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Lyme disease is one of the fastest-growing diseases in the nation, with an estimated 500,000 new cases each year. Yet Lyme research is severely underfunded, receiving less than 5% of the funding that less common diseases like West Nile virus or malaria receive.
And while the mortality rate for Lyme is relatively low, symptoms can range from a simple rash to severe neurological issues and chronic pain. Many patients can develop meningitis (inflammation of the brain), Bell’s palsy (paralysis in one side of the face), permanent muscle weakness.
The standard pharmacological treatment for Lyme disease is antibiotics. These can include a 2- or 3-week course of oral antibiotics or (in more severe cases), intravenous antibiotics. Unfortunately, IV antibiotics are usually accompanied by a long list of side effects.
And with antibiotic resistance a major threat to global health, finding natural ways to combat disease should always be the preference. In fact, when antibiotics fail to completely eradicate Lyme disease, bacterial cells that have developed antibiotic resistance can continue to proliferate. These are known as persister cells
As researchers have continued to search for alternative ways to treat Lyme disease, they’ve discovered that herbal remedies may be MORE effective than antibiotics for treating Lyme. We’re going to take a look at these natural, plant-based solutions in a moment. First, let’s make sure we understand what Lyme disease really is.
What is Lyme Disease?
Lyme disease is caused by four main species of bacteria. Borrelia burgdorferi and Borrelia mayonii cause Lyme disease in the United States, while Borrelia afzelii and Borrelia garinii are the leading causes in Europe and Asia. The most common tick-borne illness in these regions, Lyme disease, is transmitted by the bite of an infected black-legged tick, commonly known as a deer tick.
Many people with Lyme disease have no memory of a tick bite. People who live or spend time in wooded areas known for transmission of the disease are more likely to get this illness. People with domesticated animals that visit wooded areas also have a higher risk of getting Lyme disease.
Lyme is called “The Great Imitator,” because its symptoms mimic many other diseases. It can affect any organ of the body, including the brain and nervous system, muscles and joints, and the heart.
Patients with Lyme disease are frequently misdiagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, multiple sclerosis, and various psychiatric illnesses, including depression. Misdiagnosis with these other diseases may delay the correct diagnosis and treatment as the underlying infection progresses unchecked.
Symptoms of early Lyme disease may present as a flu-like illness (fever, chills, sweats, muscle aches, fatigue, nausea and joint pain). While a small, red bump, similar to the bump of a mosquito bite, often appears at the site of a tick bite or tick removal and resolves over a few days, Lyme has a more unique rash.
From 3-30 days after an infected tick bite, an expanding red area might appear that sometimes clears in the center, forming a bull’s-eye pattern. The rash (erythema migrans) expands slowly over days and can spread up to 12 inches across. It’s typically not itchy or painful but might feel warm to the touch.
Erythema migrans is one of the hallmarks of Lyme disease, although not everyone with Lyme disease develops the rash. Some people develop this rash at more than one place on their bodies. For those without a rash, it’s especially important to listen to your body for signs of disease.
If Lyme disease is not diagnosed and treated early, it may become late-stage or chronic. This may also occur when early treatment is inadequate. Although Lyme disease is commonly divided into three stages — early localized, early disseminated, and late disseminated — symptoms can overlap.
Some people will also present in a later stage of disease without having symptoms of earlier disease. Check out the graphic below to compare the symptom rates of early Lyme patients vs chronic Lyme patients.
Are Herbal Remedies Effective?
The short answer: YES!
In 2018, an in vitro (meaning it was tested in the lab rather than in humans) study suggested that 10 plant-derived essential oils could help fight off B. burgdorferi. Researchers tested 34 essential oils against B. burgdorferi and found cinnamon bark, clove bud, citronella, wintergreen, and oregano show strong activity against the bacterium that causes Lyme disease, even more effectively than daptomycin, the “gold standard” antibiotic many people with Lyme disease are prescribed.
According to the lead researcher and study author Dr. Zhang, “We found that these essential oils were even better at killing the ‘persister’ forms of Lyme bacteria than standard Lyme antibiotics. At this stage, these essential oils look very promising as candidate treatments for persistent Lyme infection, but ultimately we need properly designed clinical trials.”
