By Darlene Stott
Published: 06/20/2017, edited: 08/10/2021
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We have all suffered from a common cold, stomach bug, or flu once in a while and some of us may even have needed drugs in order to resolve the problem. However, even more of us will have, at some point, used herbal remedies to fight the illness. This could have been in the form of some kind of tea to soothe a sore throat or even in the form of a concentrated pill marketed to resolve sinus problems.
In any case, these natural alternatives to pharmaceuticals have proven effects and some are even capable of fighting off a bacterial infection. In fact, some herbal products are used in medicine when conventional antibiotics encounter a pathogen that has built up an immunity to their presence. Not surprisingly, many herbal remedies used by humans can be beneficial to our canine companions. Let’s investigate how using herbal antibiotics can provide a great benefit to your dog.
Sources of Natural Antibiotics
Natural, non-pharmaceutical antibiotics have a large number of sources and their constituent chemicals can be found in many types of foodstuff plants and herbs that have made their way into human diets not just due to their pleasant flavors, but also due to their medicinal properties. These include garlic, ginger, and rosemary. There are plenty of other naturally occurring substances with potent antibacterial components, with even beeswax and honey harboring cleansing properties.
In addition, many of the microbes that feed on plants and their byproducts have antibacterial properties themselves, developing a symbiotic relationship with the flora in their area whereby they effectively exchange protection against infection for sustenance. Manufacturers of herbal antibiotics can call upon all of these sources from which to extract a concentrated product.
What About Herbs as an Alternative to Prescription Antibiotics?
As mentioned earlier, these natural alternatives are sometimes used instead of conventional antibiotics when the targeted bacteria have become resistant to drugs. This is because regular antibiotics are derived from one chemical compound which has been proven to have a certain effect on a bacterium (be it preventing them from synthesizing proteins or destroying their cell integrity) and which can easily be mass produced in a lab. However, this also means that the bacterium can quite readily adapt to the changes brought about by the chemical and can learn to ignore it.
Herbal antibiotics, meanwhile, have a massive amount of different hostile compounds all working in concert to destroy the bacteria. This makes them impossible to adapt to and greatly increases their lethality. However, it also means that it is very hard to manufacture drugs based on their chemical structure en masse. Thus, the plant itself must be eaten or directly applied to infected tissue. Additionally, some of the microbes that rely on the plant for their survival may be adapted to directly attack and consume bacteria as a source of food. These viruses are referred to as ‘bacteriophages’ and significant resources are presently being dedicated to researching these organisms as a way to treat drug-resistant infections.
While you may be able to safely feed herbs such as sage and garlic to your dog as a means of helping them recover from a digestive tract infection, certain plants may prove quite toxic despite their antibiotic properties. Onions are a good example of this, as despite their use by humans in cooking, they can cause violent illness in dogs.
For this reason, it is best to thoroughly research if the herbal alternative you are planning to give to your dog is safe for consumption. Additionally, concentrated forms of the chemicals found in many herbs may be inadvisable to use, as they may also kill the ‘friendly’ bacteria that can be found performing a variety of tasks in our dogs’ bodies. This can cause multiple problems ranging from digestive upset to further infections down the road.
Always consult your vet before deciding on whether or not to administer any antibiotic herb to your pet. That said, many of the herbs that are commonly cited to have antibiotic properties can also give a host of other health benefits as well, making them valuable additions to any dog’s regular diet.