European Herbal and Traditional Medicine Practitioners Association

Herbs to combat the threat of microbial resistance to antibiotics

A paper from the European Herbal and Traditional Medicine Practitioners Association (EHTPA) for the House of Commons Select Committee on Science and Technology’s antimicrobial resistance (AMR) inquiry.

Executive Summary:

In light of growing concerns relating to microbial resistance to antibiotics increasing attention is being given to the role that herbal medicines may play as autonomous anti-bacterial agents or as adjuvant treatments used to potentiate conventional drugs. This paper selectively reviews the evidence for herbal medicine as a valuable resource to combat bacterial resistance to antibiotics and suggests that further research is warranted.

  1. Synergy is an important characteristic determining the medicinal action of many herbal medicines occurring at pharmacodynamic and pharmacokinetic level1 2 and a number of papers have been published investigating potential benefits conferred by the synergism of phytoconstituents3 4 5 6. In particular, researchers have demonstrated that combining antibiotics with plant medicines can enhance the action of antibiotics thereby overcoming antibiotic resistance7.
  2. This is achieved in three main ways: firstly by means of a combined phytochemical and antibiotic attack on the bacterial cell wall - epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG) as found in green tea and carob powder is effective in this regard. Secondly, antibiotic resistance can be overcome by inhibition of enzymes that are generated by bacteria for the deactivation of antibiotics (again EGCG is active here) or by thirdly by disabling an efflux pumping system developed by several bacteria in order to prevent potentially destructive compounds such as antibiotics from penetrating into the bacteria, or to expel the antibiotics out of the bacteria cell once they have invaded it8.