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 Herbal Medicine: A General Approach to Infection 
Because of the similarity of immune system involvement in bodily response to infection, it is possible to make some herbal generalizations. The details will vary with the nature of the disease, specific individual and other medication they might be taking. In the guidelines given here, the herbs mentioned are only suggestion. Each case has to be seen afresh.
  • Infection in general
a. Select the appropriate anti-microbial(s). Choose the most suited for :
    • the particular sight of infection
: Arctostaphylos uva-ursi for bladder infections,
: Commiphora mol-mol topically for the skin;
  • age of the person involved, i.e. gentler herbs for the young, old or debilitated
: Nepeta cataria as a diaphoretic for children
: Armoracia lapathifolia (Horseradish) as a diaphoretic for adults;

specifics for the particular pathogen (unfortunate this is not always possible).

b. Always use with tonic remedies. These may be selected based upon:
  • the sight of infection
    • Verbascum thapsus in lung infections,
    • Galium aparine for lymphatic tissue infections;

  • specific prevention issues in that individual,
    • Crataegus spp. if there is any concern about cardio-vascular issues,
    • Ginkgo biloba for an elderly patient;

  • broader insights from their medical history or family history.

c. Support the body in dealing with any fever that might accompany the infection, using diaphoretics where appropriate.

d. Alleviate symptomatic discomfort if necessary. Specifics will vary with each infection.

Herbal support of anti-biotic therapy
There is no reason why the benefits of phytotherapy should not be utilized whilst anti-biotic treatment is underway. Assuming that they have been prescribed for appropriate reasons!

a. The herbal focus must be on tonics, helping the body cope with the intense bio-chemical battle that is underway within it. Selection can be based upon these criteria :
  • the sight of infection,
  • support of the digestive system and liver as intestinal side-effects are common,
  • specific prevention issues in that individual,
  • broader insights from their medical history or family history.

b. Immune support is appropriate but don't try and duplicate the work of the antibiotics by using excessive amounts of Echinacea!

c. Symptomatic support if appropriate.

Recuperation following antibiotic therapy
Once a course of antibiotics has been completed, herbs may be used to speed convalescence, hopefully to avoid any recurrence of the infection and prevent secondary problems that may result from the temporarily weakened immune response.

a. Focus on general nutrition as well as herbal tonics :
  • bitters to safely stimulate normal metabolism,
  • gentle diuretics and hepatics to support elimination,
  • specific tonics for the area of the body that had been the site of infection and/or the site of most symptomatic discomfort.

b. Immune support is important. This may be both deep and surface work. Put more focus on deep immune support if :
  • it is an chronic or recurring problem,
  • the patient is very debilitated following the infection,
  • the patient is elderly,
  • the patient is under much psychological/social/environmental stress and thus potentially immuno-compromised.

Manifestations of infection
Manifestations of infection are very diverse, varying with the organism involved, sight of infection, and the bodily response of the person involved. Common signs include:
  • Local inflammation at the site of the infection.
  • Systemic signs might include malaise, weakness, musculo/skeletal aches& pains, headache, anorexia, fever, chills. Herbal approaches to feverishness is discussed in the section on children.
  • An increase of leucocytes in the blood and other blood changes seen in the lab.

Infections in the Digestive System
Infections of the intestinal tract often manifest with Diarrhoea as a prominent symptom. Processes come into play that empty material from the gut in an attempt to remove the offending presence. Treatments should follow the guidelines given for Diarrhoea supported by the surface immune approach described previously. The essential oils containing herbs are especially useful here. If there is a chronic focus of infection it may take some form of colitis, please refer to that section. Important anti-microbials for the digestive system include:

Allium sativum Artemisia absinthium Capsicum minimum Carum carvi Coriandrumsativum Eugenia caryophyllata Gentiana lutea Hydrastis canadensis Rosemarinusofficinalis Thymus vulgaris

Infections in the Cardio-Vascular System
Infections effecting the heart and blood vessels can be extremely dangerous, for which herbalism is not the most appropriate therapy.

Infections in the Respiratory System

One of the commonest sights for infection in the body, but infections of the upper and lower respiratory system often respond well to herbal therapy. Please refer to the sections on bronchitis, sinusitis etc. Important anti-microbials for this system include:
Allium sativum Baptisia tinctoria Commiphora mol-mol
Echinacea spp. Eucalyptus spp. Hydrastis canadensis
Inula helenium Ligusticum porterii Myroxylon pereirae
Pimpinella anisum Populus candicans Thymus vulgaris Usnea

Infections in the Nervous System
Infection of nervous system tissue can be extremely dangerous and difficult to treat. Conditions such as meningitis are best treated allopathically, although the supportive role described above is fine. Consider a herbal approach to the treatment of shingles, an intransigent viral infection of the nerve ganglia.
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 About The Author
David Hoffmann BSc (Hons), MNIMHWhilst working in conservation and lecturing in ecology and the eco-crisis for the University of Wales, David Hoffman became convinced that to heal the world, to embrace planetary wholeness and responsibility for it......more
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