Traditional Remedies Resurfacing for Drug Resistant Bacteria


            Emory scientists investigated the potential disease fighting properties of three plants listed in ‘Resources of the Southern Fields and Forests’ from Civil War doctors.   While they did not understand the mechanisms of herbs and plants they used, US Civil War physicians worked tirelessly to save wounded soldiers lives and limbs.  Current medical researchers, facing the grim specter of multiple antibiotic resistance in today’s bacteria, questioned whether remedies of yesterday might provide new weapons in the contemporary battle.

              Three bacteria were tested against three Civil War remedies.  Acinetobacter baumannii, Staphylococcus aureus, and Klebsiella pneumonia stood on one side of the microscopic field arrayed against white oak, tulip poplar, and a thorny shrub called the devil’s walking stick on the other end.  The bacteria were chosen due to their common presence in wound infections and the remedies for their inclusion in Civil War medical manual as well as their proximity for study. 

            White oak and tulip poplar fared well against Staph. aureus by inhibiting its growth.  The white oak also did well against Acinetobacter and Klebsiella.  There were also found to inhibit biofilm production by Staphylcoccus.  The devil’s walking stick extracts fared well against Staphylococcus by inhibiting biofilm formation.

            Phytochemicals have been sometimes neglected if they do not kill a bacteria, but the ability of these plant extracts to inhibit biofilm may offer more than one would expect.  Biofilms, layers of mucous made by bacteria which protect the bacteria from our immune system, serve as a mechanism for a great deal of antibiotic resistance.  

            Functional medicine already utilizes a variety of herbal type products to attack both acute and chronic infections.  Both the simple UTI’s and sinus infections as well as the insidious Lyme and mycoplasma infections benefit from such therapies.  As we work to restore patients to healthier more abundant lives, we don’t want to ignore and safe and effective means of helping our patients.




Micah Dettweiler, James T. Lyles, Kate Nelson, Brandon Dale, Ryan M. Reddinger, Daniel V. Zurawski, Cassandra L. Quave. American Civil War plant medicines inhibit growth, biofilm formation, and quorum sensing by multidrug-resistant bacteria. Scientific Reports, 2019; 9 (1) DOI: 10.1038/s41598-019-44242-y


Secondary and thanks to Science Daily:

Emory Health Sciences. “Civil War plant medicines blast drug-resistant bacteria in lab tests: Confederate field hospitals turned to traditional remedies under Union blockade.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 22 May 2019. <>.


Sanctuary Functional Medicine, under the direction of Dr Eric Potter, IFMCP MD, provides functional medicine services to Nashville, Middle Tennessee and beyond. We frequently treat patients from Kentucky, Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia, Ohio, Indiana, and more... offering the hope of healthier more abundant lives to those with chronic illness.

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