Parasitic infections are becoming increasingly prevalent world wide. These infections are not only limited to developing countries, low income areas, or travellers, either: the CDC estimates that millions of Americans are affected, whether they know it or not. Parasites can infect and live in your body for weeks, months, or even years before showing any real symptoms.
Thankfully, research is always being done as to how we can combat this problem, both within North America and around the globe. Since the efficacy of many anti-parasite drugs currently available is not high, scientists and researchers are turning to natural herbs and remedies that have been used for generations. Recently, it has been discovered that the creosote bush, a plant native to Mexico and certain desert and Mid-West States, may be the world’s best hope against parasitic infections.
Could You Have a Parasitic Infection?
Before we get into the details of the creosote plant and how to treat parasites, it is important to understand what a parasite is and who can become infected. The answer, unfortunately, is yes, you could have a parasitic infection. In fact, everyone can! They are not limited to third-world countries, impoverished populations, or travelers and backpackers.This is because parasites can be contracted in a variety of different ways. (2, 3, 5)
How You Can Contract a Parasite
Naturally, those living in extreme poverty in developing countries are more susceptible to parasites due to increased risk of exposure, but that doesn’t mean those of us in North America are immune. Parasites are most commonly spread through water and feces, however you can also contract them through blood, soil, sexual contact, and insects. (2, 3, 5) You can contract a parasite if you:
- Drink contaminated water or use it for hygiene purposes such as brushing your teeth. (tap, lake, pond, well, or other) (2, 3, 5)
- Eat contaminated food (soil, unwashed or washed with contaminated water, handled by someone who did not properly wash their hands) (2, 3, 5)
- Work in an industry that exposes you to fecal matter and/or blood (nursing, childcare) (2, 3, 5)
- Work with soil (2, 3, 5)
- Have sex without the use of a condom, particularly anal sex (2, 3, 5)
- Live in or travel to an area where insects carry certain parasitic infections (ex. Malaria) or where water and food is more likely to be contaminated, such as sub-sahara africa, some tropical and sub-tropical countries, and certain areas in Asia. (2, 3, 5)
Parasites range from causing temporary illness to potentially deadly parasitic infections, so it is important that you recognize symptoms and what to do if you think you may have a parasite. (2, 3, 5)
Symptoms of a Parasitic Infection
Parasites primarily cling to and thrive in your intestines, so many of the symptoms of parasitic infections are similar to those of gastrointestinal problems. They include: (2, 3, 5)
- Abdominal pain
- Bloating and gas
- Nausea or vomiting
- Diarrhea or dysentery (loose stools containing blood or mucus)
- Rash or itching around the rectum or vulva
- Weight loss (unintended)
- Stomach pain or tenderness
- Passing a worm in your stool
- Increased appetite
If you have several of these symptoms and have come into contact with the previously mentioned causes, you could have a parasitic infection.
