antibiotics

Herbal Alternatives to Antibiotics

Photo by  Christin Hume  on  Unsplash

Click to listen to Tiffany and Candace talk about this topic on a recent HealingLifeWisdom podcast.

by Candace Liccione

In my local book club, we recently read a book about the discovery of penicillin during WWII and the information was fascinating. The subject came up again at a recent book club meeting and I realized that people don’t know much about antibiotics but do know they aren’t as effective as they were. I thought it would be great to discuss this issue so everyone knows how all this works. There is a great book by Stephen Harrod Buhner titled Herbal Antibiotics that was recently featured in The Herb Companion Magazine that I found to be a great reference for information.

Antibiotics came into great use in the 1950’s and 1960’s and the medical establishment felt that these new antibiotics would virtually eliminate infectious disease in our lives. In spite of the optimism of the time, by 1976 infectious disease was already on the rise. By 1997 it had become so bad that 3 million people a year in the US were being admitted to hospitals with difficult-to-treat antibiotic-resistant bacterial infections. Many people came to the hospitals for other reasons but ended up catching an infection in the hospital. The number of people who die from hospital acquired infections is more than 100,000 a year. That makes it the fourth leading cause of death in the US. The period once called the “Age of Miracle Drugs” is dead.

New antibiotics have been discovered daily for years and it seemed that these drugs were the answer to the problem. As early as 1929 Alexander Fleming, who discovered penicillin, warned that numerous bacteria were already resistant. In 1945 we were warned that improper use of penicillin would lead to the development of resistant bacteria. Then, just 14% of staph bacteria were resistant to penicillin. By 1953, 64% to 80% of the bacteria had become resistant. Resistance to tetracycline and erythromycin was also being reported. In 1995 an incredible 95% of staph was resistant to penicillin. The first severe outbreak of MRSA occurred in 1968 and eventually the MRSA strains became resistant to all clinically available antibiotics. Now resistant strains are common throughout the world’s population.

What people don’t realize is that all life on Earth is highly intelligent and adaptable. Bacteria are the oldest forms of life on earth and they have learned well how to respond to threats to their well being. The world is filled with antibacterial substances, most produced by other bacteria, as well as fungi and plants. To survive, bacteria learned how to respond to those substances.

The bacteria in our bodies are friendly, mutualistic bacteria. They take up all the space on and in our bodies on which bacteria can grow. By doing so they leave no room for other less benign bacteria to live. All of our co-evolutionary bacteria generate antibiotic substances that kill off other, less friendly bacteria. As we grow, regular exposure to pathogenic bacteria teaches our bodies and the symbiotic bacteria how to respond to disease organisms.

It is clear now that antibiotics aren’t going to be used any less and in fact they are being used more. Humans as a species has never really been known for doing the sensible thing before it is too late. So, we will stop using antibiotics only when they truly fail to work.

Did you know that there are herbal antibiotics to treat antibiotic resistant organisms? There are three categories:

  • Systemic antibacterial

  • Localized antibacterial

  • Synergistic herbs

    Systemic antibacterial are spread by the blood stream throughout the body affecting every cell and organ. These herbs are reportedly good for treating infections such as MRSA that have spread throughout the body and are not responding to multiple antibiotic protocols.  The following herbs (except artemisia) are herbs that we are not familiar with in the US:

  • Cryptolepis (cryptolepis sanguinolenta) used to treat malaria in Africa - is antibacterial and antiprotozoal

  • Sida (sida acuta) aka broom weed from Australia, Central American and Mexico

  • Alchornea (alchornea cordifolia) is a tropical tree from Africa

  • Bidens (bidens pilosa) considered a nasty weed that could save your life - aka shepherds needles and is grown in Africa, US and Asia

  • Artemisia (artemisia annua) aka sweet wormwood

Non-systemic herbs are those that do not spread easily through the body and are limited in movement. Because they do not easily cross membranes, they are good for GI tract and urinary tracts and for external infections. These kinds of herbs are useful for infection such as E. coli, salmonella or cholera or for infected skin wounds that refuse to heal.

