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Last Updated on August 4, 2021
Herbal Antibiotics for SIBO
Most people are familiar with the pharmaceutical or prescribed antibiotics but fewer people are educated in herbalism and the benefits of using herbal antibiotic preparations to treat numerous bacterial conditions such as SIBO.
This article intends to change that– when you learn about the benefits of different herbs you will realize that using a combination of different herbs can be just as or even more potent than taking a prescribed antibiotic.
Herbs, when combined, can produce an additive (synergistic) effect on microbes. This combination can also reduce the likelihood of resistant bacteria—a real problem with prescribed antibiotics.
This article will walk you through the basics of herbal antimicrobials, how they are prepared, and why they can be a great natural treatment option for SIBO.
Table of Contents
- 1 What Are Herbal Antibiotics?
- 2 Why Antibiotic Herbs Work for Treating SIBO
- 3 Herbal vs Regular Antibiotics for SIBO
- 4 Who Should Use Herbal Antibiotics for SIBO?
- 5 The Best Natural Antibiotics for Treating SIBO
- 6 Experiences with SIBO Herbal Treatment Protocol
- 7 Using Other Preparations of Herbs
- 8 Herbal Therapy for SIBO FAQ’s
- 8.1 How Do I Know if I Have SIBO?
- 8.2 Is SIBO Serious?
- 8.3 Can SIBO Be Cured Permanently?
- 8.4 What is the Strongest Antibiotic for Bacterial Infection?
- 8.5 What to Avoid While on Antibiotics?
- 8.6 What Happens if You Take Probiotics and Antibiotics at the Same Time?
- 8.7 How Do You Restore Good Bacteria After Antibiotics?
- 9 What to Keep In Mind with SIBO Natural Treatment
What Are Herbal Antibiotics?
First of all, an antibiotic is anything that kills bacteria or other microorganisms. It doesn’t matter whether it is made synthetically in a lab or extracted from a plant.
Herbal antimicrobials are simply natural antibiotics that are extracted from herbs grown around the world or in your own garden. Humans have been relying on plant medicines—and particularly antibiotics for thousands of years.
Plants—just like humans have evolved defense mechanisms, such as their own antibiotic substances, to protect themselves from bacteria, viruses, fungi, and other parasites. Humans developed a complex immune system—but plants, powered by the sun, developed a pretty astonishing array of substances that these plants use to defend themselves against infection.
Differences Between Herbal and Prescribed Antibiotics
The main difference between antibiotic herbs and prescribed antibiotics is the source and the purification methods used.
- Prescribed antibiotics are synthesized in a lab and consist of only the antibiotic and various fillers needed to make the capsule, tablet or liquid form of the antibiotic. These antibiotics usually have a single mechanism of action (MOA) that attacks one aspect of the life cycle or the structure of the microorganism. Some antibiotics damage the cell wall of bacteria, causing death by leakage. Others damage the microorganism’s ability to reproduce. In addition, they only work on one type of microorganism. Anti-bacterial medicines, for example, do not affect viruses or fungi.
- On the other hand, antimicrobial preparations from herbs are made from whole plants and contain many different compounds. These plant medicine combinations usually have a range of MOA’s and extracts from one plant can often have anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, and anti-viral effects. Herbal antimicrobials can be given as tinctures (usually in alcohol), as teas, in capsules or tablets, or as lotions or salves to apply directly onto the skin.
The mixture of plant substances that are extracted has some distinct differences—and often advantages—as compared to a purified, synthetic antibiotic. These differences include:
- A mixture of substances—with a variety of MOAs—decreases the risk that antibiotic-resistant bacteria will arise
- In general, the anti-bacterial and anti-microbial compounds derived from plant sources tend to spare the healthy gut bacteria a little more, decreasing the risk of diarrhea and other complications of antibiotic therapy.
- While plant sources of antibiotics tend to be less specific than prescribed, synthetic antibiotics, the overall risk of adverse effects also tends to decrease with herbs
- Components in herbs are believed to act synergistically – in other words, the sum of the effects of the plant substances is greater than when using a single plant substance.
The Rise of Antibiotic-Resistant Strains of Bacteria
Since the introduction of synthetic antibiotics, bacteria have been able to adapt quickly to these purified compounds. It makes quite a bit of sense, after all. The “life purpose” of bacteria is to reproduce, grow and colonize—since the bacteria can double in number very quickly, they have lots of chances to try out new ways to escape the selective pressure put on them by synthetic antibiotics.
So, in order to survive, bacteria evolve new ways to evade the effects of antibiotics—they become antibiotic-resistant.
Herbal formulas give them fewer opportunities for this—partly because plants have been taking antibiotics for a lot longer than humans have, and partly because the mixture of substances provide a diversity of MOAs and spare the healthy bacteria which can quickly grow to “reclaim” the territory that the infectious pathogenic bacteria were colonizing.