Now, researchers from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore, MD, and from the California Center for Functional Medicine and Focus Health in Berkeley, have conducted a new study that has led them to believe that two specific plants may lead to more effective therapies against Lyme disease.
“Many thousands of Lyme patients today, especially those with later-stage symptoms who have not been effectively treated, are in great need of efficacious, accessible treatment options,” notes study co-author Dr. Sunjya Schweig.
In their study (published in Frontiers in Medicine) the investigators analyzed the potential of 14 different plant extracts in killing B. burgdorferi. They compared the results with those of two of the traditional drugs used against Lyme disease: doxycycline and cefuroxime.
The researchers pitted each of these plant extracts against free-swimming (planktonic) B. burgdorferi and microcolonies of this bacterium — aggregates of bacterial cells. The in vitro tests suggested that extracts from seven different plants were more effective against the Lyme disease bacteria than doxycycline and cefuroxime.
The plants in question were black walnut (Juglans nigra), cat’s claw (Uncaria tomentosa), sweet wormwood (Artemisia annua), Mediterranean rockrose (Cistus incanus), Chinese skullcap (Scutellaria baicalensis), Ghanaian quinine (Cryptolepis sanguinolenta), and Japanese knotweed (Polygonum cuspidatum).
But the researchers were especially impressed by the targeted antibacterial activity of Ghanaian quinine and Japanese knotweed. The active ingredient in Ghanaian quinine is an alkaloid called cryptolepine, which people have traditionally used against malaria, hepatitis, septicemia, and tuberculosis.
Japanese knotweed features an antioxidant called resveratrol. Some studies have suggested that resveratrol may have anticancer properties, and may protect heart and brain health.
“This study provides the first convincing evidence that some of the herbs used by patients, such as Cryptolepis, black walnut, sweet wormwood, cat’s claw, and Japanese knotweed, have potent activity against Lyme disease bacteria, especially the dormant persister forms, which are not killed by the current Lyme antibiotics,” says study co-author Prof. Ying Zhang.
The scientists observed that extracts from Ghanaian quinine and Japanese knotweed prevented free-swimming bacteria from proliferating, even when they were present at low concentrations — of 0.03-0.5% — in laboratory dishes.
The two plant extracts also killed entire microcolonies of the bacterium that causes Lyme disease.
In fact, just one 7-day treatment with 1% Ghanaian quinine extract was able to eradicate the bacterium in lab dishes. What is more, the bacterium was unable to make a comeback following this treatment.
If you visit the Mayo Clinic’s website, they have the following warning:
But the wave of complementary and alternative medicine is sweeping the globe… and it’s backed by science:
“Due to limited therapeutics and a rise in treatment resistance, current treatment options for this disease are inadequate and many patients rely on herbal therapies for which there is only anecdotal evidence of efficacy,” said co-author Sunjya K. Schweig.
“Increasingly, Americans with chronic diseases are pursuing complementary and alternative medicine to improve general health or quality of life. We hope this data offers inspiration to other researchers to further explore similar options for people living with persistent tick-borne diseases that do not respond to current treatments,” added Dr. Schweig.
We’ve written before about how Lyme disease can increase your cancer risk through inflammation, immune suppression, and mutations in cellular DNA. Catching this disease early and beating it naturally are the keys to living a longer, healthier, happier life. Thanks to emerging research, we now have proof that nature’s medicine chest has everything we need.
