Lyme disease is a common condition and there are numerous herbs to help treat individuals suffering from Lyme disease.
In this article, we will answer some common questions regarding Lyme disease and review the best herbs for Lyme disease.
Table of Contents
- Lyme Disease Overview:
- Best Herbs for Lyme Disease:
- Lyme Disease Herbal Protocol
- What Is Lyme Disease?
- What are the 3 Stages of Lyme Disease?
- How To Test for Lyme Disease?
- How Long Does Lyme Disease Last?
- What Types of Ticks Carry Lyme Disease?
- Is Lyme Disease Contagious?
- Lyme Disease During Pregnancy & Breastfeeding:
- What Does Lyme Disease Look Like?
- Common Treatment for Lyme Disease:
Lyme Disease Overview:
In the United States, Lyme disease (or Lyme borreliosis) is the most common vector-borne disease with an estimated 30,000 reported cases annually.
Lyme disease is caused by the bacterium Borrelia burgdorfer, which is transmitted by black-legged ticks.
To transmit the Lyme disease bacteria, ticks need to be attached to their host for 36-48 hours. Ticks can attach to any part of the body, but can commonly be found in areas such as the groin, thighs, armpits, and scalp.
It is important to remember that the tick must be infected in order to transmit Borrelia burgdorfer and cause Lyme disease.
Lyme disease infection is most common through nymphs and adult tick bites, although the infection can be transmitted through the larvae stage as well. Nymphs are tiny and more difficult to see than adults.
Spring, summer, and fall are the most common periods for tick bites.
Lyme disease can cause a vast range of symptoms:
- Skin rash
- Chills and fever
- Muscle and joint pain
- Neurological features
- Cardiovascular symptoms
Early diagnosis and proper treatment are essential to help prevent the development of the late stages of Lyme disease and severe symptoms.
Best Herbs for Lyme Disease:
Below are the best herbs for Lyme disease and its co-infections supported by scientific research.
Herbalists and practitioners who specialize in Lyme disease will often have a specific herbal protocol that uses a variety of the herbs below.
1. Japanese Knotweed
Japanese knotweed (Polygonum cuspidatum) is a medicinal plant, commonly known as an invasive weed, and is native to Asian countries.
A study demonstrated that one of Japanese knotweed’s main compounds, emodin, can effectively stop the growth of the bacteria that causes Lyme disease.
Another similar study showed that Japanese knotweed has a strong impact on inhibiting the growth of the Lyme disease bacteria.
Lyme disease expert and herbal author, Stephen Harrod Buhner notes why Japanese knotweed is an effective treatment for Lyme disease through its ability to:
- Improves blood flow
- Reduces inflammation
- Protects heart function
- Provides anti-bacterial and anti-viral effects
- Provides neuroprotective and regeneration effects
Summary:Clinical studies and traditional herbalism have found that the antibacterial and anti-inflammatory effects of Japanese knotweed may work to prevent the growth of the Lyme disease bacteria.
2. Cat’s Claw
Cat’s claw (Uncaria tomentosa) is a large vine medicinal plant native to the Amazon rainforest.
A lab study has demonstrated that cat’s claw can inhibit the growth of the bacteria that causes Lyme disease.
Cat’s claw has been shown to reduce Lyme disease symptoms and ultimately eliminate the Lyme infection from the body in a six-month study.
Summary:Lab research indicates that cat’s claw herb may work to reduce the growth and symptoms of Lyme disease infections.
3. Chinese Skullcap
Chinese skullcap (Scutellaria baicelensis) is a common medicinal plant used in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM).
A study found that Chinese skullcap has strong anti-microbial activity and the ability to stop the growth of the bacteria that causes Lyme disease.
Another study found that one of Chinese skullcap’s main compounds, baicalein, is an effective anti-microbial agent and can inhibit the progression of the Lyme disease bacteria.
Summary:Research has found that Chinese skullcap may possess antimicrobial properties that may make this herb effective in inhibiting the growth of Lyme disease bacteria.
4. Cistus Incanus
Cistus incanus (or rock rose) is a medicinal plant native to the Mediterranean region.
A study showed that Cistus incanus can stop the growth of the bacteria that causes Lyme disease.
