Banish ParasitesRichard DeSylva, RH DNM November 1, 2011
With Herbs that Clear Critters from the Bowels
Mention the word “parasites” and most people have visions of tropical villages or holiday resorts where they have caught “Montezuma’s revenge” or had other intestinal problems. Tourists think that these parasites are left behind once they get on the plane and come home. Wrong!
According to many respected health experts – both in mainstream medicine and natural healthcare – parasites are now a major problem and are responsible for, or contribute to, many health conditions. These conditions include chronic fatigue, irritable bowel syndrome, Crohn’s disease, male and female reproductive tract problems, rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia, anemia, erratic blood sugar levels, candidiasis, and many other ailments.
In the opinion of one medical doctor who travels worldwide for the United Nations, the problem is pandemic. Another expert has stated that one billion people (one in seven worldwide) are infected with a particular parasite called hookworm. In North America, a staggering 85 to 90% of people have some type of parasitic infection. Some experts even go so far as to say that there are more infectious parasitic ailments here in North America than in Africa! These are just some of the disturbing statistics that are now coming to the public’s attention. It is enough to make the average Canadian or American give serious thought to what can be done about this ever-increasing problem.
Parasites are organisms that live in or upon other organisms. They can vary greatly in size, as this list shows:
– Microscopic single-cell protozoa (eg. blastocystis hominis) or the more common giardia (entamoeba histolytica);
– cryptosporidium, which was found in Collingwood, Ont. a couple of years ago;
– helminth worm types such as strongyloides or the pork tapeworm (taenia solium), which can grow up to fifteen feet in length;
– the fish tapeworm (diphyllobothrium latum), which has been recorded at over 30 feet in length.
To most people, it is horrifying to learn that such large organisms can and do live inside them. I have seen this in my practice, especially with a young eight-year-old girl who had round worms; when the realization dawned on her parents, they refused to believe it, took their little girl and hurriedly left my office. As much as I understand their position, it is most important to realize the extent of the problem today, and to act on it. In Germany, doctors are now recommending that their patients go on a de-worming program twice a year.
Symptoms of Parasitic Infestation
How do you know if you have parasites? The traditional stool test does not give a very accurate determination. Not only do mainstream clinics test for a limited number of parasite species, but the results of such tests have been found to vary greatly depending on the staining techniques, the skill of the technician, and whether or not advanced immuno-assays were employed. Given this uncertainty, you may want to pursue testing by practitioners of dark-field microscopy, who can literally shed a different light on the subject. Symptoms of parasites include: dull, listless hair, mental or physical lethargy, or a constant itchy or runny nose, back, skin or anus (the latter more typically around a full moon*). Digestive upset, bloating, gas, misshapen or shredded stools, explosive diarrhea (an indicator of the blastocystis hominis parasite), poor sleep patterns (especially around a full moon), confused thought processes, rapid hair loss, poor or erratic appetite, weight gain or loss, and unresponsiveness to diet or thyroid modalities, are some of the many conditions associated with a parasitic infestation. (*Some parasite species are more active when the moon is full.)
Parasitic infestation often accompanies degenerative bone loss, such as osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis involving degeneration of the body’s ball or socket joints. Parasites will burrow into articulated joints and eat the layers of calcium. Fibromyalgia, in addition to possibly being caused by free radical damage, lack of magnesium, or even emotional problems, may also be caused by parasites that feed on muscle tissue, contributing to pain in the joints and soft tissue.
According to some holistic doctors, parasites can even contribute to mental illnesses such as psychosis, paranoia, and non-specific depression. If they can thus affect the brain, then it becomes readily apparent how easily they can affect the whole body. While approximately 30% of parasites reside in the intestinal tract, the remaining 70% can burrow into muscles and joints, the liver, pancreas, spleen, sinus cavities, soft tissues and reproductive tracts. In fact, they will live anywhere they find a quiet place to call home.
You might think the immune system would be able to detect these freeloaders; in many cases, it does. However, certain parasites, such as a type of hookworm called necator americanus (literally “American killer”), have been found to produce chemicals that mask their presence and defeat immune responses. For example, the hookworm will attach itself to the intestinal wall, bite out a plug of tissue, and start drawing blood. This would normally trigger a two-pronged response by the immune system – the production of clotting agents to stem the flow of blood, and the activation of white blood cell components such as eosinophils and neutrophils, to do battle with the perceived invader. But the hookworm, upon biting into the intestinal wall, will produce substances that dissolve tissue and other substances that act as anti-clotting agents. Still other substances neutralize the white blood cell components, and will prevent the neurotransmitter acetylcholine from spreading the alarm.
