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by: Cindy L. A. Jones, Ph.D.

Anthrax (Bacillus anthracis)
Stock up on Garlic, Not Cipro!

Much concern has surrounded the fear of anthrax lately. While the risk of contracting anthrax is extremely rare, it can be deadly. Anthrax is typically a disease of animals and it is not unheard of for farm workers and those working with hides or wool to become infected with anthrax. Just like any infectious agent though, those at highest risk are those with a weakened immune system, so staying healthy and strengthening your immune system are the most important ways to protect yourself not only from anthrax but from diseases that you are more likely to contract this winter.

There are three types of anthrax: pulmonary, cutaneous and gastrointestinal. Pulmonary is by far the most dangerous, but also the most difficult to develop.  It is caused when the anthrax spores are able to settle into the smallest parts of the lung. Once they start colonizing there they release a powerful toxin into the blood. The gastrointestinal type is transmitted from eating meat that is infected with anthrax. Cutaneous anthrax is an infection of the skin and is rarely fatal.

Because of the danger involved in doing anthrax research, we actually know very little about what agents affect and kill the anthrax bacteria, Bacillus anthracis. Standard antibiotics such as penicillin, tetracycline and the newer ciprofloxacin or Cipro are able to kill the bacteria in a petri dish. Older literature,  gives us additional clues as to how it was once treated. Several herbs that were used in the past to treat anthrax either in humans or animals include garlic, coriander, pau d' arco, rhubarb root, and thyme. Any of these are safe to use either externally on the skin or internally as a tea. Essential oil of thyme is thought to be extremely toxic to the anthrax bacteria and is also a traditional treatment for pneumonia. This oil can be highly toxic and must be used in small amounts; 2-4 drops, three times daily diluted in water. It can also be used diluted on the skin to treat an abrasion or infected area. Some newer studies suggest that oil of oregano may also be toxic to the anthrax bacteria.

You may have heard the story of the four thieves who plundered graves of those who died from the plague (Yersinia pestis) in France during the 1720's. To keep from getting the plague themselves they bathed in what is now called Four Thieves Vinegar. The recipe for this vinegar is similar to this:

1 tablespoon each dried lavender, rosemary, sage, rue, wormwood and peppermint
2-4 cloves of garlic
2 1/2 cups cider vinegar
Let set for two weeks to infuse, then strain

The most important part of this concoction is probably the garlic. Besides antimicrobial activity, garlic enhances the immune system. This vinegar could be used to bath the skin to prevent many types of infection. If taken internally however, the rue and wormwood should be left out, as these are toxic when taken internally. Rue should also not be used by pregnant women.

Because of the seriousness of anthrax and other diseases such as smallpox and the plague, if you suspect you have been exposed to one of them you should see a physician immediately to receive the appropriate antibiotic treatment. However, if for some reason that is impossible it may be helpful to have some of these herbs on hand to treat infections. Any of these herbs can also be taken in conjunction with antibiotics to boost the therapeutic potential.
Copyright 2001

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