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Herbal Antibiotics

In general, our understanding of herbal antibiotics has been thin. By thin I mean we've been stuck in a paradigm of "take this for that" or "what's that plant good for" or even "the active constituent of Hpericum perfoliatum should be standardized in order for the plant to be effective in the treatment of mild depression (reductionist herbal schools)."

Given the seriousness of the emerging bacterial diseases, we need to have a more comprehensive paradigm in place, one that takes into account the potential sophistication of herbal medicine as a very ancient art form of healing, one that uses both perceptual and intellectual awareness, as well as a focus on outcomes, in its expression. The importance of systemic herbal antibacterials cannot be overstated.

Many resistant disease, such as staph, are widely spread throughout the body. They can affect internal organs, invade difficult-to-reach parts of the body, or, very commonly, infected the skin (from the inside rater than outside), appearing as skin ulcerations. To treat a systemic infection like staph, an herbal antibiotic that is systemically spread throughout the body is necessary. We need to know systemics as a category and we need to really know how to use them. We need to move from herbals as a kind of "let's -eat-organic-today" choice to a "we-can-depend-on-this-for-our-life" form of healing.

When herbs are taken into the body, some just stay pretty much in the GI tract, whereas others cross the intestinal membranes and circulate in the body, often concentrating in particular locations; the liver or kidneys, for instance. But one class of herbs is always broadly systemic. Once ingested they concentrate in the bloodstream (and sometimes the liver) and are widely circulated, reaching every cell that needs a constant blood supply, which is pretty much every cell in the body. These are the herbs that have traditionally been used to treat malaria. Many, if not most of them, also tend to possess rather strong antibacterial actions, sometimes broadly so.

It is important, however, to make a distinction between the two common types of malarial herbs, for not all malarial herbs are true antimalarials.

Some malarial herbs are widely systemic and actually do kill the parasites responsible for malaria, but others only treat some of the symptoms of the diseases such as fever or chills. many researchers have not understood the distinction and so they may list an herb as being used for malaria when in fact it is only being used as an adjunct herb to treat one of the symptoms of malaria; for instance, when yarrow is used to treat malaria fevers.

Yarrow isn't a systemic antimalarial (even though it does have some mild actions against the parasite) but, rather, is a diaphoretic adjunct. It helps reduce fevers because it induces sweating, which cools the body. When researching the ethnobotanical literature, it is crucial to understand this distinction between the different kinds of malarial herbs. Once you do, their study begins to open up the wider world of systemic antibacterials.

Systemic antibacterial herbs have often been used for centuries in the treatment of malaria simply because one of their antimicrobial actions is against malarial organisms. But they are often widely active against other organisms and can be very powerful. (Systemic antibacterial may also be found in a particular category of Chinese medicine - plants for toxic blood.)

Top 5 Systemic Herbal Antibiotics

  • Cryptolepis

  • Sida

  • Alchornea

  • Bidens

  • Artemisia


The first systemic herbal antibiotic I began to understand was Cryptolepis sanguinolenta, a traditional herbal medicine from Ghana. I have used cryptolepis on numerous occasions to treat systemic staph infections that have not responded to multiple antibiotic regimens. It has, so far, never failed. I consider this plant, along with alchornea, sida, and bidens, to the primary systemic herbal antibiotic for use in treating resistant organisms at this time.

Parts Used

The root is usually the part used medicinally. The leaves can be used medicinally but rarely are. The root of the plant is generally about the thickness of a pencil, appears to be fairly consistent in thickness over long lengths, and has a light tannish color on the thin exterior bard and a brilliant yellow on the interior. It's pretty. The root is exceptionally bitter due to the many alkaloids present.



For bacterial infections of the skin and wound sepsis, liberally sprinkle cryptolepis powder on the site of infection as frequently as needed.


1:5 60% alcohol 20~40 drops up to 4 times/day

  • For resistant staph: In the treatment of severe systemic staph infection, the usual dose is 1/2~1 tsp, 3x daily. In very severe cases increase the dose to 1tbl, 3x daily. ( I prefer to not use dosages this high for longer than 60 days. That is usually sufficient.)