Stephen H. Buhner reports that Cistus incanus is commonly used in the treatment of Lyme disease due to its anti-microbial properties.
Summary:Herbalist Stephen Buhner mentions that cistus incanus is thought to halt the growth of the Lyme disease bacteria through its antimicrobial activities.
5. Red Sage
Red sage (Salvia miltiorrhiza) is a medicinal plant native to China and Japan, used in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM).
Stephen H. Buhner explains the beneficial roles red sage plays in treating Lyme disease:
- Has anti-bacterial properties
- Has anti-inflammatory properties
- Helps stop the breakdown of collagen and promotes tissue healing
- Assists in lowering histamine levels, lessening disease progression
Summary:Herbal expert Stephen Buhner states that red sage may work to benefit Lyme disease through this herb’s antibacterial and anti-inflammatory effects.
6. Cryptolepis sanguinolenta
Cryptolepis sanguinolenta (or yellow-dye root) is a medicinal plant native to Africa.
A study showed that Cryptolepis sanquinolenta can halt the growth and eradicate the bacteria that causes Lyme disease.
Another study showed that Cryptolepis sanguinolenta can inhibit the growth of the parasite that causes Babesiosis (similar to Japanese knotweed), moreover, this herb had equal or better effects than commonly used antibiotic medications.
Summary:Studies show that Cryptolepis sanguinolenta may treat lyme disease through bacterial growth prevention.
7. Sida acuta
Sida acuta (or common wireweed) is a medicinal plant used throughout the world, although it is often seen as a weed.
Bartonellosis is another common co-infection of Lyme disease. Lyme expert Stephen H. Buhner includes Sida acuta in his herbal protocol treatment for Bartonellosis.
He states that this herb has broad anti-microbial effects and may treat Lyme disease and its co-infections by inhibiting the growth of pathogens, eliminating the bacteria from the body, and helping to manage the symptoms of disease(s).
Summary:Sida acuta‘s antimicrobial properties may make this an effective herb for treating Lyme disease.
Senega (Polygala tenuifolia) is a medicinal plant native to Asia and commonly used in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM).
Lyme disease expert Stephen H. Buhner explains that senega acts as an NF-kB inhibitor, meaning it can halt the bacteria’s inflammatory processes, reducing or eliminating Lyme disease symptoms.
PANDAS (Pediatric Autoimmune Neuropsychiatric Disorders) is another condition that can be triggered by Lyme disease. According to Stephen Harrod Buhner, senega can be used to treat seizures associated with PANDAS.
Summary:Senega possesses anti-inflammatory effects that may work to reduce symptoms of Lyme disease.
Lyme Disease Herbal Protocol
Lyme disease expert and herbal author, Stephen H. Buhner developed two protocols for treating Lyme disease.
The core protocol is considered the basic or minimal support necessary for treating all aspects of Lyme disease.
The expanded/repertory protocol addresses specific symptoms, which allows you to pick and choose what is needed based on individual symptoms.
For example, if you have Lyme disease and are also experiencing anxiety, you would follow the core protocol as well as incorporate the expanded herb for anxiety:
|Japanese knotweed||Tincture||¼ to 1 tsp.||3x daily|
|Red sage||Tincture||1 tsp.||3x daily|
|Chinese skullcap||Tincture||1 tsp.||3x daily|
|Cat’s claw||Tincture||¼ to ½ tsp.||3x daily|
|Cordyceps||Tincture||½ to 1 tsp.||3x daily|
|Eleuthero||Tincture||½ tsp.||3x daily|
|Licorice||Tincture||¼ tsp.||3x daily|
|Andrographis||Capsule||600 to 1,200 mg||3x daily|
|Gou Teng||Tincture||½ to 1 tsp.||3 to 6x daily|
|Vitamin C||Capsule||1,000 to 3,000 mg||Daily|
Please note these dosages are only guidelines and are developed for adults, not children.
For more information on this core protocol and the expanded/repertory protocol, refer to Stephen Harrod Buhner’s book: Healing Lyme: Natural Healing of Lyme Borreliosis and the Coinfections.
What Is Lyme Disease?
