Garlic, Berberine & Spleen Extracts:

Garlic, Berberine & Spleen Extracts Broad-Spectrum Support Against Antibiotic-Resistant Superbugs
Lane Lenard, PhD

The initial alarm arose from Japan. A child recovering from heart surgery had acquired a bacterial infection that was not immediately cured by the usual antibiotic, vancomycin. Fortunately, the bacteria ultimately succumbed to a higher dose of vancomycin plus other drugs. Medicine's primary defense against bacterial infections includes antibiotic drugs like vancomycin and dozens of others. For all their killing power, though, one of the main weaknesses of these drugs is that bacteria are becoming quite proficient at finding ways to defeat them. Antibiotic resistance, as this ability is called, has been a growing threat ever since penicillin use became widespread in the 1950s.

As bacteria develop resistance to antibiotics, the drugs commonly used to kill them may lose their effectiveness, partly, as in the Japanese case, or completely. If you become infected by one of these resistant bugs, you'd better hope that some other drug will be more effective. So far, there's always been another antibiotic to try, but those days are about to end.

Several bacteria have recently been identified which have become multi-drug resistant, a frightening prospect modulated only by the knowledge that, in each of these cases, vancomycin still worked. That's why the news from Japan set off such alarms all over the world. These bacteria had apparently found a way to neutralize vancomycin. The only saving grace was that this particular strain was still susceptible to higher doses of vancomycin and to several other antibiotics.
 



A Warning Shot
According to one state public health official, the Japanese case was a warning shot across the bow. Because of the way that bacteria promiscuously pass genes back and forth including the genes that control antibiotic resistance most infectious disease experts now anxiously await the inevitable news that the gene for vancomycin resistance has found its way into bacteria that are already resistant to all other drugs.

Once loose in the world, a 100% antibiotic-resistant superbug would be impossible to stop using our current drugs. Although superbugs will probably be no more virulent than ordinary bacteria, the fact that drugs cannot stop them means they are free to grow and infect nearly unchecked. For some people, an otherwise treatable infection with such an organism could be a death sentence.

Of particular concern in the Japanese case was that the causative organism, Staphylococcus aureus, is one of the most common bacteria in the human environment, comfortably at home on the skin of one person in 10. As long as S. aureus remains on the outside of the body, it is benign. However, if it breaches the body's mechanical defenses and enters the blood stream, such as after surgery or traumatic injury, it can cause serious, even deadly, infections.

It wasn't long after the Japanese case came to the world's notice that other cases of antibiotic resistance started to appear elsewhere, including the U.S. In one case, a patient on dialysis due to advanced kidney disease died from a fatal blood-borne infection caused by S. aureus that had started out as being resistant only to methicillin, but within 4 months, developed vancomycin resistance as well.

Nor is S. aureus the only bacterial species that has developed vancomycin resistance. Enterococcus species are among the most common microorganisms that normally inhabit the human gastrointestinal tract. Enterococci are also the third most frequent cause of hospital-acquired infections and are often involved in outbreaks of food poisoning. In one study, 10% of all enterococci tested were resistant to vancomycin. In another study, 14% of patients admitted to the hospital for any reason were colonized with a vancomycin-resistant strain of enterococcus.

Another potentially dangerous bacteria is Streptococcus pneumoniae, (Figure 1) the most frequent causes of sepsis (a serious systemic infection) and meningitis (a potentially fatal brain infection). Multi-antibiotic resistant strains of S. pneumoniae have been widely observed. If this organism were to add vancomycin resistance to its gene collection, these already serious infections would become untreatable. Should any Staphylococcal, Streptococcal, or Enterococcal superbug find its way into the community, it could be a catastrophe.

Immune Defenses: Keeping Pathogens Off the Beach
In the absence of effective antibiotics, your only real defense against a superbug is your immune system, which may or may not be up to the challenge. Functioning optimally, the immune system can usually handle most bacterial infections easily, provided the number of bacteria are not overwhelmingly large. But if your immune system is subpar, due to illness, age, poor nutrition, or other factors, bacteria, including superbug species, will find it far easier to gain a beachhead, begin to proliferate, and soon overwhelm the body's defenses. Antibiotic resistance has arisen largely as a result of the misuse of these powerful drugs. When the dose used is too small or the time course of treatment too short, resistant organisms are more likely to survive, reproduce, and pass their resistance on to their offspring and also to other unrelated bacteria. At best, these drugs can function only as adjuncts to the body's inborn immune defenses, which must always be the last bastion against any bacterial onslaught. As demonstrated by AIDS and other immune deficiency diseases, in the absence of an effective immune response, even the most powerful antibiotics are ultimately inadequate.

