We bet there are many of you reading this article who think nothing
of taking Vitamin C and lots of liquids for a cold or using Aloe Vera gel for a burn. But, how many of you think about using natural treatments for bladder or vaginal infections, for a strep throat, or for more serious infections such as hepatitis or pneumonia? Most of the time the proper use of natural substances such as vitamins and herbs and homeopathic remedies will help you get over these conditions.
But it's important to know what works best for each
condition, evaluate whether or not it's working, and to assess the consequences
of unsuccessful treatment. In the case of hepatitis, for example, orthodox
medicine has no real treatment, so you've got nothing to lose and everything to
gain. (We've seen Hepatitis A cases respond within a week to a combination of
nutrititional supplements, herbal liver support, and homeopathy.) With
pneumonia, strep throat, and bladder infections, on the other hand, we monitor
our patients very carefully. We recommend natural treatment for nearly all
types of infections, with the exception of gonorrhea and chlamydia, both of
which are often asymptomatic in women and can result in permanent infertility
if not emiminated.In such cases, there are natural interventions which are
helpful following antibiotic treatment. Otherwise, we refer out only a few
times a year for antibiotic treatment because natural alternatives work so
well. If your infection is minor, you can try some of these suggestions
yourself; otherwise be sure to consult a naturopathic physician.
Antibiotics have a number of drawbacks. They kill bacteria
indiscriminately throughout the body. That's their job. So, if you have a strep
throat, for example, the antibiotic you take kills the good bacteria,
lactobacillus, in the gut and the vagina, which you need to crowd out Candida
(yeast) if it arises. That's why vaginal and intestinal yeast infections are so
common after antibiotic use. Antibiotics are often prescribed routinely,
without any evidence of infection, with a "just in case, it can't hurt "
mentality. Antibiotics have no effect on viruses, but are routinely prescribed
anyway. When taken repeatedly, they can weaken, rather than strengthen, the
immune system, and may lead to more serious problems later. This is especially
true when antibiotics are given for years, as tetracycline for acne, or when,
as with resistant bladder infections, one antibiotic is followed,
unsuccesfully, by yet another stronger one. There are many effective natural
alternatives which work with, rather than against, the body's own healing
mechanisms. Why not try them first and save antibiotics for a last resort?
There are many more infections than we can mention in a short column. We
include here a few of the most common and troublesome infections to inspire you
to use natural remedies.
General recommendations for infections: Eliminate caffeine,
alcohol, sugar, refined foods, meat, and dairy while you have an acute
infection. Eat lightly. Drink lots of hot, warm, and room-temperature beverages
such as herb tea. Juice fasting, or even water for a couple of days, can be
very helpful during an infection. Enemas can help flush the system. We suggest
vitamin C, beta carotene, and zinc to strengthen the immune system. Herbs such
as Echinacea and Hydrastis (goldenseal) can help support the immune system, but
more specific herbs are often more helpful. Saunas and steam baths can also be
helpful in detoxifying the system during infections. Massage can speed up the
elimination of toxins, particularly a garlic oil foot massage. Listen to what
your body's trying to tell you and ask it what it needs. REST! Don't keep
pushing yourself past your limit when you're sick. It may take you twice as
long to recover.
Throat infections: Even if you have a strep throat (diagnosed by a
throat culture), natu- ral therapies can be very useful, but it's important to
verify through a blood test that no strep is lingering because on occasion an
undetected strep throat infection can lead to kidney, joint, or heart problems.
Throat infections often respond well to gargles such as salt water, Calendula,
goldenseal, myrrh, or oil of bitter orange. There are lots of excellent herbal
throat lozenges available. Homeopathy works great for throat infections. We
often use Belladonna, Lachesis, Lycopodium, Phytolacca, and Mercurius for sore
throats . We recently treated a case of strep throat with a very unusual
remedy, Spigelia, with a complete relief from pain within two days.
Skin infections: A mixture of Calendula and Hypericum tincture is
what we use for bac- terial skin infections. Other herbs commonly used are
goldenseal, comfrey, and plantain. Boils and cysts can be successfully treated
with hot packs, ginger poultices, and epsom salt soaks and homeopathic remedies
such as Silica and Hepar sulphuris. Fungal infections often respond well also
to homeopathy or to dilute vinegar applications. Also effective are turmeric
powder and Tee Tree oil applied topically.
Bladder infections: A word of caution with bladder infections-treat
them immediately. The longer you wait, the more pain and the greater the chance
of a kidney infection and ending up on antibiotics. We recommend lots of water,
cranberry juice or capsules, herbs (commonly Hydrastis, Uva Ursi, Bucchu,
Chimaphilia, Berberis, and others) and homeopathy (remedies such as
Staphysagria, Cantharis, Apis, and Sarsaparilla, to name a few).
Sinus infections: Rememember, no dairy! Drink lots of hot ginger
tea. We use a great Ayurvedic combination called Sitopaladi to break up mucus.
Homeopathic remedies such as Kali bichromicum, Pulsatilla, Mercurius, Natrum
muriaticum, and Allium cepa work well. Use a neti pot to irrigate your sinuses
with warm salt water. Treat yourself to a sauna or steam bath.
We could mention ear infections, conjunctivitis, vaginal infections,
and many more, but hopefully we've conveyed the idea that there are effective
natural treatments for all of them.
Be sure to consult a doctor if your own efforts don't work, and to get the
necessary tests such as a strep culture, chest X-ray, etc. And, regardless of
which method you use for your healing, remember to check in with your inner
self to understand what the purpose of the illness is for you, what you can
learn from it, and what will bring the deepest healing.
Drs. Judyth Reichenberg-Ullman and Robert Ullman are naturopathic and
homeopathic physicians and cofounders of the Northwest Center for Homeopathic
Medicine in Edmonds, WA. They are coauthors of The Patient's Guide to
Homeopathic Medicine and Beyond Ritalin: Homeopathic Treatment of ADD
and Other Behavioral and Learning Problems. They can be reached at (206)