It is because of such sophisticated maneuvers by parasites that we have a difficult time ridding ourselves of these troublesome creatures. Considering how many people today already have a compromised immune system, it is not surprising that the parasites manage to embed themselves in our bodies and avoid detection.
This is not to say the situation is hopeless or that we are powerless to do something. On the contrary, nature has given us many herbal agents that can rid us of these unwanted guests. One of the first steps in a complete program is to clean out the matter that the parasites feed upon. This may be in the large or small bowel, or in the interstices of tissue anywhere in the body. Ideally, the filtering aspects of the body would handle this. The reality is that we do not really look after the liver or the kidneys. The end result is that both the blood and tissues become toxic, very acidic, and a breeding ground for a variety of pathogens, including parasites.
Herbal Medicine for Cleansing Blood and Bowels
There are many herbal formulae that can serve to clean out the large bowel. Unless you have a very degraded and irritated intestinal tract, most standard herbal formulae will work quite well. Herbs such as Cascara Sagrada, Buckthorn Bark, or possibly even Senna (which should not be used in cases of irritation/inflammation) will facilitate elimination of waste matter that lines the bowel wall.
Of equal importance, later in the cleansing program, is the use of good digestive herbs to improve the whole of the alimentary canal, including the stomach, liver, gallbladder, pancreas, spleen, and small intestine (where absorption takes place). Herbs such as Barberry Bark, Blue Vervain, and Gentian Root will work well to stimulate enzyme production, allowing food to be properly broken down and waste to be eliminated through increased peristaltic activity.
More often than not, the blood also needs attention. It can be toxic, thick and congested, and deficient in oxygen. You can use formulae containing Oregon Grape Root, Burdock Root, Celandine, and even Sassafras Bark to help cleanse the blood.
Herbs for Eradicating Parasites
Whether one chooses to tackle the parasites before or after such a general cleanse, it is important to use those herbs that will deal most effectively with the type of parasite that you have. Generally these parasites are microscopic in nature, and include many of the ones mentioned earlier. I’ve found that a mixture of Wormwood, Tansy, Walnut Leaves and Quassia Bark has proven most effective against a wide variety of liver and pancreatic flukes, protozoa, and similar microscopic organisms. Male Fern Root, Pink Root, and other equally potent herbs required for tapeworms and the like, are best used under the care and guidance of a qualified herbal practitioner.
Lifestyle Tips to Prevent Parasites
In the larger picture, it is important to modify one’s diet and eliminate the heavy meats such as pork, steak tartar, undercooked burgers, steaks, and raw fish. (I know that there are anti-microbial compounds in wasabe mustard eaten with sushi, but the high doses required for it to effectively kill parasites would leave your mouth and sinus cavities in smouldering ruins.)
Finally, one source of contamination that must not be overlooked is one’s pets. Regular de-worming of dogs, cats, and yes, even horses, should be undertaken. The route of contamination from pets to humans is well documented; therefore it is advisable for children to stay away from pets that have been licking and cleaning themselves. Pets should be kept off beds, and outside if at all possible. This may sound draconian, but the health of you and your children should be uppermost. Washing your hands after urinating or defecating may sound basic, but you would be surprised how many do not even perform this task properly or regularly.
To come back full circle, when you’re away on holidays be very cautious of the meals and food served in the locales where you travel. Drink bottled water, avoid produce that has been rinsed in the local tap water, and choose your destination wisely – you just never know what you may pick up and bring back!
Parasitology Center, Inc.
11445 E. Via Linda, # 2-419
Scottsdale, AZ 85259-2638
Richard DeSylva is the owner of The Herb Works in Rockwood, ON. He is on the Boards of the Ontario Herbalist Association, and the Canadian Council of Herbalists Association. Richard is an advocate and lobbyist for the appropriate regulation of herbs and herbal medicine. For more information, email: firstname.lastname@example.org, or call: (519) 856-1636.