Why Antibiotic Herbs Work for Treating SIBO
SIBO stands for small intestine bacterial overgrowth. This is a condition in the gut that occurs when too much bacteria build up in the small intestines. When this occurs the bacteria can feed on carbohydrates and produce many uncomfortable symptoms such as nausea, bloating, gas, diarrhea, constipation, and more.
SIBO is usually caused by slow movement of the intestines, structural issues with the bowel, malabsorptive disorders, immune system dysfunction, or medications like narcotics that slow down motility. You can learn more about SIBO with our guide here.
While the only way to cure SIBO is to fix the underlying cause leading to bacterial overgrowth (such as impaired GI motility), antimicrobials are currently one of the most effective treatment options used by practitioners to reduce bacterial overgrowth in the small bowel helping to resolve symptoms.
Treatments used for SIBO are typically one or a combination of the following:
This means that both herbs which have antibiotic effects and conventional antibiotics are used by practitioners to treat SIBO while also working on fixing any underlying causes.
Herbal vs Regular Antibiotics for SIBO
So, you’re dealing with SIBO and you’re deciding whether to take a regular antibiotic like Rifaximin (Xifaxan) or try a SIBO natural therapy protocol using herbs.
In certain situations, either protocol can be a good option. Let’s compare the difference between using herbal formulas and pharmaceutical drugs.
|PHARMACEUTICALS VS HERBS FOR SIBO||PRESCRIBED ANTIBIOTICS||HERBAL ANTIMICROBIALS|
|Effectiveness||Varies: Depends on the antibiotic, the dose and how long prescribed||Varies: Depends on the combination of herbs, the dose, and how long used. A recent study showed that herbal treatment was as effective as Rifaximin for SIBO.|
|Cost||$100’s to $1,000’s||$10’s to $100’s|
|Side Effects||Potential for more severe side effects||Relatively mild side effects|
|How Long Before See Improvement||May see improvement 1-2 weeks after beginning||Usually takes 3-4 weeks to see improvement if not longer|
|Accessibility||Prescription needed||No prescription needed|
Both herbs and pharmaceutical drugs have their benefits. Keep in mind:
- Pharmaceutical antibiotics usually work quicker but cost more and you will need a prescription from your doctor. They also have the potential for more harmful side effects since they are stronger.
- On the other hand, herbal antimicrobials can be just as effective but often take up to 4-5 weeks to work effectively. You can get herbs online and a prescription is not required.
But, it’s important that if you do decide to take any form of antibiotic, including natural formulas, to take them correctly because they can still cause side effects.
Who Should Use Herbal Antibiotics for SIBO?
You should consider using herbal antimicrobials for SIBO if:
- If you have financial difficulty purchasing a prescription for Xifaxan or don’t want to spend $100s to $1,000s on drugs that aren’t covered by insurance.
- If you have used regular, prescription antibiotics in the past and want to find a cheaper and less harsh way of treating SIBO.
- If you don’t have easy access to a doctor.
- If you are someone that has a more holistic mindset, natural medicine can be a great option.
The Best Natural Antibiotics for Treating SIBO
There are a number of different herbs with antibiotic properties. In fact, there have even been a few studies like this one that concluded “herbal combinations prove just as effective as standard prescription antibiotics”, making them a good substitute option for conventional prescriptions.
Also, keep in mind that different herbal combinations are usually chosen based on the gases produced in your gut and the symptoms you are experiencing. For example, for sibo methane gas treatment herbs that work on methane-producing organisms like Allimed and Atrantil are usually chosen.
Below are a few of the different herbs that can be used to treat SIBO. The dosage used is usually 1-3 of the herbs taken 2-3x a day for 6-12 weeks.
Below are 2 other combination formulas that have been proven effective in a study. The dosage used was 2 caps twice a day for each product in the combination formulas.
Experiences with SIBO Herbal Treatment Protocol
Many people have tried a few different SIBO treatments of which one or two have been helpful. Herbal antimicrobial formulations in the form of capsules and tinctures can be very helpful to balance gut flora, but you have to weigh that in the face of how effective they may be—or how long it may take to feel better.
Combining these natural antimicrobials with a soothing herbal tea can be super helpful for many. The synergistic effect when using teas along with tinctures or capsules can be very powerful—and can help increase effectiveness and the speed with which you may respond.
One of the capsule protocols people report success with includes:
Allimed (2 capsules 3x per day for 4 weeks)
Berberine complex (2 capsules 3x per day for 4 weeks)
Using Other Preparations of Herbs
Other herbal preparation methods besides using capsules can also be effective. Many people have had success using tinctures and high strength herb teas. These can be made at home by soaking herbs in alcohol or purchasing them from companies that make the tinctures or teas.
