Beyond Antibiotics

Tips and resources to help you move away from antibiotics.


Doctors, as Michael Castleman’s “Cold Comfort” (March/April Mother Jones), points out, are over-prescribing antibiotics. So what do you do if you’re interested in lessening your dependence on antibiotics?

Join the crew. America has begun to realize what many other countries have known for a long time: Herbal remedies, when taken properly, can be very effective in fighting certain illnesses—especially common colds. And the side effects of these remedies may be significantly less than those of antibiotics. If you’re interested in finding out more about herbal remedies, or if you’d just like to be better informed about antibiotic therapies, these resources will get you going:

ON THE NET

The Journal of the American Medical Association: Antibiotic Prescribing for Adults With Colds, Upper Respiratory Tract Infections, and Bronchitis by Ambulatory Care Physicians
The results of this study aren’t nearly as convoluted as the title—they showed that doctors were over-prescribing antibiotics in mass amounts. Antibiotics were being prescribed in 51% of cold cases, 66% of bronchitis cases, and 52% of upper-respiratory-tract infections. These illnesses are viral, and as Castleman states, “Antibiotics treat only bacterial infections and are completely powerless against viral illnesses.” Published in the September 1997 issue.

The University of Pennsylvania Health System
This site, while constructed specifically for U. of Penn students, has tons of useful tips for the non-student, including the lowdown on using antibiotics for colds or the flu. It also provides links to practical treatments for these ailments—some as simple as drinking lots of fluids and taking steam baths—and takes a critical look at medicinal treatments such as antihistamines, which do dry up the nasal passages but also thicken mucus.

The Healthy Way
This Web site has an informative article on the workings of antibiotics. There’s also a useful table of the most commonly prescribed antibiotics, what they do, and advice on when to take them.

Sites on Herbal Medicine

The Herb Research Foundation
This comprehensive Web site has information on specific herbs, the latest news from the world of herbal medicine, a page of links to other herbal sites, and additional members-only services including a subscription to either their quarterly HerbalGram, or their bimonthly Herbs for Health; a quarterly newsletter called Herb Research News; access to their herbal resources library; and discounts on their herb information packets.

The American Botanical Council
A helpful site that includes book reviews, a bookstore and an herb journal.

American Herbalists Guild (AHG)
This guild represents traditional herbalists in the United States. The site features access to the AHG’s many publications on herbs and a comprehensive listing of herbal educational programs in the United States. It also has information on membership, which includes an annual subscription to The Herbalist, their quarterly newsletter; discounts on many informative herb publications and databases; and a 25% discount on the AHG’s annual symposium.

IN PRINT

The Green Pharmacy: New Discoveries in Herbal Remedies for Common Diseases and Conditions from the World’s Foremost Authority on Healing Herbs, by James A. Duke, et al. Rodale Press. 1997. $29.95
This best-selling book includes personal anecdotes intertwined with an A-to-Z botanical database of thousands of herbs, berries and barks.

The Healing Herbs: The Ultimate Guide to the Curative Power of Nature’s Medicine, by (our very own) Michael Castleman. Bantam Books. 1995. $7.50

The A-Z Guide to Healing Herbal Remedies, by Jason Elias and Shelagh Ryan Masline. Dell Books. 1995. $5.50