You most likely have read the story of the 70 year old woman in Arizona who died last week from an infection that was resistant to all 26 antibiotics approved for use in the United States. Unfortunately this is a growing problem and one that has the medical community more than a little concerned. For example, is it safe to perform any type of surgery if antibiotics no longer work?
Shamans in South America where I was trained are usually called curanderos or healers. A curandero cures. In North America we usually think of that healing as being psychological or spiritual using techniques like soul retrieval in conjunction with a shamanic journey . In South America the role of a curandero is much more expansive. Many have been trained in the use of herbs and they treat dis-ease from a more holistic perspective. Some may communicate with plant spirits to be led to the most appropriate curative but in the end they often use herbs to facilitate healing.
In addition to shamanism I also studied natural medicine and earned a naturopathic doctor (N.D.) degree, master herbalist certification, and certification in Ayurveda, the ancient medical system of the Indian subcontinent. When I read to the news about the death caused by a bacteria-resistant infection I decided to share a list of my top ten antibacterial herbs:
1. Garlic -- This is number one on my list because it is the best all-around antibacterial go-to herb. Studies have demonstrated that garlic is effective in the treatment of Tuberculosis, Shigell dysenteriae, Staphylococcus aureus, Pseudomonos aeruginosa, Candida albicans, Escherichia coli (E.coli), Streptococcus spp., Salmonella spp., Campylobacter spp., Protues merbilis, herpes simplex, influenza B, HIV and many others. Garlic make be taken fresh (as juice or as cloves), in capsules, as tincture, or in food. Start with small doses and gradually increase. Raw garlic may cause stomach upset and even induce vomiting, so be careful. Small, frequent doses are generally easier to take than large doses (1/4 to 1 teaspoon juice as needed). Capsules may be better tolerated and easier to take. Ample garlic in food is also helpful. Do not use garlic if you are taking blood thinning medication.
2. Echinacea -- Echinacea is probably the most well-know of the antibacterial herbs. It is active against Staphylococcus aureus, Streptococcus spp., mycobacterium (tuberculosis), abnormal cells (direct application necessary). It has been recommend it for abnormal pap smears, strep throat, and very early onset of colds and flus. For strep throat and heading off colds and flus, I recommends the use of echinacea tincture, 30 drops (full dropper) each hour. I also fight off my colds with a steady stream of echinacea tea.
3. Juniper -- Juniper berries are another all purpose antibiotic herb. It is probably most well know for its antiseptic properties that disinfect the urinary tract to provide treatment and relief for conditions like urinary tract infections, urethritis, kidney stones, and bladder stones. Juniper also acts as a diuretic to help flush excess fluids from the body. Inhalation of juniper is used to treat bronchitis. It has also is high in natural insulin and therefore lowers blood sugar levels. Juniper can also be applied topically to treat skin ailments and conditions. It is used to treat conditions like acne, athlete's foot, warts, skin growths, cystitis, psoriasis, and eczema.
4. Grapefruit Seed Extract -- Worried about yeast infections? A Polish study published in 2001 found that a 33 percent grapefruit extract has a potent antifungal effect against Candida albicans strains taken from patients with candida symptoms. In addition, another published study demonstrated that grapfruit seed extract successfully treat urinary tract infections in both men and women. The authors of the study reported that, "These preliminary data thus suggest an antibacterial characteristic of dried or fresh grapefruit seeds (C. paradisi) when taken at a dosage of 5 to 6 seeds every 8 hours, that is comparable to that of proven antibacterial drugs."
5. Goldenseal -- Goldenseal was traditionally used by Native Americans to treat various health concerns including skin diseases, ulcer symptoms and gonorrhea. Today’s traditional uses of goldenseal have broadened to include the natural treatment and prevention of colds, respiratory tract infections, allergies, eye infections, digestive issues, canker sores, vaginitis, urinary tract infections and even cancer. Goldenseal contains berberine, which has been used in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and Ayurvedic medicine for thousands of years to treat dysentery and infectious diarrhea. Berberine in goldenseal has shown antimicrobial activity against certain pathogens that cause bacterial diarrhea, including E. coli and V. cholera.
6. Wormwood -- Most don't think of wormwood as an antibacterial herb. After all it has traditionally been used to eliminate intestinal worms, especially roundworms and pinworms. However,it is the source of the key ingredient for the herbal drug artemisinin, which is the most powerful antimalarial on the market and a recent study published on PubMed states that it has , "promising anticancer properties".
7. Eucalyptus -- Eucalyptus has been used over the centuries for cosmetic and dental use, to ward off insects, and to treat a wide range of respiratory problems because of its antibacterial, anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties. The antibacterial properties of Eucalyptus oil that have been used to treat the bacteria responsible for many respiratory infections
8. Aloe -- Aloe appears to be excellent at regulating the immune system (an immunomodulator). It can both stimulate the immune response for those with weakened immune systems either from exisiting conditions or post-illness fatigue. It can also calm the immune response, such as for hayfever where less immune reaction is beneficial.
9. Ginger -- Ginger root is most well known Ginger root as a remedy for travel sickness, nausea and indigestion and is used for wind, colic, irritable bowel, loss of appetite, chills, cold, flu, poor circulation, menstrual cramps, dyspepsia (bloating, heartburn, flatulence), indigestion and gastrointestinal problems such as gas and stomach cramps. I have included it on this list because new research report presented at The American Association for Cancer Research conference in Phoenix. In the study, ginger actually suppressed cancer cells suggesting that the herb was able to fuel apoptosis or the death of the cancer cells. Ginger has been shown to work against skin, ovarian, colon and breast cancer.
10. Turmeric -- If you like curry then you should love Turmeric, its the principal ingredient in curry. I saved the best for last because Turmeric is arguably the most powerful herb on the planet at fighting and potentially reversing disease. In fact, I just found over 9,000 peer-reviewed published articles on PubMed that demonstrate the benefits of turmeric and one of its renowned healing compounds curcumin. Research shows that the benefits of turmeric exceed those of the following 10 drugs: anti-inflammatory drugs, anti-depressants (Prozac), chemotherapy, anti-coagulants (Aspirin), pain killers, diabetes drugs (Metformin), arthritis medications, inflammatory bowel disease drugs, cholesterol drugs (Lipitor), and steroids. Best of all, Cancer Research UK reported that, "A number of laboratory studies on cancer cells have shown that curcumin does have anticancer effects. It seems to be able to kill cancer cells and prevent more from growing. It has the best effects on breast cancer, bowel cancer, stomach cancer and skin cancer cells."
My suggestion to you is that you learn more about herbal remedies and put an herbal first aid kit together. When spring first appears then join me in planting an herbal garden as well.
Peace my friends,
I'm Dr. Dave, an eclectic shaman. I lived and worked in Bolivia and Peru for over six years, where I and was trained by Andean Shamans, and today practice eclectic shamanism.