  • American goldenseal

  • Juniper

  • Usnea (oosnea)  

  • Honey

Facilitative or synergistic herbs are plants that facilitate the action of other plants. They either enhance the action of the antibacterial being used or affect the bacteria so the antibacterial is more effective. Most plants contain both antibiotic substance and a potent synergist.

  • Licorice (glycyrrhiza glabra and g. Uralensis)

  • Ginger (zingiber officinale)

  • Black pepper (piper nigrum and P. longum)

There are many, many herbs that have antibacterial actions. This is just a list that this author suggests.

Essential Oils for Alternatives to Antibiotics

It's quite likely that whether you visit your doctor for back pain, anxiety or an ingrown toenail, you won't leave without a prescription of some kind. Cold and flu symptoms are among the most common reasons why people visit their doctors and, often, antibiotics are the go-to remedy. Repeatedly taking antibiotics causes major problems, and as overuse of this type of medication, both in the health care setting and in industrial agriculture, has resulted in increased resistance.

As Cari Romm recently reported in The Atlantic, livestock consume up to 80 percent of the antibiotics used in the U.S., and the amount actually jumped by 16 percent between 2009 and 2012, according to a recent FDA report. This rampant use of the drugs has led to “superbugs” that are becoming increasingly resistant to the antibiotics that are used to treat not just farm animals, but humans as well.

Researchers have also directly compared the effects of commonly used antibiotics with those of various essential oils. One such study, from the March 2012 issue of the Journal of Animal Science, found that rosemary and oregano oils resulted in the same amount of growth in chickens as the antibiotic avilamycin, and that the oils killed bacteria, too. Additional findings have shown that essential oils help reduce salmonella in chickens, and another study found that a blend of several oils can limit the spread of salmonella among animals. One of the co-authors of that study, Dr. Charles Hofacre, a professor at the University of Georgia’s College of Veterinary Medicine, says it’s such a new area of research that they don’t yet know exactly how the essential oils work, but “there is some strong evidence that they are functioning by both an antibacterial action in the intestine and also some have an effect to stimulate the intestinal cells ability to recover from disease more quickly–either by local immunity or helping keep the intestinal cells themselves healthier.”

DrAxe.Com has a list of 4 antibacterial essential oils that he recommends. Head on over to his blog post to read all the details on these oils:

1. Cinnamon Oil

2. Thyme Oil

3. Oregano Oil

4. Tea Tree Oil

Dr. Axe recommends mixing one of these oils, or a combination, with one teaspoon of Manuka honey and/or coconut oil and applying topically to the affected area. You can even combine one drop each of oregano oil, cinnamon and thyme with Manuka honey and take it as a tonic, though we always suggest you ensure that you’re fully educated about all oils before ingesting them, especially if you have a medical condition or are pregnant or breast-feeding.

Ultimately, what’s great about these oils is that they’re more gentle on the gut lining and can be used for short periods internally, and longer externally, as long as your doctor approves and you don’t have any negative reaction to them.

Many of Dr. Axe’s patients have great results against bacterial infections when working with a protocol that includes antibacterial essential oils, bone broth and probiotics. In his post, he has a recipe for Antibacterial Super Tonic which includes essential oils of oregano, ginger, peppermint, grapefruit, cinnamon and thyme. You can the full recipe link in his blog post.

Disclaimer

Please note that HealingLifeWisdom does NOT provide any medical advice and all content provided is for informational purposes only; this website is in no way a substitute for medical advice from a licensed professional.

The information provided here should in no way, shape or form take the place of medical advice; always seek medical advice from a chosen professional concerning your health prior to making any changes in your diet, lifestyle, supplementation or other similar habits, and from any secondary resources or links found on this site.

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