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Herbs and General Inflammation (Co-infestation)

by Alan Hopking(more info)

listed in herbal medicine, originally published in issue 209 - October 2013


What is General Inflammation?

It is now known that idiopathic inflammatory conditions that are chronic and long-term are primarily caused by mycoplasma bacteria. When two or more types of such bacteria infect the body the result is a synergy of reactions, rather than two types of symptoms. This means that the two are greater than the sum of the parts. They cause cytokine cascades that are very difficult to detect by present methods, and also very difficult to treat simply because of the astronomical numbers involved. But treatments can be successful with persistence and determination. Treatments with herbs can be particularly successful.

Herbs - Inflammation

What are Mycoplasma Bacteria?

When the immune system is low for whatever reason (primarily, stress), stealth pathogens can enter a person (from food, animals, pets, insect bites e.g. ticks giving Lyme Disease), even sexual intimacy) and replicate very quickly to decrease the activity of certain targeted areas of the human immune system while causing reactive inflammatory response in other parts of the body. This over-activity in different parts of the body is called cytokine cascades, stimulating cytotoxic inflammation. This imbalance between cellular types, organs and systems in the body makes a person feel ill, exhausted, with muscular aches and pains, nausea, insomnia, lack of appetite, allergies, subdermal itching, etc. These are some of the inexplicable symptoms (to your GP or specialist), or they will be ascribed side-effects from antibiotics or other drugs, called iatrogenic diseases, as well they may. In these circumstances (where diagnosis is unknown or uncertain), this inflammation in the body is likely to be the result of pathogens (mycoplasma and species) using the body's own immune response in different parts of the body for their own parasitic purposes.

inflammatory cytokines image

As is clear by this and as you will note in the later sections of this article, illnesses and diseases are wide and varied, and some have been identified. Lyme, Rheumatoid Arthritis, Psoriasis and other skin infections, Lupus, Lichen Planus, ME, FMS, MS, Muscular Dystrophy, Parkinson’s, COPD, MND, Colitis, Crohn’s, many forms of cancer, macular degeneration, stroke, heart attack, leukaemia, white cell degeneration, lymphoadenopathy, bipolar, schizophrenia, neurological diseases, renal failure, anaemia, tumours, urogenital infections are a few of the range of conditions that probably have their cause due to mycoplasma spp and bartonella bacteria.

What are the Causes of these Infections?

It is now acknowledged by cutting edge researchers into these organisms that multiple parasite species causing co-infection is the rule now, rather than the exception. We've all heard about bird flu, how that this virus jumped species - from chicken to human. This is happening more frequently now, and it seems especially with regards to these tiny organisms called mycoplasma bacteria. They really are minute. For example, in general four ordinary bacteria are a tight fit in a cell. When it comes to mycoplasma, 8000 can fit in a cell. These bacterial parasites are feeding off the contents of the cell, upsetting its normal function and healthy state, and excreting causing toxic overload. Some of the symptoms have been listed above, but any system can become partially paralysed according to the predilection of the pathogen concerned, i.e. the heart and cardiovascular system, the lungs, the urogenital system, the digestive organs, the liver and gall bladder, the pancreas, the nervous system and brain, the lymphatic glands, and so on, and can cause cancer. Usually one or other organ or system rather than many. This can severely disable the person's day to day activities. Treatment needs to be swift and sustained to protect the healthy cells and permit regeneration of new cells to restore normal function.

I said above that a low immune system allows for the infestation of the person. But this doesn't just happen. It is affecting us all. We all have a low immune system. The reason is due to the prolonged use of antibiotics over the past 70 years. Whatever the nature of a complaint taken to the GP, a course of antibiotics has often been offered, or antidepressants, sleeping tablets, metformin, aspirin, headache pills, statins, steroids, and many others. Dietary and lifestyle advice is usually not offered.

