Herbs: Avoiding Antibiotics

Antibiotic Crisis

Taking antibiotics when you are sick is suppressing an important message your body is telling you.   We are surrounded by bacteria & viruses constantly yet it is only when our bodies defense is low can we pick up a bug.  The stronger our immune system the less likely we are to be infected and even when we ‘get the bug’, it is short lived and no antibiotics are necessary.  Constant infection means an adjustment in lifestyle/eating habits to address the imbalance.
While antibiotics can and do save lives, they are very much overused.   They are also incorrectly prescribed often as it is not always obvious if the infection is bacterial or viral without blood tests and blood tests take a while to come back.  Instant blood tests look promising for the near future but are not yet in place with GP’s. If you’re lucky and managed to get the right antibiotic, it still does not address the underlying weakness.  The reality is, there if often a repeat infection because your unique gut flora is not that easy to replenish with a few probiotics directly after the antibiotic.  Every time you take antibiotics you are increasing the chances that next time you use that particular antibiotic, it won’t work as effectively.  Research has found taking just one course of antibiotics can contribute to this problem.[i]
According to the independent in 2015 the EHII (European Health Information Initiative) expressed concern about the rise in use of antibiotics in Ireland.  [ii]  Vytenis Andriukaitis, European Commissioner for Health and Food Safety, said: “Antibiotic resistance is one of the most pressing public health issues of our time. If we don’t tackle it, we can go back to a time when even the simplest medical operations were not possible, and organ transplants or intensive care even less so”. E. Coli and MRSA are a big concern. [iii]   How to avoid antibiotic resistance and survive the arrival of superbugs?

Herbs and The Natural Way

It is true Herbal medicine shines when used in a preventative way yet it is also powerful enough stop an acute infection.  Herbs aim to strengthen the whole immune system which will fight and overcome any virus or bacteria.  Herbs are best administer by a trained herbalist rather than off the shelf products, as they are trained to choose the right formula and dosage to get the best results.  Some of the herbs listed in the table below are both antiviral and antibacterial.   Many phytochemicals are often the inspiration behind pharmaceutical drugs.  Herbs can be a powerful answer to common infections.
UTI’s are some of the most common infections in Ireland and herbs such as Uva Ursi can be very swift and effective at healing them. The plant contains a substance arbutin that converts into hydroquinone (a potent antibiotic) in the urinary tract.  It should be noted that Uva ursi is not suitable for children and should only be taken 5 days at a time.
Respiratory tract infections can be treated with Mullein, Elecampagne and Lungwort.  These herbs are powerful for clearing congestion and infection of the upper and lower respiratory tract.  When we are a little run down and our white blood cell count is low, herbs such as Echinacea, Astragalus, Siberian Ginseng and Elderberry are all anti viral herbs that can raise white blood cell count and help fight of infection.
Berberine, an alkaloid compound found in some herbs such as barberry and goldenseal, has recent clinical data showing it to be as effective and in some cases more effective than rifaximin (antibiotic) for gastroenteritis[iv].  It also shows it to be effective when IBS is present.  Goldenseal is an endangered herb and as result very expensive.  Barberry (Berberis Vulgaris) is much more affordable and can be used as a reliable substitute source of berberine.

Avoid Superbugs – Strengthen Your Immune System

Fasting – If you are sick, simply stop eating.  Your body needs to be able to cleanse itself and if all its energy is going into digesting it will cleanse less.  Prolonged fasting not only protect against immune system damage —  but it also induces immune system regeneration.  It may also extend our life by lowering levels of IGF-1, a growth-factor hormone and the PKA enzyme which is linked to longevity[v].  Fasting should be done sensibly and under the guidance of a qualified Therapist.  Fasting duration and whether it is a juice or water fast etc are all decided based on age, time of year and medical condition etc.
Fermented Foods – A good probiotic will help if it is a bacterial infection and also fermented foods such as miso, sauerkraut, apple cider vinegar and rejuvelac are excellent additions to the convalescent diet.
Antibiotics are lifesaving medicines and we are fortunate to have them freely available.  There are times as mentioned during operations, and intensive care they are life savers but they are not the answer for most situations.   Herbal medicine is a time honoured tradition and the use of herbs should always be done safely and under the guidance of a qualified health professional.


[i] http://www.abc.net.au/health/thepulse/stories/2013/08/15/3826414.htm

[ii] http://www.independent.ie/irish-news/health/lastline-antibiotic-use-is-on-increase-in-ireland-34203480.html

[iii] http://ecdc.europa.eu/en/eaad/antibiotics-news/_layouts/forms/News_DispForm.aspx?ID=27&List=f08f5a04-7f92-41cf-b4ef-d54289bc1a88&Source=http%3A%2F%2Fecdc%2Eeuropa%2Eeu%2Fen%2FEAAD%2FPages%2FHome%2Easpx&preview=yes&pdf=yes

[iv] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4030608/  

[v] https://news.usc.edu/63669/fasting-triggers-stem-cell-regeneration-of-damaged-old-immune-system/


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