Natural Bacteria Busters

Researching and testing natural alternatives for topical antibiotics
Adonia Li Maya Rajpar
Grade 7


We believe that there can be natural substitutes for some topical antibiotics. 

We have a total of 5 creams:

  • Honey
  • Turmeric
  • Honey + Turmeric
  • Ginger + Turmeric
  • Garlic + Turmeric

We predict that it can be proven that topical mild antibiotics can be substituted, and replaced with natural common household remedies like turmeric, garlic, honey, and ginger, which will hopefully have the same effect in killing bacteria and preventing it from reproducing. We also predict that the dead zones of the natural ingredients will be similar in size compared to the dead zone of Polysporin. The reason we believe this will happen is due to the fact that all of the natural remedies we are testing do have some sort of antibacterial properties, or at least appear to according to our research.



What are antibiotics?

Antibiotics are medicines that help stop/prevent infections by killing bacteria. There are 2 different ways antibiotics can help the body fight illnesses, and these are:

 1. They kill the bacteria.

 2. They prevent bacteria from reproducing at all. 

The definition of the word antibiotic is ‘against life’, and any drug that kills germs and bacteria in your body, although most people only use the term antibiotic for describing a medicine meant to kill bacteria. Antibiotics can help many different infections of viruses. Some of these include strep throat, ear infections, coughs, skin infections or even dental infections. 

 Antibiotics are drugs used to fight and treat bacterial infections, or illnesses, although they have no effect on viral infections.  When they were first created, antibiotics were substances produced by a single microorganism that encourages the growth of another, so they just keep multiplying. 

Why substitute antibiotics?

Antibiotics have done lots of good, and have even saved many lives, so why should we substitute them for other things? Well, although antibiotics do many great things, they also do things that aren’t so great. For one, they can weaken one’s immune system by making it rely on antibiotics (this is done by making the individual's immune system weaker), which is not good, as that individual would then have to take antibiotics more often than they should. This is not a very good thing due to the fact that, surprisingly, some antibiotics even have side effects, including stomach pains, nausea, loss of appetite, diarrhea, and many other unhealthy side effects. One severe side effect of antibiotics is anaphylaxis, which is a serious allergic reaction, and may occur if an individual is allergic to any ingredients in antibiotics. Antibiotics destroy bad bacteria, but they also destroy the good bacteria, and this is how they weaken one’s immune system.

What is in antibiotics?

To make antibiotics, the compounds that ferment the broth are needed. This broth is an aqueous solution consisting of all the ingredients needed for the microorganisms to reproduce. This typically contains a source of carbon such as molasses or soy meal, which both consist of sugars for lactose and glucose. Such materials are required for the organisms as a food source. Nitrogen is another compound required in the organisms ' metabolic cycles. A salt of ammonia is usually used for this purpose. In addition, trace elements are included that are essential for the proper growth of antibiotic-producing species. These elements can include arsenic, mercury, magnesium, zinc, iron and copper, which have been added into water-soluble salts. Anti-foaming agents such as lard oil, octadecanol, and silicones are used to avoid foaming during fermentation. 

What is a natural antibiotic?

A natural antibiotic to us is an ingredient that boosts the immune system and fights bacteria, similar to a regular antibiotic, except they do not kill the good bacteria, and they have no chemicals. Natural antibiotics boost the immune system if had when not needed, as opposed to making it weaker and making the immune system rely on it. This is good because if someone gets sick, their immune system is strong and can fight it better than if they had a regular antibiotic, which just makes their immune system weaker.

What can we substitute antibiotics with?


Topical and oral 

One great natural antibiotic is honey, which has lots of antibacterial properties, due to the high content of hydrogen peroxide, and it can help fight illnesses or infections. Hydrogen peroxide is used to cleanse cuts and scrapes and can be used as an antiseptic. Due to honey’s high content of hydrogen peroxide, it can be used as an antiseptic. Honey also has a high content of natural sugars. This may sound like a bad thing, but it is actually beneficial to the body as it can help prevent certain bacterias from growing. Honey also has a low pH level, and this allows the honey to extract the moisture from bacteria, making it very dry and causing it to die. It can be applied directly to a wound, or ingested for internal infections, such as an illness. One can just eat some honey (about 1 tablespoon) or mix it in herbal tea, or blend it in a smoothie. The best type of honey is Manuka Honey, due to its antiviral, anti-inflammatory and antioxidant benefits, although types are very good.


