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“It’s the end of the road for antibiotics unless we act urgently,” - Dr. Tom Friedman
For the first time in the United States, a person has been infected with a bacteria that is resistant to the antibiotic of last resort. The woman was infected with E. coli—a common cause of urinary tract infections—that was resistant to colistin, an antibiotic with harsh side effects that is used to treat bacteria that have proven resistant to everything else. That means there are bacteria in the U.S. for which there may be no pharmaceutical treatment. “It’s the end of the road for antibiotics unless we act urgently,” said Dr. Tom Friedman, the director of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
This latest story in the end of the road for antibiotics represents one more chapter in the end of modern medicine.
As early as 1929, Alexander Fleming, the discoverer of penicillin, had already drawn attention to the troubling fact that many bacteria were resistant to penicillin. In 1945, he warned that improper use of penicillin would lead to the development of resistant bacteria. No one listened.
Now the World Health Organization (WHO) has picked up his cry in its 2014 report, “Antimicrobial Resistance”. The United Nations organization begins its report by saying,
For several decades antimicrobial resistance (AMR) has been a growing threat to the effective treatment of an ever-increasing range of infections caused by bacteria, parasites, viruses and fungi. AMR results in reduced efficacy of antibacterial, antiparasitic, antiviral and antifungal drugs, making the treatment of patients difficult, costly, or even impossible.
The report lays the blame firmly on modern medicine and modern farming:
. . . antibacterial drugs . . . have been extensively misused in both humans and food-producing animals in ways that favour the selection and spread of resistant bacteria.” The result of the misuse of antibiotics is that “antibacterial drugs have become less effective or even ineffective, resulting in an accelerating global health security emergency . . . .” The report then offers the apocalyptic conclusion that “. . . progress in modern medicine, which relies on the availability of effective antibacterial drugs, is now at risk. . . .
Antimicrobial Resistant Bacteria: the Global Medical Emergency
E. coli is the most frequent cause of urinary tract infections (UTI) and kidney infections. 30% of all E. coli UTI’s are now resistant to treatment. A decade ago, the number was only 5%. A new strain of UTI causing E. coli, called ST131, which appeared in 2008, is strongly resistant. The high resistance of E. coli means that available treatments for UTI’s are now limited. E. coli is also the most frequent cause of blood stream infections.
E. coli has reached 50% or more resistance in 5 out of 6 WHO regions.
Streptococcus pneumonia causes meningitis, sinusitis and ear infections and is the leading cause of pneumonia. Streptococcus pyrogenes is the cause of strep throat. Streptococcus pneumonia has reached 50% or more resistance in 6 out of 6 WHO regions.
Salmonella causes diarrhoea from food poisoning and blood stream infections. It is becoming harder to treat because it has developed multi-drug resistance. Salmonella has reached 50% or more resistance in all 6 WHO regions.
Shigella is another major cause of diarrhoea from bacillary dysenteria. Most strains of shigella are now resistant to nearly all affordable antibiotics. Shigella has reached 50% or more resistance in 2 out of 6 WHO regions.
Klebsiella Pneumonia can cause pneumonia, blood stream infections, UTI’s, diarrhoea, meningitis and respiratory infections. Klebsiella Pneumonia has reached 50% or more resistance in 2-6 out of 6 WHO regions, depending on the drug.
Staphylococcus Aureus is the most common cause of postoperative wound infection. It can cause infections of the skin, soft tissue, bone and blood stream. It has become resistant to commonly used antibiotics. Methicillin- Resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) has been much in the news for the trouble it has caused in hospitals. It has reached 50% or more resistance in 5 out of 6 WHO regions.
Other bacteria are also becoming increasingly problematic. Tuberculosis is becoming increasingly resistant and difficult to treat. By 2012, 3.6% of all new cases of tuberculosis were multi-drug resistant. About 80% of infected people show some signs of antibiotic resistance. Cholera is becoming resistant to a variety of antibiotics, and gonorrhea has reemerged. Because of widespread resistance to the adamantanes, one of two classes of influenza antiviral drugs, these drugs are no longer used against seasonal influenza A and B viruses. And resistance to neuraminidase inhibitors, the other class, is a growing concern. There is also growing resistance to antifungal drugs used for candida.