  • For malaria: 1tsp ~ 1tbl, 3x daily for 5 days, repeat in 14 days


Use 1 tsp cryptolepis in 6 oz water to make a strong infusion.

  • As a preventive: Drink 1 or 2 cups daily.

  • In acute conditions: Drink up to 6 cups daily.

Note: While the herb will not work if infused in cold water, studies have found that the hot-water extraction is more effective. It is nearly as strong as the alcohol tincture.


As a preventive: Take 3 "00" capsules 2x daily

In acute conditions: Take up to 20 capsules daily.

Side Effects and Contraindications

None noted. Considerable research has taken place to determine the potential adverse reactions from using the plant, and none have been found, either in human clinical use or with in vivo testing on mice, rats, and rabbits. The herb is taken as a regular tonic for years at a time in some parts of Africa and India. 1 or 2 cups of the tea or 2~3 droppers of the tincture (60~90 drops) a day are fine for extended, long-term use. Researchers in some instances have noted that people taking cryptolepis have elevated levels of ALP (alkaline phosphatase ) and uric acid, which return to normal after the herb is discontinued. There have been no reported side effects from this.

Herb/Drug Interactions

None noted. However...cryptolepis has been used in traditional medicine to help rectify insomnia. There is some potential for the plant to synergies with hypnosedatives or central nervous system depressant


- Actions -


Anticomplementary activity









Antivial (mild)




Renal vasodilator

- Active Against -

Aspergillus spp.

Babesia spp.

Bacillus subtilis

Campylobacter spp.

Candida spp.

Entamoeba histolytica

Enterobacter cloacase

Escherichia coli

Herpes simplex

Klebsiella spp.

Mycobacterium spp.

Neisseria gonorrhoeae

Plasmodium spp.

Proteus mirabilis

Proteus vulgaris

Salmonella spp.

Shigella dysentariae

Staphylococcus aureus

Streptococcus pyogenes

Tests have found the plant to be a stronger antibacterial than the pharmaceutical antibiotic chloramphenicol. Generally, it is more broadly active against Gram-positive bacteria (which are usually easier to treat due to their cellular structure), but it does have potent activity against a number of Gram-negative bacteria.

- Use to Treat -

Systemic infections, especially malaria, MRSA, streptococcus, babesia, campylobacter, urinary tract infections, tuberculosis, wound sepsis. It is very good for several Gram-negative bacterial infections: klebsiella, salmonella, shigella, E.coli, enterobacter, gonorrhea, and most limey pseudomonas

- Other Uses -

The root has long been used a a brilliant yellow dye in the regions in which it grows; hence its common name, yellow dye root.

Traditional Uses of Cryptolepis

Cryptolepis has been successfully used for centuries by traditional African healers in the treatment of malaria, fevers, and diarrhea.

Congo --- Amoebic infection, including dysentery

DR Congo --- Colic, stomach complains

Ghana --- Malaria, fever

Guinea-Bissau --- Fever, hepatitis, jaundice

Nigeria --- UTI, upper respiratory tract infections, colic, stomach complaints, venereal disease, rheumatism, as a general tonic

Senegal --- Colic and stomach complaints, general disease rheumatism, as a general tonic

Uganda --- Colic and stomach complaints, wounds, snakebite, hernia

Zaire --- Stomach and intestinal diseases


Cryptolepis buchanani has been used in traditional Ayurvedic practice for millennia. It is widely distributed throughout Pakistan, India, Nepal, Bhutan, Myanmar, China, Thailand and Sri Lanka. It is considered an invasive weed in many areas (a useful sign of medicinal importance). In Thailand alcohol extracts of the plant have been used as a primary anti-inflammatory in the treatment of arthritis, muscle and joint pain, and rheumatism.

