The Body Ecology Diet (BED) Column
......with Donna Gates
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Thursday, May 17th, 2012:
Natural Remedies for Acne and Digestive Health
While the current trend is to swallow an antihistamine or visit the doctor at the first sign of an infection, some scientists are reexamining old folk remedies.
Herbs like garlic and thyme are currently in the pharmaceutical spotlight. This is partially because they offer a solution to the growing numbers of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, or superbugs.
Breaking Down the Biofilm: How Garlic Picks Up Antibiotic Slack
Researchers at Washington State University recently found that a compound in garlic is one hundred times more effective than two antibiotic drugs that are used to treat intestinal infection. (1)
Michael Konkel, a co-author of the study, explained that the bacterium Campylobacter jejuni is “simply the most common bacterial cause of food-borne illness in the United States and probably the world.”
According to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), 2.4 million Americans are affected by Campylobacter every year. Symptoms include:
- Abdominal pain
Campylobacter is also held responsible for nearly one-third of the cases of Guillain-Barre syndrome. Guillain-Barre syndrome is a rare disorder that causes paralysis.
Most Campylobacter infections arise from eating contaminated foods or undercooked poultry.
Diallyl sulfide, a compound found in garlic, was found to kill the Campylobacter bacterium. This finding excited researchers because typically, Campylobacter is protected by a slimy matrix. This slimy matrix, otherwise known as a biofilm, makes Campylobacter one thousand times more resistant to antibiotics than a lone bacterial cell.
Diallyl sulfide can penetrate the biofilm that surrounds Campylobacter and shut down its metabolism.
According to researchers, diallyl sulfide is one hundred times more effective than the antibiotics erythromycin and ciprofloxacin. It also works in a fraction of the time.
While eating garlic is unlikely to have exactly the same effect as a concentration of diallyl sulfide, the latest research into this remarkable compound explains why garlic is such a popular folk remedy for fighting bacterial and fungal infection.
Traditionally, thyme has been used to fight fungal, parasitic, and bacterial infections. (2)
Thymol, which comes from thyme, is a common antiseptic and the main active ingredient in many commercial mouthwashes and hand sanitizers. (3)
Recently, at Leeds Metropolitan University, a team of scientists determined that tinctures made from the herb thyme are more effective at treating acne than standard concentrations of benzoyl peroxide. (4) Benzoyl peroxide is the active ingredient in most anti-acne creams or washes.
While there is evidence that almost all skin conditions can be traced to an imbalance in gut bacteria, there are nonetheless certain bacteria that are known to aggravate acne. (5) One such bacterium is Propionibacterium acnes.
Propionibacterium acnes is thought to cause acne by infecting skin pores. Infection can show up as whiteheads or as puss-filled cysts. According to research, a thyme tincture is exceptionally effective at combating this common bacterium.
In spite of their findings, researchers and physicians still encourage those who suffer from acne to apply harsh topical chemicals like salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide. This is because they are unsure about the full spectrum of compounds available in thyme.
Meanwhile, thyme has been used as a folk remedy for several generations to treat not only acne but also a wide range of infections that are found on the skin, in the gastrointestinal tract, and in the lungs.
Herbal preparations offer a complete approach to fighting infectious agents.
Isolated compounds from traditional folk remedies have been catching the interest of scientists for decades. However, what nature offers in a complete package may be more beneficial than one isolated component.
While research seeks to standardize a natural resource, like thyme, in order to ensure efficacy and safety, many people already use the herb as home remedy. In fact, a preparation of the entire herb offers a full spectrum of benefits.
This is because many components of an herb may have functions that we have yet to understand.
For example, the protective role of the biofilm is a recent discovery in microbiology. Biofilms can shield a disease-causing microorganism or parasite from the strongest of antibiotic medications. The more we investigate popular herbal remedies that treat infection, the more we find that many of these herbs have the natural ability to break down biofilm.
While it is important to know an herb before you choose to use it, health and wellness begin in the kitchen. This means:
- Cook freely and often with old favorites that are known to ward off infection.
- Get into the practice of preparing foods, such as traditional ferments, that naturally support digestion and immune health.
- Support your gut with probiotic foods and beverages to balance your inner ecosystem.
What to Remember Most About This Article:
Common herbs like garlic and thyme are receiving attention because they have the potential to treat antibiotic-resistant bacteria. A compound in garlic is one hundred times more effective in treating intestinal infection than two leading antibiotic drugs. The herb thyme can be used to treat fungal, parasitic, and bacterial infections, as well as the bacterium that causes acne.
Folk remedies can be used to treat what ails you, providing a wide range of health benefits.
To use natural herbal remedies to fight infection, total wellness begins in your kitchen:
- Cook with favorite herbs that are known to fight infection.
- Prepare traditional fermented foods that support digestive health.
- Support gut health with probiotic foods and beverages for a robust inner ecosystem.
- X Lu, et al. Antimicrobial effect of diallyl sulphide on Campylobacter jejuni biofilms. J Antimicrob Chemother. 2012 May 1. [Epub ahead of print]
- Thymus Vulgaris. PDR for Herbal Medicine. Montvale, NJ: Medical Economics Company. p. 1184.
- Pierce, Andrea. 1999. American Pharmaceutical Association Practical Guide to Natural Medicines. New York: Stonesong Press. P. 338-340.
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