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Herbal Antibiotics: Natural Alternatives for Treating Drug-Resistant Bacteria

by Stephen Harrod Buhner

listed in herbal medicine

[Image: Herbal Antibiotics: Natural Alternatives for Treating Drug-Resistant Bacteria]

Nowadays doctors are prescribing anti-biotics for a host of minor ailments including colds, acne, infected toe nails etc., even though articles in the press are making us aware of the appearance of 'Superbugs'. The book Herbal Antibiotics presents us with the shocking truth: the resistance of bacteria to antibiotics is growing at an alarming rate and there are no new antibiotics, which could counteract this process.

The author informs us that there are now cases of Staphylococcus aureus not responding to any antibiotics, not even vanomycin, which was the last one to be effective. As graphically shown in a story at the beginning of the book, doctors are now seeing patients die of bacterial infections, because they have tried all available antibiotics on them without success.

What I did not know was just how smart and adaptable bacteria really are. Not only are we encouraging a 'survival of the fittest' bacteria, but they are also communicating their resistance to other bacteria. But it goes even further than that. Stephen Buhner states "In a way that no researcher understands, bacteria learn resistance to multiple antibiotics from encountering only one antibiotic." Bacteria are learning faster and faster. It is becoming obvious that we are not winning the war on infectious micro-organisms. According to the author Salmonella are now reported to live in the ovaries of most of the United States chicken stock.

The author points out that modern factory farming has significantly contributed to the problem of antibiotic resistance and he warns of the wider ecological implications of our antibiotic overuse. I consider this broad perspective to be one of the strengths of the book.

What is it that makes herbs specifically suited to deal with bacteria? Their chemical complexity makes it much harder for bacteria to develop resistance to them. According to the author, 120 different compounds have so far been identified in the herb yarrow.

The book presents a list of 15 top anti-biotic herbs which are explained in detail, including some well known ones such as garlic and echinacea, but also some lesser known ones that may be well worth our attention, making the book useful for both herbalists and the general public. It includes information about actions against specific micro-organisms, dosages, preparation and contra-indications. Other positive additions are a recipe section and an extensive bibliography.

My only concern here is that people reading this book could be unaware that treating an infectious illness requires additional supportive measures and a lot more skill than taking a few herbs. Unfortunately, the book only contains one short paragraph on this important point. For herbs to be effective in infectious diseases it is very important that they are used at the very onset of symptoms and at the right dosage. I think everyone would benefit from having their 'personal' medical herbalist, who they can contact for advice and support whenever the need arises.

Jutta Blumenthal, M.H., Ir.

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