When it comes to astounding medical breakthroughs, the discovery of antibiotics is pretty up there. Thanks to penicillin and others, doctors have been able to save more lives than was ever thought possible.
Unfortunately, as we're well aware, now they're overused, those crafty bacteria are figuring out how to arm themselves against these meds, and we're facing increased resistance. Some believe docs are prescribing way too many antibiotics and people should be trying other approaches. But what are they? And do they work?
What the experts say
" Oil of oregano is an effective antibiotic; it's anti-viral, antibacterial, anti-fungal. Goldenseal and myrrh are also good. Eucalyptus oil is antibacterial and anti-viral as a steam inhalation for a lung infection (do not take it internally). In the same way that different antibiotics are prescribed for specific bacterial infections, we approach various infections differently. Like pharmaceutical antibiotics, herbal ones will also kill off good bacteria, so re-inoculate with probiotics like acidophilus . Some people with ragweed allergies will be sensitive to echinacea ."
MELANIE LABELLE , naturopath, Toronto
"We are trying to minimize the rising resistance [to antibiotics]. Alternatives would depend on what kind of infectious disease we are talking about. Vaccine is one alternative, but for [diseases] for which we dont have vaccines, scientists are trying to develop drugs that work by another mechanism. One example is the bacterial virus , or bacteriophage, which can attack bacteria cells. Herbal or other alternatives may boost the immune system in some way, but there's no way to know how effective they are."
JUN LIU , associate professor, department of medical genetics and microbiology, U of T
"Antibiotics revolutionized medicine. People used to die of infections, and there wasn't a lot that doctors could do. But antibiotics don't work for everything. They certainly do not work for viral infections, and most that people have now are viral. What's interesting is that if you stop using a specific antibiotic for a decade, bacteria that were almost totally resistant become sensitive again. We should be teaching people that sometimes they will feel bad . We can't cure everything."
JACK UETRECHT , professor, Leslie Dan Faculty of Pharmacy, department of medicine, U of T
"Antibiotics are most frequently prescribed for bronchitis and otitis media (middle ear infection). Studies, however, have found little or no benefit in using antibiotics for these. To treat bronchitis, open the airways and expel mucus. Expectorants include eucalyptus (inhaled), licorice, horehound and thyme. Garlic is antibacterial and an immune stimulator. For otitis media, ear drops that contain mullein and garlic can be useful.
CINDY JONES , author, The Antibiotic Alternative, Lakewood, Colorada
"Some of our customers use colloidal silver because they havent had any success with traditional antibiotics. Personally, I use it myself and on my children as well. We rarely get sick any more. It attacks the enzyme that one-celled organisms need in order to live. Our recommendation is to take it every day when dealing with infections."
SHERRIE YEE , owner, Silver Health Products Inc., BC
"There are silver preparations you can use topically, but based on toxicology, there is no reason to take colloical silver by mouth. It can result in burning the throat, abdominal pain and diarrhea. In larger doses it can cause swelling of the lungs, the breakdown of blood cells, coma or agranulocytosis, which reduces production of red and white cells."
AKHIL WADHERA , physician, Kaiser Permanente Medical Group, Fremont, California