Antimicrobial Resistant Bacteria: the Natural Solution
E. coli and Urinary Tract Infections
Several common herbs are effective against E. coli, including goldenseal, uva ursi, cranberry, juniper, artemisias, usnea, lomatium, licorice, ginger, reishi and ashwagandha. Goldenseal, juniper, artemisia annua (sweet Annie), reishi and licorice are also effective against Klebsiella. Artemisia annua is also a valuable herb for preventing malaria.
Cranberry juice treats UTI’s and prevents their recurrence by inhibiting the ability of E. coli from adhering to the lining of the bladder and urethra. Cranberry possesses this ability even against antibiotic resistant bacteria.
In addition to direct action against E. coli and Klebsiella, like cranberry, goldenseal also prevents the adhesion of bacteria to the urinary tract.
Uva ursi is effective against E. coli and other bacterial causes of UTI. Juniper is active against multiple strains of bacteria. In his book on herbal antibiotics, Stephen Buhner says that for antibiotic resistant UTI’s, juniper “is the plant to be sure to use”.
Garlic is active against E. coli and Klebsiella. Other helpful herbs and supplements include buchu, corn silk and probiotics.
Salmonella, Shigella, Cholera & Diarrhoea
Several common herbs are effective against salmonella and shigella, including goldenseal, juniper, licorice and ginger. Lomatium is also effective against salmonella, and lobelia also works against shigella. Goldenseal, licorice, ginger, cranesbill and basil are effective against cholera, another common cause of diarrhoea that is becoming increasingly resistant. Berberine containing herbs like goldenseal almost always work for severe diarrhoea and dysentery, including diarrhoea caused by E. coli (traveler’s diarrhoea), shigella dysenteria, salmonella (food poisoning), klebsiella and giardia. Another great herb for diarrhoea is sangra de drago.
Streptococcus pyrogenes causes strep throat. Especially effective common herbs for strep throat include goldenseal, echinacea and usnea. Usnea is a lichen that has strong activity against many gram-positive bacteria, including resistant ones, as well as several viruses and candida.
Streptococcus pneumonia can cause ear infections--though ear infections are not usually caused by bacteria--and sinusitis. Ear drops made of garlic, mullein, calendula, and St. John’s wort in olive oil have been proven to be as good or better than anaesthetic ear drops or antibiotics. Goldenseal, lobelia, lavender and tea tree oil can also be added to the drops.
Great herbs for sinusitis include andrographis, pelargonium, goldenseal, bromelain, wild indigo, lobelia, myrrh and usnea.
Always include herbs and supplements that increase the body’s own immunity. For difficult to treat gram-negative bacteria, like shigella, salmonella, klebsiella, enterobacteri and E. coli, always add licorice.
Some Microorganisms Susceptible to Berberine Herbs (Goldenseal) or Their Components:
Streptococcus H. pylori
Salmonella Hepatitis B
Candida E. coli
Dengue virus Chlamydia Trichomonas vaginalis
West Nile virus
Some Common Herbs Active Against Antibiotic Resistant Bacteria
Garlic (shigella, E. coli)
St. John’s wort (S. aureus)
Licorice (H. pylori)
Myrrh (S. aureus)
Pelargonium (S. aureus)
Rosemary (S. aureus, MRSA)
Tea Tree (MRSA)
Uva ursi (MRSA)
Treating Pain is Becoming . . . a Pain
Modern medicine’s vulnerability in treating infection is not the only weakness that science has exposed recently. It has been a very bad couple of years for painkillers. Modern medicine’s failure to manage pain has been exposed. Important recent studies have cast serious doubt on the effectiveness and safety of painkillers.
Aspirin & Other Non-Steroidal Antiinflammatory Drugs (NSAID)
Aspirin is a serious cause of ulcers and gastrointestinal bleeding. A meta-analysis of 24 controlled studies revealed that even taking a low dose of aspirin does not reduce the risk of gastrointestinal bleeding (BMJ 2000;321:1183-7). 28% of people who take low dose aspirin to prevent heart disease develop an ulcer (Ailementary Pharmacology & Therapeutics 2005;22:795-801).