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FYI – This article is a bit misleading. Most people (75% with Chronic) with Lyme disease have several coinfections that are harder to treat than Lyme itself. Antibiotics are required in many cases of Lyme – (such as if borrelia has gotten into the brain – if you want to even have a chance of touching it in that location). The herbals are very effective, but don’t perfuse intracellular tissue and don’t get to places in the body that some antibiotics can. Herbals have the benefit of not promoting resistance, and having other mechanisms such as being biofilm disrupters, immune modulators, adaptogens, etc. Probiotics help curb the overuse of antibiotics, and rotating antibiotics prevents resistance in Lyme and the stealth infections. Also, most of the resistance problem with antibiotics is due to agricultural uses and misuse in hospital settings. I have a world class Lyme doctor and it has taken me 5 years so far to get 90% better. I could not have done so without antibiotics AND herbals. If someone just has Lyme and catches it relatively early, herbals can be surprisingly good. My doctor would still prescribe Doxy for 3 months to prevent Lyme from becoming chronic, as that can be a devastating condition that isn’t worth the risk of not taking antibiotics to prevent along with the herbals. Herbals are necessary for anyone treating Lyme, but it is dangerous and misleading to say it’s the only way and that antibiotics should be avoided. You’ll find that the sickest patients will almost always require antibiotics to get better. You’ll also find that anyone with the coinfections – mycoplasma, bartonella, or babesia, will ALWAYS require antibiotics to even have a chance of getting better. 75% of all Lyme patients have complex cytokine/immune responses with multiple coinfections. Dr. Richard Horowitz calls this – MSIDS or Multiple Systemic Infectious Disease Syndrome. I appreciate the trend towards herbal, but I also feel this information could harm more people than it could help if chronic Lyme patients are the ones reading this, or if people turn chronic because they weren’t at a stage where herbals alone are enough. I avoided antibiotics and attempted herbal treatments for 1 year which delayed my treatment and made things much worse. This viewpoint can harm some people as much as it can help.
Just because something works in a petri dish, doesn’t mean you can get it where you need it in the body to be helpful/effective. We’ve learned this with herbals and antibiotics. There are lists of agents that work in petri dishes and are incredible, but you can’t get to certain niches in the body and thus multiple therapeutics have to be combined.
These infections (Lyme, Bartonella, Mycoplasma, Babesia) have been turned into stealth bioweapons, and a cocktail of them is the norm nowadays. Also, the strain of Lyme matters. Some strains are pretty weak and respond beautifully to herbals. Others are incredibly nasty and require everything you can throw at them. Just thoughts from a very informed/experienced patient with a lot of experience and a world class integrative Lyme Doctor.
Peggy Wilson says
My daughter had Lyme disease. these protocols of herbs, coffee enemas, infra red sauna is all good. But she got treated at LymeStop.com (magnetic therapy to reset the immune system) WORKED!!!! Please spread the word….
Elise Larson says
My daughter was diagnosed through CranioBiotic Technique (CBT) from our chiropractor using magnets, infections sites throughout the body and her own immune response. She was 18 and had suffered for YEARS until it got to the point she could no longer function. (Literally curled up in a ball in the dark) She had severe neurological Lyme. Was infected (Mosquitoes also spread Lyme!! Proven) probably around the age of 6 and it eventually robbed her of her personality, interest in life, physical health and LIVING. She began CBT treatments for her 17 co-infections of the Lyme until we could get her in to LymeStop treatment. She had her initial 3 day treatment with magnets, light therapy, and massive herbal supplements–NO DRUGS. The Lyme had been leeching her body of all her vitamins and minerals, taking it for herself. We did a 3 month follow-up to check to make sure her own immune system had locked in on the infections. The hardest to eradicate and lock on to was Epstein Barr! Now, it is a year and seven months after initial diagnosis. It is a LONG road, but she goes two steps forward and one step back. She is in cosmetology school, putting in 40 hours a week. She is getting therapy for depression and anxiety yet and working on her stamina and other issues, but she has gained back her personality and most of her health! This is a MARATHON, not a race. I thank GOD for these people who are using this LymeStop treatment! NO antibiotics–because if my daughter would have taken those first, her journey to wellness would have been much more difficult and time consuming. Now my husband is on his own journey with Lyme. He has so many of the same symptoms our daughter had and wouldn’t admit he could have it as he was fully functioning, but deteriorating. Convinced him to have CBT and he has 14 co-infections with his Lyme. We have LymeStop in November. Please spread the word–LYMESTOP WORKS!! My daughter will need no further treatment after just 2 visits. Her immune system is doing all the work–she just needs TIME and a healthy lifestyle. Our own immune systems, with support from God’s natural world, can do so much more than what we are being told. Medicine just needs to get out of the way.
