Hillary Thing is the Clinic Director of the Nourishing Life Health Clinic, which specializes in the treatment of Lyme and complex chronic illness with natural medicine. She is providing a case study that looks specifically at the treatment of Lyme disease and mold.
Phil is a 54-year-old man from North Carolina, a father of 3 children and IT consultant, who had gotten many tick bites over the years of living in a beautiful rural area.
One December, his kids all caught a cold, and while Phil catching the cold in turn came as no surprise, he found himself unable to recover. He felt achy, flu-like, very fatigued, had headaches and dizziness daily. He also developed neuropathy in his hands and feet, eye irritation and inflammation that compromised his vision, and a fungal skin condition known as tinea versicolor. Normally a very active and athletic father, he was no longer able to play with his kids and some days could not get himself off the couch.
Bloodwork through his medical doctor revealed Epstein-Barr virus, Lyme-borreliosis, and mycoplasma pneumonia, but his doctor felt that the bloodwork showed past or insignificant Lyme infection and did not feel his current complaints were due to active Lyme - nor did he offer anything in the way of solution other than a pain killer and headache medicine. His chiropractor disagreed with that evaluation and encouraged Phil to pursue diagnostic clarity by testing for Lyme through Igenex Labs.
Phil began working with an LLMD and received a clear positive test result for Lyme-borreliosis, Babesia and Bartonella. The Lyme-literate doctor promptly put him on a protocol that included pulsing doses of Arythromycin, minocycline, and Ivermectin. Unfortunately for Phil, he was not able to tolerate the medications. He developed numbness and tingling throughout his entire body that continued to worsen rather than let up over time. After 3 months of this approach, he called it quits.
He began to self-treat with monolaurin and the “Buhner Protocol” herbal tinctures. But without clear knowledge of what to take he felt uncertain if this approach would be effective, and meanwhile his life was a great struggle to manage.
He began working with an herbalist who put him on a strict zero-sugar, zero-carb diet and 2 herbal tinctures – 1 blend for the Lyme, and 1 for co-infections. After 5 months of following this protocol, it was hard for him to tell if he was making progress. He also had lost 35 pounds and, already a thin man, felt weak on the diet.
Overall, the headaches and neurological symptoms that had worsened with the antibiotics had lightened up, but his liver felt “overloaded,” his eyes were more inflamed, and he continued to experience significant fatigue, joint aches, and brain fog.
Having read about the powerful effects of certain essential oils on Lyme disease, he tried taking clove and oregano essential oils in olive oil as an oral supplement. This caused severe leg pain that lasted for many days.
Persistent in his pursuit of potential solutions (as many Lyme patients are), he tried a liposomal essential oil remedy called Spiro Upward from Bloom & Reveal Botanicals (a line of specialty herbal products that I developed specifically for the treatment of complex chronic illness), which contains a blend of the following essential oils in a nano emulsion: Cinnamon bark, Oregano, Thyme, Clove, Marjoram, Spearmint, Vetiver, Cajeput, and Myrrh. He followed the gradual titration instructions, and rather than having any negative response, he experienced a calming of his nervous system, reduction in brain fog, and overall felt less inflamed and agitated.
Curious to see if I had more tricks up my sleeve that would help advance his recovery, he called our clinic to set up a consultation. What struck me as he recounted his story were 2 things that in my view had been missing from his healing journey thus far:
- Detoxification support: Neurological symptoms, headaches and dizziness, eye problems, are all associated with liver disharmony in Chinese medicine. They clearly suggested that excess toxins were a key symptom trigger, and up to this point nothing had been implemented to support his body in this way. Insufficient detoxification was also a possible reason that he was not able to tolerate the antibiotic, and why the herbal regimen had limited results.
- A more individualized approach: By addressing specific symptoms in connection with the disease factors that cause them, the healing process gains traction. Certain symptoms clear while others persist (to be dealt with via a different strategy) and both patient and practitioner can see what is changing and understand why. Self-knowledge and self-attunement grows for the patient, and the practitioner modifies the protocol to address newly uncovered disease factors as the “layers of the onion” are peeled over time through the organic unfolding of the healing process.
The Initial Phase of Treatment
Our approach to treatment emphasizes detoxification from the outset. Rather than attempting to do this via nutrient supplementation alone (which can be useful secondarily), our emphasis is on mechanically opening detoxification pathways. This occurs through promoting sweating, urination, bowel movements and breathing.
In Phil’s case, first we emphasized upgrading the water he was drinking. We recommended that he shift from drinking reverse osmosis filtered water to purchasing spring water from a local vendor and adding a homemade saturated sea salt solution to help facilitate cellular hydration and water metabolism. Naturally sourced spring water is the most hydrating water available. It is minerally balanced and molecularly structured so as to be readily absorbed into the cells, which is key for effective cellular detoxification.
Because Phil already had a portable far infrared sauna (that he had not started using yet), we created a schedule to gradually increase the duration and temperature of his sauna sessions.
