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Plant Based

Bacterial vs. Viral Infections – Your Herbal Defense Guide

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by St. Francis Herb Farm

Cold and flu season keeps us on our toes with the many different “bugs” being passed around: stomach flu, strep throat, sinus infections, classic common colds… It’s hard to keep up with the latest illness to be on the watch for.

Many illnesses that we pick up can be blamed on two types of microbes: viruses and bacteria. Both can make us sick, but what’s the difference?


There are countless types of bacteria that live everywhere, and they aren’t all bad. Many bacteria are helpful to our health and live with us in symbiosis (you’ve heard of probiotics, right?). It’s “pathogenic bacteria” that can cause illness in humans.

Bacteria are single-celled organisms that can reproduce on their own. While they can enter the body, they don’t enter human cells. Bacterial infections are contagious and can be spread by close contact with infected people or their bodily fluids, or picked up from contaminated water, food or surfaces.

Some bacterial infections include:

  • strep throat
  • urinary tract infection (UTI)
  • bacterial food poisoning
  • tuberculosis
  • bacterial meningitis
  • cellulitis
  • Lyme disease
  • tetanus

Bacterial infections range in severity and can be treated with antibiotics in appropriate cases.


Viruses are even smaller than bacteria, but also come in many shapes, sizes and varieties. They don’t have a cell wall and rely on host cells (like ours!) to survive. Once they get into our cells, they can replicate.

Some viral infections include:

  • influenza (the flu)
  • common cold
  • chickenpox
  • measles
  • viral meningitis
  • warts

Viruses are also contagious and can be easily transmitted the same ways bacteria can. They can also be harder to shake, as they can’t be treated by antibiotics and hide inside cells, which challenges the body’s immune response.

When it come to cold and flu season, most illness are viral, but secondary bacterial infections commonly  occur alongside a virus when the immune response is weakened, such as ear infections and pneumonia.

EchinaSeal & Virafect by St Francis Herb Farm

Herbs – A Natural Microbial Defense

Even if you’re already feeling sick – don’t panic, there is herbal support! You can help your body fight off viral and bacterial infections, even if these microbes have already started causing symptoms.

Bacterial Support

If a bacterial infection has taken hold, fortifying your immune system and going on the offense against pathogens is your best bet.

EchinaSeal® tincture - features antimicrobial herbs echinacea and goldenseal. Goldenseal is well known for its antibacterial benefits from an abundant alkaloid known as berberine that can help to shorten duration of colds and flu symptoms.  EchinaSeal® formula also features both Echinacea angustifolia, and Echinacea purpurea for maximum bioavailability of their immunological properties.

Sinafect tincture – also with goldenseal – can help reduce symptoms of common cold and sinusitis with antihistamine, antibacterial, antiviral properties that can help reduce excess mucous and symptoms of upper respiratory inflammation.

Stop It Cold® Throat Spray can also help provide relief with sage, a perennial plant in the mint family with antibacterial properties and propolis, which can ease throat soreness.

Viral Support

Viruses really take advantage of cold and flu season and can also be tricky to shake. Our Virafect is a specially formulated viral fighter that helps relieve viral infections and shorten the duration of upper respiratory tract infections.

Andrographis is the principal active herbal ingredient with a long history of medicinal use in the Far East.  It is valued highly as one of the foremost immune-stimulants and infection fighters – and is a very strong bitter, meaning that it works in the digestive system to fight off microbes.

Boy holding Deep Immune Kids

Prevention Support

Prevention is key when it comes to all aspects of health, but no matter how diligent you are with the hand washing and coughing into your sleeve, chances are that you or a member of your family will be bedridden for at least a couple of days throughout cold & flu season.  

It's still important to be proactive and lessen your chances, or help shorten the duration of symptoms with a holistic herbal immune defense that can be found in Deep Immune formulas.

These formulas contain herbs that defend and support bodily systems key to immunity, complemented with adaptogenic herbs, in a highly absorbable tincture. Deep Immune acts to balance the immune system and help prevent immune illnesses, taken twice daily in a little water. Plus, there are formulas for everyone: Deep Immune KidsDeep Immune Licorice-Free and Deep Immune for Allergies.

When it comes to the bacterial and viral infections floating around - herbal tonics can help defend and restore health. Whether you’re looking for tonic, or acute herbal support there is a formula for you. Be prepared for when infection strikes with an herbal formula supply and get familiar with the herbs your immune system needs for your best cold & flu season defense strategy.

Have questions? Just visit our Great Questions Answered page to learn more or to submit a question.

References available upon request.

Deep Immune


Eleuthero (Siberian Ginseng)
Schisandra berries
White atractylodes


Astragalus root is a perennial herb native to northern China and used in Traditional Chinese Medicine. Use it as an adaptogen for a healthier stress response and to support your immune system.


Codonopsis root is a milder substitute to ginseng in Traditional Chinese Medicine. Also called bonnet bellflower on account of the shape of its blossoms, codonopsis can be found throughout China and other parts of Asia. Use it as an adaptogen to boost immune system health and brain power.

Eleuthero (Siberian Ginseng)

Eleuthero root has been used in Traditional Chinese Medicine for thousands of years. A woody shrub that hails from the forests of northeastern Asia, eleuthero is  an adaptogen used to increase stamina, as a tonic, and to boost overall health.


A classic perennial shrub native to Eurasia, licorice has been used as a medicine from the beginning of recorded history. Licorice root is the most widely used herb of Traditional Chinese Medicine. Use it as an adaptogen to increase resistance to stress and to promote a healthier immune system response.


A large evergreen shrub that was originally indigenous to China but is now cultivated in other places, ligustrum grows to more than 30 feet in height. Its fruit is a longstanding and highly important mainstay of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), the first written record of its therapeutic use reaching back to the Shan Hai Jing around 800 B.C. Use it as a tonic to support the immune system and to guard against infections.


A mushroom that enjoys near mythic status in Traditional Chinese Medicine, reishi has been valued in the cultures of the East for millennia as the "king of herbs." Ming Dynasty texts describe it as a remedy that "mends the heart." Use it as an adaptogen to lower the effects of stress and to modulate immune system response.

Schisandra berries

The bright red berries of this woody climbing vine that grows in the forested regions of northeastern China, as well as Russia. Schisandra berries have a long history of use in Traditional Chinese Medicine. Use it as an adaptogen and tonic to promote endurance, lower stress, and boost your immune system.

White atractylodes

An aromatic perennial herb that enjoys an ancient heritage in Traditional Chinese Medicine, white atractylodes grows in northern Asia in the mountain-girt valleys of China's Zheijiang province. Use it as an immune system tonic and to support overall body functions.

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Author: St. Francis Herb Farm


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