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Garlic vs. Penicillin

By Sara Ipatenco ; Updated August 14, 2017

Penicillin is often the first line of defense for treating a bacterial infection. You might not consider garlic as a form of medicine, but the plant has potent antibacterial agents that might destroy bacteria in much the same way that penicillin does. Once you know the benefits and drawbacks of penicillin and garlic, you can talk to your doctor about whether either has a place in your treatment plan.

Garlic

Garlic has been used as an antibacterial and antiseptic agent for centuries. Ancient cultures used garlic to treat leprosy and as a clotting treatment for horses. Garlic was also used as a treatment for deafness during the Middle Ages. American Indian tribes used garlic to treat scurvy, flatulence and earaches. Garlic inhalation was also used as a treatment for tuberculosis. During World War II, garlic was used as an antibacterial agent to disinfect wounds. The compound in garlic responsible for its antibacterial capabilities is called allicin, which is a type of sulfur that cleanses and purifies.

Research

Clinical trials indicate that garlic has the ability to help treat certain bacterial infections, though its use is limited. A 2006 study in the "Journal of Nutrition" found that garlic supplements can help treat Helicobacter pylori, a bacteria that can cause gastric ulcers. A 2001 study, also published in the "Journal of Nutrition," found that Helicobacter pylori infection and stomach cancer rates were lower among patients who consumed garlic. The study also found that raw garlic juice can kill bacteria that causes diarrhea, and that garlic might be effective at treating strains of bacteria that are resistant to traditional antibiotics.

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Penicillin

Penicillin is used to treat a variety of bacterial infections. Penicillin works by eradicating illness-causing bacteria and by inhibiting their growth as you recover. There are numerous forms of penicillin, and each one is used to treat certain infections, but not all forms are effective for all bacterial infections. Penicillin is used to treat common infections, such as an ear infection or strep throat, as well as less common infections, such as gangrene and typhoid fever. Penicillin is only available in prescription form.

Considerations

Tell your doctor if you have asthma, kidney disease, clotting disorders or any type of allergy before taking penicillin. Side effects include diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, vaginal discharge, thrush, fever, chills, easy bruising, rash and loss of consciousness. Tell your doctor if you have any of these side effects while taking penicillin. Garlic might be an effective alternative if you experience side effects. Speak with your doctor about whether garlic supplements might be effective for your type of infection. If you are allergic to penicillin, your doctor will prescribe a different antibiotic to treat your symptoms.

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