I recommended a stretching and walking routine that supported oxygenation of his system and a gradual re-conditioning of his body.
I also recommended making a green juice every morning to support hydration and alkalinity, the two conditions necessary to magnetize waste out of cells.
While a zero-carb diet can be useful to support the elimination of microbes, based on what Phil described, his body needed some complex carbs for optimal metabolic function. We added back a few selective gluten-free carbohydrates - buckwheat, amaranth and millet.
An Herbal Formula to Support Detoxification
At our clinic, we often create personalized herbal formulas to address a person’s unique constellation of organ and immune system dysfunction, symptoms, and infections. Phil’s original formula was focused on aiding detoxification and supporting his liver and kidneys, clearing the eye inflammation and flu-like symptoms, and addressing the triad of pathogen burden – the EBV, Lyme and Mycoplasma pneumonia (2 of the 3 had not yet been targeted by prior treatment).
The herbal formula consisted of:
- Celosia seed and eriocauli flower (qing xiang zi and gu jing cao) – these are two antimicrobials from the Chinese pharmacopeia that specifically target the eyes. These herbs also support detoxification by clearing liver-related inflammation.
- Bupleurum, moneywort and Chinese scutellaria (chai hu, jin qian cao and huang qin) – a favorite herbal triad for supporting the clearance of toxins by enhancing liver and gallbladder function.
- Forsythia and isatis (lian qiao and ban lan gen) – two of the most effective anti-viral herbs that also support the release pathogens from the body (to hasten complete recovery rather than leading to latency). They also aid in decongestion of the lymph and are used routinely for symptoms such as swollen glands, flu-like malaise, fever, skin eruption, and urinary tract infection.
- Houttunyia (yu xing cao) – an excellent anti-toxin herb, houttuynia clears infections such as Mycoplasma and other types of pneumonia, bacteria and viruses from the lungs, large intestine and urinary bladder. Houttuynia also increases insulin sensitivity and is anti-cancer.
- Japanese knotweed (hu zhang) and Cryptolepsis sanguinolenta – pairing these 2 top anti-borreliosis herbs to treat the underlying infection and support alleviation of the neuropathy, fatigue, and brain fog.
One Month Later
After about 4 weeks of following this protocol in addition to continuing to take the Spiro Upward Essential Oil Remedy, Phil reported that he was doing better overall – improved energy, fewer headaches, some alleviation of the joint pains, and better quality sleep. We both felt that the treatment was working.
Phil also had a concern that mold illness could be partly responsible for fueling his health problems based on a known mold exposure from the past, so we agreed that testing his urine mycotoxin levels was a good next step.
We also decided to expand and strengthen the anti-microbial effect of his protocol by adding in a Byron White tincture (I chose AL Complex for its broad-spectrum antimicrobial activity including the EBV). I also recommended an adrenal glandular to support his energy and immune system.
Follow Up At 2 Months
At this point he was taking top dosages of his herbal decoction, the Spiro Upward essential oil remedy, and the AL Complex tincture. He was continuing to make strides forward, reporting that his neuropathy was now much better, just a mild sensation in the fingertips and right foot, even with doing a lot of driving which normally would aggravate it.
His headaches were less frequent (1 / month now instead of 1 every few days). His mood was calmer and he described feeling less anxiety and depression.
He also reported a couple of symptoms that he hadn’t mentioned before – that he had worsening varicose veins in his legs, and many cherry angiomas on his feet. That information, in combination with some persistent swollen lymph glands and eye symptoms, caused me to suspect Bartonella (and possibly Babesia). He also expressed concern that there was still something “dominating” his system, that we hadn’t rooted out yet, in spite of the clear improvements.
We switched his Byron White tincture to A-Bart (for Bartonella) and customized his liposomal essential oil remedy to address Bartonella and Babesia in addition to treating the Lyme by removing vetiver, marjoram and myrrh from his formulation and adding garlic, peppermint, caraway and elemi essential oils.
We also added lumbrokinase as a biofilm buster to weed out deeper and more entrenched layers of infection that were likely protected in these nesting sites.
His mycotoxin test result was not yet back from the lab.
The next time Phil & I spoke we reviewed his mycotoxin lab results which showed high levels of Aflatoxin and Ochratoxin A. This was a significant finding because mycotoxins drive inflammation in a similar way as Lyme-borreliosis infection. When the two co-exist in the body, it is unlikely that the infection is the only component causing symptoms and immune dysfunction. These disease factors work together to make the illness more stubborn and complicated to heal. Treatment that is too narrowly focused on the Lyme will have limited success and not result in complete recovery.
Fortunately the detoxification lifestyle practices that he was already engaged in, the herbal tea and liposomal essential oil remedy – all of these support the clearance of mycotoxins as well. This is probably why he felt so much better even before we knew that mycotoxins needed to be addressed specifically.
