Healing Herb Calendula

Healing Herb Calendula
One of my favourite medicinal herbs, this calendula flower was visited by a bee when I snapped it at the Lismore Community Garden.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012


Medicinal Herbs in our Dispensary
Many people choose to use herbal medicines for a variety of illnesses, but they believe if they need antibiotics, then a visit to the doctor is the only option. However, I would claim after 30 years working with herbal medicines, that the majority (but not all) of infections can be successfully treated with a carefully crafted mixture of herbs.  A herbal antibiotic must be individually tailored to suit the person, and must be formulated by a natural therapist with experience in this area of treatment.
The dramatic increase in antibiotic-resistant bacterial infections is a major concern in hospitals currently.  The widespread use of antibiotics is the cause of these mutations in the microbes.  I believe it is essential that prescription antibiotics are used only when absolutely necessary, and it is wise to seek alternative forms of treatment.  A part of the history of overuse has been the prescribing of antibiotics during viral illnesses, for the purpose of preventing a secondary bacterial infection.  Antibiotics do not treat the virus as such, as they are specific against bacteria only.  A more prudent approach would be to monitor the infection, and only use antibiotics if signs of a secondary infection occur.
Herbal antibiotic formulas do not encourage mutations of bacteria, which are unable to develop resistance because of the more complex multiple plant constituents.  On the other hand, a prescription antibiotic consists of a single chemical entity.

There is no one herb that works effectively as an antibiotic treatment on its own.  My tried and true approach is to formulate a combination of herbs. The mixture will include immune stimulation (herbs such as Echinacea and Andrographis), specific antibacterials (such as Goldenseal, Baptisia, Myrrh, Propolis, Calendula, Thyme), and lymphatic herbs (such as Fenugreek, Poke Root, Figwort). In addition, a mixture will include specific herbs to address the function of the organs or systems affected by the infection. These herbs vary, depending for instance if the infection is respiratory, urinary, skin or sinuses.  Treatment of viral infections will include specific antiviral herbs such as Lemon Balm, St. John’s Wort, or Thuja in addition to immune-stimulating herbs.  The use of St Mary’s Thistle, generally used as a liver herb, will make the treatment more effective as it acts on the cell wall of the bacteria to make the antimicrobial herbs more effective.

I would emphasise that these herbs should only be formulated by a professional, and I advise against self-prescribing.  A knowledge of dosing is important to achieve an effective outcome without side effects.

One memorable experience  I recall with the use of herbal antibiotics was a woman who presented with a severe sinus infection.  She had already taken 3 courses of prescription antibiotics, each of which improved the symptoms but the infection was not clearing up. She had also used a herbal treatment unsuccessfully. This seemed like quite a challenge, but I made her a strong herbal mix specific for a sinus infection. Within days she reported that her symptoms improved significantly, and were completely resolved by the end of a week’s course of herbs.

It may seem surprising that the herbal mixture was more effective than prescription antibiotics. I believe this is because the herbs were designed to address the sypmtoms which were driving the infection. Excessive mucus production provides a breeding ground for the bacteria, and this was addressed with the herbal mixture. After many weeks of illness, this patient was rundown with a weakened immune system.  The herbal mixture was designed to also support her immune system. 

As a herbalist I am not opposed to the use of prescription antibiotics when needed. However, I can see the use of herbal antimicrobials as the first step in non life-threatening infections as serving a broader community benefit.