I was 70 yrs old and woke up one morning with 106 fever, aches, stiff neck, headache, you name it. I WAS SICK! I thought I had meningitis! I hadn’t been sick in 40 years. I was stumped and very concerned. Since I didn’t know what it was I began to treat the symptoms. Figured it was viral or bacterial so I drank silver. Knew I was inflamed so I was taking spoonfuls of turmeric. Took a gram of Vit. C a day. And some other herbs. Started to feel better in 4 days then my knees swole like grapefruits, I began to throw up, couldn’t think, felt like chronic fatigue set in. My adenoids got horribly infected. Every day was a different disease. Finally called my daughter and told her what was happening. My son in law heard and yelled “Mom, you have Rocky Mt. Spotted fever or Lymes disease!” Bingo, I knew it was Lymes. I’m an herbalist and was in the woods constantly foraging. I’d been bitten dozens of times but my immune system kept me going. But I was suffering a perfect storm. Death of a spouse, loss of my home of 37yrs. and stressed by other factors. I got a friend to dig me some knotweed roots. Dried some and made a tincture. Took 15 “00” capsules a day and in 1 month I was good. (dried herb worked better, kept throwing up the tincture.)I had lost 25lb. and went to hell and back but the wild foraged knotweed killed it! Four years later and have not had a tinge of the disease. Recently went to a Dr. for a physical for a job and told her the story. She didn’t believe it. She said “Mind if I test you for Lymes?” I said “Be my guest” Health dept. called 2 weeks later and told me I tested positive for Lymes and needed to come in for treatment. I said “Nah, I’m good.” God’s pharmacy has never (never!) failed me in 50 years, 5 kids and 7 grandkids. “Beloved ABOVE ALL THINGS, I would that thou wouldst prosper and be in good health… even as thy soul prospers.” 3 John 2
Vera Pschenyczny says
Excellent, highly informative information, with detailed accuracy about Lyme disease misconceptions. Alternative treatments and their sources are a welcoming and necessary tool to consider, often life-saving, because they offer hope and often work well with minimum risk in spite of
fear-mongering which is a distortion of truth! Thank you very much for this great information. Please let us know where these herbal remedies can be purchased. May God richly bless you!
Please respond via my email. Thanks.
BETTY GORDON says
my late husband, JACK GORDON, AMES, IOWA died 11.13.2014.
his 1st brain autopsy done by dr. alan macdonald found the following:
neuro borreliosis/chronic lyme disease,
LEWY body dementia causing his visual/violent hallucinations like robin williams suffered from.
jack’s brain was the 1st in world to be discovered with these 2 diseases!
plus a cluster of 24 filarial nematode parasitic worms having lyme inside of them!
alan promised me he would write this up and publish in a medical journal with me as 1st co-author of it. he failed to do this as promised.
so i had 2nd brain autopsy done by univ. of minn. dr. marna ericson found:
lyme disease and 2nd tick-borne disease, bartonella aka cat scratch disease, 2 species. she too did NOT publish as we discussed.
jack was NEVER DIAGNOSED with any of these diseases while alive!!
i was misdiagnosed for 35 yrs. by 40-50+ drs!
so since neither of them published, may 2021, i donated jack’s brain to NDRI, national disease research interchange who works with BIO LAB RESEARCH CENTER IN CALIFORNIA on lyme disease research.
they will use his brain for future research by scientists/researcers.
so there are MORE that die from lyme/co-infections than what you stated above.
it does NOT take 36 hrs. to transmit the infection! 3 tick-bprne disease can reach the brain in 5, 10, and 15 minutes of being bitten: powassan virus, rocky mtn. spotted fever, and lyme fog on 3rd one!
so i wanted to correct and clafify these glaring errors to a tick-borne widow and patient.
Linda Adam says
“A tick has to be present on the skin for at least 36 hours to transmit the infection.”
In my experience this is a false statement. I have been ill with chronic Lyme for 14 years, and the tick that bit me did not attach to my hip and feed on me. In fact studies have shown that bacteria and viruses can be on their hypostome and can transmit disease in as little as 15 minutes which is exactly what happened to me.