Individuals whose diets are rifled with processed foods and refined carbohydrates run a greater risk of infection. Intestinal linings in these individuals are more likely to be held together with more fragile and easily penetrable connective tissues. The integrity and strength of the critical barriers that divide their insides from the teeming legions of clamoring invaders on the outside is compromised. Microscopic perforations or lesions may appear that could allow the passage of both allergenic substances and pathogenic microbes from the gastrointestinal tract into the bloodstream.1
But, the human body should not be an open door or even a screen door. The gastrointestinal tract contains more than half of all the immune cells in the human body, specifically for the purpose of removing dangerous microbes that may enter our digestive systems with the goal of traveling further by entering our bloodstreams. Trillions of protective beneficial bacteria, usually represented in thousands of different strains as well as phagocytic cells of the immune system, provide the first line of defense. They are part of the human biome. They are the ‘good guys,’ who work on our behalf to maintain a healthful balance.1
ANTIMICROBIALS FOR HEALTHY BACTERIAL BALANCE
Cinnamic acid is named for and found in the essential oil of its most popular source, the bark of the cinnamon tree. Nuts of the African shea tree also supply cinnamic acid in their fat (i.e., shea butter). Resinous, deliciously fragrant balsam extract from various trees shrubs serves as an additional source. Refined cinnamic acid from these sources famously serves as flavoring and fragrance ingredients in various foods, cosmetics, and skin care products.1
Less well-known is the lethality of cinnamic acid against bacteria and the biofilms they may form. Biofilms are collections of selfsame bacteria that group together and may attach themselves to whatever surface is at hand. They may stick to a garden trowel, a pet’s plastic water dish, or, more ominously, to a medical device or bodily tissue.1
Candida albicans is one notorious form of biofilm in the intestinal tract. If allowed to flourish, the yeast’s ‘roots’ can perforate the intestinal lining, creating a leaky gut syndrome. This, in turn, commonly triggers dramatic allergic reactions, which may lead to confusion, fatigue, chronic inflammation, and pain. These are just a few of the many difficulties that can result from a leaky gut.1
Cinnamic acid, in sufficient amount, can deform the cell membranes of Candida albicans yeast and fragment the biofilms. Subsequently, it can help manage the presence and danger of Candida yeast in the digestive tract.2
Shifting our consideration from yeast to bacteria, studies indicate that cinnamic acid and its derivatives inhibit the growth of 30 strains of H. pylori.3 This bacteria is now identified as the primary cause of gastric ulcers and is implicated in acute and chronic gastritis as well as the development of some forms of gastric cancer.4
Cinnamic acid has been tested both in vitro and in vivo against not only yeast and bacteria but also parasites responsible for malaria.5
MRSA, commonly referred to as Staph Infections, has become a notorious stealth disease lurking in the nooks and crannies of hospitals. It and its biofilms are, nevertheless, susceptible to inhibition by cinnamic acid.6
Cinnamic acid is a significant player from the natural world. It offers antibacterial, antifungal, and antiparasitic protection. It also helps support the natural balance within the human biome. Laboratory tests and clinical trials show that the following bacteria, yeasts, molds, and fungi are susceptible to cinnamic acid.7, 8
Cat’s Claw Roots of cat’s claw yield alkaloids showing a pronounced enhancement of phagocytosis, both in vitro and in vivo.9 And what is phagocytosis? It is the destruction of bacterial invaders by large white blood cells (leukocytes) and macrophages (similar cells found in tissues). These cells engulf the bacteria, and quite simply, digest it.1
Cat’s claw’s long history in traditional medicine is partly explained by modern discoveries of its effects on the human immune response. The alkaloids themselves have been tested at least in vitro against a number of microbes to which the human biome can play host.1
Clove is one of the most heavily researched botanical sources of antimicrobials. Most studies look to the potently fragrant oils of clove to find the seat of its power. The biological activity of clove, or Eugenia caryophyllata, has been investigated on several microorganisms and parasites including pathogenic bacteria, Herpes simplex, and hepatitis C viruses. In addition to its antimicrobial, antioxidant, antifungal, and antiviral activity, clove essential oil possesses anti-inflammatory, cytotoxic, insect-repellent, and anesthetic properties.10
Clove oil can be effective in controlling yeast, and it has proven lethal against Staph infections and Salmonella in laboratory tests. What may be even more promising about the use of these botanicals and their extracts relative to bacteria lies in the recent discoveries that some bacteria showing resistance to certain antibiotics are sensitive to extracts of clove. This suggests that, in the words of the researchers,
“Spices might have a great potential to be used as antimicrobial agents”.
