Infections (Natural Antibiotics, Antivirals and antimicrobials)

Infections (Natural Antibiotics, Antivirals and antimicrobials)

In most traditional medical systems the collection of signs and symptoms the patient presented with, were believed to be caused by the entrance of pathogenic influences into the body. Then herbal remedies were administered to treat the root cause of the problem, in some traditional systems it was the underlying constitutional imbalances, while alleviating the symptoms.

On the other hand, modern scientists are reductionist, taking the active component in a plant and synthesis it to become action specific. They focus to define the specific cellular and molecular changes that take place in the presence of an infection. Research shows that certain immune modulating compounds are associated with bacterial and viral infections and the resulting symptoms. For example, the induction of interferons (IFN’s) is associated with host immunity and accounts for some of the host symptoms associated with infections, such as muscle aches and soreness. Studies show that NF-kappaB, another immune modulating compound, stimulates replication of acute viruses and is actually obligatory for viral replication.

The goal of traditional medicine is to target the bacteria or virus with herbs known to inhibit bacteria spreading or viral replication, thereby provides additional immune support with herbs specific to infections, and to provide the body with herbs that down-regulate the overactive immune response referred to as the ‘cytokine storm,’ the pro-inflammatory response that ignites haemorrhaging and other life-threatening events.1 Many herbal compounds are effective at reducing NF-kappaB. 2,3


These are only some of the actions.  What stands out with herbal antibacterial and antiviral herbs are that many have both actions.  As the whole plant is used, the other actions that each plant contains are also available, such as; anti-inflammatory, demulcent, anti-microbial, antiseptic, anti-fungal, antispasmodic, analgesic (pain relieve), cytotoxic, antioxidant, Diaphoretic (helps fevers).  As the herbs work synergistically this enables the herbs to work on many different levels, which is why they often have a better lasting effect and are kinder to the body, with little to no negative side-effects. 

Example of Herbs that I use in clinic: 

Elderberry/ElderFlower (Sambucus Nigra)

The berries, flowers and inner bark are used in herbal medicine, and has been used since antiquity. Each part has various therapeutic effects for example, the berries are rich in Vitamin C, quercetin and anthocyanins while the flower contains anthocyanins, essential oil, mucilage and tannins.  It is traditionally used to alleviate cold and flu symptoms from runny nose to muscle pain and sore throats.  Scientific research shows that the berry increase IFN-β inducing activity of L. acidophilus in dendritic cells, suggesting antiviral and immune-enhancing activity.4  Israeli scientists have been at the forefront of researching the benefits of elderberry extract, particularly on flu viruses.  In one well designed Israeli study, researchers tested a standardized extract of the berry (Sambucol) on 40 people and noted a significant improvement in symptoms of the flu or a complete cure in approximately 90 percent of cases within two to three days, compared to six days for a control group. During the convalescent phase, blood tests showed a higher antibody level to influenza virus in the Sambucol group than in the control group.  The researchers concluded 5,6 

No satisfactory medication to cure influenza type A and B is available. Considering the efficacy of the extract in vitro on all strains of influenza virus tested, the clinical results, its low costs, and absence of side-effects, this preparation could offer a possibility for safe treatment for influenza A and B,” 

Other studies show that elderflowers reduce fever and promote sweating, and a unique protein found in elderberry acts as a messenger regulating immune response.7 Elderberry extract inhibits infectious bronchitis virus at an early point during replication, probably by rendering the virus non-infectious.8

Boneset (Eupatorium perfoliatum)

Boneset was used by Native Americans to traditionally treat (as its name suggests) “break-bone fever” also known as Dengue fever.  Infusions were used to also treat fevers, colds, as well as pain from arthritis and rheumatism. It became popular when a virulent flu swept across the East Coast around the 1800’s and it characterized by intense bone pain. The plant encourages profuse sweating which actually breaks the fever, thereby relieving the intense aching pain associated with flu. It thins mucus secretions and helps to break up lung congestion. It has been use in every epidemic of influenza with great advantage. During the severe pandemic of 1918-19, it was not just one of the safest, but it was one of the most reliable remedies employed, contributing much to the successful management of the disease under Eclectic treatment. For many people, it was used as a prophylactic, many who took it freely were said to escape an attack.9