What’s worse is that, despite this risk, aspirin doesn’t even live up to its reputation for preventing heart disease. A recent study of people with multiple risk factors for atherosclerosis, including high blood pressure, cholesterol problems or diabetes was cut short because, though aspirin did significantly increase the risk of side effects, it did not reduce the risk of cardiovascular events (JAMA 2014;312:2510-20).
And, though the FDA continues to endorse aspirin for people who have already had a heart attack or stroke, it recently refused to endorse it for prevention in people who have never had one. It found that there was evidence of “dangerous bleeding into the brain or stomach,” but no evidence of prevention of heart disease even for people at high risk due to family history.
The newer COX-2 inhibitors not only failed to solve the ulcer problem (JAMA 2001;286:2398-400), they more than doubled the risk of heart attack, stroke or angina compared to the old NSAIDs (JAMA 2001;286:954-9).
This year, following a comprehensive review of the latest safety data, the FDA strengthened its label warnings that non-aspirin NSAIDs increase the risk of heart attack and stroke. The FDA says NSAIDs increase the risk of serious cardiovascular events, increase the risk of heart failure and increase the risk of dying in the first year after suffering a heart attack. They say that the risk increases with higher doses or longer use (FDA Safety Announcement 7-9- 2015).
NSAIDs are also toxic to the liver and kidneys.
Tylenol & Other Acetaminophens
So toxic to the liver is acetaminophen that it has become the leading cause of acute liver failure (Hepatology 2005;42:1364-72). Health Canada has recently announced that it is considering lowering the maximum recommended daily dose of acetaminophen.
Tylenol has other problems. Shockingly, it dulls your emotions. A double-blind study gave either 1,000mg of acetaminophen or a placebo and then waited an hour for the Tylenol to enter the brain. The researchers then showed pictures of positive and negative events to the people in the study. People who took the Tylenol evaluated unpleasant events less negatively and pleasant events less positively than did people who took a placebo. The Tylenol takers also rated positive and negative events as less emotionally arousing than did the people who got the placebo. The researchers of this incredible study concluded that acetaminophen has a general blunting effect on people (BMJ 2015;350:h1225).
Perhaps more seriously, women who use acetaminophen while pregnant have now been found to be at increased risk for having children with ADHD. When a large study looked at 64,322 children and mothers, disturbingly, it found that children whose mothers used acetaminophen during pregnancy were at higher risk of being on ADHD medication and of being diagnosed with Hyperkinetic Disorder (HKD), a particularly severe form ADHD characterized by hyperactivity and difficultly concentrating. The association between taking acetaminophen while pregnant and having a child with ADHD or HKD was strongest for women who used acetaminophen during more than one trimester. The more frequently they used it, the greater the risk (JAMA Pediatr 2014;168:313-20).
The researchers point out that other recent research has suggested that acetaminophen is a hormone disrupter and that abnormal exposure to hormones during pregnancy may influence the development of the child’s brain.
What’s worse is that Tylenol doesn’t even work. Despite being the most recommended drug for back pain, double-blind research shows that acetaminophen is no better than a placebo for back pain (Lancet 2014;doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(14)60805-9). And we now know that it doesn’t work for the pain of osteoarthritis either. A meta-analysis of 13 controlled studies confirms that acetaminophen is useless for back pain and added that it confers no clinically relevant benefit for osteoarthritis. The meta-analysis did find that, though it didn’t help, acetaminophen did increase the risk of abnormal results on liver test by more than 4 times (BMJ 2015;350:h1225).
The most recent negative study on painkillers is a very large meta-analysis that included seventy-four randomized studies of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAID) or Tylenol for osteoarthritis pain. A total of 58,556 people were included in the meta-analysis. For most of the NSAIDs, doses below the maximum dose were no better than a placebo at producing clinically meaningful reductions in pain. As to Tylenol, the meta-analysis concluded that there was no role for Tylenol for treating the pain of osteoarthritis no matter the dose. When taken at the maximum dose, diclofenac and etoricoxib had the highest probability of reaching clinically meaningful benefit. “Nevertheless,” the researchers cautioned, “in view of the safety profile of these drugs, physicians need to consider our results together with all known safety information when selecting the preparation and dose for individual patients” (Lancet 2016;387:2093-2105).