Eucalyptus Among remedies of natural origin, a special place belongs to essential oils, for several are known as strong antimicrobial agents that can be used to combat antibiotic-resistant bacteria.
Eucalyptus leaves, their oils, and powdered extracts fall into that potential-new-medicinal category, wherein, better-known plants are combined in a study with some of the newer players.1
So, what are the substances or compounds in eucalyptus oil that possess antimicrobial activity? Their antimicrobial activity was tested against three pathogenic bacteria: Staphylococcus aureus, Bacillus subtilis, and Escherichia coli; against the fungus Aspergillus niger; and against Rhizopus solani, a bacteria that causes rot in root vegetables. Eucalyptus citriodora exhibited the highest antimicrobial activity against the five microbial species tested.12
Confirming studies are abundant, where in vitro tests demonstrate that essential oils of eucalyptus, thyme, cinnamon, lemon, pine, sage, orange, laurel, myrtle, rosemary, and juniper are highly active against multiple bacterial species.13, 14
These studies, effectively, argue for the combination of multiple antimicrobial botanical extracts in a single product. Such a combination might provide first-line anti-infective protection against a broad field of recognized pathogens—if dosages were adequate. At the very least, smaller dosages of a combination product taken on a regular basis could sustain a healthful, homeostatic balance between the beneficial and the, potentially, harmful microbes that inhabit the human body. The continual presence of small amounts of botanical antimicrobials in the digestive tract might sufficiently inhibit pathogen infectivity, keeping one free of disease for extended periods of time.1
Pomegranate Water and ethanol (ethylalcohol) extracts of pomegranate (Punicagranatum) contain some of the more effective plant substances found to have promising activity against microorganisms.15 In combination with other extracts, for example, pomegranate and its partners have proven to be not only effective but also so safe that the blend has been mixed into infant formula as a new treatment for H. pylori infections in babies.16
H. pylori is a common human pathogen, infecting about 30% of children and 60% of adults worldwide. It is infamously responsible for gastric ulcers and is linked to diseases such as gastritis and gastric cancer. Infants may become infected through close contact with nursing. Alarmingly, antibiotic treatment is known to have a failure rate that exceeds 20%. This rate is, essentially, due to the increasing prevalence of antibiotic-resistant strains of the bacteria. The situation has led to a search for alternative therapies. Botanical medicines show great promise.1
Jambolan Following the trail of antimicrobial plants brings us to Jambolan, a hardwood tree with water-resistant wood that can grow to a height of 100 feet, if the climate and soil are right. That means low elevation soils in tropical or semi-tropical regions up to 2,000 feet in elevation serve best. The tree originated in India and has been carried around the world by migrating peoples. It now grows in Florida. There, the poor, sandy soil will only support a tree height of about 50 feet.1 It is often referred to as the Java plum or Malabar plum because of its oblong, juicy, astringent, plum-colored mature fruits. Their flavor varies from acidic to fairly sweet, and although the leaves smell like turpentine (a sure sign that something powerful lurks within), the tree’s early blossoms are pleasantly fragrant.1
An ethanol extract of jambolan (Syzygiumcumini) inhibited the quorum sensing in colonies of Chromobacterium violaceum.17 This bacterium seldom infects humans, but it can be lethal when it does. If it is present in the soil, it can enter the body through a dirty wound. If it gains a foothold, Chromobacterium violaceum can spread into lesions of inflamed, dead skin tissue. This may then be followed by migration into the bloodstream, where it can repeat the effect internally, creating abscesses within internal organs (such as the liver, lung, spleen, skin, lymph nodes, or brain). The process left untreated can culminate in multi-organ failure and death.1