Antibacterial and Other Properties

Cryptolepis is also broadly antibacterial. It has been tested against over 100 strains of campylobacter bacteria and found strongly effective against all of them. The tincture is more effective than co-trimoxazole and sulfamethoxazole, and equal to ampicillin.

Cryptolepis is active against cholera but is not as strong in effects as tetracycline. It has been hound to be broadly active against a number of enteropathogenic microorganisms including Shigellla dysentariae, Entamoeba histolytica, and E.coli. It is especially potent in the treatment of resistant staph, Streptococcus pyogenes, numerous strains of tuberculosis (Mycobacterium spp.), and trinary tract infections caused by enterobacter and klebsiella bacteria. The activity against such a wide rage of organisms bears out its traditional use for many of the disease that these organisms cause.

Cryptolepis also posseses anti hyper glycemic properties, making it a potentioal antidaiabetic herb. The isolated constituent cryptolepis lowered glucose levels in mouse models of type 2 diabetes, caused a decline in insulin levels, and enhanced glucose uptake. Several patents have been granted in this area.

The herb is strongly hypothermic, which means it lowers body temperature, a main reason why it has been found so effective in the treatment of fevers. It is also why it has been found to be active against a number of cancer lines and is stimulating interest as a potential anti cacer agent.



Common Names: Most of the species in this genus are commonly called something to do with "fanpetals," and in fact the sides are sometimes referred to as the fanpetals.

Species Used: There are about 150 species of the genus Sida. They are distributed throughout the world. The main medicinal species that has been studied is Sida acuta.

Pats Used

The whole plant --- roots, leaves, stems, seeds. Most people tend to just use the aerial parts for the simplicity of harvest and ecological soundness. More practically, harvesting the root of a mature plant in this genus is as difficult as conveying to a politician the meaning of the word integrity. It is a tough, tough root to dig up. Nevertheless, S. acuta is considered an invasive botanical in many countries and most people are happy if you just take the whole damn thing.

Preparation and Dosage


For bacterial infections of the skink wound sepsis, and eczema, liberally sprinkle the powder on the site of infection as frequently as needed.


  • As a preventive: Take 3 "00" capsules 3 x daily

  • In acute conditions: Take up to 30 capsules daily. Or you can just use 1 ~3 tablespoons powder in water or juice


1:5 60% alcohol 20 ~40 drops up to 4 x daily

For resistant staph: In the treatment of severe systemic staph infection the usual dose is 1/2 tsp ~ 1 tbl, 3~6 x daily. ( I prefer to not use dosages this high for longer than 60 days. That is usually sufficient.)


Use 1 ~ 2 tsp of the powdered leaves in 6 oz water; let steep 15 minutes.

  • As a preventive: Drink 1 or 2 cups daily.

  • In acute conditions: Drink up to 10 cups daily.

  • For eye infections: Use the cool tea as eyedrops, 1 ~ 3 drops as needed, 3 ~ 6 x a day.

Note: while the herb will work if infused in cold water, studies have found that the hot-water extraction is more effective. t is nearly as strong as the alcohol tincture. Also because the plant's primary active constituents are alkaloids, the water used for the infusion must be acidic.*

Side Effects and Contraindications

None noted, known, or reported; however, the herb is traditionally used to prevent pregnancy. It does inter free with egg implantation in mice. The herb should not be used in patients who are trying to get pregnant or are newly pregnant.

Properties of Sida




Anthelmintic (fresh leaf juice)



Anticancer (antineoplastic, antiproliferative)

Antifertility activity (inhibits egg implantation in mice)








Antivenin activity







Active Against

(Sida acuta is active against):

Babesia spp.

Bacillus spp.

Escherichia coli

Herpes simplex

Listeria innocua

Mycobacterium phlei

Pasteurella multicocida

Plasmodium spp.

Salmonella typhirmurim

Shigella boydii

Shigella dysentariae

Shigella flexneri

Staphylococcus aureus

Streptococcus pyogenes

The plant is apparently less active against pseudomonas aeruginosa, Candida spp., Aspergillus niger.