Figure 2. Streptococcus pneumoniae chain

The Ideal Antibiotic
The ideal antibiotic should not only kill bacteria, it should also promote optimal immune function. Effective as today's pharmaceutical antibiotics are in extreme cases, they can be life saving they do only part of the job. Because inadequate dosing and inconsistent use of these drugs is a major cause of antibiotic resistance, they are appropriate only for treating ongoing infections. They cannot and should not be used for preventing disease on a chronic basis. Furthermore, antibiotics kill only bacteria, and are useless against infections caused by viruses, fungi, parasites, and worms.

An alternative, and in many cases preferable choice is a combination of natural antibiotics, combined with various immune stimulants.

VRP's new UniBiotic  is a specialty formula which synergistically combines berberine, garlic, echinacea, and spleen extract to support natural immune response and to directly attack infectious organisms. UniBiotic is effective not only against many bacteria, but also against many protozoa, worms, and fungi.

Berberine
Herbs containing berberis alkaloids, including hydrastis canadensis, Berberis vulgaris, and Berberis acquifolium (Oregon grape) have a long history in folk medicine. Native Americans used hydrastis and Oregon grape to soothe inflamed tissues in cases of respiratory, digestive, or genitourinary conditions related to allergy or infection, as well as skin conditions, such as acne, psoriasis, and eczema. In European, Asian, and North African folk medicine traditions, Berberis vulgaris was used to treat diarrhea and fevers and to prevent hemorrhage.

In laboratory studies, berberine, the most important of the berberis alkaloids, has been shown to have antibiotic, immunostimulatory, anticonvulsant, sedative, and hypotensive (blood pressure-lowering) activity, among other effects. Of these, its antibiotic effects have aroused the most interest.

 

 

Although not as potent as many prescription antibiotics, berberine exhibits a broad spectrum of antibiotic activity that includes a variety of bacteria, protozoa, and fungi. Among the bacteria that are vulnerable to berberine are Staphylococcal, Streptococcal, and Enterococcal species. Berberine also inhibits the growth of yeasts, such as Candida, which often overgrow and cause a secondary infection after ordinary antibiotic treatment. Not only does berberine kill bacteria, it also helps boost immunity, in part by increasing the blood supply to the spleen and by activating macrophages.

Berberine is used clinically to treat acute diarrhea caused by a variety of pathogenic bacteria, including E. coli, Klebsiella, Giardia lamblia, and Vibrio cholerae. It can be used to great advantage prophylactically when traveling in areas with poor water quality.

Garlic
During a widespread plague in early 18th century Marseilles, France, four condemned criminals recruited to bury the dead were noted to be immune to the deadly infection. What was their secret? They had been drinking a concoction of garlic soaked in wine that came to be known as vinaigre des quatre voleurs (four thieves  vinegar) and is still available in France.

Garlic as a means of warding off infection and other medical uses has been practiced since the dawn of civilization. Records of its use date back more than 5,000 years in India, 3,000 years in China, and 1500 years in Egypt.

Garlic and its active ingredient allicin have broad-spectrum activity against many types of bacteria, viruses, worms, and fungi. Low doses of garlic are particularly lethal to such bacteria species as Staphylococcus, Streptococcus, Brucella, Vibrio, Salmonella, and many others. Some studies have shown that garlic can inhibit the growth of bacteria that have developed resistance to one or more conventional antibiotic drugs. In addition to its bactericidal effects, garlic has also been shown to boost immune function.

Garlic's antimicrobial activity was noted by Pasteur in 19th century France and used by Dr. Albert Schweitzer to treat amoebic dysentery in Africa earlier in this century. It was also used as an antiseptic for preventing gangrene during World Wars I and II.

Echinacea
Echinacea is one of the most popular natural herbal remedies in common use today. It is used especially for preventing or treating common infections, such as colds, flu, and urogenital infections.

Like berberine and garlic, Echinacea has its roots deeply imbedded in folk medicine. Echinacea is derived from nine major species of perennial herbs that are native to northwestern North American, in a band stretching from Texas to Saskatchewan. It was used by Native Americans to treat more illnesses than any other plant. Among its most common uses were to promote healing of wounds, burns, abscesses, insect bites, internal infections, toothaches, and joint pains. It was also used as an antidote for rattlesnake bites. Around 1870, commercial medicines containing Echinacea began to appear and became popular with many physicians as a local anesthetic, stimulant, deodorant, and as a treatment for internal infection and malignancies. During the 1930s, German researchers demonstrated that extracts of certain Echinacea species had
immune-enhancing properties.

The important pharmacologic constituents of Echinacea include polysaccharides, flavonoids, caffeic acid derivatives, essential oils, polyacetylenes, alkylamides, and various miscellaneous chemicals. These factors contribute to the herb's ability to promote tissue regeneration, reduce inflammation, and stimulate immune function. Its diverse immuno-modulatory activities include promotion of movement of white blood cells (neutrophils, monocytes, and eosinophils), solubilization of immune complexes, neutralization of viruses, activation of T cells, production of interferon, and secretion of lymphokines. These actions result in enhanced macrophage phagocytosis, antibody binding, natural killer cell activity, and increased numbers of T cells and polymorphonuclear neutrophils (PMNs).

