Nearly 80 percent of the antibiotic supply in the U.S. is fed to livestock. This is done to prevent infections common in such unsanitary conditions, as well as to increase the growth of animals. Because the majority of Americans who consume these animals are also consuming a steady dose of the antibiotics the animals eat, the consequences are severe: decreased human resistance to antibiotics, more severe strains of pathogens, and no real plan to deal with the situation.
The World Health Organization warns that if we don't take immediate and most urgent measures to address the situation, we could be facing a "post-antibiotic era" in which millions could die from minor infections untreatable with antibiotics. But if antibiotics will no longer work, then what will?
First and foremost, our best plan is prevention. Reducing our risks of becoming sick or injured decreases our need for antibiotics, making them more likely to work when they're most critical. And when we do get an infection, we can use a number of natural remedies in place of antibiotics for common and more serious ailments. Always consult with your primary care physician before beginning any treatment.
Garlic: The benefit to natural antibiotics like garlic is that they do not kill off healthy bacteria as well. Garlic is an especially potent antibiotic that can be taken at the first sign of cold or flu and has been found effective against MRSA (Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus). It's also effective on topical infections and viruses like warts. Garlic is best used raw, but there are some potent supplements available as well.
Colloidal Silver: Long revered as an excellent topical treatment for infections, colloidal silver has recently become a favorite treatment in alternative healing practices for internal infections as well. It's so effective, in fact, that the FDA banned it because it threatened the antibiotic industry. While there are some risks associated with taking too much silver internally, it has been proven to treat E. coli, pneumonia, staph infections and more.
Oregon Grape: This natural antibiotic produces the same alkaloid as goldenseal, but the plant is in a healthier, more abundant state than goldenseal, making it a more sustainable choice. It is effective in treating topical infections as well as internal disturbances like E. coli, tooth infections and viruses as well as bacterial contaminations.
Echinacea: One of the more popular natural remedies, echinacea increases the body's natural defenses to fight off infections both internal and external. It's a powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant helping to thwart infections and boost overall immunity.
Salt: Sodium has long been used as an antibiotic. We apply it to food to retard decomposition and prevent bacterial infection. And it can be especially effective in treating topical and tooth infections as well as in the eyes.
Oregano oil: Studies have found that oregano oil is as effective as traditional antibiotics in treating infections like staph and can be used both topically and internally for bacterial, fungal and viral infections.
Manuka honey: Ancient civilizations regarded honey for its therapeutic uses for treating infection. And new research finds that potent Manuka honey—made by bees who collect nectar from Manuka trees—has also been shown to reverse antibiotic resistance in individuals with serious infectious illnesses. It can be used effectively topically and internally, and makes an excellent carrier for other herbs and supplements.
Essential oils: The pure essential oils of plants, flowers, fruits, barks and spices are incredibly antimicrobial and antifungal. Lavender is extremely versatile and most excellent in treating bug bites, skin irritations, cuts and wounds. And virtually all essential oils can be used for topical infections. They can soothe tooth infections (or teething babies, too). Some of the most effective include clove, oregano, grapefruit, thyme, cinnamon and lemon. Essential oils can be used internally, but there are some risks, so it is best to work with a therapist on dosage.
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Image: Seattle Municipal Archives