Jambolan extracts, then, seem to have several signifi cant antimicrobial activities: 1) They may directly kill the invading pathogen; 2) They may help block the process of infection by interfering with quorum sensing among collections of bacteria; 3) They may stimulate neutrophil activity, drawing neutrophils up in an array against invading bacteria.1
Lemon Balm is a medicinal plant that has long been used in European Traditional Medicine and Traditional Iranian Medicine for the treatment of several diseases. It is also widely used as a vegetable and flavorful additive to food dishes.18
Its pleasant, light flavor disguises its value as a medicinal herb, yet it is in the culinary herbs such as sage, basil, oregano, and rosemary. All of these herbs have significant antimicrobial activity. A good deal of the antimicrobial power of all of these plants results from their biomass of the polyphenol, rosmarinic acid. The rosmarinic acid content of lemon balm is less than that of oregano but greater than that of rosemary. Yet, lemon balm and its cousins show significant antimicrobial activity against Listeria monocytogenes, Staphylococcus aureus, and Candida albicans.19
Rosemary & Thyme The beneficial health effects of extracts from many plants used as seasoning agents in foods and beverages have been claimed for centuries.20 Rosemary is one such herb, and thyme is another. Both are members of the Lamiaceae family that includes lemon balm, oregano, sage, basil, and others. More often than not, both rosemary and thyme are tested alongside other members of their family and usually register some of the most powerful antimicrobial activity in the group.1
It is often unclear which plant innately possesses the strongest antimicrobial activity. Indeed, it is more accurate to say that each plant will have advantages over certain specific microbes that the extracts and oils of another plant may lack. In fact, a plant may lack lethality against one microbe, but then show itself to be stunningly lethal against others. In other words, although some plants may have broad antimicrobial activity, it can be expected that there will be some microbes that cannot be inhibited by them. At the same time, extracts and oils of one plant may have narrower applicability, but they may prove very effective against some of the microbes left untouched by other plants.1
Rosemary and thyme exhibit antimicrobial activity similar to that of the other members of the Lamiaceae family, which includes lemon balm, sage, and basil. In tests, thyme and rosemary quite often show superior ability against certain strains.1
So, we are faced with the question as to whether or not these marvelous antimicrobial substances from plants can actually be of service inside the body. But, what does “inside the body” really mean? 1
If something is swallowed, say food, water, dietary supplements, or drugs, it is still outside the body until it is absorbed. Humans are, in fact, somewhat akin to a pile of donuts. If you stack one donut atop the other until you have a good number in the column, you will have built a facsimile of a rather doughy human being. Down the middle will run a hollow tube, and that would represent the human digestive tract. Anything traveling that tunnel has still not penetrated to the inside of the body.1
The gastrointestinal mucosa serves as the primary entry point for all nutrients that sustain life. Food, itself, contains substances that are both nutritious and toxic. Since many foods and beverages carry with them bacteria of both good and bad varieties, the bulk of the body’s immune cells are found in and on the intestinal mucosa, working to prevent the absorption of unwanted pathogenic microbes while allowing life-sustaining nutrients to pass through into the bloodstream and lymphatic systems.1
It can be argued that plant-derived antimicrobials in the form of dietary supplements can be expected to provide similar, identical, or, possibly, even better antimicrobial activity in the environment of the gastrointestinal tract than that seen in laboratory tests. This is because the intestinal tract is just as much outside the body as petri dishes in the lab are outside the body.1
Human biochemistry evolved and adapted in an environment that fed it both probiotic bacteria and a host of plants with the ability to kill bacteria. An average balance between their effects—homeostasis— evolved, with neither dominating so that the host organism, we humans, could survive.1