And what is the safety profile for NSAID’s? We have already seen that above. And remember that if NSAIDs only have clinically meaningful benefit at the maximum dose, The FDA says that these risks increases with higher doses or longer use (FDA Safety Announcement 7-9- 2015).
Managing Pain: the Natural Solution
Nature’s Safe Aspirin
White willow bark contains substances that your body turns into salicylic acid. It can be used for nearly any kind of pain. It is effective for back pain (Am J Med 2000;109:9-14) and osteoarthritis (FACT 1998;3:186). Nature: 2; Tylenol: 0.
White willow bark is as effective as, and safer than, Vioxx (Rheumatology 2001;40:1388-93). When white willow bark was compared to the drugs ibuprofen, diclofenac, coxibe and oxicame for pain from chronic wear on the knee cartilage or from noninflammatory degenerative hip disease, 64% had very good improvement versus 37.5% of people taking one of the pain medications. The herb was also better tolerated (Phytomed 2008;15:907-913).
A 2009 review of the research found 3 studies that show that white willow bark is “not inferior to” the NSAID drug rofecoxib (Vioxx) for low back pain (Phytother Res 2009;23:897-900). A Cochrane review of controlled studies concluded that white willow bark reduces lower back pain better than a placebo (Cochrane Database Syst Rev 2006;(2):CD 004504).
This magical sounding herb helps gout, rheumatoid arthritis and, especially, osteoarthritis. 65.3% of people with osteoarthritis who were given devil’s claw had good or very good results compared to 60% who were given the drug diacerhein. The herb was not only better than the drug, but safer (Phytomed 2000;7:177-83).
Like willow bark, and unlike Tylenol, devil’s club helps not only arthritis pain, but back pain, as long as the pain is not radiating down the leg (Eur J Anaesthisiol 1999;16:118- 29). When people suffering from lower back pain took devil’s claw for 54 weeks, 75% responded, and 31% no longer had any pain at all (Phytomed 2007;14:371-6).
The Cochrane review concluded that devil’s claw is superior to placebo for low back pain. The review included a study that found that it is as effective as Vioxx for low back pain (Cochrane Database Syst Rev 2006;(2):CD 004504).
The Antiinflammatory Specialists
When bromelain is taken with food, it is a protein digesting enzyme. But when it is taken on an empty stomach, it is one of nature’s best antiinflammatories. It is great for virtually any inflammatory pain, from strains and sprains to back pain and arthritis.
Turmeric, standardized for the active ingredient curcumin, is an important antiinflammatory and painkiller. Curcumin is as effective as the powerful NSAID phenybutazone for rheumatoid arthritis (Indian J Med Res 1980;71:632-4). When curcumin was compared to the NSAID diclofenac sodium for rheumatoid arthritis, the herb was significantly more effective and safer (Phytother Res 2012;26:1719-25).
Curcumin also helps with osteoarthritis. When people with osteoarthritis of the knee were given either ibuprofen or turmeric extract standardized for curcuminoids, 91% of those taking the herb reported moderate to high satisfaction versus 80.4% taking the drug (J Altern Comp Med 2009;15:891-7).
Two other double-blind studies have proven the efficacy of curcumin for osteoarthritis. In the first, pain scores were significantly lower in the curcumin group than in the placebo group in people with moderate to severe symptoms. And while 60% of the placebo group still used NSAID’s, only 32% of the curcumin group did (J Orthop Sci 2014;19:933-9). In the second, curcumin was equally effective as ibuprofen, but there were fewer gastrointestinal complaints in the curcumin group (Clin Interv Aging 2014;9:451-8).
The Antispasmodic Specialists
Some of the best antispasmodics in the world are herbs, including kava kava and passionflower. Butterbur (especially for cancer pain), skullcap and valerian are also valuable.
