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21 Natural antibacterial plants for survival in the wild

Last updated on January 22, 2021
Natural antibacterial plan have long been used in managing infectious diseases. You can make plant-derived remedies out of these.

What are natural antibacterial plants?

Medicinal plants have long been used in managing infectious diseases. You can make plant-derived remedies out of these. They are effective against various fungal, bacterial, parasitic, or viral infections.

In this article, we'll talk about the most popular natural antibacterial plants. Many cultures and civilizations have used these remedies since ancient times. So, let's get started!

Natural antibacterial plants: sage


Sage is known for its earthy flavor and pungent herbal aroma. This evergreen shrub belongs to the mint family. Its primary everyday use is in cooking to bring complexity and savory to recipes.  Sage has oval gray-green leaves and woody stems. 

It has a cottony texture and fuzzy appearance. This is due to its smooth hair-like projections on the leaves. Sage usually grows about a foot high and has purple, white, or blue flowers that bloom in August.

Where can you find sage?

Sage is native to Southern Europe and Asia Minor. You can find it in the wild or cultivated in the United States, Turkey, Albania, Spain, Italy, and Greece. In gardens, varieties have narrower leaves, smaller flowers, and variegated leaves.

How can you use sage?

You can use sage to treat digestive problems. It is very efficient against diarrhea, heartburn, bloating, and loss of appetite. It also helps to ease painful menstrual periods. When used as a rinse, sage helps improve the tone and texture of hair. You can also dip it in water and use it as a toner to control oily facial skin.

Sage has a lot of nutritional benefits as well. It’s an excellent source of vitamins A and K, folate, manganese, fiber, calcium, magnesium, and iron. It also contains B vitamins like riboflavin, thiamin, folic acid, vitamin E, and vitamin C. You can add it as a component to soap. Sage tinctures are also available. You can take 16 to 40 drops of sage tinctures up to 3 times daily. 

You can use both dried and fresh leaves for medicinal and culinary purposes.  To prepare an infusion, add 2 to 3 teaspoons of fresh or dried sage leaves in 1 pint of boiling water. Cover the mixture and steep it for 10 to 15 minutes. You can use it as a hair rinse, gargle, or drink it. You shouldn't drink more than 3 cups per day.



Thyme is a perennial evergreen herb in the mint family. The plant’s gray-green leaves grow on clusters of stiff and woody stems. Flowers bloom in small clusters and can be lilac or white in color. Thyme is aromatic with hints of mint and clove fragrance.

The most popular varieties are lemon thyme and common thyme. They look similar, but lemon thyme has a unique lemon flavor and aroma. If you want to grow thyme, consider cultivating wild thyme, elfin thyme, woolly thyme, and creeping thyme.

Where can you find thyme?

Thyme is native to the western Mediterranean and south Europe. People cultivate it as a medicinal and culinary herb. Wild thyme grows in pastures, on heaths and mountainous parts in temperate regions. You can find it in temperate areas.

How can you use thyme?

Thyme is analgesic, aromatic, antispasmodic, diuretic, antiseptic, and diaphoretic. It works as a stimulant and emmenagogue. Dried or fresh leaves, and the essential oil extracted from them, have medicinal uses.

Thyme essential oil is rich in thymol, a crystalline phenol. This is a powerful disinfectant and antibiotic. It helps fight infection and improves the immune system. It can also disinfect wounds and cuts as well as treat athlete's foot. You can use thyme essential oil as a massage oil to relieve sciatica, rheumatism, and gout.  

You can consume thyme as a syrup or infusion to treat urinary, respiratory, and digestive problems. Thyme helps quell dry coughs by relaxing the bronchial muscles. It also helps expel worms, eases flatulence, treats headaches and colic. Warm thyme tea can also help relieve diarrhea and menstrual pain. 

Thyme is rich in phytochemicals such as bitters, saponins, tannins, flavonoids, and terpenes. This is why it has excellent antioxidant properties. 

If you want to make an infusion, you should boil 2 ounces of fresh leaves in 2 1/2 cups of boiling water. Cover the tea for 10-30 minutes. You can drink thyme tea up to 3 times a day. 



Cloves are an aromatic spice made from the flower bud of a clove tree. Its everyday use is in the kitchen. You can use it with nutmeg and cinnamon in drinks like chai, mulled wine, cider, and sweet dishes.

