So it’s official: GPs are now being paid not to prescribe antibiotics.
It’s estimated that around 50,000 people die annually in the UK from antibiotic-resistant infections, so it’s very much in our interests to save the antibiotics for illnesses where they can actually do some good. That means bacterial infections, and things that don’t get better on their own. Otherwise, all we are doing is stimulating pathogenic micro-organisms to mutate and become resistant.
It’s scary when you’re dealing with the symptoms of infection, like high fever, rashes, aching joints, coughing, diarrhoea and vomiting and so on. Especially if it’s your children who are ill. But it’s much better for your health in the long term if, instead of trying to kill the ‘invading’ bacteria, you work with your own immune system to go through the illness and out the other side.
Taking antibiotics might stop the illness, but it leaves your body with an interrupted process and a lot of debris. Recurrent infections can result, and it’s a sign that your immune system needs help to do its job properly. Chest infections, ear, nose and throat problems, and urinary infections are probably the most common examples, and by the time a patient comes to see me, they have often had several courses of antibiotics, which seem to get less effective as time goes on
From a herbal perspective, I’d look at strengthening and improving the health of the ‘problem’ area, with herbs like Elderflower and Goldenrod for the respiratory tract, Cornsilk and Couch Grass for the urinary tract, and so on. I’d look at what gives rise to the illness: are you run down, dealing with chronic stress, living in poor conditions, eating badly, or is there some underlying problem that needs addressing? You would certainly need to take herbs continually for a time, not just when you’re unwell.
Over time – and there’s no easy way to predict how long it will take – if factors like diet, allergies and so on are dealt with, you find that you are ill less often, and less severely. If you have the confidence to go through an acute illness without antibiotics, using herbs and good nursing, it will really help your immune system to rise to the challenge, and you will come out of it feeling better than you went in.