Controlled research has shown that a cream containing essential oils of sweet marjoram, black pepper, lavender and peppermint offers significant relief from neck pain (J Altern Comp Med 2014;20:771- 779).
Cayenne cream is one of the most effective topical painkillers. Tons of studies attest to its effectiveness (Clin Ther 1991;13:383-95; Clin J Pain 1998;14:97-106; Drugs 1997;53:909-14 Anesth Analg 1998;86:579-83; Eur J Clin Pharmacol 1994; 46:517-22; J Rheumatol 1992;19:604-07; Sem Arth Rheum 1994;23(Suppl
3):25-33; Sem Arth Rheum 1994;23(Suppl 3):34-40).
Homeopathic arnica cream is another great antiinflammatory and painkiller. Peppermint essential oil is a great muscle relaxing painkiller for headaches, tendonitis and arthritis.
MSM is a powerful antiinflammatory, antispasmodic and painkiller. The combination of MSM and glucosamine sulfate works better for osteoarthritis than either of them alone (Clin Drug Invest 2004;24:353-63). Vitamin D is surprisingly effective for back pain (Spine 2003;28:177- 9). Magnesium also helps back pain (Anaesthesia 2013;68:260-266).
Modern medicine has not only been exposed as a fraud for physical illness: the story is just as bad for psychological illness.
The decade’s long experiment in antidepressant drugs has been a failure. Suicide rates among people who take antidepressants are not statistically any different than suicide rates for people who take a placebo (Arch Gen Psychiatry 2000;57:311-7). The same shockingly disappointing study found that while drugs reduced the symptoms of depression by 40.7%, placebos reduced the symptoms by a shockingly similar 30.9%.
An analysis of antidepressant drugs for adults found that selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) “have no clinically meaningful advantage over placebo.” It concluded that they “have not been convincingly shown to affect the long term outcome of depression or suicide rates” (BMJ 2005;331:155-7).
When a meta-analysis looked at all the clinical trials of antidepressant drugs that were submitted to the FDA, it found that there was no difference between antidepressant drugs and placebo for moderate depression. For very severe depression, there was only a relatively small benefit to the drugs. But the researchers were careful to point out that the small benefit the drug had compared to the placebo for very severe depression was not because of the drug working better but because the placebo worked worse (PLoS 2008;doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.0050045).
Another fascinating study looked at seventy-four studies on antidepressant drugs that had been registered with the FDA. It found that 37 of 38 studies with positive results were published. But, of the 36 studies with negative results, 22 of them were never published, and eleven of them were published with the interpretation spun to make the negative results appear to be positive. Only three negative studies got published as negative studies. The researchers say that the published literature—the stuff people actually get to see—made it look like 94% of the studies conducted on antidepressant drugs yielded positive results. However, according to the FDA’s analysis of the actual studies, only an unimpressive 51% were positive (NEJM 2008;358:252-260).
An earlier study of all the published and unpublished studies submitted to the FDA between 1987 and 1989 found that of the 47 studies submitted on the six most prescribed antidepressants (Prozac, Zoloft, Paxil, Effexor, Serzone and Celexa), only twenty found superiority over placebo (Prevention and Treatment 2002;5;dx.doi.org/10.1037/1522-3722.214.171.1243a).
And what about antidepressant drugs for children with depression? In 2001, a study was published on the selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) Paxil (paroxtine). The study was funded by the pharmaceutical company that made the drug, GlaxoSmithKline. It concluded that Paxil was safe and effective for the treatment of depression in adolescents (J Am Acad Child Adolesc Psychiatry2001;40:762-72). Now the data from that study has been reanalyzed by an unbiased group of researchers from Toronto. They disagree.
This study was important because, since its publication, it has played a significant role in the case for using SSRIs to treat teenage depression. The original paper compared the SSRI Paxil to the older antidepressant imipramine and placebo. Though it admitted that neither parents nor the teenagers in the study rated either drug as significantly superior to the placebo, it still concluded that Paxil, but not imipramine, was significantly better than placebo and that it is safe and effective for treating major depression in adolescents.