In 2013, researchers appraised the protective effect and immunomodulatory activities of Eupatorium polysaccharide against the highly pathogenic H5N1 subtype influenza virus. Their findings showed Eupatorium polysaccharide has immunomodulatory properties and is a potential prophylactic against H5N1 influenza infection.10 In additional research, the ethanol extract of boneset showed cytotoxic and antibacterial effects.11

Forsythia (Fructus Forsythia)

This Chinese herbs, Forsythia (Lian Qiao) is categorised in herbs that Clear Heat and Clean Toxins. Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) use it primarily to eliminate Wind-Heat or early stage febrile disorders. It’s often combined with Lonicera in the classic formula which is often used at the first sign of a sore throat in a Wind-Heat disorder, which would be at the onset of a cold or flu. It is also known to protect the heart from Heat in the Lungs that may easily be transferred, leading to insomnia and restlessness.12 The essential oil has shown inhibitory effects against Staph. Aureus, Diplococcus pneumoniae, Bacillus dysenteriae, alpha-hemolytic Strep., and many other infectious organisms, including several types of influenza.13

Honeysuckle (Flos Lonicera)

Honeysuckle (Lonicera), is also categorized as an herb that Clears Heat and Cleans Toxins. It possesses diaphoretic properties, and used to Clear Heat in various stages of febrile disorders. Honeysuckle is also used in other disorders such as dermatological sores, lesions, and ulcerations, and for internal abscesses or diarrhoea and dysentery.13,14,15  It has anti-bacterial, anti-inflammatory, and antiviral actions. Honeysuckle has been proven to have a broad spectrum of inhibitory actions against Staphylococcus aureus, beta-hemolytic streptococcus, and other infectious agents and has shown anti-inflammatory and antipyretic effects. Several studies have indicated that it can prevent or shorten the duration of colds and flus.16,17,18  In addition, Lonicera improves sepsis-induced mortality, enhances bacterial clearance, and attenuates multiple organ failure.19

Yarrow (Achillea millefolium)

Yarrow is commonly found not only around Ireland but also in most, if not all Western herbalist apothecaries because it possesses immense and diverse healing value. The many recognized actions of yarrow include anti-inflammatory, antispasmodic, cytotoxic, antioxidant, antibacterial, antiviral, antiplatelet aggregation, and haemostatic actions, and circulatory (specifically in pelvic region). 

Research has demonstrated that yarrow extract possesses antiviral activity against Newcastle disease, which is a deadly viral disease in the poultry industry. 41 Yarrow extract has also been shown to exert potent anti-rotaviral activity (a common cause of gastroenteritis) after viral adsorption. 42

There are many other herbs, most of which have their own unique way of work, and primary functions.  There is still much research that is required to deepen our understanding of herbs, but this will never be exhausted.  

How long is the Average Treatment?

It is difficult to determine how long it will take any individual to start seeing results, it usually depends on the following:

  •     How you react to herbs
  •     Your compliance to taking the herbs and making the recommended changes 
  •     How long you have had the condition 
  •     The severity of the condition 

What you need to do?

Please be prepared that it takes time for the herbs to work. Herbal medicine does not work like pharmaceutical drugs.  They often require some time, especially as they tend to work gently and subtly.  This is not a quick fix.   

Please be willing to work with me, take the medication as prescribed and make the changes which are attainable as well as practical.

How I will help you

 Make a treatment plan by creating short term and long terms goals

Identify areas in your life that may be negatively impacting your health.

Give you practical and attainable changes, with lots of support along the way.

Emotional Support along this journey, helping you to help keep on track.