Now that we humans have learned how to extract and concentrate microbicides from plants and synthesize our own pharmaceuticals to serve the same purpose, we have the ability to upset normal homeostasis. It is easily done with man-made antibiotics, for example. It is less easily done with plant-based microbicides, unless, large doses of a few such as garlic and cinnamon, are taken over a long period of time. But, we humans also now have at hand probiotic supplements of our own creation, or rather, cultivation that can be used to restore the balance that may be lost if either man-made or botanical microbicides are used to the detriment of the viability of probiotic colonies.1
Of course, supplemental microbicides with less lethality to probiotics can be selected for use while maintaining appropriate antimicrobial force. Yet, the ultimate saviors of the homeostatic balance between probiotics and microbicides in plants are the probiotics themselves. You may knock them down, but you can’t knock them out.1
Probiotics are resilient creatures once they take up residence in the gastrointestinal tract, no matter how fragile they may seem in powdered or encapsulated dietary supplements. They can, in general, double their numbers every 15 minutes, once they have found a home attached to the intestinal lining. So, you may pound on them one day, but they will come back fresh and alive the next day.1
In our modern age, there is, nevertheless, the rationale for a for a low-dose, daily supplement of plant-derived microbicides. We are all living more hygienic lifestyles— bathing daily, sanitizing our food preparation areas, and following other practices to avoid contact with pathogens. By removing former bacterial challenges from our environment, we ask less of our immune systems than our ancestors did. So, although we have all the proper soldiers in our army of immune cells, we have fewer of them to call upon when in need of an immediate response. We are, therefore, relatively more vulnerable to infection in the short-term, or the time before our immune systems can react and build enough new recruits to turn back the invader. A daily dose of botanical microbicides may provide just enough protection to keep pathogens under control and homeostasis unperturbed.1
The population of the planet continues to increase, too, presenting us with an ever-increasing number of disease vectors— persons who may unwittingly play the part of the mailman and deliver a bad piece of pathogenic mail. Once again, however, a daily supplement of botanical antimicrobials may protect normal homeostasis within your personal biome.1
1 Timon, Mark, Controlling Bad Bacteria, Bloomer Press & Audio Corp., 2016. Pages 5-7 9-11, 14-16, 17-19, 25-26, 28, 32-33, 35, 40-41, 44, 51, 54-55.
2 Khan MS1, Ahmad I., Antibiofilm activity of certain phytocompounds and their synergy with fluconazole against Candida albicans biofilms. J Antimicrob Chemother. 2012 Mar;67(3):618-21. DOI: 10.1093/jac/dkr512. Epub 2011 Dec 13.
3 Ali SM1, Khan AA, Ahmed I, Musaddiq M, Ahmed KS, Polasa H, Rao LV, Habibullah CM, Sechi LA, Ahmed N., Antimicrobial activities of Eugenol and Cinnamaldehyde against the human gastric pathogen Helicobacter pylori. Ann Clin Microbiol Antimicrob. 2005 Dec 21;4:20.
4 Bonifácio BV1, dos Santos Ramos MA2, da Silva PB3, Bauab TM4., Antimicrobial activity of natural products against Helicobacter pylori: a review. Ann Clin Microbiol Antimicrob. 2014 Nov 19;13:54. DOI: 10.1186/s12941-014-
5 KanaanKanaan J1, Ginsburg H., Effects of cinnamic acid derivatives on in vitro growth of Plasmodium falciparum and on the permeability of the membrane of malaria-infected erythrocytes. Antimicrob Agents Chemother. 1992 May;36(5):1102-8.
6 Jia P1, Xue YJ, Duan XJ, Shao SH., Effect of cinnamaldehyde on biofilm formation and Sara Sara expression by methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus. Lett Appl Microbiol. 2011 Oct;53(4):409-16. DOI DOI: 10.1111/j.1472- 765X.2011.03122.x. Epub 2011 Aug 8.
7 Schmidt E1, Bail S, Friedl SM, Jirovetz L, Buchbauer G, Wanner J, Denkova Z, Slavchev A, Stoyanova A, Geissler M., Antimicrobial activities of single aroma compounds. Nat Prod Commun. 2010 Sep;5(9):1365-8.