In response to these new findings, we added a new layer to Phil’s treatment protocol to support detoxification of the mold toxins. This included: Carboxy binder from Cell Core and niacin prior to a daily sauna, and liposomal glutathione at bedtime. We also readjusted the liposomal essential oil remedy and herbal concoction to support the clearance of mold toxins while continuing to address the infections.
Two essential oils that we added to the liposomal essential oil remedy to support the detoxification of mycotoxins were black cumin and lemongrass. The thyme, oregano and clove essential oils that were already part of the formula also support this process.
We also recommended an air filtration system for his home and to have his current home tested for mold. In addition, we added Old Faithful Essential Oil Nasal Spray to his protocol to remove fungal colonization of the sinuses.
Three Months Later
Approximately 6 months into treatment, Phil was 95% recovered. He was working full-time, handling stress, playing field hockey with his kids and “living normally.” He had discovered an area of mold growth in his newly built home and accomplished remediation of this part of the home.
Numbness was only occasional now at night, and possibly related to a nerve impingement in the neck for which he was receiving chiropractic treatment.
His energy was “great” and his mood was “excellent.” His sinuses were clear for the first time in years, his eyes felt normal, and headaches were few and far between. The joint pain had mostly gone away, with finger arthritis remaining that was mild and intermittent, possibly connected to dietary sugar consumption as he was less strict with his diet at this point.
Over these months we had worked collaboratively to detoxify his body of numerous types of infections and toxins. We had cycled through overlapping protocols to address Lyme-Borreliosis, Bartonella, Babesia, Epstein-barr virus, fungal infection and mycotoxins.
There were some ups and downs along the way – with a change of protocol resulting in relatively mild Herxing, for example. We encouraged careful dose titration and an on-going detox lifestyle to minimize excessive Herx responses to antimicrobial treatment.
At this point we stopped the nasal spray, glutathione and the Byron White tincture, and continued with the binder, liposomal essential oil remedy, herbal tea, and of course the cleansing lifestyle practices.
The Stabilization Phase
At the 6 month point I felt Phil had made significant gains and that he was ready to coast for a while, continuing to be consistent with his lifestyle and treatment protocol, and supporting his newly recovered health. I consider this phase, when we remain persistent with key treatment components to cement our successes and create dependability with a new healthy baseline, the “Stabilization Phase” of treatment.
It’s important and necessary to continue to support the body to detoxify, become better nourished, and move out of the cycles of inflammation caused by the infections and toxins. It takes time to heal on deeper tissue regenerative levels, and with herbal and lifestyle medicine there is no hurry to move away from the routines that we know have supported a person’s progress in healing.
The Home Stretch (Maintenance & Weaning)
According to Classical Chinese medical wisdom, when healing latent pathogenic factors, it is important to treat the patient through a full season and the transition that follows – starting after the time when they feel better. This is because seasonal changes are a form of environmental stress that the body must adapt to at times throughout the year. While a healthy body can easily shift from autumn to winter or spring into summer, when the immune system is out of balance or the pathogen load is too great (whether active or latent), a person is more likely to experience a relapse or re-activation during a time of seasonal transition.
So as Phil moved from stability to maintenance, we simplified his protocol further to include ½ doses of the items that he felt had made the greatest difference – the essential oil remedy, the herb concoction and the binder.
Throughout the season that followed he continued in this way, holding onto his gains. Soon he will end his protocol entirely except for some basic vitamin or herbal nutrient support. He continues to eat well, exercise, and take regular saunas as a new way of self-care that he enjoys.
When it comes to treating Lyme disease, every case is unique, and the constellation of symptoms, diagnoses and constitutional characteristics of a person (their health history, age, pre-existing conditions, and more) all impact what is needed for an individual to awaken healing. Having spent a majority of my 25 years in clinical practice treating Lyme and Lyme-like illness, I have seen time and again how there is not 1 magic herb, product, or procedure that works for all people.
The natural approach seeks to harness the body’s innate capacity to heal, and when you have multiple disease factors working in concert to cause sickness, it requires multiple methods of correction to clean up the inner terrain, set the body function right, and clear the microbes and toxins. This does not mean taking 50 supplements, it means honing in on what your body needs the most. What is exciting and motivating is that when you approach healing in this way, you increase and restore your body’s natural ability to heal and self-regulate. When you finally hit the finish line of recovery, you are healthier, more knowledgeable, and more empowered than when you started.
The above material is provided for information purposes only. The material (a) is not nor should be considered, or used as a substitute for, medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment, nor (b) does it necessarily represent endorsement by or an official position of Global Lyme Alliance, Inc. or any of its directors, officers, advisors or volunteers. Advice on the testing, treatment or care of an individual patient should be obtained through consultation with a physician who has examined that patient or is familiar with that patient’s medical history.
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*Opinions expressed by contributors are their own. Hillary Thing, is Clinic Director of the Nourishing Life Health Clinic in Kingston, NY, which specializes in the treatment of Lyme and complex chronic illness with natural medicine. You can learn more about her treatment approach at www.uprootinglyme.com.