However, when the unbiased researchers reexamined the data, they found that Paxil was neither statistically nor clinically superior to the placebo for any of the studied outcomes. What's worse is that it found not only that the original conclusion about efficacy was wrong, so was the original conclusion about safety. The increased risk of harm from taking Paxil was clinically significant, including thoughts of suicide and other serious side effects (BMJ 2015;351:h4320).
Prozac, the most famous antidepressant drug of all, was approved by the FDA based on the four positive studies. All Elli Lily, the pharmaceutical company that makes Prozac, had to do was not tell anybody about the six negative studies. In those six unreported studies, Prozac failed to beat a placebo. The combined result of the original ten studies on Prozac show that for about 90% of people, Prozac is no better than a placebo.
Other Psychological Illnesses
The crisis in psychiatry has also been set off by recent studies that have called the effectiveness of the pharmaceutical approach to schizophrenia into serious question. The new studies were longer term and tested more real to life criteria.
The first was a fifteen year study that surprisingly found that significantly more people with schizophrenia who were not on antipsychotic drugs had periods of recovery and better overall functioning than people being treated with drugs. When the researchers looked at real life measures of health like ability to work and having a decent social life, they discovered that while the recovery rate was only 5% for people on drugs, it was 40% for people not on drugs. The length of the study is important, because the difference only started to show up after 2 years. And people not only got better without drugs, they stayed better. Once people with schizophrenia who were not on drugs became stable, they had lower rates of relapse. At 10 and 15 years, schizophrenics off drugs were much less likely to experience psychotic symptoms than those who were on drugs (J Nerv Ment Dis 2007).
A recent randomized study confirmed these results. It compared recovery rates in people with psychosis who stayed on their meds with people who reduced or went off them. Those who maintained their meds had a 17.6% recovery rate. Those who tapered off had a 40.4% recovery rate. Again, the length of the study was important: the difference began to appear at 18 months.
Some people in the maintenance group actually took themselves off their meds. When they were taken into account, symptomatic remission was 59.4% in the maintenance group versus 85.3% in the tapering off group; functional remission was 21.7% in the maintenance group versus 55.9% in the tapering group; and full recovery was experienced by 17.4% in the maintenance group versus 52.9% in the tapering group.
Though relapse rates were higher in the tapering off group at first, they evened out over time until by 7 years they were actually slightly lower (JAMA Psychiatry 2013).
The Natural Approach to Schizophrenia
The center piece of the natural approach to schizophrenia is B3. Canadian researcher Abram Hoffer has published 6 double-blind studies showing that B3 helps cases of acute schizophrenia.
One double-blind study compared 1g of the niacinamide form of B3 three times a day to a placebo in acute schizophrenics. The recovery rate was 33% on the placebo but 80% on the B3 (J Clin Exp Psychopathol 1957).
Another double-blind study got the same results with the niacin form of B3. 41.9% of those on the placebo improved compared to 79.7% of those on B3. More than half the people on the B3 were well or much improved compared to only 20% on the placebo, and readmission rates were decreased by 50% in the B3 group (Hoffer 1962).
Hoffer also found that B3 was effective in cases of chronic schizophrenia but that the treatment took longer: five years or more. In a study of people with chronic schizophrenia who stayed on B3 for eight years, the number of days they spent in the hospital was substantially less than people who discontinued the B3 (J Orthomol Med 1994).
Other researchers have replicated Hoffer’s results. One double-blind study compared niacinamide to a placebo. Those on B3 spent significantly less days in hospital and significantly more remained out of hospital (Denison 1961).
Other supplements help too. People with schizophrenia are more likely to be deficient in folic acid. Double-blind research has found that when people with schizophrenia who have low or borderline levels of folic acid are given 15mg a day, they experience significant improvement (Br J Psychiatry 1991).
Double-blind research has found that L-tryptophan can reduce aggressive symptoms (Biol Psychiatry 1983) and improve memory (J Nerv Ment Dis 2003) in people with schizophrenia.
Adding vitamin C to your meds may also help.
Recent scares with antibiotic resistance and the failure of antibiotics, as well as the dangers and failures of pain medications and the failure of the long experiment with psychological drugs are sounding the death knell for the pharmaceutical approach to health and are signalling the end of modern medicine.