Cloves have a strong, pungent aroma and flavor. You can use it whole or ground. Its buds produce about 15% to 20% of the volatile oil, responsible for its unique taste and aroma. It is also rich in a tannin complex, glucosides of sterols, resin, and gum.

Distilled clove bud oil contains eugenol, furfural, gallic acid, vanillin, and sesquiterpenes. It also contains lipids, rhamnetin, oleanolic acid, and flavonoids. 

Where can you find cloves?

Cloves are native to the Maluku or Moluccas Islands in Indonesia. People also cultivate it in Sumatra, South America, and Tanzania.

How can you use cloves?

You can also use cloves as an ant repellent thanks to its bioactive chemicals. Clove oil contains eugenol, which can help ease toothache pain. You can use it as an analgesic or painkiller for dental emergencies. 

You can make clove tea if you want to get a more potent dosage of cloves. Grind one tablespoon of cloves (whole) and dip it in boiling water for 3 to 4 minutes. After straining the spice, you will have a spicy tea that can keep you warm.

Cloves are also used as a spice in many cuisines. Many people also use it in certain condiments like Worcestershire sauce and ketchup. 



Garlic is a perennial bulb that belongs to the lily family. The plant has long grass-like leaves and a flowering stalk. It grows from the bulb and produces purple or pink flowers. 

Garlic is also known as allium, rustic treacle, stinking rose, and poor man's treacle. Fresh garlic contains alliinase and alliin. When you cut, bruise, chew, or chop garlic, these compounds combine to form allicin. This creates the bulb’s strong smell. 

Where can you find garlic?

You can find garlic in northeastern Iran and Central Asia. It’s easy to grow throughout the year in mild climates.

How can you use garlic?

Garlic can help treat different fungal, bacterial, and viral infections. Doctors used it to treat battle wounds during World War I and II. It is effective against E. coli, staph, salmonella, strep, H. pylori, and Vibrio cholera

Garlic can also help prevent stroke and heart disease. Eating garlic can help boost the immune system. You can eat it raw or cooked. Consuming 1 to 3 cloves of garlic daily helps prevent infections and diseases. Warmed garlic oil can also help treat ear infections. You can also use it to treat skin eruptions, cuts, and wounds.

Trembling Aspen

Trembling Aspen / Quaking Aspen

Trembling aspen, also known as quaking aspen, is a fast-growing tree. It has greenish-white or gray bark marked by protruding black knots and horizontal scars. It can grow up to 65 to 85 feet high. 

Mature trees have round leaves with a flattened petiole. Young trees have triangular leaves. The flowers are 4 to 6 centimeters long. The fruits are a four-inch-long drooping string of 6-millimeter capsules.

Where can you find trembling aspen?

You can find Trembling aspen in North America. It is indigenous to  Canada, New England, Pacific Northwest, Great Lakes, Arizona, New Mexico, and Alaska.

How can you use trembling aspen?

Survival experts value Trembling aspen for its analgesic and antiseptic properties. You can use it to treat respiratory disorders, wounds, and skin problems. The bark is anti-inflammatory, diuretic, antiseptic, febrifuge, astringent, stimulant, anodyne, and diaphoretic

You can consume it to treat arthritis, back pain, rheumatism, gout, and urinary problems. If you want to make a concentrated decoction, you need to boil 1 to 4 grams of the bark. It can help stop diarrhea and reduce joint pain. It would be best if you used this decoction to treat skin conditions. The antiseptic and astringent properties are excellent for survival situations.

Trembling aspen's everyday use is for making crates, pallets, pulpwood, and paper. This is due to its strength and lightweight. It’s also preferred for building playgrounds because it doesn’t splinter.

Rocky Mountain Willows
© Denis Anisimov

Rocky Mountain Willows

Rocky Mountain Willows is among the smallest species of willows. It grows in exposed, at high altitudes, and has reddish or brown hairless branches.

The leaf tips are rounded or pointed, and margins are untoothed and flat. The surface of the leaf may be hairless or pilose hairy. Its flowers are narrow, spikes, short catkins, and contain green pistils or stamens. The fruits are pilose hairy capsules that are reddish-green.

Where can you find Rocky Mountain Willows?

Rocky Mountain Willows grow in the alpine and subalpine areas of Sierra Nevada. You can find them in wetlands like wet meadows and moist banks.

How can you use Rocky Mountain Willows?

Rocky Mountain Willows has many medicinal uses, like treating indigestion and diarrhea. It is also great to relieve toothache and to stop bleeding. You can eat parts of Rocky Mountain Willows, and it is rich in vitamin C.

