Ancient Antibiotics in Modern Medicine

Apr, 13, 2016

By Emma Grace Fairchild:

As the medicine and drug industries grow and change, so do the things they are trying to fight — disease causing bacteria. The combination of rampant antibiotic use since the discovery of penicillin and the natural ability for bacteria to quickly evolve has resulted in a growing problem of antibiotic resistant strains called “super bugs” that pose a significant threat to global health.

Antibiotic resistance is so widespread today that many people have experienced it firsthand. For antibiotic resistanceexample, any time treatment for an illness requires two different antibiotics, it can be attributed to the rapid evolution of bacteria against the drugs that try to kill them. MRSA, or methicillin resistant Staphylococcus aureus, is perhaps the most familiar antibiotic resistant infection and is increasingly common in hospitals and other health care facilities. Gonorrhea is another bacteria that is winning against antibiotics. Since being treated with antibiotics, the bacteria is now resistant to three of the five treatments available, and doctors around the world are seeing the first signs of resistance to the remaining antibiotic regimens. When medications no longer treat the illnesses we expect them to cure, we will face a health crisis yet unseen since the 1950s, and going to the doctor for a routine bacterial infection could become much more unreliable. We are essentially in a race with bacteria and, if we lose, we will become unable to treat infections.

Although the reality of antibiotic resistant bacteria is cause for serious concern, the situation isn’t hopeless. After all, before we had widespread antibiotics, there were countless remedies and treatments for all illnesses. While some were purely fiction (opium, for example, was a common cure-all), modern scientists are now giving a second look to many traditional medicinal treatments that could potentially fight antibiotic resistant strains of bacteria. Some of the first treatments for bacterial infections were honey and moldy bread, as were garlic and wine; and many cultures around the world used different clays as a common remedy. In alternative health circles today, common herbal replacements for antibiotics also include ginger, apple cider vinegar, lemon, and concoctions such as fire cider. antibiotic-resistance-comic

The scientific community is now taking a closer look at traditional folk remedies with the intention of being able to combat superbugs. At the University of Nottingham, a remedy from one of the world’s oldest medical textbooks is currently being studied for its ability to kill MRSA. It includes wine, garlic, and (strangely enough) cow bile, all mixed together and fermented under the strict instructions of this text. Dr. Christina Lee, a scientist involved in the study, reported that they were all shocked when the concoction killed 99% of the tested bacteria.

Other potential treatments of superbug infections include medicinal clay traditionally used by the First Nations of British Columbia, and naturally fermented mead from an ancient Swedish recipe. It seems that we may be returning to natural treatments to combat the global problem of antibiotic resistant bacteria.

For more information, there is an in-depth documentary called Resistance, which is available on Netflix and at http://www.resistancethefilm.com/. Al Jazeera also has a great piece that goes over the topic of antibiotic resistant bacteria in more detail.

Emma Grace

Emma Grace is a full time college student in San Diego with a background in raw food nutrition and holistic health. She has a passion for gardening, living a low impact and sustainable lifestyle, and loves animals. She lives on a collective community urban homestead with a backyard flock of hens, a bull dog, a snake, a tarantula and plenty of houseplants. In her free time she enjoys foraging for local fruits, playing guitar, writing, and reading. Aside from Green-Mom, Emma Grace also contributes to Baktun Raw Foods Blog and her school newspaper.

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