How to cure tuberculosis

When TB bacteria become active (multiplying in the body) and the immune system can’t stop the bacteria from growing, this is called TB disease. TB disease will make a person sick. People with TB disease may spread the bacteria to people with whom they spend many hours.

It is very important that people who have TB disease are treated, finish the medicine, and take the drugs exactly as prescribed. If they stop taking the drugs too soon, they can become sick again; if they do not take the drugs correctly, the TB bacteria that are still alive may become resistant to those drugs. TB that is resistant to drugs is harder and more expensive to treat.

TB disease can be treated by taking several drugs for 6 to 9 months. There are 10 drugs currently approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for treating TB. Of the approved drugs, the first-line anti-TB agents that form the core of treatment regimens are:

  • isoniazid (INH)
  • rifampin (RIF)
  • ethambutol (EMB)
  • pyrazinamide (PZA)

Regimens for treating TB disease have an intensive phase of 2 months, followed by a continuation phase of either 4 or 7 months (total of 6 to 9 months for treatment).

Drug Susceptible TB Disease Treatment Regimens

Regimens for treating TB disease have an intensive phase of 2 months, followed by a continuation phase of either 4 or 7 months (total of 6 to 9 months for treatment).

Regimen Drugs a Interval and Dose b
(minimum duration)
Drugs Interval and Dose b,c
(minimum duration)
Range of Total Doses Comments c, d Regimen Effectiveness
7 days/week for 56 doses (8 weeks)
5 days/week for 40 doses (8 weeks)
7 days/week for 126 doses (18 weeks)
5 days/week for 90 doses (18 weeks)
182 to 130 This is the preferred regimen for patients with newly diagnosed pulmonary TB.
7 days/week for 56 doses (8 weeks)
5 days/week for 40 doses (8 weeks)
3 times weekly for 54 doses (18 weeks) 110 to 94 Preferred alternative regimen in situations in which more frequent DOT during continuation phase is difficult to achieve.
3 times weekly for 24 doses (8 weeks) INH
3 times weekly for 54 doses (18 weeks) 78 Use regimen with caution in patients with HIV and/or cavitary disease. Missed doses can lead to treatment failure, relapse, and acquired drug resistance.
7 days/week for 14 doses then twice weekly for 12 doses e INH
Twice weekly for 36 doses (18 weeks) 62 Do not use twice-weekly regimens in HIV-infected patients or patients with smear positive and/or cavitary disease. If doses are missed then therapy is equivalent to once weekly, which is inferior.

Abbreviations: DOT = directly observed therapy; EMB = ethambutol; HIV = human immunodeficiency virus; INH = isoniazid; PZA = pyrazinamide; RIF = rifampin.
a Other combinations may be appropriate in certain circumstances; additional details are provided in the Official American Thoracic Society/Centers for Disease Control and Prevention/Infectious Diseases Society of America Clinical Practice Guidelines: Treatment of Drug-Susceptible Tuberculosis external icon .
b When DOT is used, drugs may be given 5 days per week and the necessary number of doses adjusted accordingly. Although there are no studies that compare 5 with 7 daily doses, extensive experience indicates this would be an effective practice. DOT should be used when drugs are administered less than 7 days per week.
c Based on expert opinion, patients with cavitation on initial chest radiograph and positive cultures at completion of 2 months of therapy should receive a 7-month (31-week) continuation phase.
d Pyridoxine (vitamin B6), 25–50 mg/day, is given with INH to all persons at risk of neuropathy (e.g., pregnant women; breastfeeding infants; persons with HIV; patients with diabetes, alcoholism, malnutrition, or chronic renal failure; or patients with advanced age). For patients with peripheral neuropathy, experts recommend increasing pyridoxine dose to 100 mg/day.
e Alternatively, some U.S. TB control programs have administered intensive-phase regimens 5 days per week for 15 doses (3 weeks), then twice weekly for 12 doses.
Note: Use of once-weekly therapy with INH 900 mg and rifapentine 600 mg in the continuation phase is not generally recommended. In uncommon situations where more than once-weekly DOT is difficult to achieve, once-weekly continuation phase therapy with INH 900 mg plus rifapentine 600 mg may be considered for use only in HIV uninfected persons without cavitation on chest radiography.