Topical and oral

Another great, healthy substitute is garlic. This is not very tasty (to some people) but there are ways to incorporate it so that one can’t even taste it. Ways to do this can be adding small amounts into foods, or even putting some in a smoothie, and adding other things to it in a way so the garlic is very hard to taste. Garlic extract or concentrated Garlic can also be used. It is a good natural antibiotic substitute as it has allicin in it, which can boost immunity, prevent cancer, and an anti-inflammatory effect. No one should have too much garlic, as for some people it may cause indigestion. This can be slightly prevented by soaking some garlic cloves in olive oil or using garlic extract. Garlic can be eaten, and it can also be put directly on the skin for cuts. Garlic contains sulphur compounds called cysteine sulphoxides, which help battle bacteria that are both uncommon, and common. To get as much out of the garlic as possible, chop it and let it sit for about 10 minutes. This will help the enzymes convert to allicin, which helps one’s body fight bacteria.


Topical and oral

Another natural antibiotic is ginger. Ginger is used very commonly to treat cases of flu and other colds. It is also very helpful when dealing with stomach pains, or even nausea. Ginger has the fantastic power to be able to lower blood sugar levels. As to the reason for ginger’s amazing powers, the root has phenols and gingerols, and these are both very important when treating inflammation. Ginger also has a great anti-inflammatory property in it that helps greatly with inflammation. Ginger acts as a great spasmolytic, which is something that helps get rid of spasms in a smooth muscle. This is great for soothing and relieving an upset stomach, flatulence, and other gastrointestinal or digestive issues. This amazing herb also relieves nausea from motion sickness and pregnancy, as well as helping heal muscular sprains and joint pains. Someone can incorporate ginger in their diet by putting it in smoothies or juices, eating natural dried ginger, sucking on it raw, putting it in soups or other dishes, or even drinks, hot or cold. 

 Image result for ginger


Topical and oral

In turmeric, there is something called Curcumin. This is what gives turmeric its vibrant bright yellow colour. This spice is known for the antimicrobial properties in it as well as its anti-inflammatory properties. Turmeric also has the power to reduce pain and stiffness related to rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis. Scientists have recently discovered that Curcumin kills bacteria on contact and this could lead to cutting boards, etc. that will be anti-bacterial.

Image result for turmeric


Risks of natural antibiotics

 Just because something is called natural it's not necessarily safe. The active ingredient amounts and concentrations differ between supplement brands. It is very important to carefully read the labels. When you plan to take these supplements, a person should also notify their health care provider. Although cooked garlic is generally safe to consume, research suggests that taking concentrated garlic can increase the risk of bleeding. This may be dangerous for people undergoing surgery or taking blood thinners. Garlic concentrate may also reduce the use of HIV medications. Some products, including colloidal silver, should be avoided. This material is made up of microscopic silver pieces suspended in water.

As a cure for a variety of diseases, including bubonic plague and HIV, colloidal silver has been suggested. Nonetheless, it can be harmful, according to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, and these applications can not be backed up by credible studies.

Taking colloidal silver supplements can interfere with antibiotic efficacy and medication used to treat a thyroid gland that is underactive.

Also in the body, Silver can build up and turn the skin bluish-gray. The disorder is known as argyria and in most cases it is permanent.

Although it is not very common, natural antibiotics also have risks. These risks include:

  • Digestive problems

  • Fungal infections

  • Drug interactions

  • Photosensitivity

  • Teeth and bone staining

  • Anaphylaxis

  • Clostridium difficile-induced colitis

  • Antibiotic-resistant bacteria

  • Kidney failure

  • Blood-thinning


Our manipulated variable is applying each different natural antibiotic creams onto the Petri dishes, and the responding variable is the dead zones. The control variables are the amount of bacteria broth applied onto each Petri dish, the temperature at which the Petri dishes are kept and lastly, the amount of time each Petri is kept in the incubator. 

*the broth is a mixture of dirt from under the bathroom sink mixed with water used to inoculate the agar. 