Even if you plan to take the capsules it might be beneficial to incorporate herb teas into your health protocol because the immune-boosting and synergistic effects of combining different herbs can make your capsule protocol more potent.
For example, fresh ginger root tea or licorice root tea may increase the effectiveness of the capsules. If you want to learn more about making tinctures or teas there are plenty of herbalism education books you can purchase.
Ginger Root Tea (Recipe from Herbal Antibiotics):
- Juice a few pieces of fresh ginger (3-4 pieces the size of your thumb)
- Combine ¼ cup of ginger juice with 12 ounces of hot water, ⅛ teaspoon of cayenne, ¼ lime juice, 1 tablespoon of wildflower honey (if you can tolerate it)
- Drink 4-6 cups throughout the day during your treatment protocol
Licorice Root Tea:
- Add 1 tablespoon of licorice root to 1 liter of simmering water in a kettle. Simmer on low for 20 minutes
- After 20 minutes add 2 tablespoons of the following mix: passionflower, chamomile, lemon balm (mixed in equal amounts), then take off the heat and let the mixture steep for 15 more minutes
- Strain the final liquid product into a large container and drink throughout the day
Herbal Therapy for SIBO FAQ’s
How Do I Know if I Have SIBO?
In order to tell if you have SIBO, the test that is most often used by doctors is a hydrogen and methane breath test. This test measures the amount of hydrogen and methane gas produced in the small intestine when feeding the bacteria a sugar solution of lactulose. See our guide to breath testing here.
Is SIBO Serious?
Yes, SIBO is serious because it can dramatically impact someone’s quality of life and cause numerous frustrating digestive symptoms. Although, it has been shown that SIBO is not a fatal condition.
Can SIBO Be Cured Permanently?
Yes, SIBO can be cured permanently if the underlying cause is fixed. Some of the most common underlying causes are impaired intestinal motility, medications like narcotics, immune system disorders, and anything else that inhibits normal gut motility.
What is the Strongest Antibiotic for Bacterial Infection?
The strongest antibiotics for bacterial infections are herbs like oregano oil, clove, thyme, berberine, and conventional antibiotics like Xifaxan and Neomycin. It’s always best to use them carefully to avoid microbiome disruption because they often times have a more broad-spectrum effect on bacterial populations.
What to Avoid While on Antibiotics?
While on antimicrobials it’s best to avoid very restrictive diets, excessive alcohol use, and any other lifestyle habit or medication that can interfere with treatment efficacy.
What Happens if You Take Probiotics and Antibiotics at the Same Time?
If you take probiotics and antibiotics at the same time some studies have shown that you may be able to reduce your risk of pathogenic infection and microbiome disruption. A lot of practitioners recommend using probiotics alongside antibiotics but there are some who do not. The evidence is not entirely clear on this issue and there needs to be more research conducted.
How Do You Restore Good Bacteria After Antibiotics?
The best way to restore good bacteria after using antibiotics is to focus on a healthy diet and lifestyle habits including adequate sleep, whole plant foods, exercise, and positive social activity. Some people might also benefit from including fermented foods such as kombucha and sauerkraut as well as probiotics while others with SIBO may not be able to tolerate these foods.
What to Keep In Mind with SIBO Natural Treatment
Remember, when you are going through any SIBO natural treatment, you need to work on resolving any underlying causes.
There is a reason this bacteria is accumulating and potentially recurring following treatments.
It may be because of a weakened immune system, poor gut motility, adhesions, or another drug you are taking. It can also be due to your dietary habits—at least for a few weeks, try switching to a whole food organic diet emphasizing vegetables, fruit, and fish.
Also, consider trying some high-potency (and high quality) strain-specific probiotics—or try eating yogurt with active cultures. Other fermented (and non-pasteurized) foods can provide probiotics as well. Fermented foods include kefir, kombucha, sauerkraut, pickles, miso, tempeh, natto, and kimchi. Some people may see benefit of adding in a therapeutic strain probiotic. Others may need to wait.
You can also try including a specific prebiotic in your diet as well to see if it helps—partially hydrolyzed guar gum has shown some success in IBS studies.
It’s important that you work to strengthen your whole body so that you can prevent SIBO recurrence. The goal is to get your gut working more like a smooth flowing river, not a spastic backlogged one.
This may mean transitioning to a healthy diet, improving immune function so you can fight off invaders, getting adequate sleep, or improving your hormones and gut motility—or ALL of those things. Yes, using antibiotics for SIBO can be a very necessary part of your healing journey but keep in mind that if you don’t improve your overall health the antimicrobial protocols may not have the same effect.
You can view an overview of all the SIBO treatment options here to decide what may be best for you.
On the other hand, if you’re ready to learn the specific details to treating SIBO in a simple and easy-to-read format which will help you get long-term results to check out the guide with the link below.