Continuation Phase of Treatment

The continuation phase of treatment is given for either 4 or 7 months. The 4-month continuation phase should be used in most patients. The 7-month continuation phase is recommended only for the following groups:

  • Patients with cavitary pulmonary TB caused by drug-susceptible organisms and whose sputum culture obtained at the time of completion of 2 months of treatment is positive;
  • Patients whose intensive phase of treatment did not include PZA;
  • Patients with HIV who are not receiving antiretroviral treatment (ART) during TB treatment; and
  • Patients being treated with once weekly INH and rifapentine and whose sputum culture obtained at the time of completion of the intensive phase is positive.
    (Note:Use of once-weekly therapy with INH 900 mg and rifapentine 600 mg in the continuation phase is not generally recommended. In uncommon situations where more than once-weekly DOT is difficult to achieve, once-weekly continuation phase therapy with INH 900 mg plus rifapentine 600 mg may be considered for use only in HIV uninfected persons without cavitation on chest radiography.)

Treatment Completion

Treatment completion is determined by the number of doses ingested over a given period of time.

Tuberculosis (TB)

How Is Latent TB Treated?

If you have become infected with TB, but do not have the active TB disease you should get preventive therapy. This treatment kills germs that could cause problems if the disease becomes active. The most common preventive therapy is a daily dose of the antibiotic isoniazid (INH) taken as a single daily pill for six to nine months. You are not contagious if you have latent TB.

How Is Active TB Treated?

If you have an active TB disease you will probably be treated with a combination of antibacterial medications for a period of six to 12 months. The most common treatment for active TB is isoniazid INH in combination with three other drugs—rifampin, pyrazinamide and ethambutol. You may begin to feel better only a few weeks after starting to take the drugs but treating TB takes much longer than other bacterial infections. You must continue taking your medication as prescribed for the entire time your doctor indicates or you could get sick again, have a harder time fighting the disease in the future and spread the disease to others. Not completing your entire course of medication could also contribute to drug-resistant TB.

Drug-Resistant TB

Drug-resistant TB means that some drugs initially used to treat TB will no longer be able to fight the TB germs in your body. TB that is resistant to more than one drug, called multidrug-resistant TB (MDR TB) is very dangerous. The treatment for this type of TB takes much longer, 20 to 30 months to complete, and you may experience more side effects.

Managing Tuberculosis

You must finish your medicine and take the drugs exactly as prescribed. If you stop taking the drugs too soon you can become sick again and potentially spread the disease to others. Additionally, by taking the drugs incorrectly, TB germs that are still alive may become drug-resistant, making it harder for you to get better next time.

While you are in treatment for active TB disease, you will need regular checkups to make sure your treatment is working. Everyone is different, but there are side effects associated with taking the medications, including:

  • Upset stomach, nausea and vomiting or loss of appetite
  • Tingling or numbness in the hands or feet
  • Itchy skin, rashes or bruising
  • Changes in your eyesight or blurred visions
  • Yellowish skin or eyes
  • Dark-colored urine
  • Weakness, fatigue or fever that for three or more days

It is important to tell your doctor or TB nurse immediately if you begin having any unusual symptoms while taking medicine for either preventive therapy or for active TB disease. TB drugs can be toxic to your liver, and your side effects may be a warning sign of liver damage. If you are having trouble with tingling and numbness, your doctor may prescribe a vitamin B6 supplement while you are in treatment. It may also be possible to change TB medications if your side effects are serious.

Tips for Taking TB Medicine

If you are taking TB medicine on your own, it’s important to get into a routine. Here are some ways to help you remember to take your TB medicine:

  • Take your medicine at the same time every day.
  • Each day when you take your medicine mark it off on a calendar.
  • Get a weekly pill dispenser that has a section for each day of the week. Put your pills in it.
  • Ask someone close to you to check in daily to make sure you have taken your medicine.
  • Ask your healthcare provider what you should do if you forget to take your pills.

Sometimes it is helpful to have support in sticking to the long treatment timeline. You may be offered assistance through a program called Directly Observed Therapy (DOT). This means a healthcare worker will come to you to administer your medication and eliminate the concern of forgetting to take the treatment.