But there is another reason that has come to be recognized. It is on our farms. In general, worldwide, farming with hormonal stimulating fertilizers, the use of pesticides, the use of unnatural feeds for livestock, etc. has upset the ecological harmony. Eradication of weeds; plunder of woodland and meadows (said to be 97% in UK), up to the destruction of huge areas of rainforest in South America and now Africa. Over-fishing of the seas with ridiculously large nets, with very few national sea parks where fishing is not allowed, etc. There has been a chronic decline in insect life, bees, birds, along with livestock infections, (farmers are guilty of not supporting insect life by having corridors of wild flowers running alongside their crops and interconnecting with other fields of crops or livestock grasslands) and so it goes on right through the food chain. Answers are easy, but the selfish human being is only thinking of short-term gains, not long-term health and balance within nature. And we are now part of the decline, the disruption, the dis-ease. These microorganisms naturally respond and gain a foothold where before the immune systems of all creatures kept things in reasonable balance for life to evolve.

These deadly bacterial organisms are all members of the Proteobacteria phylum which include Bartonella, Ehrlickia, Anaplasma which are co-infections of Lyme. closely related to these include Klebsiella, E. coli, cholera, Pseudomonas, Salmonella, Shigella. All these have evolved resistance to antibiotics. Others are Yersinia transmitted by fleas (as Bartonella is), also gonorrhoea bacteria, Helicobacter and Campylobacter organisms.

This means that there are diseases and illnesses that are emerging within the population that have never been seen before. They are confounding the medical profession, and pathologists are baffled. The dilemma is, as I said above, when two or more of these organisms infest the body the problems that they cause are a great deal more complex than what any one of them can do by themselves. They co-infect using a negative synergy. By working together, they cause inflammatory processes in different organs and systems of their hosts (us) for their own development and survival. This causes their host (the human) to suffer a range of different and individual symptoms, including tiredness, low energy and exhaustion, aches and pains in different muscle groups and joints, headaches and migraines or a muggy head, itchy skin or scalp or sensitive skin to the point of being untouchable, hot or cold, poor appetite and digestive upsets and bowel disturbance, disturbed sleep with vivid dreams or nightmares, over-sensitive sense of hearing, taste, touch, sight (to light), smell (to smoke, perfumes, meat, etc.), and others that appear unrelated diagnostically. It can also lead to growths, and tumours.

The Role of the Cytokines

Cytokines are small cell-signalling molecules released to the immune system and the glial cells of the nervous system, that are important in intercellular communications in the body. When a bacterium touches a cell, the cell gives off a signal, a cytokine, that tells the immune system what is happening and what that cell needs. Each type of infective parasitic bacteria provokes a unique kind of cytokine like a siren or alarm that informs the immune system what strength of response is required, rather like our emergency services (police, fire, ambulance, etc.). Cytokines can call up other cytokines for a greater response from the immune system. It's like one county's police force calling on another county's for additional back up. When there is multiple co-infestation, as mycoplasma synergy, plus the cytokine response that is wide and urgent (as for acute infection) (or, to continue my simile, like the rapid response from all relevant sectors to terrorist explosions in different parts of the city or country), it is called a cytokine cascade. This multiform cytokine cascade further confounds the symptoms of illness as mentioned above. To add to the chaos, these bartonellas and mycoplasmas have adapted to the cytokine pathways exploiting them to their own advantage, and confusing the immune system to the point where it attacks itself (autoimmune diseases, like for instance rheumatoid arthritis), causing inflammation co-infection often in different parts and organs of the body. So what begins as a normal, healthy immune response to a cytokine 999 call, turns into a zombie outrage as the cytokines themselves are infected, overpowered or reprogrammed by the sheer overwhelming numbers of highly adaptive tiny mycoplasma parasites. Researchers Graham et al (2007) state, "Hosts that are co-infected by multiple parasite species seem to be the rule rather than the exception in natural systems and some of the most devastating human diseases are associated with co-infections that challenge immune response efficacy."

