All of us are prone to all manner of infections during the summer - from athlete's foot and holiday tummy to more serious infections like malaria. Conventional medicine offers little in the way of cure other than antibiotics, which only kill off bacterial microorganisms - assuming they are not resistant.
In my practice, I've developed an effective, alternative medicine chest to tackle the thorniest infections. Here's a sampling of some of the best of these remedies.
* Influenza-like infections: I've used Echinacea purpurea root extract with great success, but only in high doses (900 mg). In a study of patients with flu, low-dose Echinacea (450 mg) was no better than a placebo (Z Phytother, 1992; 13: 7-13).
* Bacterial, fungal and protozoal infections: My herbs of choice are Berberis vulgaris (barberry root bark, my personal favourite), Hydrastis canadensis (goldenseal) and B. aquifolium (Oregon grape root) - all contain berberine. There's plenty of scientific evidence that these berberine compounds can kill bacteria, fungi and protozoa (Can J Microbiol, 1969; 15: 1067-76; Antimicrob Agents Chemother, 1988; 32: 1370-4; Ann Trop Med Parasitol, 1991; 85: 417-25).
* Bladder and urinary tract infections: The classical treatment is cranberry juice, but for those who don't like it or react to it, I prescribe blueberry juice. Like cranberry juice, blueberry juice stops Escherichia coli from adhering to the urinary tract walls by about 80 per cent. Out of seven juices, only blueberry and cranberry inhibited E. coli from taking hold (N Engl J Med, 1991; 324: 1599).
* A general all-purpose antiviral: For this, nothing beats good old garlic (Allium sativum). Eating fresh garlic has proven virucidal activity against a wide variety of viruses. As for commercial products, choose those with the highest levels of both allicin and allyl methyl thiosulphinate you can find, as these have proved to work best (Planta Med, 1992; 58: 417-23).
* Dermatophytic fungi (toenail fungi): Believe it or not, garlic also works against fungi. In one study, four patients with toenail fungi who'd been using clotrimazole cream for some time, with no success, carried on with the cream, but began eating two fresh cloves of garlic with each meal. This regime finally finished off the infection (Chin Med J, 1980; 93: 123; Int J Dermatol, 1980; 19: 285; Med Hypoth, 1983; 12: 227-37).
* Ringworm, pityriasis versicolor and other fungal skin conditions: Naturopathic physicians like me often use papaya (pawpaw) to treat ringworm, pityriasis versicolor and certain other parasitic fungal skin infections. First, mash up green papaya in vinegar and apply this to the ringworm or pityriasis versicolor once a day for three days (Steinmetz E,. Codex Vegetabilis, Amsterdam: Steinmetz, 1957).
* Coxsackie B viral myocarditis: With this viral infection (associated with depressed natural-killer [NK] cell activity), research shows that taking Astragalus (milk vetch root) for four months will increase NK activity fourfold (Chin Med J, 1990; 103: 304-7).
* Malaria and paludal fever: In Oriental medicine, the dried kernels of the Java brucea fruit (ya dan zi or atanshi) have proved effective against the malarial parasite as well as paludal fever, with less than a 6 per cent recurrence rate (Bensky D, Gamble A. Chinese Herbal Medicine: Materia Medica, revised edn, Seattle, WA: Eastland Press, 1993: 97-8).
Harald Gaier is a registered naturopath, osteopath, homoeopath and herbalist. He can be contacted at The Diagnostic Clinic, London, tel: 020 7009 4650