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Originally published on jillcarnahan.com with permission to repost.

There’s mounting evidence that botanical treatment strategies, using herbs and extracts from plants, may be a promising way to combat persistent Lyme disease.

In summertime we naturally look forward to spending more time outdoors. And while fresh air, sunshine, and nature are all great for your health, there may be a not-so-obvious danger lurking in the great outdoors. The danger I’m referring to is ticks – and the nasty microbes that can come along with a bite from these creepy crawlers.

One of the primary dangers of tick bites is contracting an infection known as Lyme disease. Lyme disease can cause a whole host of problematic and persistent symptoms that can be challenging to address. But the good news is, there’s emerging research on the use of a class of medicinal compounds known as botanical treatments to treat and beat this perplexing condition.

Today we’re going to look at exactly what Lyme disease is, why conventional treatments don’t always work to address this infection, and explore how botanical treatments may just be the key to eliminating Lyme disease for good. Let’s dive in.

Lyme Disease Defined: What Does Lyme Disease Do to a Person?

Lyme disease is a bacterial infection caused by a pathogen known as Borrelia burgdorferi that is transmitted to humans almost exclusively through the bite of insects known as black-legged deer ticks. When these creepy crawlers bite you, they can inadvertently inject Borrelia burgdorferi directly into your bloodstream.1

Once in your bloodstream, this sneaky bacterial invader essentially hijacks your cells – manipulating them to enhance its own survival. As it disseminates and exploits your cells, your immune system senses the invading threat and sounds the alarm – triggering widespread inflammation and a cascade of pro-inflammatory mediators. This combination of effects can lead to an array of confusing and persistent symptoms that can mimic a number of other health conditions such as:2

  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Chronic fatigue syndrome
  • Schizophrenia

This perplexing ability to create such a wide range of symptoms that so closely resemble a multitude of other conditions has earned Borrelia burgdorferi the nickname “the great imitator”. But to make matters worse, this masterful imitator often comes with another complication – co-infections.

What Are the Symptoms of Lyme Co-infections?

The term “co-infections” simply refers to the simultaneous contraction of multiple pathogens. You see, ticks often carry a cocktail of infectious microbes that can easily be transferred through their bite. Some common Lyme co-infections include:

Co-infections add another layer of complexity because the symptoms of Lyme combined with these additional pathogens can be overlapping and vague – making it even trickier to arrive at an accurate diagnosis. And to make it even more complicated, these co-infections often have a synergistic effect – amplifying each other’s effects, symptoms, and duration.

So can Lyme disease and these complex co-infections be cured?

Can Lyme Disease Be Cured?

Typical treatment for Lyme disease and other co-infections is a round of antibiotics. Sometimes multiple types of antibiotics or antiparasitic drugs are used to address multiple organisms that may have set up camp in your body.3,4 But in many cases, antibiotics aren’t enough to completely eradicate Lyme disease – allowing this stealthy bacteria to persist and continue wreaking havoc on your health.

You see, Borrelia burgdorferi is exceptionally skilled at dodging both your immune system and antibiotics. This bacteria is able to change its morphology and form biofilm-like microcolonies. These biofilm-like microcolonies are a consortium of bacteria that adhere together and form a sticky, slimy layer that serves as a protective barrier – shielding the bacterial colony from your immune system and drugs.5,6

This ability to evade drug therapy and immune attack is what allows this bacteria to persist for months and years, creating a host of complications and devastating life-altering symptoms. But there’s a promising new approach that may be able to penetrate through this protective biofilm and attack these persistent pathogens. This new approach is a class of treatments known as botanical medicine.

What Is Botanical Medicine?

Botanical medicine is also sometimes referred to as herbal medicine, or phytomedicine. Botanical medicine simply uses botanicals, or extracts from plants, as a form of medicine. Plants and their extracts can have powerful therapeutic effects and have long been used in the treatment of numerous conditions.7

And there’s mounting evidence that these botanical treatment strategies may be a promising way to combat persistent Lyme disease.

Do Herbs and Botanical Treatments Work for Lyme Disease?

Studies are finding that the answer to this question is – yes. But not just any plants will have an effect on Lyme disease. Studies have found that the following 7 plants and botanical treatments are particularly effective at neutralizing and eliminating Lyme disease-causing Borrelia burgdorferi:8

  • Sweet Wormwood (Artemisia annua): This herb contains an active constituent called artemisinin. This compound exerts powerful antimicrobial effects thanks to its ability to generate free radicals that damage Borrelia burgdorferi proteins.
  • Pink rock-rose (Cistus creticus): Extracts from this shrub have potent antimicrobial effects and can inhibit biofilm formation without causing any adverse changes to healthy cell proliferation, survival, or cellular receptor function.
  • Nibima/Kadze (Cryptolepis sanguinolenta): This plant is sometimes called “the flowering healer” thanks to its anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, anti-fungal, anti-amoebic, and anti-malarial properties. Extracts from this plant cause morphologic changes in bacterial cells and break down crucial components of pathogens like Borrelia burgdorferi.
  • Eastern black walnut (Juglans nigra): Extracts from this tree contain a concentrated dose of phenolic acids, flavonoids, and catechins – all of which have been found to have potent antioxidant, antibacterial, antitumor, and chemoprotective effects. 
  • Japanese knotweed (Polygonum cuspidatum): This shrub-like plant contains high levels of a polyphenol known as resveratrol which gives this plant anti-tumor, antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, neuroprotective, and cardioprotective properties.
  • Chinese skullcap (Scutellaria baicalensis): This herb has been found to have neuroprotective, antioxidant, anti-apoptotic, anti-inflammatory, and anti-excitotoxicity activity. Botanical extracts from this plant work to inhibit Borrelia burgdorferi replication while preventing biofilm formation.
  • Cat’s claw (Uncaria tomentosa): This woody vine has robust antimicrobial effects and has been found to enhance DNA repair in healthy cells.

