A natural antibacterial agent has bacteria-killing or impairing properties. In other words, it isn't a human-engineered antibiotic, for example, or a sanitization product, both of which may lead to the creation of dangerous super-microbes (more on that later).
You may know some natural antibacterial agents as food (think: honey, coconut oil, and garlic). But their applications don't stop there. Beyond antibacterial food, some metals have antibacterial properties, like silver and copper.
Natural antibacterial agents have more applications than ever and may function as a healthy -- and effective -- way to keep our homes clean and bodies healthy. Here's what you need to know about them in 2020.
Antibacterial refers to things that slow the growth of or kill bacteria. By contrast, antimicrobial means that something kills or slows microorganism growth. Antimicrobial agents work on bacteria and viruses, mold, and fungi, whereas antibacterial only minimizes the spread of bacteria.
An antibiotic often refers to medicine with antibacterial products used to kill microorganisms within the body. Penicillin is a common type of antibiotic. An antiseptic is used on surfaces to stop the spread of bacteria. It is not used within the body.
Many plants, foods, and metals have naturally-occurring germ-killing properties. For thousands of years, ancient civilizations used natural antibacterial foods, such as garlic and honey, to help prevent illnesses and restore overall health.
Today, the dangers of antibacterial resistance make natural alternatives more critical than ever. Additionally, according to NHS research, antibiotics may cause digestive issues in 10% of those who receive them. They kill "good bacteria" that occurs naturally in the human body and "bad bacteria" that causes illness.
Here are a few of the most commonly-used natural germ-killing agents. Please bear in mind that research regarding these foods and materials is ongoing but promising in many cases. The following was written for informational purposes and is not medical advice.
There's a reason why people suffering from colds should take honey in their tea: people have been using honey for its germ-killing properties for much of human history.
Technically, honey is an antimicrobial as it may slow or stop the spread of more than just bacteria.
Coconut oil may also have antibacterial properties, specifically in the realm of dental hygiene and cavity reduction. However, coconut oil may also act against acne-causing bacteria, yeast infections, and fungi.
Allium sativum, otherwise known as garlic, is one of the world's best-known natural antibacterials agents. Not only has it been used historically to kill bacteria, viruses, and fungi, but garlic may also have immune and cardiovascular benefits.
In addition to being an anti-inflammatory and antioxidant, ginger also has antimicrobial health properties. In other words, ginger in food may reduce the presence of harmful microorganisms, according to Food Reviews International. Today, there is little research on ginger as natural antibacterial food.
Ginger is well-known as a treatment for nausea, as shown by 109 randomized controlled clinical trials. This extends to nausea treatment related to:
Beyond reducing nausea and its potential as a natural antibacterial agent, ginger may assist with weight loss. One review observed that ginger supplements reduced the waist-hip ratio and body weight in overweight and obese participants.
Vinegar may help reduce:
Vinegar a well-known as a natural disinfectant thanks to its researched ability to reduce the spread of bacteria and viruses.
In addition to being a natural antibacterial agent, vinegar may also promote weight loss, lower blood sugar levels, reduce cholesterol, and diminish acne. It may also be used for cleaning warts, lice, and fungus thanks to its natural acidity.
Clove is a cooking spice commonly used in Ayurvedic and Chinese medicine. In addition to possessing a variety of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, clove is known for its natural antibacterial properties.
Oregano is an herb often used in cooking and as an aromatic oil. It contains two essential oils--thymol and carvacrol--known for their germ-killing properties.