Prickly Pear Cactus

Prickly Pear Cactus

Prickly Pear Cactus, also known as O. Ficus-Indica, is a segmented cactus that can grow up to 23 feet high. It usually grows with green-blue or green rounded cladodes. The cladodes have flat, fixed spines and tiny hairlike prickles known as glochids. The flowers are generally large, solitary, axillary, and epiperigynous.

Where can you find Prickly Pear Cactus?

Prickly Pear Cactus grows in Western Hemisphere. You can cultivate it like the Indian fig. People in subtropical and tropical countries harvest and eat the Indian fig.

Two of the most popular species are the beavertail cactus and Engelmann prickly pear. Both grow in the southwestern part of the United States.

How can you use Prickly Pear Cactus?

The fruit of Prickly Pear Cactus is edible. Before you consume it, you should peel it to eliminate the tiny spines on the outer layer. Native Americans roll the fruits around in grit or a suitable medium to remove the glochids. That's because the glochids can cause discomfort of the tongue, throat, and lips.

You can use the pulp and juice to treat urinary and digestive problems as well as wounds. In the Maltese islands, people enjoy Prickly pears as a summer fruit. They add it to soups, vegetable dishes, salads, beverages, and candy in Mexico. Prickly pears also contain phytochemicals such as betalains, polyphenols, and dietary minerals.

Pineapple Weed

© Steve Matson

Pineapple Weed

Pineapple weed is also known as disc mayweed, wild chamomile, or Matricaria discoidea. It is an annual plant with cone-shaped flowers that give off a pineapple or sweet aroma when crushed. It can grow up to 16 inches high. 

The flowers are edible, and you can add them to salads or use them to make tea. Its leaves are divided into feathery segments that grow alternately along the stem.

Where can you find Pineapple Weed?

Pineapple weed grows in North America, in central Alaska, California, Newfoundland, and Nova Scotia. You can find it in Britain as well.

How can you use Pineapple Weed?

Pineapple weed has sedative, antispasmodic, anthelmintic, and anti-inflammatory properties. You can use the entire plant to make tea. 

You can use Pineapple weed to prevent parasitic infection, boost the immune system, and speed healing. It is also great for lowering stress levels, speed up recovery, and soothe the digestive system.

The flower heads can increase energy when eaten. In the wild, its scent works as an insect repellant, so you can use it to drive insects away.  

The essential oil made from Pineapple weed is valued in the perfume industry. It contains myrcene, which handles the plant's pleasant smell.

Chickweed (Stellaria media)

Chickweed (Stellaria media)

Chickweed is a common weed that belongs to the carnation family. The plant is perennial and evergreen in warmer zones and annual in cold climates. It has oval-shaped leaves and a hairy stem that grows up to 40 centimeters long.

The plant has white star-shaped flowers with five-lobed petals. But you will also find some plants without petals. Instead, they have three styles and three stamens.

Where can you find Chickweed?

Chickweed grows in Europe, North America, Asia, and other countries throughout the world.  Other common names for chickweed include winter weed, common chickweed, chickenwort, and Maruns.

How can you use Chickweed?

Chickweed is grown as a vegetable crop for poultry and consumption. You can use the plant to treat pulmonary diseases and itchy skin conditions. It is also used for treating menstrual pain, rheumatic pains, and bronchitis.

Since it is rich in iron, it is excellent for treating iron-deficiency anemia. You can also apply Chickweed to the skin to soothe burns, itchiness, and bug bites.

Yarrow (Achillea millefolium)

Yarrow (Achillea millefolium)

Yarrow is a perennial plant with feathery leaves with different levels of hairiness. It blooms disk and ray flowers that are pink or white. The plant has a sweet scent. It’s also known as devil’s nettle, nosebleed plant, sanguinary, soldier’s woundwort, milfoil, and thousand-leaf.

Where can you find Yarrow?

Yarrow grows in Europe, North America, and Asia. It prefers open forests and grasslands. You can find both polyploid and diploid plants and native genotypes in North America.

How can you use Yarrow?

You can use it to treat hemorrhaging and break fevers by increasing perspiration. Also, you can brew the flowers and leaves to make tea. You only need to dip 1 to 2 teaspoons of yarrow in hot water for 5 to 10 minutes and drink it.  

Oregano (Origanum vulgare)

Oregano (Origanum vulgare)

Oregano is a perennial herb with olive-green leaves and purple flowers. Another name for Oregano is wild marjoram.  It grows between 20 and 80 centimeters tall. Tastes range from astringent or spicy to sweet and more complex.

