Antibiotics are still being prescribed too freely in medicine, often for conditions they cannot treat such as colds and ’flu, which are viral infections.  In this way they are being used more or less  as placebo.

Too often when doctors aren’t sure which bug they are treating, they’ll resort to the scatter-gun approach with a broad-spectrum antibiotic which kills friendly bacteria indiscriminately.  Repeated courses of antibiotics can cause multifarious problems and serious disturbance of the immune system along with drug resistance.  There is a good argument for reserving antibiotics for use once or twice in a lifetime against life– threatening illness.  Other conditions for which antibiotics should not be taken as first resort include children’s ear infections, gastroenteritis (alsoa virus), mastitis, cystitis, acne, fever caused by infection and sore throat.

There is much evidence to show efficacy of herbal and homoeopathic remedies as alternatives to conventional antibiotics.  Berberine, an alkaloid extracted from the roots of various plants such as goldenseal, barberry and Oregon grape has a broad range of uses, effective with infections caused by streptococcal bacteria, fungi and parasites.

Until the late 1930s and the advent of pharmaceutical antibiotics Echinacea, a North American herbaceous flowering plant of the daisy family, was a popular herbal remedy for treating infections and seven serious emergencies such as poisonous snake bite.  It is useful for viral as well as bacterial infections, and is anti-inflammatory.

Many essential oils are anti-bacterial, e.g. clove, lavender, rosemary and thyme.  Tea tree oil from the leaves of Melaleuca alternifolia is effective against MRSA.  Honey interferes with the growth of three types of bacteria – Pseudomonas aeruginosa, streptococci and MRSA.

Manuka honey can clean chronically infected wounds and might help to reverse bacterial resistance to antibiotics.

And there is good evidence for other herbal agents as anti-bacterials such as St John’s wort, wild oregano, wormwood, sage, liquorice, aloe vera, honeysuckle and forsythia.

Propolis and colloidal silver may be used similarly; also grapefruit seed extract, known as Citracidal, which acts very like conventional antibiotics in the sense that as well as neutralising bacterial pathogens it kills friendly bacteria in the gut so must be used with caution: use of GSA should be accompanied or followed by a reliable probiotic.

Harry Boys MNIMH


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