Preventing the Spread of TB

If you have active TB disease, it will take a few weeks of treatment before you can’t spread TB bacteria to others. Until your healthcare provider tells you to go back to your daily routine, here are ways to protect yourself and others near you:

  • Take your medicine exactly as the healthcare provider directed.
  • When you cough, sneeze or laugh, cover your mouth with a tissue. Put the tissue in a closed bag and throw it away.
  • Do not go to work or school until your healthcare provider says it’s okay.
  • Avoid close contact with anyone. Sleep in a bedroom alone.
  • Air out your room often so the TB germs don’t stay in the room and infect someone else.

Finding Support

The Lung Association recommends patients and caregivers join our Living with Lung Disease Support Community to connect with others facing this disease. You can also call the Lung Association’s Lung HelpLine at 1-800-LUNGUSA to talk to a trained respiratory professional who can help answer your questions and connect you with additional support. Ask your healthcare provider about lung disease support groups in your area, or look online for a Better Breathers Club near you.

by John Staughton (BASc, BFA) last updated – October 26, 2020 Medically reviewed by Tamanna Sayed (B.Sc. Applied Nutrition) ✓ Evidence Based

The most effective home remedies for tuberculosis include the use of milk, pineapples, oranges, bananas, garlic, mint, walnuts, Indian gooseberry, green tea, black pepper, celery, gourds, sunshine, linseed, and winter cherry.

Tuberculosis (TB) is an infectious disease caused by bacteria called Mycobacterium tuberculosis. It usually attacks the lungs, but may also affect other parts of the body. It is easily transferred through the air when the patient sneezes, coughs, or through other means that germs spread. The disease historically called consumption due to the weight loss that accompanies it. [1]

Today, alternative research has shown that there are many different ways to treat tuberculosis, or at least counteract the symptoms and allow your immune system to regain control. The medical treatment for tuberculosis is a long and difficult process with antibiotics and a high risk of complications. Therefore, if you want to complement your treatment with some of these natural remedies, you can significantly improve your recovery time. Furthermore, by maintaining a diet or lifestyle that includes these home remedies, you can greatly lower your chance of ever contracting tuberculosis. [2]

Tuberculosis is an infectious bacterial disease that mainly affects the lungs. Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Home Remedies for Tuberculosis

There are many effective remedies available for tuberculosis and some of them are described in detail below:

Vitamin D

Low levels of vitamin D in the body is associated with a higher risk of tuberculosis, according to a study published in the Journal of Clinical and Translational Endocrinology. A 2019 research published in the European Respiratory Journal, suggests that vitamin D may help in speeding up the treatment in multi-drug resistant pulmonary TB patients. [3] [4]

While more research is ongoing to understand the impact of vitamin D on tuberculosis, for maintaining good health it is always recommended to have sufficient vitamin D intake.

Vitamin D can be found in dietary sources such as eggs, fortified milk, fish, and cod liver oil. It is also called the sunshine vitamin as you can get it by basking in the early morning sunshine.


Weight loss is one of the key symptoms that anyone suffering from tuberculosis faces. The addition of foods rich in vitamins, minerals, and calories such as banana may help manage weight. The leaves of the banana tree have also been found useful against the Mycobacterium tuberculosis bacteria that cause tuberculosis. [5]


A study published in the Journal ‘Der Pharma Chemica’ in 2010 found out that a mixture of raw pineapple juice, pepper, salt, and honey helped dissolve the mucus in the lungs of the patients suffering from tuberculosis. This may further help eliminate congestion of the lungs and nasal cavities. So slice up a pineapple or drink pineapple juice to naturally fight off TB. [6]


Research suggests that extract of garlic and garlic oil contains ajoene, allicin, allylmethyltrisulfide that exhibit antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant properties. Though garlic’s allicin content is usually what gets the attention, in the case of tuberculosis, it is the sulfuric acid found in garlic that is particularly potent for the tuberculosis bacteria. [7] [8]

By steeping garlic in water and drinking it, or adding fresh garlic to your meals, may help boost the immune system and aid in preventing TB in the first place.