8 Ooi LS1, Li Y, Kam SL, Wang H, Wong EY, Ooi VE., Antimicrobial activities of cinnamon cinnamon oil and cinnamaldehyde from the Chinese medicinal herb Cinnamomum cassia Blume. Am J Chin Med. 2006;34(3):511-22.
9 Wagner H1, Kreutzkamp B, Jurcic K., Die Alkaloide von Uncaria tomentosa und ihre Phagozytose-steigernde Wirkung. Planta Med. 1985 Oct;51(5):419-23
10 Chaieb K1, Hajlaoui H, Zmantar T, Kahla-Nakbi AB, Rouabhia M, Mahdouani K, Bakhrouf A., The chemical composition and biological activity of cloveclove essential oil, Eugenia caryophyllata (SyzygiumSyzygium aromaticum L. Myrtaceae): a short review. Phytother Res. 2007 Jun;21(6):501-6.
11 Arora DS1, Kaur J., Antimicrobial activity of spices. Int J Antimicrob Agents. 1999 Aug;12(3):257-62.
12 Ghaffar A1, Yameen M2, Kiran S3, Kamal S4, Jalal F5, Munir B6, Saleem S7, Rafiq N8, Ahmad A9, Saba I10, Jabbar A11., Chemical Composition and in- Vitro Evaluation of the Antimicrobial and Antioxidant Activities of Essential Oils Extracted from Seven Eucalyptus Species. Molecules. 2015 Nov 18;20(11):20487-98. DOI DOI: 10.3390/molecules201119706.
13 Nasir M1, Tafess K2, Abate D3., Antimicrobial potential of the Ethiopian Thymus schimperi essential oil in comparison with others against certain fungal and bacterial species. BMC Complement Altern Med. 2015 Jul 31;15:260. DOI DOI: 10.1186/s12906-015-0784-3.
14 Ozogul Y1, KelleyKelley E, Ucar Y, Ozogul F., Antimicrobial Impacts of Essential Oils on Food Borne- Pathogens. Recent Pat Food Nutr Agric. 2015;7(1):53-61.
15 Khan N1, Abbasi AM, Dastagir G, Nazir A, Shah GM, Shah MM, Shah MH., Ethnobotanical and antimicrobial study of some selected medicinal plants used in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KPK) as a potential source to cure infectious diseases. BMC Complement Altern Med. 2014 Apr 4;14:122. DOI DOI: 10.1186/1472-6882-14-122.
16 Hamad GM1, Taha TH2, El-Deeb NM3, Alshehri AM4., Advanced trends in controlling Helicobacter pylori infections using functional and therapeutically supplements in baby milk. J Food Sci Technol. 2015 Dec;52(12):8156 8163. Epub 2015 Jun 11.
17 Halka Suryanarayana Vasavi, Ananthapadmanabha Bhagwath Arun, Punchapady Devasya Rekha, Inhibition of quorum sensing in Chromobacterium violaceum by Syzygium cumini L. and Pimenta dioica L., Asian Pacific
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19 Benedec D1, Hanganu D1, Oniga I1, Tiperciuc B1, Olah NK2, Raita O3, Bischin C4, Silaghi-Dumitrescu R4, Vlase L1, Assessment of rosmarinic acid content in six Lamiaceae species extracts and their antioxidant and antimicrobial potential, Pak J Pharm Sci. 2015 Nov;28(6 Suppl):2297-303.
20 Elgayyar M1, Draughon FA, Golden DA, Mount JR., Antimicrobial activity of essential oils from plants against selected pathogenic and saprophytic microorganisms., J Food Prot. 2001 Jul;64(7):1019-24.
Disclaimer: This information is not intended as a substitute for advice provided by a competent health-care professional. You should not use this information in diagnosing or treating a health problem. No claim or opinion in this email is intended to be, nor should be construed to be, medical advice. If you are now taking any drugs, prescribed or not, or have a medical condition, please consult a competent physician who is aware of herb/drug interactions before taking any herbal supplements. The information presented herein has not been evaluated by the FDA or the Department of Health and is not intended to diagnose, prevent or treat any disease or illness.