Use to Treat


Cancer of the blood



Eye infections (as eyedrops)


Infected wounds


Skin rashes such as eczema and impetigo

Systemic staph infections


Other Uses

Sida is very high in protein, being 16% ~ 25% protein depending on how its grown. Some cultures use it as a pot herb; it is possible to use it as a primary protein source. I have not eaten sida, but the tincture is delicious, one of the few that delights the tongue.

Many cultures use the plant's twig in making brooms. From all reports they are exceptionally long lasting and useful given the hardiness of the wood. The bark from the stems of most species has been used for making cords, ropes, and twine; the bark from S. acuta can be used for making canvas and fishnets as well, hence the "jute" designation for some of the species.



Common Names: Spanish needles, beggar ticks, demon spike grass, needle grass, and a lot of other names.

Species Used: There are about 200 species in the Bidens genus. Bidens pilosa is the main species used medicinally, but there seem to be a huber of others in the genus that historical use and early research indicate can almost certainly be used similarly: B.frondosa, B.tripartitus, B.ferulaefolia, B.alba are all fairly potent.

Parts Used

Usually the aerial parts, but the entire plant is active. The fresh leaves are often used and a number of studies show the fresh leaves and juice of the plant to be most antimicrobial. Drying the plant reduces its antimicrobial action considerably.

Preparation and Dosage

The most potent forms of this herb are alcohol tinctures and the fresh juice. The most potent constituents are considerable more soluble in alcohol than in water. Some of the plant's most potent constituents oxidize easily and begin to d degrade as soon as the plant is dried. Heat also destroys them. A tincture is the strings form of the herb as medicine. The use of pipeline as a synergist will increase the potency of the plant considerably.


Fresh plant, 1:2 95% alcohol, 45 ~ 90 drops in water, up to 4x daily.

Dried plant, 1:5 50% alcohol, triple the dose of fresh tincture.

Fresh Juice

You can run the leaves through a juicer to obtain a decent quantity of the fresh juice --- the plants are pretty prolific. Be aware that they have strong fibers that will bind the juicer and you'll have to clean it often. Use the juice on infected wounds, for eye infections, or internally for systemic infections. If you want, you can stabilize the juice with the addition of 20% alcohol so that it will keep. It can then be taken internally much like the tincture, though it will be more potent in its actions. Dosages are similar to those listed for the tincture.

Properties of Bidens










Blood tonic








Mucus membrane tonic

Prostaglandin synthesis inhibitor



-Active Against-

Bacillus cereus

Bacillus subtilis

Candida albicans

Human cytomegalovirus

Entamoeba histolytica

Enterococcus faecalis (Streptococcus faecalis)

Escherichia coli

Herpes simplex 1 and 2

Klebsiella pneumoniae

Leishmania amazonesis

Mycobacterium tuberculosis

Neisseria gonorrhhoeae

Plasmodium spp.

Pseudomonas aeruginosa

salmonella spp.

Serratia marcescenes

Shigella flexneri

Staphulococcus aureus

Staphylococcus epidermidis

Use to Treat

1) Any systemic infections that are accompanied by problems in the mucus membranes anywhere in the body, especially chronic diarrhea, dysentery, UTI, vaginitis, and inflamed respiratory passages

2) Systemic staph

3) Malaria, babesia, leishmania

​4) Any of the other resistant organisms bedizens is active against

Side Effects and Contraindications

None noted; however, be aware that Bidens pilosa's leaves have numerous sharply pointed microhairs around the margins that are very high in silica. This kind of silica formation has been linked to esophageal cancer in certain domesticated animals (cows) and humans. Tribal cultures that eat large quantities of the plant as a primary food source show increased level of that type of cancer. Cultures that use the plant only sporadically for food do not have an increased incidence of cancer.

Note: It should not be harvested from sites where there is heavy metal contamination. Bidons pilosa is a toxic- waste reclamation plant. Numerous studies have found it to be a potent phytoremediation plant for cadmium and one study showed the same for arsenic; another indicates it may have an affinity for heavy metals in general.

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