Various types of gourds, including bottle gourds, may help in increasing immunity levels in those suffering from tuberculosis. However, more research is needed to establish the role of this vegetable against TB. [9]


The use of honey may help provide relief from adverse reactions caused by anti-tuberculosis drugs in pulmonary tuberculosis patients, suggests a 2008 study published in Continental J. Pharmacology and Toxicology Research. [10]

Aside from flavoring your cocktails or freshening your breath, mint may help break up mucus build-up in the respiratory tracts, allowing for clear passage of air. It also has immune-stimulating properties and antioxidants that can directly impact any infection in the body. [11]

Crushed mint leaves can be steeped in a very potent tea that anyone suffering from TB may add to their daily dietary intake. [12]

Indian Gooseberry

Indian gooseberry has been shown to effectively lessen the symptoms of tuberculosis, especially when pure gooseberry juice is mixed with honey and consumed. This coats the stomach and the respiratory tract and can offer relief from inflammation and discomfort, while also stimulating your immune system with its proven antibacterial qualities. [13] [14]


The high concentrations of vitamin C and other beneficial nutrients such as antioxidants make oranges a very useful home remedy for tuberculosis. The saline action of orange juice can break up congestion in the lungs and respiratory tract and help lessen the amount of expectoration, coughing, and blood in the sputum. [15] [16]

Black Pepper

Although many people associate black pepper with sneezing, it is an anti-inflammatory substance, and it can also help to cleanse the lungs, reduce coughing, and eliminate pain and discomfort. According to a 2019 study published in Microbial Drug Resistance, piperine a bioactive compound from pepper showed promising activity against TB. [17] [18]

Green Tea

Some of the studies suggest that green tea may have the potential in aiding the prevention of TB. A study published in The International Journal of Biochemistry & Cell Biology suggests that green tea with its polyphenol content may have the potential to prevent TB. Another research conducted in 2017 suggests an association between the intake of tea (green tea and black tea) and reduced risk of active TB infection. [19] [20]

Word of Caution: TB is a very serious and fast-acting disease, so if you are suffering from extreme symptoms, you should see a medical professional. Discuss the options for alternative treatments including the above mention remedial measures with your doctor and design an effective treatment approach. You want to stay natural, obviously, but you also want to ensure your long-term health!

Table of Contents

What is tuberculosis?

Tuberculosis also referred to as TB is caused due to bacteria (Mycobacterium) it affects the lungs most often Tuberculosis is not a chronic disease and is curable with proper medicine and diet.

TB spread from person to person through the air, when TB patient sneeze, cough, or spit they propel the TB bacteria in the air. the other person needs only a few of these bacteria to get infected with TB.

Types of Tuberculosis

Active TB

This bacteria is responsible to cause TB symptoms and can be transmitted to others.

Latent TB

This bacteria remains in the human body in an inactive state. they cause no symptom
and are not dangerous but can become active TB if your immune system is weak and you are not taking proper care of your health,

How to cure tuberculosis

About one-third of the world’s population suffer from latent TB, which means they have been infected by TB good thing is that they are not sick yet and can not transmit the disease to another person.

Facts about Tuberculosis

  • Tuberculosis is the top 3 cause of death for women aged 15 to 45.
  • The WHO estimates that around 9 million people get infected with TB every year
  • TB is an airborne pathogen it means the bacteria that cause TB can spread through
  • the air from person to person.

Symptoms of Tuberculosis

Symptoms and warning signs of TB according to CDC

  • Chest pain
  • Loss of appetite and weight loss
  • Feeling weak and sick
  • Severe cough that lasts 15 days or more
  • Fever night sweats

List of countries with higher rates of tuberculosis cases.

  • South America
  • China
  • Asia
  • Russia
  • Afghanistan
  • Africa
  • Western Pacific region, Philippines, Cambodia, and Vietnam

how to take care of the patient at home

Green tea

When it comes to tuberculosis green tea contains a high amount of polyphenol it reduces bacteria amount in the body and slows down spreading in another part of the body, a single cup of green tea at any time of the day is a helpful home remedy.

Orange for tuberculosis

Orange contains a high amount of vitamin C and antioxidants which makes orange an effective home remedy for tuberculosis, The saline action of orange help to relieve congestion in the lungs and respiratory tract and might reduce the chances of coughing, expectoration, and blood in the sputum. antioxidants present in the orange help to destroy the tuberculosis-causing infection.

