Willow-Herb Fights Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria

willowherb is antibiotic against superbugs

Willowherb. Photo by Ben Salter

Bacteria that have learned to resist our many antibiotic medicines are killing more and more people every year. Currently, about 700,000 people die around the world each year from antibiotic-resistant infections. And 23,000 people die every year just in the U.S. from bacteria that are resistant to multiple antibiotics – called multi-drug resistant bacteria or MDRs.

Furthermore, an analysis commissioned by the United Kingdom government, led by economist Jim O’Neill, found that deaths from MDRs may kill 10 million people a year by the year 2050.

Yes, we have discussed a number of natural strategies that will combat antibiotic-resistant bacteria in Heal Naturally. These have included raw honeys, goldenseal, garlic, citrus peels, ginseng leaf and several herbal essential oils. Now we can add a new one to this list of natural antibiotics.

But until doctors begin employing such natural strategies, there is a standard modality of treatment for MDRs: Screen the bacteria for resistance and employ the antibiotic that it seems to not be resistant to.

Despite the resistance screen, the treatment result often ends up being less accurate: Dose the infected person with multiple antibiotics – one after another – until finding the antibiotic that works (if any). A newer conventional strategy is to alternate antibiotic pharmaceuticals.

Whatever the antibiotic strategy, these intensive pharmaceutical antibiotic courses have one common result outside of their effect upon the bacterial infection: They often wrack the patient’s body with exhaustion and side effects.

These side effects include liver damage, headaches, gastrointestinal issues – not to mention they kill off the gut’s probiotic populations.

As we’ve shown with other research, employing natural strategies is not necessarily mutually exclusive. In other words, many of these natural antibiotic strategies are not only effective against MDRs: They are also synergistic with pharmaceutical antibiotic strategies.

Even better – they can be taken simultaneously and reduce the dosing of pharmaceutical antibiotics.

Let’s first discuss the research on one of these natural antibiotics.

Willow-Herb proves to be antibiotic

The research comes from Bucharest’s National Institute for Chemical-Pharmaceutical Research and Development. The study was published in the Open Chemistry Journal in March of 2016.

The researchers tested the Great Willow herb – Epilobi hirsute and its constituents against nine different strains of antibiotic resistant bacteria. These included strains of:

• Staphylococcus aureus (two strains)
• Enterococcus faecalis
• Staphylococcus epidermidis
• Pseudomonas aeruginosa
• Proteus mirabilis
• Escherichia coli (three strains)

The scientists utilized a method of measuring antibiotic activity by what is called Minimum Inhibitory Concentration or MIC. This assay means establishing the lowest concentration that prevents the growth of the bacteria overnight.

They tested a whole extract of the Willowherb leaf, and three extracts that selected for certain phenol constituents that are inside the Willowherb plant.

The researchers found that the whole extract and two of the selective extracts successfully fought off bacteria growth for five of the nine MDRs. MIC’s for these bacteria ranged from 50 micrograms GAE per milliliter. These included two of the S. aureus strains, S. epidermidis, P. mirabilis and P. aeruginosa bacteria. The activity against these bacteria, according to the researchers, was described as “good antimicrobial activity.”

Another one of the selective extracts showed good antibacterial activity against the S. epidermidis and on one of the S. aureus bacteria strains.

In other words, the Willowherb by itself proved to be an effective antibiotic against a majority of the antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

That speaks significantly to the fact that just because a bacteria strain has figured out how to evade pharmaceutical antibiotics, it won’t necessarily be able to evade nature’s antibiotics.

Willow-Herb synergistic with pharmaceutical antibiotics

On top of this significant finding, the researchers also established that the Willowherb extracts could be combined with pharmaceutical antibiotics – with the result of greater antibiotic activity.

Yes, combining treatment of the bacteria with Willowherb with antibiotic medicines all proved to increase their antibacterial effectiveness. Antibiotics tested included Ampicillin (a Penicillin), Gentamicin (Aminoglycoside), Tetracycline, Sulfamethoxazole-Trimethoprim (Sulphonamide), Ciprofloxacin (Fluoroquinolone) and Cefoxitine (Cephalosporin).

