Friday, 16 November 2018

Synergy of Baical Skullcap and Antibiotics for MRSA

Article and photo by Ann Walker
The term methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) refers to a group of bacteria that are genetically distinct from other strains of S. aureus – a common bacteria found normally on human skin or nasal passages. The MRSA strains are resistant to most common antibiotics and are often associated with hospital infections which are very difficult-to-treat.

The root of Scutellaria baicalensis, also called Chinese skullcap or Baical skullcap, has long been used in traditional Chinese herbal medicine. The herb is often found in herbal formulas designed to alleviate inflammatory symptoms including allergies, auto-immune disorders and bacterial infections. Impressed with its wide applications, many western herbal practitioners, like myself, have included it in their own materia medica. It is the flavonoids, baicalin, wogonin and baicalein, in Baical skullcap which are of most interest: these compounds have clear anti-inflammatory and anti-allergic activity in laboratory studies. But what has caused some excitement among researchers over recent years is the finding, first hinted at 18 years ago, that these flavonoids can act in synergy with antibiotics to enhance their activity against MRSA (PMID: 10757427), by reversing the mechanisms leading to resistance.

Baical skullcap and its flavonoids have good bactericidal properties in their own right, including, notably, against H. pylori, the bacteria which cause stomach ulcers and upper digestive discomfort (PMID: 18826148). But, more recently, the ‘synergy’ story of the herb, taken along with antibiotics has been followed up. There is now evidence that baicalein can reverse both penicillin resistance (PMID: 26028441) and ciprofloxacin resistance (PMID: 21782012) of MRSA in test-tube studies. News that an ancient remedy may be profitably used as an adjunct to modern antibiotics to enhance their effect or even reverse resistance is encouraging for future healthcare.

PMID = PubMed identifier

Ann Walker PhD FCPP MNIMH RNutr
Course Director DHM
Herbal Practitioner