by Kathleen Barnes
We live in a world of microbes: bacteria, viruses, fungi and other pathogens that can make us sick. Most of the time, our immune systems are able to fight off microbial attacks, yet we’ve all experienced unsettling infections.
When Use Becomes Overuse
In recent years, conventional medicine has increasingly used antibiotics as a universal remedy against all kinds of microbial attacks—even though they are ineffective against anything except bacterial infections. It’s best to use them selectively and cautiously when nothing else will do the job, because by definition, they are “opposed to life.” The worst-case scenario is what we have now: overuse creating “superbugs,” able to multiply out of control, sometimes with fatal consequences, even when treated with antibiotics that used to work.
“Antibiotics are helpful and effective when used properly when there is a bacterial infection such as strep throat, urinary tract infection, bacterial pneumonia or a wound that has become infected,” explains Doctor of Naturopathy Trevor Holly Cates, of Waldorf Astoria Spa, in Park City, Utah. “But antibiotics are so overused and overprescribed that bacteria are changing in ways to resist them. This has become a significant public health problem.”
National and global public health officials have expressed increasing concerns about dangers posed by such bacteria, including methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) and vancomycin-resistant enterococci (VRE), which are often transmitted between patients in hospital settings, and a multi-antibiotic-resistant form of tuberculosis.
The problem is compounded by the use of antibiotics to enhance growth and production in livestock. A variety of superbugs have been found in meat, poultry and milk products, according to the nonprofits Center for Science in the Public Interest and Environmental Working Group.
Chris Kilham, a worldwide medicine hunter who teaches ethnobotany at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, explains the transmission. “When you eat conventionally raised meat, you’re not getting antibiotics, but you are getting bits of self-replicating genetic material that transfer antibiotic resistance to your body, which can prove fatal.”
Fortunately, there are many natural substances that have proven to be effective against bacteria, viruses, fungi and other infectious microbial pathogens—all without dangerous side effects. Here’s a short list:
Propolis, sometimes called “bee glue,” produced by bees to seal their hives and protect them from infections, is “the single most powerful antimicrobial we have in the plant kingdom,” advises Kilham. That claim is backed by numerous studies from institutions such as Britain’s National Heart and Long Institute, the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences and Harokopio University, in Greece.
In 2005, a study by Turkey’s Hacettepe University showed that propolis killed both MRSA and VRE bacteria. Other studies by Italy’s University of Milan have shown propolis’ effective ness in combating upper respiratory infections and Candida albicans fungal infections. Propolis is also available in pill form.
Pelargonium sidoides is a favored option for Cates to abbreviate both the duration and severity of cold and flu, including any lingering cough or sore throat. This South African medicinal is also known as African geranium. Usually used in tincture form, it’s also useful against a large range of microbial infections.
One study from the Russian Institute of Pulmonology reported that nearly 70 percent of participating adults with bronchitis received relief within four days—more than double those that became well taking a placebo.
Olive leaf extract was first mentioned in the Bible and recent research confirms its effectiveness against a wide variety of microbial infections. A U.S. Department of Agriculture study published in the Journal of Food Science confirms that olive leaf extract is effective in fighting food-borne pathogens like salmonella and E. coli, labeling it a broad-spectrum antimicrobial. New York University School of Medicine research published in Biochemical and Biophysical Research Communications showed that olive leaf extract reversed many HIV-related changes in the immune system.
Retired medical journalist Dr. Morton Walker, author of Nature’s Antibiotic: Olive Leaf Extract, wrote that olive leaf extract “inhibits the growth of every virus, bacterium, fungus, yeast and protozoan it was tested against… and is effective against a minimum of 56 disease-causing organisms.”
In a worst-case scenario, “If antibiotics are the only alternative to treat a lab-confirmed bacterial infection, it’s vital to replace the beneficial intestinal bacteria inevitably wiped out by the drug,” concludes Cates. “Sometimes a few servings of a good natural yogurt (without sugar or fruit) will suffice. If not, look for a high-quality probiotic to restore the digestive system’s natural bacterial colony.”
Kathleen Barnes is a natural health advocate, author and book publisher (KathleenBarnes.com).