The researchers found that Tetracycline and Ampicillin were the antibiotics most successful in inhibiting many of the MDRs studied. But to the surprise of the researchers, the Willowherb plant extracts increased the effects of these antibiotics by as much as 61 percent.

The increased effectiveness ranged from 16 percent to 61 percent among the different antibiotics. In other words, when those active antibiotics were combined with Willowherb, they were significantly more effective against those resistant bacteria.

That means that less antibiotic would be needed to kill the same infection – when used alongside Willowherb.

This is a significant finding. The researchers stressed the importance of this finding:

“Together, these results demonstrate not only Epilobi hirsuti herba extracts own antimicrobial properties, but also the capacity to influence the antimicrobial potency of some common antibiotics. These results could be useful for the area of herbal medicines and as potential candidates in managing microbial resistance, but also for physicians and pharmacists using combined antibacterial therapy.”

Not the first study showing Willow-Herb’s antimicrobial effects

This isn’t the first time scientists have recognized Willowherbs’ – along with other Epilobium species’ – ability to inhibit microbes.

A study from the University La Sapienza found that Willowherb and related species – Epilobium angustifolium, E. palustre, E. tetragonum and E. rosmarinifolium – could not only inhibit bacteria: They also inhibited numerous strains of yeasts and other fungi.

Willow-Herb used for many other ailments

Willowherb is not the same as the Willow tree – from which Willow bark is derived. The Willow tree is Salix alba and related species. This is distinct from Epilobi hirsute.

As I discussed in my book on Arthritis, Willow bark is one of the most effective natural anti-inflammatory medicines around. Not only can Willow bark reduce inflammation: It can also significantly reduce pain.

Willowherb is also anti-inflammatory and analgesic. Willowherb and other Epilobium species such as E. rosmarinifolium have been shown to reduce inflammation and reduce acute pain.

A 2009 study from Hungary’s Semmelweis University found that Willowherb had significant antioxidant properties. These properties included significant free radical scavenging abilities.

This Willowherb species maintains numerous phytochemicals with many health properties. These include:

Ellagitannins, anthocianidins, miricetin, kaempferol, quercetin, gallic acid, macrocyclic tannins such as oenothein B, saponins, minerals, vitamins, volatile oils and essential amino acids.

These combine to form Willowherb’s effectiveness. But remember, it is nature’s synergy between these phytochemicals that produces those effects. It is a one-plus-one-equals-three scenario.

 

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REFERENCES:

HM Government. Review on Antimicrobial Resistance: Tackling drug-resistant infections globally. http://amr-review.org/ Accessed June 14, 2016.

Lucia Pirvu, Isabela Nicorescu, Cristina Hlevca, Bujor Albu, Valentin Nicorescu. Epilobi Hirsuti Herba Extracts Influence the In Vitro Activity of Common Antibiotics on Standard Bacteria. Open Chemistry. Volume 14, Issue 1, Pages 65–75, ISSN (Online) 2391-5420, DOI: 10.1515/chem-2016-0004, March 2016.

Battinelli L, Tita B, Evandri MG, Mazzanti G. Antimicrobial activity of Epilobium spp. extracts. Farmaco. 2001 May-Jul;56(5-7):345-8.

Hevesi Tóth B, Blazics B, Kéry A. Polyphenol composition and antioxidant capacity of Epilobium species. J Pharm Biomed Anal. 2009 Jan 15;49(1):26-31. doi: 10.1016/j.jpba.2008.09.047.

Case Adams is a California Naturopath with a PhD in Natural Health Sciences, and Board Certified Alternative Medicine Practitioner. He has authored 26 books on natural healing strategies. “My journey into writing about alternative medicine began about 9:30 one evening after I finished with a patient at the clinic I practiced at over a decade ago. I had just spent the last two hours explaining how diet, sleep and other lifestyle choices create health problems and how changes in these, along with certain herbal medicines and other natural strategies can radically yet safely turn ones health around. As I drove home that night, I realized I needed to get this knowledge out to more people. So I began writing about health with a mission to reach those who desperately need this information. The strategies in my books and articles are backed by scientific evidence along with wisdom handed down through traditional medicines for thousands of years.”

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