Staph infections occur when staphylococcus bacteria, which normally live on the skin or in the nose, get into the bloodstream and attack other organs, causing diseases like pneumonia, endocarditis, impetigo, blood poisoning, boils and toxic shock syndrome. Conventional treatment includes antibiotics, but Staphylococcus aureus, the staph species that causes most infections, is becoming resistant to many of the standard antibiotics. Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus infection, or MRSA, is a serious problem worldwide. Herbs can be a useful home remedy for treating some staph infections. It is important to consult a health care professional in cases of serious or prolonged staph infections and before starting herbal therapy.
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Echinacea species, including Echinacea pallida, E. purpurea and E. angustifolia, are perennial prairie herbs native to North America. Also known as coneflowers, these species have a long history of medicinal use. Contemporary herbalists consider echinacea to be an anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial and immunostimulant due mainly to the polysaccharides, amides and caffeic acid constituents. Echinacea is effective against S. aureus, according to herbalist Stephen Harrod Buhner in his 1999 book, “Herbal Antibiotics: Natural Alternatives for Treating Drug-Resistant Bacteria.” He states that, due to its ability to stimulate white blood cells, echinacea may be useful for treating bacteremia, an infection that develops when staph bacteria enter the bloodstream. Herbalist David Hoffmann states that echinacea has mild activity against S. aureus and recommends it for treating boils and septicemia, both infections caused by S. aureus. Phyllis A. Balch, CNC, and Dr. James F. Balch recommend echinacea for boils to cleanse the lymph glands. A study by S. M. Sharma and colleagues found that echinacea had both a mild killing effect and a strong anti-inflammatory effect against resistant and non-resistant strains of S. aureus. Further studies are needed to confirm these results. Echinacea may cause allergic reactions in people sensitive to members of the Asteraceae family, and may interfere with medications that suppress the immune system.
Eucalyptus, or Eucalyptus globulus, is a tall evergreen tree native to Australia. Also known as Tasmanian blue gum, eucalyptus produces a volatile oil rich in 1,8-cineole, or eucalyptol, and other terpenoids. These constituents have antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory and expectorant actions. Herbalist Stephen Harrod Buhner states that the oil is effective against S. aureus and is a useful broad-spectrum drug against antibiotic-resistant disease. This is supported by a study by S. Mulyaningsih and colleagues published in “Phytomedicine.” The study tested the essential oil against multidrug-resistant bacteria, including S. aureus. The study found that the oil significantly inhibited methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, or MRSA. Eucalyptus oil should be taken internally only according to recommended dosage, since it may be toxic in doses of more than four drops. Ingesting too much tea may cause intestinal cramps.
Downy Rose Myrtle
Downy rose myrtle, or Rhodomyrtus tomentosa, is an evergreen shrub with pink flowers native to Asia. A study by S. Limsuwan and colleagues published in “Phytomedicine” found that the leaves had significant in vitro antibacterial action against three staphylococcus species, including antibiotic-resistant strains. A study by Jongkon Saising and colleagues published in the “Journal of Health Science” also found that rhodomyrtone was highly effective against S. aureus, and almost as effective as vancomycin, the standard antibiotic drug.