Herbal Medical Treatment of Chronic Systemic Inflammation

There are important herbs that are known to restore health following co-infestation of these mycoplasma type parasitic bacteria. The picture is complex; treatment will have to be interactive and evolve as progress is established. Treatment can be long depending on when diagnosis is made (or, conversely, when no diagnosis is given) due to the Jackson Pollock type of picture that is presented - a confusion of shapes, forms, experiences, colours and temperatures; whereby the person is pronounced a hypochondriac or simply undiagnosable, with a mystery illness, and therefore treatment is of the type for depression or for chronic pain or for insomnia, and so on. There may be evidence of psychosis or episodes resembling hormonal extremes and anything between for which drugs may be offered, including antibiotics, steroids, antidepressants, statins, aspirin, sleeping tablets, the Pill, Viagra or laxatives.

The advantage of a herbal protocol is that herbal prescriptions can easily be modified - substituting one herb for another, adding a relevant herb for a change in the symptom, reducing or increasing a herb's strength according to need, and so forth. This is why, initially, prescriptions are kept relatively small, to enable regular 'tweaking', fine-tuning, to engender and encourage positive body response. Eventually a plateau may be reached, when progress appears to slow down or even stop. This is a period of biologic readjustment also called biological assertion. It is when the person's body is shifting into a new gear and the gear box is just beginning to reengage. It may take weeks, but it won't take months. It's the time for the patient (and herbal practitioner) to be patient; to continue their programme and keep up their herbal medication.

Which Herbs are Used?

Each patient is unique. They will need a unique prescription and one that will change over the weeks and months. But it can be said that the first choice of treatment will be the herbs in an Inflammation Shield Tonic. This includes:

Cordyceps - rebalances inflammatory cytokines, strongly improves a low immune system as an adaptogenic, it stimulates ATP generation by mitochondria and antioxidant activity, strongly modulatory on immune cells, and highly protective on the cells in the kidney system [tubular epithelial cells], improves learning and reduces memory impairment, improves testosterone and sperm count and motility, for mycoplasma treatment in a tincture or taken as a powder [up to 3Tbsp three times daily for serious infections], (also in the ABCD Powder);

Baical Skullcap root (more than 780 different compounds have been found in this herb [Baical is also in the ABC Daily Powder]). Baical is antiviral, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, nervine, neuroprotective, anodyne, hepetoprotective, antispasmodic, antiangiogenic, antitumour, antimetastic, antibacterial, antifungal. A remarkable plant and very different to the other Skullcaps found in Britain, Europe and America. It is very useful in hepatitis (A, B and C). For mycoplasma co-infection its main use is for lung infections and those that affect the central nervous system (including meningitis, encephalitis, Lyme, etc.). But it is very useful for GIT disorders, kidney inflammation, urinary tract and bladder infections, and cancers. The antimicrobial compounds known as baicalein, wogonin, oroxylin A, caicalin, and at least 24 others are strongly anti-inflammatory, antiviral and antitumour in action. Amazingly, melatonin (originally thought not to be produced in plants) has been found in high levels in the Chinese Baical root (7 mcg/g) thus this herb is also included in Herbactive's SleepMore Tonic to help restore normal sleep (diurnal rhythm), i.e. it improves the function of the pineal gland;

Houttuynia cordata - antiviral, antibacterial, antifungal, antimicrobial, anthelmintic, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, anticancer, immunomodulatory, anti-leukaemia; strongly active against Mycoplasma hominis, herpes simplex, flu virus, HIV-1, SARS-related coronavirus, etc. and specifically for kidney and bladder infections and genital infections;

Isatis tinctoria, root and leaf - a potent antiviral plant; also potentiates the effectiveness of viral vaccines, and is an immune stimulant, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, antifungal, antibacterial, antiparasitic, antitumour, antimicrobial [mycoplasma spp, SARS coronavirus coxsackie virus, avian flu virus, etc];

Senega root (Polygala tenuifolia) - one of the best herbs for enhancing the secretion of nerve growth factor [NGF] in the brain, spinal cord and peripheral nervous systems - a crucial protein for the growth, maintenance, and survival of the neurons; essential in stimulating axonal regeneration;

Kudzu Vine root - reduces inflammatory cytokine cascades;