Spleen Extracts
About the size of a fist and weighing in at about 7 ounces, the spleen is a spongy, dark purple organ situated in the upper left abdomen, just behind the lower ribs. The largest mass of lymphatic tissue in the body, the spleen plays a vital role in immune function. Among its activities are producing white blood cells (WBC), which engulf and destroy bacteria and cellular debris, and destroying worn-out red blood cells and platelets. The spleen also serves as a reservoir for blood, which can be tapped in times of hemorrhage to prevent shock.

Since the 1930s, it has been known that taking bovine spleen tissue extracts elevates WBC counts in patients with serious diseases such as malaria and typhoid. Bovine spleen extracts are popular in Germany for treating serious infections and for stimulating immunity in people with cancer.

The key immune-stimulating components of spleen tissue extracts are tuftsin and splenopentin, both of which have been shown to exert profound immune-enhancing activity. Tuftsin helps mobilize macrophages to engulf and destroy foreign particles, such as bacteria, cancer cells, and cellular debris. A tuftsin deficiency is marked by frequent infections.

Splenopentin enhances the immune system's response to regulating compounds, such as colony-stimulating factors (e.g., interleukin-3 and others) that stimulate the production of WBCs. Splenopentin also enhances the activity of natural killer (NK) cells, which target cells that have become infected with viruses or turned cancerous. NK cells are the body's first line of defense against cancer.

Conclusions
Infectious diseases used to be the world's most frequent cause of death. That all changed with the introduction of penicillin and the many other antibiotics that followed in its wake.

So confident was the pharmaceutical industry that it had conquered the problem of infectious disease, that in the 1980s, they gave up looking for new antibiotics. What they didn't take into account was the explosive growth of antibiotic resistance among the world's bacteria. Now, while new drugs are in the works, they are several years behind the curve, and the bacteria are about to pull away. The superbug isn't here yet, but most infectious disease experts believe it's only a matter of time.

At their best, conventional antibiotics have never been the ideal treatment for infections. Although usually effective at what they do, i.e., killing disease-causing bacteria, they also kill off many of the body's indigenous'and beneficial bacteria, sometimes seriously disrupting the body's natural ecological balance. As a result, side effects like diarrhea and vaginal yeast overgrowth/ infection are extremely common consequences of a bout of antibiotic use. Antibiotics, of course, are completely ineffective against viruses or other nonbacterial pathogens.

Now, with the spectre of an impotent armamentarium of antibiotics looming, it's time to look elsewhere for infection protection. The ingredients in UniBiotic have been demonstrated over centuries even millennia to help prevent and treat infections naturally and safely. Only in the last few years have we begun to understand how they work. The synergistic combination of ingredients in UniBiotic, including berberine, garlic, Echinacea, and spleen extract, appears to fight infections by two principal strategies:
 

  • Directly killing bacteria, viruses, worms, and fungi.
     
  • Stimulating and enhancing the natural immune response, which is ultimately the most important defense against infections of all kinds.
     

Because overuse and misuse of antibiotics are largely responsible for the development of antibiotic resistance, it seems that these powerful and potentially lifesaving drugs should be used cautiously and only when all else has failed. In the meantime, it also makes sense to maximize your immune function as a matter of course, and not wait until you may need an antibiotic. In this way, when the superbug or some other serious pathogen comes calling, you'll be ready for it.
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References
Rotun SS, McMath V, Schoonmaker DJ, et al. Staphylococcus aureus with reduced susceptibility to vancomycin isolated from a patient with fatal bacteremia. Emerg Infect Dis. 1999;5:147-9.

Cirak MY, Sultan N. Prevalence of high level aminoglycoside and vancomycin resistance among Enterococci in Turkey. Acta Microbiol Pol. 1998;47:267-73.

Bensoussan R, Weiss K, Laverdiere M. Vancomycin-resistant Enterococcus. Scand J Gastroenterol. 1998;33:1233-8.

Novak R, Henriques B, Charpentier E, Normark S, Tuomanen E. Emergence of vancomycin tolerance in Streptococcus pneumoniae. Nature. 1999;399:590-3.

Leung A. Encyclopedia of Common Natural Ingredients Used in Food, Drugs, and Cosmetics. New York: John Wiley & Sons; 1980:176-178.

Cavallito C, Bailey J. Allicin, the antibacterial principle of allium sativum. 1. Isolation, physical properties, and antibacterial action. J Am Chem Soc. 1944;66:1950-1951.

Huddleson I, 3DuFrain J, Barrows K, Giefel M. Antibacterial substances in plants. J Am Vd Med Assoc. 1944;105:394-397.

Vogel V. American Indian Medicine. University of Oklahoma Press.
 

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