Where can you find Oregano?

Oregano is native to Asia and the Mediterranean region. It is cultivated in the United States as well. Oregano prefers hot, dry climates, but it can also grow in other environments.

How can you use Oregano?

Oregano has culinary and medicinal uses. It has antioxidant and antimicrobial properties and possible antispasmodic qualities.

You can use fresh oregano infusion to treat headaches, indigestion, and respiratory problems. Oregano is a common spice in Italian, Spanish and Mexican dishes.

Lavender (Lavendula)

Lavender (Lavendula)

Lavender is a flowering plant that is part of the mint family. The genus is composed of shrub-like perennials and annual herbaceous perennials. The leaves of the plant can be pinnate or toothed. Its leaves are covered in indumentum or fine hairs. The flowers can be lilac, blue, or violet.

Where can you find Lavender?

You can find Lavender in Europe, Cape Verde, Canary Islands, southwest Asia, and Africa. The plant prefers dry, sandy, gravelly, or well-drained soil in full sun.

How can you use Lavender?

Lavender has anti-inflammatory and antiseptic properties that can help heal bug bites and minor burns.

The herb is usually used in shampoos and fragrances to purify the skin. If you have insomnia, you can use lavender essential oil to get a restful sleep at night. Put a few drops of oil on your pillows before you go to sleep.  

Wild Garlic (Allium)

Wild Garlic (Allium)

Wild garlic is also known as allium ursinum, bear’s garlic, wood garlic, ramsons, or bear leek. It’s a bulbous perennial plant with narrow bulbs and bright green elliptical leaves. The flowers of this plant are star-shaped and have six white tepals.  

Where can you find Wild Garlic?

You can find this wild relative of garlic and onion in Asia and Europe. It prefers moist woodlands.

How can you use Wild Garlic?

You can eat the leaves raw or cook them first. Wild garlic is an excellent addition to soups and salads.

Wild garlic has antifungal, antiviral, and antibacterial properties. It lowers blood pressure and reduces cholesterol levels because it’s a vasodilator.

Plantain (Plantago major)

Plantain (Plantago major)

Plantain is a flowering plant with oval-shaped leaves. It has tiny flowers with purple stamens and proliferates with seeds. Each plant can provide up to 20,000 oval-shaped seeds.

Where can you find Plantain?

Plantago major is native to central and northern Asia and most of Europe. People cultivate it in other parts of the world as well. Other popular names for plantain include broadleaf plantain and greater plantain.

How can you use Plantain?

Mature plants have tough and pliable fibers. You can use these to create sutures, small cords, braiding, and fishing lines. The leaves are rich in minerals and calcium. 

You can cook the older leaves in stews and ground the seeds into an extender or flour substitute. People also use Plantain leaves for treating wounds, insect stings, and sores. You can use the roots to treat respiratory infections and fever.



Calendula is a fragrant, herbaceous perennial plant with oblong-lanceolate leaves and thorny fruits. The plant has branched erect or lax stems that can grow up to 80 centimeters tall. It’s also known as common marigold, Scotch marigold, and pot marigold.

Where can you find Calendula?

You can find Calendula in southern Europe and warm temperate climate regions. It grows well in sunny areas and most types of soil.

How can you use Calendula?

You can make a cataplasm or poultice to speed up healing and prevent infection in cuts and scratches. People also add Calendula to salads and dishes to add color to dishes. Ancient cultures used the flowers as a therapeutic herb and a dye for cosmetics and fabrics.

Wild Comfrey (Cynoglossum virginianum)

Wild Comfrey (Cynoglossum virginianum)

Wild comfrey is a flowering unbranched perennial plant with hairy stems and leaves. The flowers of the plant have rounded corollas that are light blue. The fruits are a group of four nutlets coated in bristles.

Where can you find Wild Comfrey?

The plant grows in Canada and the Eastern United States. It usually grows in open uplands like in southern New England, Illinois, New York, and Oklahoma.

How can you use Wild Comfrey?

Early European settlers harvested the plant and used it to treat wounds. They also used it to flush out internal disorders as well as respiratory infections. People believe the roots help treat gonorrhea, genital itching, and cancer. You can sue Wild comfrey as a sedative as well.

Coniferous Tree Sap (Spruce, Pine, Fir, etc.)

Coniferous Tree Sap (Spruce, Pine, Fir, etc.)

