Chinese and Herbal medicine as alternative to antibiotics

Antibiotic resistance is a growing concern for every human on the planet.  That is why we need to make choices in our health care to prevent the possibility of drug resistant bacteria causing epidemic infections that could hurt our families and loved ones.  Much of the resistance to antibiotics come from wrongly prescribed or misused antibiotics.  Each time we take antibiotics the small amount of organisms that are not kill by that drug have a higher tolerance to the antibiotic.  Those organisms then reproduce and spread though the populace.  When taking antibiotics for viral infections or giving them to livestock food we are creating super bugs that do not respond to antibiotics.  The use of Chinese and Western Herbs may be a solution to the problem.

Each year in the United States, at least 2 million people become infected with bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics and at least 23,000 people die each year as a direct result of these infections.(CDC publishing)

The use of antibiotics is the single most important factor leading to antibiotic resistance around the world.  Simply using antibiotics creates resistance.  These drugs should only be used to manage infections.(CDC publishing)

Antibiotics are among the most commonly prescribed drugs used in human medicine and can be lifesaving drugs.  However, up to 50% of the time antibiotics are not optimally prescribed, often done so when not needed, incorrect dosing or duration.(CDC publishing)

One way to help curb the resistance is to be treating with substances that have multiple attack properties.  Herbal medicine usually uses a combination of plants in a formula to combat a know and or unknown pathogen from many angles.  With a multi pronged attack by herbal therapies, the organisms do not get a chance to become resistant to any one antibiotic pathway so they cannot create a single strain that is resistant to any one antibiotic.

Another way that Chinese and Herbal medicine can be helpful is in the case of Viral infections.  Many Herbal remedies have anti-viral properties as well as anti-microbial properties.  When treating infections that may have a viral origin we boost our own immune systems to deal with the viral loads as well as protect from subsequent bacterial opportunistic infections.

Am J Chin Med. 2007;35(6):1047-60.

Antibacterial properties of Chinese herbal medicines against nosocomial antibiotic resistant strains of Pseudomonas aeruginosa in Taiwan.


Pseudomonas aeruginosa is well-recognized as a nosocomial pathogen, which exhibits inherent drug resistance. In this study, the antibacterial activity of ethanol extracts of 58 Chinese herbal medicines used in Taiwan were tested against 89 nosocomial antibiotic resistant strains of Pseudomonas aeruginosa. The results gathered by the disc diffusion method showed that 26 out of the 58 herbal extracts exhibited antibacterial activity. Among the 26 herbal extracts, 10 extracts showed broad-spectrum antibacterial activities and were selected for further antibacterial property assay. The minimum inhibitory concentrations (MIC) of the active partition fractions ranged from 0.25 to 11.0 mg/L. The presence of flavonoid compounds in the active fractions of test herbal extracts was observed by the TLC-bioautography. The results from the time-kill assay revealed that most of the herbal extracts completely killed the test organisms within 4 hours. Exposure of the test strains to a sub-MIC level of the herbal extracts for 10 consecutive subcultures did not induce resistance to the active components. A combination of the active herbal fractions with antibiotics showed that one of the herbal medicines, the hexane fraction of Ramulus Cinnamomi, possessed a synergistic effect with tetracycline, gentamycin, and streptomycin. In conclusion, the tested Chinese medical herbs have the potential to be developed into natural antibiotics. This is the first evaluation for screening large amounts of medical plants against nosocomial antibiotic resistant bacteria in Taiwan.

This study is just one case in how Herbal medicine can be useful in the rising number of antibiotic resistant bacteria.  It is also showing how herbal medicine can be an answer to resistant bacteria that have already become a problem.
Check your local area for an herbal medicine doctor or come into the clinic here before you ask for the antibiotic.
Be well and stay well
Dr Bradford Lester ND, LAc.