  • Petri dishes
  • Turmeric
  • Garlic
  • Honey
  • Ginger
  • Polysporin
  • Coconut oil
  • Olive oil
  • Beeswax
  • Sharpie
  • Stove
  • Pots
  • Glass bowls (various sizes)
  • Bacteria broth
  • Measuring cup
  • Q-tips
  • Hole puncher
  • Heating pad
  • Rubber gloves
  • Filter paper
  • Tweezers
  • Plastic box
  • Thermometer
  • Glass jars
  • Spoons
  • Water
  • Towel

Formulating antibiotic cream

  1. Sterilize all containers within the experiment, using hot water. 
  2. Combine olive oil, coconut oil, and beeswax in a double boiler or a glass bowl on top of a pot. 
  3. Heat pot to 90.5 degrees Celsius (low on a gas stove), in order to properly melt ingredients. We measured this by using a thermometer to measure the temperature of the water once it began to boil. 
  4. Stir the mixture occasionally in the bowl until combined. When combined, the mixture will appear to only be one colour and look as though it is only one item. 
  5. Once melted, separate the natural antibiotic base into the 5 individual jars and mix with the appropriate ingredients.
  6. Add in the natural antibiotic
  7. Wait for the creams to harden, seal and store in a cool dry place away from direct sunlight.

*Best if the ingredients are all organic as this makes a more controlled environment.


Preparing the Petri dishes 

  1. Sterilize all materials to be used using boiling water and pouring it over the items/materials. 
  2. Pour the contents of nutrient agar vial into a 250 ml (1 cup) of water. Use a large container, to ensure the solution does not spill as it will bubble. A four-cup or larger Pyrex measuring cup is best for this process. 
  3. Mix thoroughly
  4. Heat the mixture to boiling and completely dissolve the medium in the microwave or using hot water. This will take approximately 2 minutes.
  5.  Lay the empty Petri dishes on your work surface but do not remove the covers until the last possible second before pouring the hot solution.
  6. Have a partner remove one lid at a time while you pour and then replace the lids immediately. This will prevent additional bacteria from going into the Petri dishes. When pouring the agar solution, it is only necessary to cover the bottom of the dish, not to create a swimming pool for bacteria to grow. If it helps, you may gently tilt the dish to spread the agar to ensure there is not too much used. 
  7. Cool the Petri dishes by setting them on a counter and allowing them to harden. 
  8. Once they are set, place them upside down in the refrigerator. It is best to seal the Petri dishes with a piece of tape to prevent them from opening.

 *powdered nutrient agar is used for this process


Testing the growing conditions

  1. Remove two Petri dishes from the refrigerator keeping them upside down, remove from any packaging etc and label it. 
  2. Carefully lift the half of the plate that contains the nutrient agar with one hand, tilt if necessary, but be sure not to turn it over completely.
  3. Inoculate the agar with a mixture of dirt from under the bathroom sink mixed with water by smearing it over the surface.
  4. Place the inoculated agar back on the lid immediately. This Petri dish is called positive control. 
  5. Place both Petri dishes upside down in an incubator for 48 hours or more with a warm temperature to mimic body heat, about 37 degrees Celcius (98 degrees Fahrenheit). Avoid sunlight. 
  6. Check daily. If there are bacteria growing in the negative control dish, it may be best to start again and sterilize everything again in an oven. Repeat until there is no bacteria growth in the negative control dish.


Building the incubator

Turn the heating pad on the low setting and place underneath the Rubbermaid container. 

  1. Place the Petri dishes inside the glass jar and place the glass jar inside the container.
  2. Use the thermometer to monitor the temperature to ensure it is consistent, and if it is too hot at any time, place the folding towel on top of the heating pad. 


Testing natural antibiotics

  1. Remove two Petri dishes from the refrigerator keeping them upside down, remove from any packaging etc and label it. 
  2. Carefully lift the half of the plate that contains the nutrient agar with one hand, tilt if necessary, but be sure not to turn it over completely.
  3. Inoculate the agar with a mixture of dirt from under the bathroom sink mixed with water by smearing it over the surface (the ‘broth’) using a Q-tip.
  4. Place the inoculated agar back on the lid immediately.
  5. Repeat this process with all the Petri dishes. 
  6. Wearing gloves, punch 36 holes in the filter paper and dip 6 in each cream using sterilized tweezers. 
  7. Place the holes of filter paper with the same cream on them in one Petri dish, spread out, and label the dish with the antibiotic on it.
  8. Do this for all the natural creams.
  9. Place all labelled Petri dishes in the incubator and check them every 12 hours.
  10. There should be a ring around each filter paper hole with no bacteria growth. This ring is called the dead zone. The larger the dead zone is, the stronger and more powerful the antibiotic cream is. 
  • A - Polysporin -     D - Garlic cream
  • B - Turmeric Cream -     E - Turmeric + honey cream
  • C - Ginger + turmeric cream -     F - Honey cream


Turmeric Graph

For the Turmeric graph, the dead zone kept on growing larger throughout the experiment. By the end of the experiment, turmeric had the largest dead compared to all the others.