Coniferous tree sap is the viscous liquid that transports nutrients to the parts where it is most needed. It contains sugar compounds, which make it thick and creamy. The tree produces sap throughout the year.

Where can you find Coniferous Tree Sap?

Coniferous trees such as fir, pine trees, and spruce grow in various parts of the world. There are over 550 species of conifer trees. Most of them are shrubs and evergreen trees. Coniferous trees prefer temperate climate regions

How can you use Coniferous Tree Sap?

Coniferous tree sap has antibacterial properties that can help heal wounds. The sap’s antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties and stickiness help close wounds. You can use it to heal eczema as well.

You can make a pine pitch salve by collecting pine tree sap. Heat the sap that you have collected into a liquid and add olive oil. You can also add beeswax to make the save firm.

You can also use coniferous tree sap to make glue, candles, and turpentine.

Alder (Betulaceae Alnus)

Alder (Betulaceae Alnus)

Alder is a genus of deciduous plants with serrated and alternate leaves. The genus is composed of 35 species of shrubs and monoecious trees. Alders are wind-pollinated. The largest species of alders are the black alder and red alder.  

Where can you find Alder?

You can find Alders all over the north temperate region. Some Alders species extend into the Andes and Central America. They usually grow near wetlands, streams, and rivers. The white alder prefers warm and dry climates and grows along streams.

How can you use Alder?

Alder bark is also rich in salicin, an anti-inflammatory agent. The bark of red alder is also used to treat insect bites, skin irritations, and poison oak. Clinical studies show that red alder is rich in lupeol and botulinum. These are effective against various tumors. You can use some species' wood to smoke different food like seafood, coffee, and salmon.

Goldenseal (Hydrastis Canadensis)

Goldenseal (Hydrastis Canadensis)

Goldenseal is a perennial plant with a hairy and purplish stem, yellow rhizome, and knotted rootstock. The plant produces flowers once it reaches sexual maturity. People have used the leaves and roots of the plant to treat various ailments.  

Where can you find Goldenseal?​

Goldenseal is native to the eastern United States and southeastern Canada. Other popular names for the plant include yellow puccoon and orangeroot.

How can you use Goldenseal?

Goldenseal has anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties. You can use it to treat skin disorders, sinus infections, and painful periods. It is also great for lack of appetite, digestive and inflammatory conditions.

Goldenseal helps prevent the common cold. Tea and herbal extracts made from goldenseal treat hay fever, sore gums, skin problems, and digestive problems.

Wild Sage / Big Sage

Wild Sage / Big Sage

Wild sage is a pale-grey shrub with a strong, pungent scent. The plant has a deep taproot, silvery-grey foliage, and yellow flowers. Wild Sage also contains terpenoids, camphor, and volatile oils. These ingredients are responsible for the plant’s strong scent.  

Where can you find Wild Sage?

Wild sage grows in semi-arid and arid conditions. It’s the dominant species of the plant across vast areas of the Great Basin. The plant also grows in Colorado, Dakotas, Nebraska, Baja California, and British Columbia.

How can you use Wild Sage?

Native Americans used this plant to treat colds, headaches and stop internal bleeding. They also used it to prevent infections in wounds.

You can use an infusion of wild sage leaves externally to relieve body aches. It can help treat athlete’s foot as well. The infusion also works as a foot deodorant.

Narrow-Leaved Yucca

Narrow-Leaved Yucca

Narrow-leaved yucca is a perennial plant with long and narrow leaves and white or pale green flowers. Other names for the plant include soapweed yucca, small soapweed, and Spanish bayonet. The plant prefers sandy loam soils.   

Where can you find Narrow-Leaved Yucca?

You can find Narrow-leaved yucca in the United States and Canada. The plant can tolerate strong winds and drought and produces flowers from July to August.

How can you use Narrow-Leaved Yucca?

You can make the root into a poultice and apply it to wounds, sprains, bleeding cuts, and inflammations. The leaves are great for making ropes, mats, and brushes as well.

Crush the plant's root and make soap out of it. It is effective against skin irritations and dandruff. You can also use it as a hair shampoo to get rid of lice and prevent hair loss.

What's next?

There are many natural antibacterial plants in the wild. Based on your location, you have to know what to look for. These don't replace first aid kits but are great emergency alternatives.

Now that you know what plants to look for let's focus on what skills you need to improve to survive in the wild.

Interested in being prepared to bug out? Check our complete bug out bag checklist.

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