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We commonly turn to over the counter prescriptions and cough syrups as soon as we feel a cold coming on, but there are natural remedies that can help fight sickness just as efficiently as over the counter medications. When taken at the first sign of illness, these “natural antibiotics” have been shown to efficiently reduce the severity of symptoms, and may even prevent illness altogether if taken on a regular basis. Best of all, many of these “natural antibiotics” are probably already in your kitchen cupboards. And if not, the majority of them can be purchased at your local health food store for less than $15.00. Here are the top 6 foods and herbs to add to your diet that act as “natural antibiotics”, and help keep your immune system strong and healthy during the colder months.
Goldenseal is a root that’s closely related to the buttercup family. It’s been shown to have antibacterial properties that are strong enough to clear up yeast overgrowth in the digestive tract, as well as urinary tract infections. Since goldenseal can help reduce the amount of bacteria in the digestive tract, it may also help prevent colds and flus. This is because approximately 70-80% of your immune system cells are found in your gut ( 1). Goldenseal is often combined with other herbal remedies that reduce the symptoms of colds and flus, such as echinacea and goldenseal compounds. Goldenseal is most commonly taken as a liquid tincture. It’s said to work best when taken at the first sign of a cold, and taken for no more than 10 days at a time. However, it’s best to check in with a licensed healthcare practitioner for the appropriate dose and length of time to take goldenseal.
2. Oil of Oregano
Oil of oregano is one of the most powerful “antibiotics” found in nature because it has antiviral, antibacterial and antifungal properties. This means oil of oregano helps keep the digestive tract free of harmful bacteria that leads to illness, in addition to relieving symptoms of the common cold, such as coughing. Oil of oregano can be taken as a nutritional supplement each day to help fight off unfriendly bacteria and is most commonly taken in tincture form. You can also add oil of oregano to your recipes— especially your favourite Italian dishes. Important note: Always be sure the variety of oil of oregano you take is food-grade, as the quality of oils can vary and may not always be safe to ingest.
When it comes to using food as medicine, garlic is an herb you’ll want to have on hand. With antifungal, antiviral and antibacterial properties, garlic has been used to ward off harmful bacteria more so than vampires. In fact, garlic is one of the oldest natural remedies that’s been used to keep the digestive tract clean and heal respiratory diseases ( 2). Garlic is also said to be effective for eliminating oral bacteria, which is why you’ll find it as an ingredient in natural mouthwash recipes and natural remedies for healing toothaches. The health benefits of garlic have been linked to two compounds called allicin and sulfur. Allicin is said to provide the medicinal benefits, while sulfur aids in liver detoxification and can help eliminate harmful substances from the body. One of our favourite natural antibiotics for cold and flu season is New Roots Wild Oregano C93 with Garlic. The combination of oil of oregano and garlic makes for a potent natural remedy against symptoms of the common cold, such as coughing, phlegm and a stuffy nose.
4. Apple Cider Vinegar (ACV)
Apple cider vinegar has too many uses to count— but one of the best uses for ACV is as a natural antibacterial against colds and flus. The reason why apple cider vinegar has been linked to improving many health ailments, from digestive issues and inflammation to dandruff, is because of a special nutrient it contains called acetic acid. Acetic acid is the byproduct of the fermentation of apples to vinegar, which has been shown to have antibacterial properties when taken orally ( 3). Since apple cider vinegar is a fermented food, it also contains strains of beneficial bacteria or probiotics, that help keep your gut free from harmful, illness-causing bacteria. Our favourite variety of apple cider vinegar is Bragg’s Apple Cider Vinegar. Bragg’s ACV is unpasteurized, which means it still contains all of the beneficial enzymes found in raw apple cider vinegar. Bragg’s ACV also contains “the mother” of the vinegar, which is a slightly slimy substance that helps produce vinegar, and is highly concentrated in acetic acid.
5. Fermented Foods
As mentioned above, nearly 80% of your immune system is found in your gut. Therefore, eating fermented foods that are rich in beneficial bacteria is one of the best ways to prevent illness and boost your health during cold and flu season. Fermented foods such as sauerkraut, kimchi, coconut milk yogurt and beet kvass are ideal to include in your diet to support immunity. Probiotic foods can also help your body synthesize B vitamins, which promote increased energy and a happier mood. As you can see, beneficial bacteria helps you feel your best in general, so be sure to regularly include probiotic foods in your diet. You can also take probiotic supplements in capsules which will provide several different strains of beneficial bacteria for a more concentrated dose.
As you can see, it’s easier to stay healthy during cold and flu season when you’re eating foods with antibacterial properties, in addition to foods that support gut health. Oil of oregano, probiotics, apple cider vinegar and garlic are Nature’s most powerful antibiotics to keep stocked in your pantry to not only stay healthy during cold and flu season, but all year round.