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Infection-fighting herbs

Published:Wednesday | June 24, 2015 | 12:00 AMTracey-Ann Brown
Aloe vera

Bacterial and fungal infections are an everyday part of life. Among the methods of treating these infections is the use of herbal preparations. Chinese herbal medicine has a wide range of herbs which can be used to address both bacterial and fungal infections and can be taken orally or applied topically.

A few of the more easily accessible herbs used in this category are:


GUI ZHI (Ramulus Cinnamomi - Cinnamon Twigs)


It may come as a surprise to many that cinnamon twigs have both antibacterial and antiviral properties, exerting an inhibitory effect against Staphylococcus aureus, Salmonella typhi and influenza viruses. Tea from 10-30 grams of the twigs may be used to make a decoction, which is ingested over the course of two days.


LIU HUANG (Sulfur)


Sulfur is a part of the treatment of a number of dermatological conditions. It is applied topically to kill parasites and relieve itching. Applications include eczema, fungal infections (e.g. ringworm) and herpetic lesions. Sulfur powder may be mixed with sesame oil and applied topically. Sulfur soap bars are also readily available in many pharmacies.


DA HUANG (Radix et Rhizoma Rhei - Rhubarb Root)


This root has a broad spectrum antibiotic effect and is most effective against Streptococcus and Staphylococcus bacteria.


FAN XIE YE (Folium Sennae - Senna Leaf)


This herb is used in cases of E. Coli and Candida Albicans and should be used with caution in persons who have hemorrhoids. The herb is usually steeped in hot water for no more than 15 minutes and taken as a tea. Dosage: 5-10g.


BO HE (Mentha Haplocalyx - Wild Mint)


Wild mint is used for fever due to infection and may also be used for rashes, eczema and general itching. 10-20g is taken four to eight times daily.


DA SUAN (Garlic bulb)


The garlic bulb has many indications, taken both orally and topically. It may be used in the following cases:

- Garlic has an antibiotic effect against Candida Albicans, Bacillus Dysenteriae and Salmonella Typhi.

- Diarrhea and dysentery: Eat one to two pieces of the fresh herb or tea once daily for six days.

- Rashes, itching and swelling of the skin: grind garlic with sesame oil and mix with salt into a paste and apply topically.

- Pinworm: mix with vegetable oil and apply topically around the anus.

Caution: topical use may cause redness, burning or blistering of the skin, so use moderately.


LU HUI (Aloe)


Aloe has an antibiotic effect with various degrees of inhibitory action against pathogenic fungi (e.g. ringworm). The powdered aloe may be applied to the skin to treat itching due to parasites and other skin conditions.

As much as some of the herbs described above are easily accessible, like any other herb caution should still be exercised in its application, particularly with pregnant or nursing women and persons who are very weak. It is generally advised that the advice of a trained herbalist be sought.

- Dr Tracey-Ann Brown is an oriental medicine practitioner, herbalist and doctor of acupuncture; email: