Antimicrobial vs. antibiotic.

Date: Mon, 10 Jun 1996 12:07:06 -0700
From: Howie Brounstein <howieb.TELEPORT.COM>
Subject: "Herbal Antibiotics" was lyme disease

>Oregon grape is a powerful antibiotic. It is best known as a lymthatic and liver stimulating blood cleanser.


Just a matter of definition. Oregon Grape is not an antibiotic. It is antibacterial working on a broad range of bacteria. You could use Oregon Grape like an antibiotic, it's effect would appear to be that of an antibiotic, but its biological actions are nothing like an antibiotic. So let's replace that word. In fact most of the "herbal antiobiotics" are not antiobiotics at all, but antibacterials, antivirals,etc.

It is a very easy mistake to make because these herbs can replace antibiotics.

From: Howie Brounstein <howieb.TELEPORT.COM>

>Why do you consider antibiotics different from antibacterials, etc.? Is penicillin, for example, an antibiotic by this definition? Most people consider it to be an antibiotic, but it is pretty specifically targeted at bacteria.
> Antibacterials, antivirals, antifungals, et al. are all antibiotics of a sort, but not all antibiotics are antibacterial. (or antiviral, or etc.) The word usually refers to antibacterials in common usage however. Kind of like geometry- a square is a rectangle, but not all rectangles are squares.

Yes and no. we could say it's just playing with words ... but I disagree.

Let's start with definitions. Goodman and Gilman in the Pharmacological Principles of Therapeutics define antibiotics as (bold is mine): "Chemical substances produced by various species of microorganisms (bacteria, fungus, actinomycetes) that suppress the growth of of other microorganisms and may eventually destroy them. (ok, some are now synthetic copies)

The antimicrobial herbs are not chemicals; they are whole plants with complex effects, and they are not produced by microorganisms.

The reason I try to keep this definition straight in the minds of those newly introduced to herbs, is because antibiotics as a group of chemicals have certain side effects .... allergic reactions, messed up intestinal flora, hepatic or renal concerns, compromised immune system responses, etc. Many folks are wary of antibiotics after bad reactions, and or can't take them because of liver or kidney problems.

Herbs that fight infections, like Echinacea or Oregon grape, as a whole do not exhibit these side effects. They act in a completely different manner (mechanism of action). Echinacea itself doesn't inhibit the invading bacterial or growth; it increases white blood cell count ... increasing the bodies own natural defense system. Lomatium isn't antiviral in itself; it increases phagocytosis, that is, causes the white blood cells to "eat more viruses", thus increasing the bodies own defense system. Oregon Grape is antimicrobial, inhibiting bacterial growth, but also stimulates liver function (clean out that crap) acts as a bitter to increase GI tract functions (better absorption of nutrients, elimination of wastes, etc), and many indeed bring on a whole slew of natural defenses like a fever.

Indeed, I would call these herbs alteratives: substances which increase the bodies own natural defense systems in the presence of disease.

So even though both antibiotics and alteratives achieve the same end, they are not the same. And I consider it more than just words: They act differently; they have different "side effects;" those that can't take antibiotics due to allergies can take alterative herbs. Those that can't take antibiotics due to impaired kidney or liver functions can take alterative herbs that may actually help impaired liver or kidney function.

I've crossed out "herbal antibiotic" from the big book of words I carry around my neuropathways, so that those learning herbs for the first time aren't led into misconceptions.