: Curing the Incurable. Xlibris Corp. Philadelphia, PA, 2002.
Zoltan P. Rona, MD, MSc, offers consultations on nutrition and natural remedies in Thornhill. He has recently retired from medical practice as a Complementary and Alternative medical practitioner and now strictly offers nutritional consultations. He is the medical editor of The Encyclopedia of Natural Healing and has also published several Canadian bestselling books, including Vitamin D, The Sunshine Vitamin. To see more of Dr. Rona’s articles, visit: www.highlevelwellness.ca and for appointments, please call (905) 764-8700; office located at: 390 Steeles Ave. W., Unit 19, Thornhill, Ontario