Herbal Alternatives to Antibiotics

With the rate of antibiotic-resistant infections on the rise, herbal antibiotics may be your best bet for keeping you and your family safe and healthy.

| August/September 2012

  • Hospital-acquired resistant infections, by conservative estimates, are the fourth leading cause of death in the United States.
  • Artemisia annua
    Photo by Kristian Peters
  • Black pepper can enhance immune function.
  • “Herbal Antibiotics” by Stephen Harrod Buhner
    Photo courtesy Storey Publishing
  • Hydrastis canadensis
    Photo by James Steakley
  • Juniperus spp.

Perhaps no medical technological advance has been more widely heralded than the development of antibiotics. It is routinely lauded as one of the primary accomplishments of the application of science and modern medicine in Western culture—the success of the scientific method over the medicine of the past. But the advent of antibiotics has also led to a number of unforeseen medical problems, not the least of which is the development of powerful strains of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Fortunately, the advancement of modern medicine can meet the ancient wisdom of the past to overcome these problems with the use of natural allies: herbal alternatives to antibiotics.

The Rise and Overuse of Antibiotics

The excitement over the discovery and successful use of antibiotics in medicine was so strong in the late 1950s and early 1960s that many physicians, including my great-uncle Lee Burney, then surgeon general of the United States, and my grandfather David Cox, president of the Kentucky Medical Association, jointly proclaimed the end for all time of epidemic disease. In a 1963 comment, the Australian physician and Nobel laureate Sir F. Macfarlane Burnet claimed that, by the end of the 20th century humanity would see the “virtual elimination of infectious disease as a significant factor in societal life.”

Seven years later, one of my great-uncle’s successors, Surgeon General William Stewart, testified to Congress that it was time “to close the book on infectious diseases.” Smallpox was being eradicated and polio vaccines were showing astonishing success in preventing infection in millions of people in the United States, Africa and Europe. Tuberculosis and malaria, it was predicted, would be gone by the year 2000. With satisfaction, David Moreau observed in an article in Vogue magazine that “the chemotherapeutic revolution [had] reduced nearly all non-viral disease to the significance of a bad cold.”

They couldn’t have been more wrong.

In spite of Moreau’s optimism, when his article appeared in 1976, infectious disease was already on the rise. By 1997, it had become so bad that 3 million people a year in the United States were being admitted to hospitals with difficult-to-treat antibiotic-resistant bacterial infections. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated in 2002 that another 1.7 million became infected annually while visiting hospitals and an estimated 100,000 a year died after contracting a resistant infection in a hospital.

“To reiterate,” says Brad Spellberg of the Infectious Diseases Society of America, “these people come into the hospital for a heart attack, or cancer, or trauma after a car accident, or to have elective surgery, or with some other medical problem and then ended up dying of infection that they picked up in the hospital. … The number of people who die from hospital-acquired infections is unquestionably much higher now, and is almost certainly more than 100,000 per year in the United States alone.”

11/21/2014 6:24:40 AM

Tumeric stops MRSA in its tracks. I have used it on my nephew, he repeatedly got the infection, likely from a gym and once had to have 12 hours of antibiotic therapy through an IV. The next time he started to get a sore that was getting it's usual MRSA "look" I mixed tumeric with water, put it on a bandaid and covered the sore, then put the tumeric in capsules and had him take it twice a day. Overnight the sore drained and within two days (repeated process) it was healed. He never got it again. I told a friend who got it, he's a runner and older, he tried it and now puts tumeric in all the food he cooks just in case. Worked for him too, and you can just pick it up in the spice aisle.

Dolores Claesson
11/19/2013 7:45:40 AM

Thank you for sharing this great article from Dr. Buhner. Those of us with lyme and co infections are particularly grateful for all his research and information.

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