Indian gooseberry

Indian gooseberry (Amla) As per Medical research has been proven to effectively reduce the symptoms of tuberculosis Amla juice when taken with honey help to relieve inflammation discomfort plus your immune system health increases.

Bitter Gourds

All types of bitter gourds are effective in acting as immune system stimulator’s which is important for patients who are suffering from tuberculosis as the immune system is infected at the time of tuberculosis.

Garlic for tuberculosis

Garlic has Allicin properties that get the attention, in the case of tuberculosis, the sulfuric acid found in the garlic is potent for tuberculosis bacteria. eating raw garlic or taking fresh meals is said to be effective in clearing out your Tuberculosis symptoms eating garlic regularly boosts the immune system (see here) and prevents contracting tuberculosis.

Pineapples for tuberculosis

Pineapples are a great home remedy for destroying mucus bacteria in the respiratory and eliminating congestion of the lungs and nasal cavities. plus it can provide your immune system a chance to get there and start fighting the infection, It’s better to drink pineapple juice or slice up a few to fight tuberculosis naturally at home.


When your immune system suffers from an infection, your body needs various types of vitamins and minerals that are available in walnuts as it helps to heal and protect
the body from other infections strong immune system handles the main Tuberculosis infection.

Vitamin D

A medical research about “The effect of vitamin D as supplementary treatment in patients with moderately advanced pulmonary tuberculous lesion”.revealed that Vitamin D tables help to improve the health condition of TB patients. Vitamin D is found in dietary sources such as Cod liver oil, fish, fortified milk.

Mint for TB

Mint contains antibacterial properties which have an effective home remedy for treating tuberculosis, mint helps to destroy mucous infection, improves the lung’s health, prevents side effects of medicine that are taken for tuberculosis.

How to take it?

  • Take two teaspoons of honey
  • one teaspoon mint juice
  • two teaspoons of pure malt vinegar.
  • half cup of carrot juice.
  • Make a juice of all these and drink 3 times a day.

Black pepper

Black pepper has anti-inflammatory properties, this helps to remove toxins and clean the lungs from bacteria plus it also helps to reduce inflammation caused by TB bacteria and coughing.

How to take Black pepper

  • Fry 10 pc black pepper in clarified butter
  • Add a pinch of asafetida powder and allow the mixture to cool.
  • Divide the mixture into three parts and take a dose every 3 hours.

Prevention of tuberculosis

When you are tested positive for latent TB infection, your physician will prescribe you to take medicine to decrease your risk of developing active TB. The only type of
TB is contagious in the active variety, it directly affects the lungs.

Protect your family and friends.

If you are suffering from active TB, let your bacteria to yourself only. it normally takes few weeks of treatment with TB Medicines before your not in danger anymore.

Cover your Mouth: Use a tissue or wear a nose mask whenever you laugh .sneeze, or cough in around with non-infected people,

Proper ventilation: Let the inside air go outside or use a fan to blow indoor air because
TB germs spread easily in small spaces where air does not move.

Stay indoor: Avoid going to work or school or sleep in the room with other people
during the first week of your treatment in case of active tuberculosis.

  • Medical Editor: Pallavi Suyog Uttekar, MD

What is tuberculosis?

How to cure tuberculosis

Tuberculosis (TB) infection is caused by a bacteria called Mycobacterium tuberculosis. It mostly affects your lungs but it can also affect other parts of the body including the lymph glands, brain, kidneys, bowels or bones.

Being the world’s top infectious killer disease, about 10 million people get infected with TB, and 1.5 million die from it every year. It is the leading cause of death in people with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).

How does TB spread?

It spreads through the air when the people infected with tuberculosis (TB) cough, sneeze or spit. If you inhale even a few germs, you may get infected.

People who have bacteria in their lungs but are not sick may have latent TB infection (LTBI). These people cannot spread the bacteria. The TB bacteria can stay inactive in their body for many years before causing symptoms in these people.

What are the symptoms of tuberculosis?

