Antibiotics are powerful medicines that fight bacterial infections. Used properly, antibiotics can save lives. They either kill bacteria or keep them from reproducing. Your body's natural defenses can usually take it from there.

Antibiotics do not fight infections caused by viruses, such as

If a virus is making you sick, taking antibiotics may do more harm than good. Each time you take antibiotics, you increase the chances that bacteria in your body will be able to resist them. Later, you could get or spread an infection that those antibiotics cannot cure.

While the discovery of modern antibiotic drugs has done much to reduce mortality from infectious illnesses, and in some cases has almost eradicated certain diseases, the unwise use and overprescription of these powerful drugs has done more harm than good. Antibiotics are often prescribed for viral infections (the common cold and 'flu for example) which they can do nothing to help (though they may just avoid a secondary infection from bacteria.) Overworked doctors give antibiotics for relatively minor ailments which would clear up with an antiseptic or simply with time and rest, or 'old fashioned' treatments, such as compresses or poultices. Taking an anti­biotic for minor illness will often build up an immunity to that drug, which will then be ineffective when needed in a crisis.

In the body, antibiotics aren't particularly discriminating, and will kill 'friendly' bacteria along with those causing illness. Thus we very often find acute diarrhoea occurring when antibiotics are taken, as a result of the helpful bacteria inhabiting the intestines being killed by the million. Women on courses of antibiotics often suffer an outbreak of vaginal thrush when the bacteria normally present iris the vagina are affected.

It is safer by far to use essential oils to combat infection. All essential oils will kill some bacteria, while a number of oils are powerful bactericides affecting a wide range of infectious organisms. Eucalyptus, Bergamot, Juniper, Lavender, Garlic and Tea Tree are the most important of these.

Perhaps even more important than their bactericidal effect, is the fact that these oils stimulate the body's own immune response to infection. The amount of essential oil taken into the body would certainly not be sufficient to destroy the disease-causing bacteria present, but the stimulus to the body's defence mechanisms does not seem to be dependent on the amount of essential oil involved. Indeed, as Dr Jean Valnet has written, without actually going as far as using homoeopathic doses, the smaller the amount of oil used, the greater the effect seems to be on the body.

An antibiotic may be really necessary in a crisis — pneumonia, for example, or severe cystitis when blood or pus are present in the urine, or pain affects the kidneys. It would be irresponsible to depend on self-help in such cases, or when a young child or an elderly person is involved, but you can do a lot to offset the harmful side effects of antibiotics by taking at the same time large amounts of live natural yoghurt, or taking acidophilus or yoghurt tablets.

The wisest course, though, would be to tackle infections in the earliest stages with essential oils, rest, and fasting where indicated, and avoid them ever reaching the acute, crisis condition.

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