How to Protect Yourself Against Drug Resistant Infections
by Greg Lee
Image courtesy of Expatriate Games Flickr Creative Commons
Imagine it is starting to rain. You grab your umbrella and run outside. Unfortunately, there are several holes in the fabric and you start to get wet. How is a leaky umbrella like the danger of drug resistant infections?
Drug resistant infections are on the rise
Just like a leaky umbrella, antibiotics are offering less protection against these infections. These infections have names like: methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), Clostridium difficile (C-Diff), Salmonella, and E-coli. The widespread use of antibiotics has contributed to the rise of drug resistant bacteria.
Antibiotics are widely used to prevent infections in farm animals, in animal feed, and in agriculture for pesticides. In humans, long term use of antibiotics by doctors and patients breeds drug resistant germs. Some countries sell antibiotics over the counter without a prescription. Hospitals have been shown to be a source of these infections amongst their patients.
These drug resistant germs can also be found in your food
Recently, major food processors of beef and nut butters have been shut down due to bacterial contamination at their processing facilities. These germs produce toxins that disrupt your immune system. These toxins can lead to sickness and even death. These germs can also hide from your immune system.
These germs can also evade your immune system
Patients that undergo antibiotic therapy have another challenge with these germs. These infectious organisms are able to develop a jello-blob like shield called a biofilm. Medications and your immune system cannot penetrate through this shield. Under the biofilm shield, many different germs can share a dangerous secret. They can swap drug resistant genes with each other and produce new drug resistant strains. However, drug companies might not come up with a solution.
Drug companies may not be able to help you fight these resistant infections
Unfortunately, pharmaceutical manufacturers have decreased their research into new antibiotics because these drugs may not be as profitable. More research is going into drugs that treat chronic long-term conditions and lifestyle issues like diabetes. Infectious disease physicians are highly concerned that effective antibiotics may not be available in the near future.
Where can you find new medicines that are effective against bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics?
For millions of years, plants have been producing antibacterial substances
In order to to fend off insects, infections, and plant eating animals and reptiles, plants produce a variety of chemicals to repel would-be attackers. Plants are also capable of creating new chemical defenses to protect against new threats. Many of these plants are herbs and spices that are full of antibacterial compounds. Researchers are currently exploring how to use plants to produce new antibiotics for drug resistant germs. Traditional healers knew about this a long time ago.
Traditional healers have long used plants to prevent or cure infections
Many of these plants have been researched to determine their antibacterial properties. A large number of plant compounds have been shown to inhibit growth of drug resistant bacteria and/or strengthen the immune system’s ability to fight these infections. For thousands of years, healers in Asia have used herbs to fight infections. Early medical texts describe using different combinations of herbs to heal many kinds of diseases.
Plants can differ in the ways they kill resistant germs
Many of these plant substances act differently from antibiotics, which suggests that it may be more difficult to develop drug resistance to these new compounds. For example the berberine compound in the herb Berberis helps to block the multidrug resistance mechanism in Staphylococcus aureus. There are many more herbs that have antibacterial properties.
Herbs that are recommended for use against drug resistant germs
Here is a list of Western herbs that have been used against drug resistant infections:
- Bay leaf
- Grapefruit seed extract
- Maitake mushrooms
- Oregano oil
- Red root
- St. John’s Wort
Here is a list of Chinese herbs that are recommended for use against drug resistant infections:
- Cinnamon bark
- Green tea
- Honeysuckle vine
- Polygonum cuspidatae
- Shitake mushrooms
- Siberian ginseng
Here is a list of Ayurvedic (from India) herbs that are recommended for use against drug resistant infections:
- Aloe vera
- Amalaki (Emblica myrobalan)
- Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera)
- Guggulu, Kai-Shore (Commiphora mukul)
- Haritaki (Terminalia chebula) (anti-biofilm herb)
- Kutki (Gentiana kuroo)
- Neem (Azadiracta indica)
- Pipli (Piper longum)
- Shilajit (Asphaltum)
- Tulsi (Ocimum basilicum)
How to know what herbs to take and how much
Herbs in different herbal traditions are classified according to their properties. These properties include where in the body they help to heal and which organs they support. Contemporary research has uncovered many of the active compounds and how they work in the body. Many of these herbs can be found at health food stores or ethnic grocery stores. A trainer herbalist is the best way to get proper guidance on what to take and how much.
Why go to an herbalist for these antibacterial herbs?
One benefit to getting these herbs from an herbalist is that they can verify the source of the herbs as being free of pesticides, heavy metals, or being grown organically. Recent FDA guidelines for Chinese herbalists say that these practitioners must examine their patients in person to recommend or provide herbs. This helps patients to get herbs that work best for their condition and to get support should an unexpected reaction occur. Herbs can then be customized to eliminate undesirable reactions.
In addition to herbs, taking probiotics can also help with detoxifying and strengthening your immune system against these infections.
Herbs give you added protection from drug resistant infections
Just like getting a new umbrella, herbs give you additional protection against these stubborn drug resistant infections. Anti-bacterial herbs help you to kill these germs, detoxify your system, and strengthen your immune system against further attacks.
Kathy Abascal, Eric Yarnell. Herbs and Drug Resistance: Part 2—Clinical Implications of Research on Microbial Resistance to Antibiotics, Alternative and Complementary Therapies. October 2002
Buhner, Stephen. Herbal Antibiotics: Natural Alternatives for Treating Drug-Resistant Bacteria. Storey Publishing, North Adams, Massachusetts. 1999
John Chen, Tina Chen. Chinese Medical Herbology and Pharmacology. Art of Medicine Press, City of Industry, California. 2004
Snyder, Peter. Antimicrobial Effect of Spices and Herbs. Hospitality Institute of Technology and Management; St. Paul, Minnesota. 1997
Treadway, Scott. Exploring the Universe of Ayurvedic Botanicals to Manage Bacterial Infections. Clinical Nutritional Insights, Vol. 6, No. 17, 1998