While more time and research are needed to truly understand the role these botanicals may play in the long-term treatment of those with persistent Lyme disease, there’s no denying that these powerful plants give new hope in the treatment of this complex condition.

How Else Can I Support My Immune System to Prevent or Heal Lyme Disease?

While persistent Lyme disease can be tricky, complicated, and time-consuming to treat, it can be beaten. Beating persistent Lyme requires a combination of eliminating hidden bacteria while boosting your immune system’s ability to fight off lingering microbes so it can bounce back to baseline. I’ve written extensively on ways you can prevent Lyme disease, manage and heal from this infection, and enhance your immune system function. The following articles are a good place to start:

If you’ve been diagnosed with Lyme disease or are experiencing unexplained, vague, persistent symptoms that may resemble Lyme disease, I encourage you to seek out the guidance of an experienced Integrative and Functional Medicine Practitioner. They can help you identify if Lyme and any other co-infections are the underlying culprits causing your symptoms. 

And most importantly, they can help you come up with a comprehensive roadmap to healing that will likely include modern treatments and botanical medicine combined with a variety of healing modalities to help you recover and bounce back from this devastating disease. If you’re new to the functional medicine approach and aren’t sure where to start, you can head over and read my article How to Choose a Good Integrative and Functional Medicine Doctor.

A Real-Life Lyme Recovery Story

One amazingly courageous patient is paving the way and bringing awareness to this difficult diagnosis for others struggling with Lyme disease.  You may recognize the name, Ryan & Trista Sutter, from the popular show The Bachelorette. Ryan was slammed with debilitating symptoms that seemed to appear out of nowhere. He went from doctor to doctor trying to find answers, only to end up back at square one, yet knowing there was something not right. 

When Ryan came to our clinic, we were finally able to get to the root of his symptoms and definitively identify positive antibodies to the spirochete that causes Lyme disease, borrelia burgdorferi. From there I was able to help him create an entirely customized protocol that includes things like botanical medicine, infrared sauna therapy, and bee venom therapy to help his body recover from Lyme Disease and mold exposure.  I want to give him all the credit, however, as I only had the role of helping him to identify the underlying cause of his illness.  He truly trusted his intuition and created a unique healing plan that felt right and worked for him. To learn more about Ryan’s inspiring story, you can click here to read his highlight in People Magazine.

So, How Concerned Should I Be About Lyme Disease?

As we reveal the remarkable power of botanical medicine in the treatment of Lyme disease and other co-infections, we are one step closer to creating a brighter, healthier future for those struggling with the distressing effects of this persistent pathogen. Lyme disease and other tick-borne illnesses can have devastating symptoms and should not be taken lightly. 

While we certainly can heal and recover from these sneaky intruders, the journey back to health can be long and arduous – so taking steps to prevent Lyme disease while simultaneously boosting your immune system is crucial. If you enjoyed this article and are looking for more ways to protect and prioritize your well-being, I encourage you to head over and check out the hundreds of helpful articles on my blog. And if you want to take it to the next level and get my best content delivered straight to your inbox you can sign up for my weekly newsletter by entering your name and email address in the form below.

Resources:

  1. Borrelia burgdorferi hijacks cellular metabolism of immune cells: Consequences for host defense – ScienceDirect
  2. Lyme disease: the latest great imitator – PubMed (nih.gov)
  3. Lyme disease – Diagnosis and treatment – Mayo Clinic
  4. Lyme Disease Treatment | Prognosis for Lyme Patients after Treatment (hopkinslyme.org)
  5. Frontiers | Evaluation of Natural and Botanical Medicines for Activity Against Growing and Non-growing Forms of B. burgdorferi | Medicine (frontiersin.org)
  6. The Emerging Role of Microbial Biofilm in Lyme Neuroborreliosis – PMC (nih.gov)
  7. Herbal Medicine | Johns Hopkins Medicine
  8. Frontiers | Evaluation of Natural and Botanical Medicines for Activity Against Growing and Non-growing Forms of B. burgdorferi | Medicine (frontiersin.org)

* These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. The product mentioned in this article are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.   The information in this article is not intended to replace any recommendations or relationship with your physician.  Please review references sited at end of article for scientific support of any claims made.

 

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. 

 

GLA Contributor

Dr. Jill Carnahan

GLA Contributor

*Opinions expressed by contributors are their own. Dr. Jill is Your Functional Medicine Expert! She uses functional medicine to help you find answers to the cause of your illness and addresses the biochemical imbalances that may be making you feel ill. She'll help you search for underlying triggers contributing to your illness through cutting edge lab testing and tailor the intervention to your specific needs as an individual. She may use diet, supplements, lifestyle changes or medication to treat your illness but will seek the most gentle way to help your body restore balance along with the least invasive treatment possible. Dr. Jill is a functional medicine expert consultant and treats environmental and mold-related illness as well

Website: https://www.jillcarnahan.com/