You may have tuberculosis (TB) infection if you have the following symptoms

  • Prolonged cough lasting more than three weeks
  • Cough with thick mucus
  • Cough up blood
  • Chest pain while coughing
  • Tiredness, weakness/fatigue
  • Night sweats
  • Fever
  • Loss of appetite
  • Sudden weight loss
  • Swollen glands (usually in your neck)

Often, these symptoms will be mild for many months; therefore, delay in seeking care increases the risk of spreading the infection.

If you have spent time with someone who has TB, you must see your doctor. Your doctor will examine and test you for TB.

How will my disease be diagnosed by a doctor?

  • If your doctor suspects that you have tuberculosis (TB), they may send you for sputum sample testing.
  • A rapid molecular diagnostic test is the initial test recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO) for people showing signs and symptoms of TB.
  • If your doctor suspects any other non-lung TB infection, they may ask you to test samples of affected body fluid and tissues.
  • Your doctor may conduct other diagnostic tests such as sputum smear microscopy.
  • Your doctor may ask for a chest X-ray to check the size and area of the affected lungs.
  • To rule out TB in people who have no signs or symptoms, the doctor may screen people at risk by using a skin or blood test.

Can tuberculosis be cured?

Tuberculosis (TB) is 100% curable if treated with the approved four drug combination for a minimum of six months.

You will start feeling better within two to four weeks after starting treatment. However, it is very important to complete the whole course of antibiotics or; else the disease will get worse.

If you do not complete the treatment properly or do not adhere to the given treatment course, then the TB bacteria may get stronger and symptoms may resume. This is called drug-resistant TB. It is more complex and harder to get rid of and it may take longer to treat. Additionally, you will start spreading the disease again.

Your doctor or health worker at a public healthcare center may provide the information, supervision and support for your treatment adherence.

If you have TB infection but no symptoms (latent TB infection [LTBI]), you have a small chance of developing TB in the future. Therefore, you may get short-term preventive treatment (only one to three months) to stop the onset of the disease with the same drugs from your doctor after discussing the situation.


  • 1 1 Curry International Tuberculosis Center, Division of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine, San Francisco General Hospital, University of California, San Francisco, San Francisco, California; and.
  • 2 2 Department of Medicine, University of Illinois at Chicago, Chicago, Illinois.
  • PMID: 26653188
  • DOI: 10.1513/AnnalsATS.201509-632PS
  • Search in PubMed
  • Search in NLM Catalog
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  • 1 1 Curry International Tuberculosis Center, Division of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine, San Francisco General Hospital, University of California, San Francisco, San Francisco, California; and.
  • 2 2 Department of Medicine, University of Illinois at Chicago, Chicago, Illinois.
  • PMID: 26653188
  • DOI: 10.1513/AnnalsATS.201509-632PS


Of all achievements in medicine, the successful treatment of tuberculosis has had one of the greatest impacts on society. Tuberculosis was a leading cause of disease and a mortal enemy of humanity for millennia. The first step in finding a cure was the discovery of the cause of tuberculosis by Robert Koch in 1882. The sanatorium movement that began shortly afterward in Europe, and soon spread to the United States, brought attention to the plight of afflicted persons, and catalyzed public health action. The antituberculosis benefit of streptomycin was announced in 1945, although application was limited by the rapid development of resistance. para-Aminosalicylic acid, also discovered in 1945, when combined with streptomycin was found to greatly reduce the occurrence of drug resistance. In 1952, isoniazid opened the modern era of treatment; it was inexpensive, well tolerated, and safe. In the early 1960s, ethambutol was shown to be effective and better tolerated than para-aminosalicylic acid, which it replaced. In the 1970s, rifampin found its place as a keystone in the therapy of tuberculosis. The use of rifampin enabled the course of treatment to be reduced to nine months. Incorporation of pyrazinamide into the first-line regimen led to a further reduction of treatment duration to six months. Treatment of multiple drug-resistant tuberculosis remains a difficult problem requiring lengthy treatment with toxic drugs. However, shortened regimens show promise, and two new drugs, bedaquiline and delamanid, have demonstrated effectiveness in preliminary studies and are being used for extensively drug-resistant tuberculosis.

Keywords: chemotherapy; drug development; history.

Actions for this page


  • Treatment of tuberculosis (TB) takes six to nine months and sometimes longer.
  • Take your medication regularly, for at least six months.
  • Immediately report any side effects to your doctor or health care worker.
  • Avoid alcohol during tuberculosis treatment.

