by Stephanie Barlow
A few weeks ago, an article appeared in The Telegraph newspaper (see here) discussing the burgeoning issue of antibiotic-resistant infections. The paper states that "A senate enquiry has recently heard that the growth of antibiotic-resistant infection is costing Australia $1 billion a year and threatening the emergence of untreatable diseases". Although this article is quite right on some points, mainly the cause of these infections and the growing strain they are putting on the Australian health budget, The Telegraph is looking in the wrong direction for the solution.
Rather than searching for 'super drugs' to combat the rise of 'super bugs', it seems much more logical to turn back to the healing plants that have supported the health and wellbeing of humans and animals through the centuries.
Trying to solve the problem of super bugs by making stronger and stronger drugs will only result in us breeding stronger and stronger bacteria!
This is how the current resistant bugs have emerged: through overuse and misuse of antibiotics. "The new plague of resistant infections is due to extensive use of antibiotics in healthcare and agriculture". What's more, antibiotics have been completely overused and mis-used, often in situations where they offer no benefits whatsoever, such as in influenza, colds or other viral infections.
So, you ask, why wouldn't using herbs also allow the bacteria to develop resistance to the herbs? For two wonderful reasons!
Firstly, herbs are infinitely more complex on a chemical level than pharmaceutical drugs. This means that bacteria have a harder job learning to work around their chemical action. (see excerpt from a previous blog on this site) :)
How Complex is Garlic Compared to Penicillin?
Known active constituents of garlic
(there are at least 35 other constituents whose actions are unkown):
ajoene, allicin, aliin, allixin, allyl mercaptan, allyl methyl trisulfinate, allyl methyl trisulfide, allyl propyl disulfide, diallyl disulfide, diallyl hepta sulfide, diallyl hexa sulfide, diallyl penta sulfide, diallyl sulfide, diallyl tetra sulfide, diallyl tri sulfide, dimethyl disulphide, dimethyl trisulfide, dirpopyl disulphide, methyl ajoene, methyl allyl thiosulfinate, propylene sulfide, 2-vinyl-4H-1, 3-tithiin, 3-vinyl-4H1, 2dithiin, S-allyl cycteine sulfoxide, S-allyl mercaoti, cysteine.
Known active constituents of penicillin:
- Stephen Buhner, Herbal Antibiotics
The second wonderful reason is that herbs do not work soley by killing disease-causing bacteria. Generally, herbs for specific kinds of infections not only have anti-microbial effects but also tone the system or area in which the infection is found. A great example is the common UTI (urinary tract infection). The Telegraph mentions that
"one in five common urinary tract infection are now resistant to antibiotics", but they fail to mention the wide array of effective herbal treatments for this condition.
(caveat: If at any point a kidney infection is suspected, immediate treatment by a doctor is necessary!!)
Herbs such as Buchu or Uva Ursi not only kill bacteria in the urinary tract, but they also tone the tissues and mucous membranes of the urinary tract, assisting the body to fight the infection itself (David Hoffman - Medical Herbalism). In fact, this is where the tension between herbal medicine and allopathic (or regular) medicine gets very interesting. Although germs definitely do create illness, they only create illness in a small portion of the people they come into contact with. This means that the whole germ theory of disease (that germs are what make you sick and that killing germs is how you will get better) is only one part of the picture. Even Louis Pasteur (who invented germ theory of disease, pasteurisation and immunisation) said on his deathbead that 'the germ is nothing, the inner terrain is everything'. Even though that statement is a bit extreme, I wholeheartedly agree that the condition of the immune system and the tissues of the body are vital in determining whether infection sets in or not, is easily overcome or not.
This is why herbs are so beneficial. They strengthen the body while simultaneously attacking the source of the infection.
As part of our mission statement, disseminating information about herbal alternatives is so important. We'd love to hear about your success or failure using herbs to treat infections.