Phellodendron (Cork Tree bark), Berberis vulgaris (Barberry bark) (also Golden Thread and Mahonia plants) - these contain significant quantities of berberine which have been found to be strongly effective against numerous mycoplasmas, especially urogenital mycoplasma infections. Actions: antibacterial, antifungal, antiseptic, anti-amoebic, anti-tumour, anti-inflammatory, analgesic;

Olive leaf and oil infusion - a specific for the treatment of mycoplasma; contains significant quantities of alpha-tocopherol, a form of vitamin E; anti-inflammatory, antioxidant; protective of red blood cells against oxidative damage which is crucial for mycoplasma treatment;

Arctostaphylos (Uva Ursi leaf) - this herb contains arbutin up to an incredible 10% in the plant, this is a strong antibacterial against different bacteria in the urinary passages especially mycoplasmas that cause urogenital infections. Arbutin inhibits bladder cancer cell proliferation and is strongly antioxidative;

Morinda root (Noni) - strongly antimicrobial;

Motherwort (Leonurus cardiaca) - this is an important supportive herb in that it provides protection for mitochondrial integrity and function and is also a relaxant for stress and anxiety and sleeplessness; strongly neuroprotective - protects the mitochondria in the brain;

Greater Celandine - primary action is a pain reliever, cough suppressant, antitoxin, and strongly anti-inflammatory; suppresses cytokine cascades; anti-viral; it has over 30 different alkaloids; it is an important herb in the treatment of mycoplasma, especially if there is severe brain and CNS inflammatory involvement;

Immune support: Ashwagandha, Rhodiola and Schizandra are the three chosen herbs for this function as they relate specifically to the treatment of the mycoplasma infestation treatment.

These are the herbs that are central to a prescription for an Inflammation Shield and may be supported by other herbs required by the person's personal medical profile and immediate symptomatology.

Also, it is absolutely without question that every, yes every, patient will be put on the ABC Daily Herbal NutriPowder Plus for the long-term. This 50-plus herbal powder mixture has literally tens of thousands of nutrients that will be taken up by the cells of your organs and systems to slowly, and oftentimes not so slowly, regenerate restoration of interactive functions that will fire-up healing and the recharging of health; it acts as the groundswell to the main plant prescription. It acts like a battery charger!

Supportive Tonics

To facilitate this healing of co-infective mycoplasma parasitic trauma, other tonics may be necessary to support the main medicine. For instance, SleepMore may be necessary to reinstate a sound sleep or WorryLess for excessive stress and anxiety, or DepressionLess for periods of deep dark hopelessness, HerbShield for cancer and protection against secondaries, and so on.

What is necessary is the willingness to go on the journey of healing with your herbal practitioner. It is bound to be long, hard at times, but ultimately rewarding as light is seen at the end of the tunnel.

References and Acknowledgements

Yeung, Him-che. “Handbook of Chinese Herbs and Formulas” Inst. Ch. Med.., USA. 1985.

Bensky, D., Gamgle, A., Kaptchuk, T. Chinese Herbal Medicine Material Medica Eastland Press, Seattle. 1986.

Ody, p. Complete Medicinal Herbal Dorling Kindersley Ltd, London. 1993.

Mindell, E. The Food Medicine Bible. Souvenir Press Ltd, London. 1995.

Balch, P. A. Prescription for Herbal Healing. Penguin Putnam Inc, New York. 2002.

Williamson, E. M. Potter’s Herbal Cyclopaedia. C.W Daniel Co. Ltd., Saffron Walden. 2003.

Buhner, S. H. Lyme Disease. Rochester, Vermont. 2013.


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About Alan Hopking

Alan Hopking MA MNIMH MRCHM graduated from the School of Herbal Medicine (England, UK) in 1981 and has been a herbal practitioner for over 30 years.  He is a Member of the National Institute of Medical Herbalists (Great Britain) (founded 1846) - vis medicatrix naturae. He may be contacted via Herbactive on Tel: 01425 839280; Freephone (UK only) 0500 909697;

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