Herbalists, Naturopaths and the Antibiotic Crisis: Infection Control

The most abused drugs today are not heroin, amphetamines, marijuana, alcohol or even recreational oxycodone, they are antibiotics. The drug dealers involved are the average family doctor, hospital doctors and medical associations. The world has reached an antibiotic crisis where antibiotic-drug-resistant superbugs now kill tens of thousands of people every year in our hospitals.

The reasons this has happened is very clear, and even the medical associations involved acknowledge the problem: that doctors are prescribing antibiotics without sufficiently investigating a patient’s illness. Doctors are also poorly trained in curing infections without antibiotics, so those superbugs are now so resistant they laugh at antibiotics.

But no matter how many warnings the medical associations give to doctors, the problem continues to get worse. When all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail. Doctors are afraid that when someone turn up to their surgeries with the flu that they will be sued if they do not prescribe antibiotics. Antibiotics do not work against viral infections but most doctors do not know how to assess whether an infection is viral or bacterial so they just give everyone antibiotics. Just because someone has an infection it does not mean that antibiotics are the right medication or care for them. Antibiotics have a place in medicine but in far less amounts than they are currently being used.

Naturopaths and herbalists have been curing infections for thousands of years before antibiotics came along. They have in their medicine repertoires thousands of herbs, nutritional supplements and treatments that cure a large number of infections without causing superbugs.

The difficulty is, however, that drug companies make billions of dollars from antibiotics but cannot patent herbs and foods so they do not see their use as profitable. The average doctor probably had half a day on nutrition at university and has never studied natural medicine, so all they have in their medicine cabinet is the hammer.

There are many herbs that are bactericidal (kill bacteria), not just bacterial static (reduce the effectiveness of bacteria but not kill them). Herbalists also take a different approach in including herbs in the formulas that are supporting the immune system to fight the infection and herbs to relieve the symptoms of infection.

Naturopaths want to look at you as a whole person. They want to know what you are eating and what you need to eat to fight the infection, as well as what not to eat. The majority of people and doctors do not know that some foods support infection and the absence of other foods starve infection.

Whether your infection is bacterial or viral, consider each time you seek treatment whether your body will remain strong after that treatment. It the treatment causing damage in the long term? Sometimes your body needs to go through what is called a healing crisis where the immune system is allowed to recognise an infection and mount its own defences against that infection so it is protected against it in the future. Herbalists and naturopaths help you to help your body to overcome infection in more natural and sustainable ways.

Dr Tracie O’Keefe DCH, BHSC, ND is naturopath, medical herbalist, and a medical nutritionist and the director of the Australian Health and Education Centre in Sydney where she practises and maintains a naturopathic and herbal dispensary.

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