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Natural alternatives to topical antibiotic creams

We're all aware these days that through overuse of antibiotics, we’re developing antibiotic-resistant bugs.

And this isn’t just about oral antibiotic medications - multi drug-resistant organisms (MDROs) are becoming resistant to topical antibiotics as well.

A 2011 study reported that ointments like Neosporin and Polysporin, or any containing the ingredients neomycin, polymyxin B and bacitracin, may be a factor in a severe MRSA strain called USA300, which is not only resistant to any antibiotic, but also creates deep, supporated, pus-filled sores. It’s a very dangerous infection that can spread to blood, lungs and other organs. It also blocks the body’s ability to make its killer army of white blood cells (lymphocytes) that fight infection.

Also, the pharma companies aren’t developing new antibiotics so from the pharmaceutical world, there really is nothing out there to protect against these antibiotic-resistant bugs. When our Carmen developed joint sepsis back in 2014, our vet was honest enough to tell me that the prescribed antibiotics only had a 5% chance of working - you read that right; just 5% measly percent. I was basically leaving her healing to a mere 5% chance, and one that would also completely destroy her internal gut microbiome in the process, just when she needed the strongest immunity she could muster. Not on my watch, I thought, and created our BioCARE blend.

So what's out there in the natural world to give us a better choice for our horses' minor wounds or abrasions? The following are all natural, and none of them will harm your horse if they lick them off.

  • Calendula - nature's wound healer, even for deep wounds. Calendula cream, ointment or salve can soothe and heal cuts, scrapes, burns or insect bites. You can use a calendula tea or diluted tincture to clean wounds or help heal hot spots. Use a cotton ball to dab on to the wound/irritated area several times a day to help with itching, pain and healing.
  • Manuka honey has proven antibacterial, antifungal and antiviral properties with research showing it can even help control MRSA, one of the many antibiotic resistant bacteria. I've also seen incredible results from Manuka following violent, gaping injurines in a horse charity I support in Egypt, the likes that any western vet would instantly recommend PTS for. It's also thought to be effective on sarcoids. Spread Manuka on scrapes, cuts, puncture wounds - anywhere really.
  • Plantain is a super-useful herb to use for minor skin injuries, because it’s everywhere! Great for instant emergency wound care, pick a leaf or two, chew them up or roll/rub them together between fingers and apply the juice to the wound - it's as simple as that. I use plantain personally on me with nettle stings and insect bites - instant relief. Like calendula, you can use a plantain tea or diluted tincture with a cotton ball swab. Top Tip - you can also use plantain if you over-trim your dog’s toenails and cut the quick; it’ll stop the bleeding and ease the pain.
  • Garlic - we already know garlic has many health benefits when we feed it, and it can also be a good topical home remedy for cuts and scrapes. The easiest way to use it is to take a raw clove or two of garlic. Chop or crush it to release the allicin, the magic healing substance in garlic - also what gives garlic its fabulous aroma. Let it sit for a few minutes, then place in a jar with a couple of tablespoons of virgin olive oil. Shake vigorously and apply to the sore spots with a cotton ball. Keep refrigerated and make a new batch daily. The allicin stays effective for 8-12 hours.
  • I'd mention Goldenseal as it's one of the finest natural herbal antibiotic, both topically and internally, but it costs an absolute bomb, so we'll move straight onto one of my all-time favourite herbs ...
  • Yarrow - another wound-healing herb that helps prevent infection, its latin name of Achillea so called because Achilles used yarrow to heal his wounded soldiers. I swear by Yarrow for just about everything - simply dab yarrow tea or tincture on the affected area 2-3 times a day.
  • Hemp - A 'full spectrum' hemp salve can help heal many types of wounds and sores – even tumours, so say some. Make sure the words 'full spectrum' appear though.

  • Healing Clays - I love these. There are several different types of clay that can help with healing. including Bentonite, Montmorillonite, Illite or Redmond clays. Clay can help stop bleeding, help dry up an oozy wound, prevent infection and itching. Sprinkle dry clay directly on a wound, reapplying a fresh sprinkling daily or as needed. Top Tip - clay is great to dry up hotspots that are oozing pus. Clean the area, clip hair away if you can, then sprinkle clay straight on the hotspot. Or for a more potent effect, combine the powdered clay with an equal amount of powdered yarrow, plantain or echinacea.
  • Sugar - yep, I said sugar! If you have none of the above remedies lying around, you should have some sugar. It's great for emergency first aid as it draws infection out beautifully. Research also shows sugar has some pretty useful antibacterial effects, with one study even showing topical sugar inhibits growth of antibiotic-resistant MRSA/Staphylococcus bacteria. To use, sprinkle some bog-standard granulated sugar on the wound and if you can, bandage over it. The granules soak up moisture and stop bacteria from growing.

TaDah! So … now you can throw those horrible creams away with confidence - it’s just not worth the risk, and at least you have fighting chance of healing, compared to a miserable 5% 😉