Researchers at Nottingham University recently discovered that a thousand-year-old potion remedy actually works to kill super-bugs that modern medicine has a difficult time with. The ingredients sound like something from a fantasy novel, but the concoction is now proven to nearly eradicate MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus).
The potion is made from onions, garlic, wine and oxgall, which is bile from a cow’s stomach. Each of these ingredients are useless on their own, but when mixed together they have the power to kill incredibly strong bacteria.
The recipe was initially found in an Old English alchemical text called Bald’s Leechbook, which has been stored in the British Library for a number of years. The text contains a wide variety of different cures and remedies, which the researchers began experimenting with to see if they could learn more about medicine in the middle ages.
One of the first major discoveries that they have made in their research is that one of the recipes killed MRSA in lab mice.
Associate Professor Dr Christina Lee said that “Medieval leech books and herbaria contain many remedies designed to treat what are clearly bacterial infections – weeping wounds/sores, eye and throat infections, skin conditions such as erysipelas, leprosy and chest infections. Given these remedies were developed well before the modern understanding of germ theory this poses two questions – how systematic was the development of these remedies and how effective were these remedies against the likely causative species of bacteria? Answering these questions will greatly improve our understanding of medieval scholarship and medical empiricism and may reveal new ways of treating serious bacterial infections that continue to cause illness and death.”
She added that “We were genuinely astonished at the results of our experiments in the lab. We believe modern research into disease can benefit from past responses and knowledge which is largely contained in non-scientific writings. But the potential of these texts to contribute to addressing the challenges cannot be understood without the combined expertise of both the arts and science.”
Microbiologist Dr Freya Harrison explained why this discovery could be important for modern medicine.
“We thought Bald’s eyesalve might show a small amount of antibiotic activity because each of the ingredients has been shown by other researchers to have some effect on bacteria in the lab – copper and bile salts can kill bacteria and the garlic family of plants make chemicals that interfere with the bacteria’s ability to damage infected tissues. But we were absolutely blown away by just how effective the combination of ingredients was. We tested it in difficult conditions too; we let our artificial ‘infections’ grow into dense, mature populations called ‘biofilms’, where the individual cells bunch together and make a sticky coating that makes it hard for antibiotics to reach them. But unlike many modern antibiotics, Bald’s eye salve has the power to breach these defences,” Harrison said.
John Vibes writes for True Activist and is an author, researcher and investigative journalist who takes a special interest in the counter culture and the drug war.