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Treatment of tuberculosis (TB) takes six to nine months and sometimes longer. TB can be cured in almost all cases by taking the medications as prescribed by your doctor for the full course of treatment (at least six months).

Like all medications, your anti-tuberculosis tablets can cause side effects. Your doctor will monitor your progress during treatment to make sure the medication is working. This will usually involve blood, sputum or urine tests and chest x-rays.

Tell your doctor immediately if you experience illness or symptoms

It is important to tell your doctor or health care worker immediately if you experience any unexplained illness or the following symptoms:

  • nausea or vomiting
  • jaundice – yellowish skin or eyes, dark urine (orange/red urine is a normal side effect and is not harmful)
  • unexplained fever or tiredness
  • tingling or numbness of hands or feet, or joint pains
  • skin rash, itching skin or bruising
  • visual changes or change in red-green colour vision.

Side effects of specific tuberculosis medications

The different medications used to treat tuberculosis are associated with specific side effects:

  • isoniazid – may make you feel tired or nauseous or make you lose your appetite. It can cause numbness or tingling in your hands or feet, but this is rare in well-nourished people. It can also cause inflammation of the liver, so your doctor will regularly check for this with blood tests
  • rifampicin – can reduce the effectiveness of the contraceptive pill and some other medications. It is important to advise the doctor who prescribes your TB treatment about any other medicines you are taking. Women taking the contraceptive pill may need to discuss other forms of contraception with their general practitioner or an advisor at a family planning clinic. If you have lens implants or wear soft contact lenses, inform your doctor, as rifampicin can stain them. Rifampicin will cause a pinkish/orange discolouration of your urine, saliva and sweat. This side effect is harmless so you should not be concerned
  • ethambutol (Myambutol) – can cause visual problems. Your eyesight will be checked during treatment, but you should stop taking the medication if your vision is affected and call your doctor straight away
  • pyrazinamide – can lead to nausea and a loss of appetite. It is usually only taken for the first two to three months of treatment. Consult with your doctor if you develop unexplained rashes, fever, aches or joint pains.

Some things to note when taking TB medications

When taking tuberculosis medications, it is important to be aware of a few basic cautions:

  • Report any side effects to your doctor immediately.
  • Tell your TB doctor about any other medications you are taking.
  • Ensure you take the medication long enough to kill all of the tuberculosis bacteria – a minimum of six months.
  • Take your medications regularly and do not stop taking them, even when you feel better. Irregular use can lead to the tuberculosis bacteria becoming resistant to the medications.
  • Avoid drinking alcohol while on tuberculosis treatment. Alcohol can increase drug side effects and toxicity, because both can affect the liver.

Early Research: Jean-Antoine Villemin and Robert Koch
Early Treatment: Edward Livingston Trudeau and the Sanatorium

How to cure tuberculosis

Cartoon by Fred O. Seibel

The American Lung Association is dedicated to the cure and control of all lung diseases, but its formation in 1904 was in response to only one: tuberculosis. During the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, tuberculosis (TB) was the leading cause of death in the United States, and one of the most feared diseases in the world.

Formerly called “consumption,” tuberculosis is characterized externally by fatigue, night sweats, and a general “wasting away” of the victim. Typically but not exclusively a disease of the lungs, TB is also marked by a persistent coughing-up of thick white phlegm, sometimes blood.

How to cure tuberculosis

Cartoon by Fred O. Seibel

There was no reliable treatment for tuberculosis. Some physicians prescribed bleedings and purgings, but most often, doctors simply advised their patients to rest, eat well, and exercise outdoors.[1] Very few recovered. Those who survived their first bout with the disease were haunted by severe recurrences that destroyed any hope for an active life.

How to cure tuberculosis

Kentucky TB Association Ad, ca. 1945

It was estimated that, at the turn of the century, 450 Americans died of tuberculosis every day, most between ages 15 and 44.[2] The disease was so common and so terrible that it was often equated with death itself.

Tuberculosis was primarily a disease of the city, where crowded and often filthy living conditions provided an ideal environment for the spread of the disease. The urban poor represented the vast majority of TB victims.