  1. Hensley LE1, Young HA, Jahrling PB, Geisbert TW. Pro-inflammatory response during Ebola virus infection of primate models: possible involvement of the tumor necrosis factor receptor superfamily, Immunol Lett. 2002 Mar 1;80(3):169-79.
  2. Nimmerjahn F, Dudziak D, Dirmeier U, Hobom G, Riedel A,Schlee M, et al. Active NF-kappaB signalling is a prerequisite for influenza virus infection. J Gen Virol. 2004;/85:/2347_/
  3. Wurzer WJ, Ehrhardt C, Pleschka S, Berberich-Siebelt F, Wolff T, Walczak H, et al. NF-kappaB-dependent induction of tumor necrosis factor-related apoptosis-inducing ligand (TRAIL) and Fas/FasL is crucial for efficient influenza virus propagation. J Biol Chem. 2004;/279:/30931_/7
  4. Frøkiær H1, Henningsen L, Metzdorff SB, Weiss G, Roller M, Flanagan J, Fromentin E, Ibarra A. Astragalus root and elderberry fruit extracts enhance the IFN-β stimulatory effects of Lactobacillus acidophilus in murine-derived dendritic cells. PLoS One. 2012;7(10):e47878. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0047878. Epub 2012 Oct 30.
  5. Zakay-Rones Z, Varsarno N, Zlotnik M, et al. Inhibition of several strains of influenza virus in vitro and reduction of symptoms by an elderberry extract (Sambucus nigra) during an outbreak of influenza B Panama. Journal of Alternative Complementary Medicine 1995; 1:361-9
  6. Zakay-Rones Z, Varsano N, Zlotnik M, Manor O, Regev L, Schlesinger M, Mumcuoglu M. Inhibition of several strains of influenza virus in vitro and reduction of symptoms by an elderberry extract (Sambucus nigra L.) during an outbreak of influenza B Panama. J Altern Complement Med. 1995 Winter;1(4):361-9.
  7. Barak V, Halperin T, Kalickman I. The effect of Sambucol, a black elderberry-based, natural product, on the production of human cytokines. Eur Cytokine Netw. 2001 Apr-Jun;12(2):290-6.
  8. Chen C, Zuckerman DM, Brantley S, Sharpe M, Childress K, Hoiczyk E, Pendleton AR. Sambucus nigra extracts inhibit infectious bronchitis virus at an early point during replication. BMC Vet Res. 2014 Jan 16;10:24. doi: 10.1186/1746-6148-10-24.
  9. Jin Y, Zhang Y, Wan C, Wang H, Hou L, Chang J, Fan K, Xie X. Immunomodulatory Activity and Protective Effects of Polysaccharide from Eupatorium adenophorum Leaf Extract on Highly Pathogenic H5N1 Influenza Infection. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2013;2013:194976. doi: 10.1155/2013/194976. Epub 2013 Sep 18.
  10. Gupta M, Mazumder UK, Chaudhuri I, Chaudhuri RK, Bose P, Bhattacharya S, Manikandan L, Patra S.Antimicrobial activity of Eupatorium ayapana.Fitoterapia. 2002 Apr;73(2):168-70
  11. Habtemariam S, Macpherson AM. Cytotoxicity and antibacterial activity of ethanol extract from leaves of a herbal drug, boneset (Eupatorium perfoliatum). Phytother Res. 2000 Nov;14(7):575-7.
  12. Zhong Yao Xue (Chinese Herbology), 1998;169:171
  13. Xin Yi Xue (New Medicine), 1975; 6(3):155
  14. Ke Yan Tong Xun (Journal of Science and Research), 1982 (3):35
  15. Jiang Xi Xin Yi Yao (Jiangxi New Medicine and Herbology); 1960; (1):34
  16. Guang Dong Zhong Yi (Guang Dong Chinese Medicine), 1962 5:25
  17. Shang Hai Zhong Yi Yao Za Zhi, Shanghai Journal of Chinese Medicine and Herbology, 1983; 9:27
  18. Kim SJ, Yoon SJ, Kim YM, Hong SW, Yeon SH, Choe KI, Lee SM. HS-23, Lonicera japonica extract, attenuates septic injury by suppressing toll-like receptor 4 signaling. J Ethnopharmacol. 2014 Aug 8;155(1):256-66. doi: 10.1016/j.jep.2014.05.021. Epub 2014 May 24.
  19. Moradkhani S, Kobarfard F, Ayatollahi SA. Phytochemical Investigations on Chemical Constituents of Achillea tenuifolia Lam. Iran J Pharm Res. 2014 Summer;13(3):1049-54.
  20. Rezatofighi SE, Seydabadi A, Seyyed Nejad SM. Evaluating the Efficacy of Achillea millefolium and Thymus vulgaris Extracts Against Newcastle Disease Virus in Ovo. Jundishapur J Microbiol. 2014 Feb;7(2):e9016. doi: 10.5812/jjm.9016. Epub 2014 Feb 1.
  21. Taherkhani R, Farshadpour F, Makvandi M. In Vitro Anti-rotaviral Activity of Achillea kellalensis, Jundishapur J Nat Pharm Prod. 2013 Aug;8(3):138-43. Epub 2013 Jul 17.