1,000-Year-Old Onion And Garlic Remedy Kills Antibiotic-Resistant Biofilms in The Lab

As deadly bacteria grow ever more resistant to modern antibiotics, some researchers have turned to ancient medical manuscripts for clues. And it looks like a medieval salve dating back 1,000 years might succeed where many modern antibiotics are starting to fail.


The “ancientbiotic”, as the researchers are calling it, was found in one of the earliest known medical textbooks from medieval England, known as Bald’s Leechbook. 

While many of the remedies included in this tome have not exactly aged well – including a salve to stop goblins visiting in the night – others, like ‘Bald’s eyesalve’, have stood up better to modern scrutiny. 

Building on previous research, scientists have shown this mix of natural ingredients – garlic, onion or leek, cow bile, and wine – may very well have powerful antiseptic properties. In fact, it appears to work against a panel of dangerous bacteria that have grown resistant to multiple modern drugs.

After brewing 75 batches of Bald’s eyesalve, including 15 with onion and 15 with leek (just to be absolutely sure about the Old English translation), researchers put the ancient recipe to the test. 

In the past, the recipe for this eyesalve has been shown to kill Staphylococcus aureus, the bacterium that causes golden staph. Now, a new study led by Jessica Furner-Pardoe from the University of Warwick backs those results up: Even when the bacteria formed particularly sturdy structures known as biofilms, the salve was effective.


S. aureus are particularly resistant bacteria, in large part because they can form biofilms, or, as one study put it: “slime-enclosed aggregates of sessile bacteria… irreversibly attached to surfaces.” That’s what…

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