Polysporin Graph

 For the Polysporin graph, the dead zone was very big at the beginning of the experiment and then then it grew some throughout the experiment. But a little after the halfway mark the dead zone began to shrink and let the bacteria slightly overpower it.

Honey & Turmeric Graph

The dead zone of the honey and turmeric graph resembles the turmeric graph, it kept on growing throughout the entire experiment. This was probably the third-best after turmeric and polysporin. 

Garlic Graph

The dead zone kept on growing throughout the entire experiment. This may be that garlic needs time for it to actually work because the enzyme in garlic called Allicin, takes time for it to convert from the garlic to the actual bacteria-killing enzyme.

Ginger and Turmeric

The size of the dead zone for ginger and turmeric was about the same throughout the entire experiment, it grew a little at the beginning and the dead zone then stayed around the same.

Honey Graph

The size of the dead zone for honey was about the same throughout the entire experiment, similar to ginger and turmeric, it grew a little at the beginning and then stayed the same.


After trial one, it appears that the qualities turmeric displays are those similar to antibiotics. A big difference between turmeric and Polysporin includes the fact that the Polysporin works quickly but slowly begins to weaken after about 48 hours, whereas the turmeric works slower (by approximately 24 hours). It appeared that the Polysporin stopped working (dead zone shrinking) and let bacteria overpower it after 24 hours, though the turmeric continued its growth until 36 hours, and even then did not let the bacteria overpower it, unlike the Polysporin. Similarly, it is safe to say that honey, garlic, and ginger also have characteristics that are comparable to antibiotics including that they both prevent bacteria from growing altogether. After trial 2, there was not as large of a dead zone in all of them, aside from Polysporin. Polysporin seemed to have about the same size dead zone. The reason for this could be because the natural creams are stronger at first, but as they get older, their effect will be less. After trial 3, it is the same data as after trials 1 and 2. Overall all ingredients had dead zone so it is safe to say that all ingredients we tested have antibacterial properties.


Using the data from all of our experiments, it is safe to conclude that antibiotics can be avoided and substituted with natural ingredients such as turmeric, garlic, ginger and honey. The strongest of these natural antibiotics is turmeric, most likely due to its curcumin. Natural antibiotics, although they work slower, still work just as well as regular topical antibiotics, and turmeric may even work a bit better. Thus, it is safe to call these natural substitutes natural antibiotics. 

Polysporin had a much faster effect on preventing bacteria growth but did not have a long-lasting effect and let the bacteria overpower it after 36 - 48, whereas the natural creams stayed strong. 

In the future, we could elaborate on this experiment a little bit more by trying to test oral antibiotics as well, or maybe even by testing some other common household ingredients, or one perhaps ones that aren’t so common or we could have combined all the creams that we made. We could also have improved our project by using a medium that can be used to grow both mould and bacteria, in a way that we can compare and relate the two.



There are many ways discoveries made in this project can be applied to real-world situations. Some of these situations include being able to substitute regular antibiotics with natural ones, as regular antibiotics are not always available. This is also a solution to people who cannot afford regular antibiotics as the natural antibiotics that we tested are quite common in most households, and are also somewhat easy to gain access to. One more way this project can be applied to the real world is if someone has some sort of a reaction to regular antibiotics that prevents them from using them when they may need to, they can substitute them with these natural antibiotics. 

Sources Of Error

  • We thought mould and bacteria were related and mould growth represented bacterial growth. 
  • At first, we used oranges, not agar as our bacteria growing medium, because on oranges, it is very hard to see actual bacteria, and the mould may even cover it, whereas agar grows bacteria and you are able to actually see them.
  • We used turmeric powder, whereas a lot of the nutrients in turmeric are in the root, and doing so may have resulted in an even stronger turmeric cream.
  • We should’ve combined all of the natural topical creams to make one strong one and to see how strong all the natural creams are together, but this isn’t really an error just something we can look at in the future.
  • We should’ve measured the diameter of the dead zone, rather than just using sizes, as that would have been more accurate. 
  • When doing our experiment, we should have had a controlled variable which could have been an ingredient that we know does not have antibacterial properties to ensure that not all ingredients have dead zones, and that only antibiotics do.



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We would like to thank Mr. Gregory Earle and Mrs. Heather Lai for giving up tips and supporting us in our project. We would also like to thank George Pastirick for helping us and giving us new ideas that we would use in our project as well as both of our parents for helping with supplies and anything else we needed.