I’m writing this article to share my experiences and learning around using herbs to treat Staphylococcus infections, sometimes called “Impetigo” (usually a diagnosis for young children).
At this year’s Firemaker Gathering (annual primitive skills event), a few people left with a little more than they’d expected. My work with community healing and the Healing Hut doesn’t end with the gathering. For those who did bring home a staph infection, I hope this information helps you make an informed decision about your health care in dealing with the challenging infection.
To be clear, treating Staph is without pharmaceutical antibiotics is a challenge. I have done it (after a friend brought me a ‘gift’ from the Rainbow Gathering in 2007), though it was quite challenging. Many people who are very committed to using herbal medicines end up resorting to pharmaceutical antibiotics.
I know that many of you reading this have great concern for using antibiotics. Me too.
Add to that a growing epidemic of MRSA (Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) it’s particularly important for our communities to create effective non-pharmaceutical treatments.
All that said, here’s where I’ll put in a plug for the collective practice of nonjudgmental acceptance.
i think it’s important to support each other when we aren’t able to find medicines that fit our values to do the healing we require.
If ever i thought there was a case for using medicines stronger than herbs, dealing with Staph is it. I really want to support people with herbs in ways that don’t trigger shame at all. Sickness easily brings up our fears and far too often, we use judgement of ourselves and others in a confused expression of this fear. Hopefully by naming this pattern at the start of this article, we can break the spell.
It may be that I’ll find different herbs or learn a stronger protocol some day, but for now I this is my experience…
Let’s start with identifying that you’ve got it.
The way that most folks first spot it is when their small, fairly insignificant wounds (small scrapes, even irritated hair follicles) that not only don’t heal, but they actually grow.
This particular infection is a little different from what I’ve treated before. It tends to start by forming a blister around the wound. Once the blister breaks, it tends to peel around the edges of the wound and continues doing this as the wound grows.
Sometimes it develops into a scab (a thick golden-yellow crust) that doesn’t quite harden or entirely attach to surrounding skin, which is now red and inflamed. The golden liquid sometimes ‘weeps’ (and spreads the infection).
The liquid in the blisters is the most contagious. Which means that if you pick it, it’ll get on your hands and easily transfer to other parts of the body. It’s easy to spread it around your body as you inspect verious cuts and scrapes to see how they’re doing.
Between people, it usually requires contact though can be spread through saliva (making it especially challenging for children to avoid spreading it).
There are a few herbs that are effective against staph. Living in the Northwest, I rely on Oregon Grape (Berberis aquifolium, B. nervosa, Mahonia repens) root a great deal.
Usnea is also reportly quite effective, though I haven’t found sufficient quantities to gather for a few years, so I haven’t yet used this to treat staph.
Dandelion root has shown effectiveness in treating antibiotic resistant staph in a lab setting. I began including this in my protocol after hearing Richo Cech speak about it.
Chaparral (Larrea tridentata) is a desert plant from the Southwest. I know many herbalists who swear by the plant for many ailments including the treatment of Staph. I haven’t used it because I haven’t been to the southwest to gather it.
Grapefruit Seed Extract (GSE) is also used by many folks in treating staph. I have used it to some extent, but mostly when soars are in places to difficult to poultice.
Activated Charcoal is not an herb in the way that we usually think of it, but it is a very helpful tool in treating many issues. It’s able to draw out the bind to the infection.
When blisters first appear and when the wound is weeping, I apply a topical poultice of Activated Charcoal to absorb the infection and draw it out further.
To do this, mix some Activated Charcoal with a bit of water (or herbal infusion) to create a semi-thick paste. Dab this onto a piece of gauze (2ce the size of the wound) and then fold it shut. It should be wet enough to stick (and leak through a bit). Place on top of the wound for 10-20 minutes.
Remove the charcoal poultice without touching the gauze and dispose of it immediately. Then replace it with an herbal poultice (made the same way). Or, if the location of your wound(s) allows it, soak the wound in your herbal infusion. This isn’t always possible or convenient, so the poultice is an effective back up.
I use Oregon Grape root powder and boiling water (an infusion). Once it’s cooled dab onto gauze, fold and apply. (I tried applying the moist powder directly on the wound, but this gets really messy as it dries.)
Leave this poultice on for 15-30 minutes, re-moistening (with a bit of the tea) if need be.
This should slow the growth of the bacteria or, ideally, halt it completely. Don’t be alarmed if your skin turns a bit yellow from the herb.
Do this process for EVERY WOUND and repeat 2ce each day.
**For wounds that are in particularly challenging spots, I use Grapefruit Seed Extract topically 3-4 times per day**
CAUTION – Try to wrap the gauze in place or shave before using tape. It very easy to irritate the hair follicles when removing tape and create more wounds for the staph to infect.
I give (and take) a mix of Oregon Grape root and Dandelion root tincture. The dose varies for different body types, sizes and chi levels, but I usually give 2-5 ml (droppers) of each. I suggest 4-5 times per day.
This is an antibiotic use of Oregon Grape, so should be taken for 10-14 days and followed with lots of probiotic foods.
Time to see a Dr…
This bacteria can have an effect on the kidneys. So, see a doctor immediately if you have these symptoms…
- blood in your urine
- edema (swelling of lower legs)
- swelling around eyes
Or, if new sores are coming on fast and driving you crazy.
Again, I hope this information is helpful. This is the how I got over staph in 2007 and how I’m treating my family now.
Good luck to those who try this. And if anyone has other herbs or other protocols, please share them here.
strength & wisdom.