What to do if You have a Parasitic Infection
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Visit your doctor right away if you think you may have contracted a parasite. To test for a parasite, you will need to request a stool tests. You may also want to have a full parasitology test done, as regular stool test aren’t as comprehensive and may not pick up on all types of parasites. (2, 3, 5)
Creosote Bush for Natural Treatment of Parasitic Infections
A recent study done by researchers at the University of California San Diego and the University of Colorado has revealed that the creosote bush may just be the most effective treatment option for parasitic infections, even over common conventional options. The creosote bush as been used for generations by Native Americans and Native Mexicans for a variety of conditions, including parasites. (1, 4, 7) The plant contains nordihydroguaiaretic acid (NDGA), as well as five other naturally occurring compounds that the researchers put to the test against two different parasites:
- Giardia: a parasitic infection usually contracted from contaminated drinking water, and (1, 4, 7)
- N. fowleri: A deadly parasite also known as the brain eating amoeba, which is contracted from swimming in warm freshwater places. It travels up the nose and into the brain where it destroys brain tissue. (1, 4, 6, 7)
They found the NDGA from the plant to be superior even to conventional medicine miltefosine, and are the first to scientifically prove its ability to treat Giardia and N. fowleri. (1, 4, 7)
The plant is currently not available through the medical system, as their next step is to test the activity of the compounds in animal models, as well as combine the compounds (NDGA plus the other five compounds) to see whether the effects are improved further. (1, 4, 7)
Other Natural and Herbal Remedies for Parasitic Infections
There are ways to combat and get rid of parasites naturally. though these take time and should be done only after having been fully tested and diagnosed, primarily to ensure that your parasite is not one of the more aggressive, life-threatening ones. Natural solutions to parasites include:
Parasites thrive on the sugars left over in your intestines. By avoiding carbohydrates, especially simple carbs such as those in refined foods, fruits, juices, dairy products, breads and baked goods, you deprive them of their ideal environment in which to grow. (8)
Eat a high fiber diet
The main way to expel parasites is through your feces, so eating a high fiber diet (think plenty of fresh and cooked vegetables) will help keep you regular and expel the parasite faster. (8)
Similarly to the fiber, probiotics help to keep your digestive tract healthy and functioning. Check with your doctor before starting on a probiotic supplement. (8)
Vitamin C and Zinc
This will help support your immune system, as those with weakened immune systems are at a higher risk for parasitic infections. Again, check with your doctor about potential drug interactions before taking these supplements. (8)
There are several plants and herbs that can help to fight off a parasitic infection, including: (8)
- Oregon grape
- Curled mint
- Black walnut
Make sure to consult your doctor or naturopathic doctor for your best plan of attack against your parasite. Once you have gone through the treatment (the length will be determined by your doctor), you will re-test your stool to ensure full eradication of the parasite. (8)
The Bottom Line
Parasitic infections can happen to anyone, including North Americans. If you have signs and symptoms of a parasitic infection, especially if you are a high risk person (recently traveled especially to previously mentioned areas, swim in warm freshwater often, work in fields that expose you to feces, blood, and soil), visit your doctor immediately and have a full parasitology test done. While the creosote plant may not yet be available through Western medicine, there are many other natural treatment options available to you.
Help us spread awareness about parasites and how to get rid of them by sharing this article with your friends and family.
(1) Bashyal, B., Li, L., Bains, T., Debnath, A., & LaBarbera, D. V. (n.d.). Larrea tridentata: A novel source for anti-parasitic agents active against Entamoeba histolytica, Giardia lamblia and Naegleria fowleri. Retrieved August 31, 2017, from http://journals.plos.org/plosntds/article?id=10.1371/journal.pntd.0005832
(2) Cummings, R. (1970, January 01). Parasitic Infections. Retrieved August 31, 2017, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK1899/
(3) Kinman, T. (2016, September 20). Parasitic Infections. Retrieved August 31, 2017, from http://www.healthline.com/health/parasitic-infections#overview1
(4) Larrea tridentata (Creosote bush), an abundant plant of Mexican and US-American deserts and its metabolite nordihydroguaiaretic acid. (n.d.). Retrieved August 31, 2017, from http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0378874105000899
(5) Parasitic Infections also occur in the United States. (n.d.). Retrieved August 31, 2017, from https://www.cdc.gov/media/releases/2014/p0508-npi.html
(6) Parasites – Naegleria fowleri – Primary Amebic Meningoencephalitis (PAM) – Amebic Encephalitis. (2017, February 28). Retrieved August 31, 2017, from https://www.cdc.gov/parasites/naegleria/general.html
(7) Compounds in Desert Creosote Bush Could Treat Giardia and. (n.d.). Retrieved August 31, 2017, from https://health.ucsd.edu/news/releases/Pages/2017-08-15-compounds-in-desert-creosote-bush-could-treat-giardia-and-brain-eating-amoeba-infections.aspx
(8) Intestinal parasites. (n.d.). Retrieved August 31, 2017, from http://www.umm.edu/Health/Medical-Reference-Guide/Complementary-and-Alternative-Medicine-Guide/Condition/Intestinal-parasites
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