Villemin, Koch & Contagion

How to cure tuberculosis

Jean-Antoine Villemin (1827-1892)

Science took its first real step toward the control of tuberculosis in 1868, when Frenchman Jean-Antoine Villemin proved that TB was in fact contagious. Before Villemin, many scientists believed that tuberculosis was hereditary. In fact, some stubbornly held on to this belief even after Villemin published his results.[3]

How to cure tuberculosis

Robert Koch (1843-1910)

In 1882, German microbiologist Robert Koch converted most of the remaining skeptics when he isolated the causative agent of the disease, a rod-shaped bacterium now called Mycobacterium tuberculosis, or simply, the tubercle bacillus.

The work of Villemin and Koch did not immediately lead to a cure, but their discoveries helped revolutionize the popular view of the disease. They had demonstrated that the tubercle bacillus was present in the victim’s sputum. A single cough or sneeze might contain hundreds of bacilli. The message seemed clear: stay away from people with tuberculosis.

How to cure tuberculosis

This new rule of behavior was sensible, but it made the tubercular invalid an “untouchable,” a complete outcast. Many lost their jobs because of the panic they created among co-workers. Many landlords refused to house them. Hotel proprietors, forced to consider the safety of other guests, turned them away.[4] Rejected by society, tuberculosis victims gathered in secluded tuberculosis hospitals to die.

Trudeau & the Sanatorium

How to cure tuberculosis

Edward Livingston Trudeau (1848-1915)

Dr. Edward Livingston Trudeau (1848-1915) was the first American to promote isolation as a means not only to spare the healthy, but to heal the sick. Trudeau believed that a period of rest and moderate exercise in the cool, fresh air of the mountains was a cure for tuberculosis. In 1885, he opened the Adirondack Cottage Sanatorium (often called “the Little Red Cottage”) at Saranac Lake, New York, the first rest home for tuberculosis patients in the United States.

How to cure tuberculosis

“The Little Red Cottage” at Saranac Lake, NY. Image from An Autobiography by Edward Livingston Trudeau, 1916.

Dr. Trudeau’s sanatorium plan was based on personal experience. When he was nineteen, Trudeau watched his older brother die of TB, an experience that convinced him to become a physician. In 1872, just a year after leaving medical school, he, too, contracted tuberculosis. Faced with what he believed to be a sure and speedy death, Trudeau left his medical practice in New York City and set off for his favorite resort in the Adirondacks to die.[5] There, instead of wasting away, he steadily regained his strength, due entirely, he believed, to healthy diet and outdoor exercise. Experiments on tubercular rabbits in his lab at the cottage seemed to verify his belief. In February of 1885, Trudeau welcomed the first group of hopeful patients to his sanatorium in the woods.

How to cure tuberculosis

Child Memorial Infirmary with open-air porches for tuberculosis patients at Adirondack Cottage Sanatorium, Saranac Lake, N.Y. Library of Congress.

Trudeau required his guests to follow a strict regimen of diet and exercise. They were given three meals every day, and a glass of milk every four hours. Trudeau and his staff encouraged their patients to spend as much time as possible outdoors. At first, this meant extended periods of sitting on the sanatorium veranda (the open-air porch was a standard feature of Trudeau-style sanatoriums). Gradually, patients spent more time walking than sitting, until they were able to spend 8 to 10 hours per day exercising outdoors, regardless of weather.[6] Trudeau made his rest home available to the poor by setting a very low rent and providing free medical service. By 1900, what started as a single red cottage was a small village, a 22-building complex that included a library, a chapel, and an infirmary.


  1. Edward O. Otis, The Great White Plague (New York: Crowell & Co., 1909), 100-103.
  2. Sheila M. Rothman, Living in the Shadow of Death: Tuberculosis and the Social Experience of Illness in American History (New York: BasicBooks, 1994), 190; Richard H. Shryock, National Tuberculosis Association, 1904-1954: A Study of the Voluntary Health Movement in the United States (New York: NTA, 1957), 63.
  3. Shryock, 6.
  4. Otis, 44-45.
  5. Mark Caldwell, The Last Crusade: The War on Consumption, 1862-1954 (New York: Atheneum, 1988), 42-43.
  6. Rothman, 203-204.