Lyme disease is an illness caused by the bacterium, Borrelia burgdorferi, transmitted by an infected black-legged tick. Lyme disease can cause an array of symptoms such as a rash, fatigue, flu-like symptoms, and joint pain.
With appropriate treatment, most people can fully recover from Lyme disease.
What are the 3 Stages of Lyme Disease?
There are three stages of Lyme disease: early localized, early disseminated, and late.
- Stage 1: Early localized Lyme disease:
- This stage usually occurs within 1-30 days post-tick bite. Erythema migrans (bull’s-eye rash), a low-grade fever, and flu-like symptoms may be present.
- Note that oftentimes a rash is present from an allergic reaction to the tick saliva. This may appear within a few hours of the tick bite and disappear within a few days; this should not be mistaken for erythema migrans.
- Stage 2: Early disseminated Lyme disease:
- This stage usually occurs 3-12 weeks post-tick bite. If there is a bulls-eye rash, it may now have expanded. Symptoms such as headache, fever, muscle pain, heart palpitations, eye pain, and joint pain, may be present. Meningitis and cranial nerve neuropathy may occur, in addition to extreme irritability, depression, and poor concentration.
- Stage 3: Late Lyme disease:
How To Test for Lyme Disease?
To test for and properly diagnose Lyme disease, healthcare providers will consider the following:
- A history of exposure to ticks in the area
- A recent tick bite
- Signs and symptoms of Lyme disease (listed above)
- Blood tests (antibodies screening)
In areas where Lyme disease is prevalent, a recent tick exposure and the classic bull’s-eye rash may be all you need to start treatment (without blood work). Although in other cases, healthcare providers will want to thoroughly test with blood work, especially if the patient does not recall getting a tick bite or does not develop a rash.
Oftentimes patients can have a negative blood test result if they are tested too soon after the tick bite or infection (within the first couple of weeks). Therefore, many healthcare providers may consider treating Lyme disease without running tests or waiting for the blood work results.
For testing and diagnosing Lyme disease, contact your primary care provider (PCP) or a specialist such as a board-certified infectious disease specialist. Most doctor’s offices, walk-in-lab centers, and local laboratories such as Quest can perform Lyme disease diagnostic tests.
How Long Does Lyme Disease Last?
Fortunately, Lyme disease is treatable at any stage. How long Lyme disease lasts within the body depends on the person and case. If Lyme disease is caught early on or the tick bite is treated early, most cases can be resolved within two to four weeks.
However, many patients can develop the condition Post-Treatment Lyme Disease Syndrome (PTLDS), which is the accumulation of symptoms such as pain, fatigue, and brain fog that may last for 6 months or more post-treatment. This is thought to be due to an autoimmune response that is triggered by the bacteria, Borrelia burgdorferi.
Note that a person may continue to test positive for months or years after the bacteria is no longer in their body and symptoms are resolved. This is because the immune system continuously makes antibodies against the pathogen for months or years even after the infection is gone.
What Types of Ticks Carry Lyme Disease?
The ticks that carry Lyme disease are the black-legged ticks (the Ixodes species). In the eastern and northern United States, Ixodes scapularis ticks, also known as deer ticks, transmit Lyme disease, while in the western states, Lyme disease is transmitted by Ixodes pacificus ticks.
Is Lyme Disease Contagious?
Lyme Disease During Pregnancy & Breastfeeding:
If Lyme disease is contracted during pregnancy, it may lead to an infection of the placenta and cause harm to the fetus or baby. Getting an early diagnosis and treatment of Lyme disease is crucial during pregnancy.
There have been no adverse effects on the fetus or baby when appropriate treatment has been obtained by the mother.
In addition, no data suggests that Lyme disease can be transmitted through breast milk.
What Does Lyme Disease Look Like?
One of the first possible signs of Lyme disease is the erythema migrans (bull’s-eye rash) that develops around the site of the tick bite. This is typically a reddish or purple-colored rash, round or oval, and gradually expands. As it enlarges, the center of the rash may clear, resulting in a “bull’s-eye” look. The rash may be warm to the touch and is not typically painful. This rash is seen in about 70% of cases.
Common Treatment for Lyme Disease:
The best way to address Lyme disease is to get diagnosed and treated as early as possible. If you have had a recent tick bite and are concerned about Lyme disease, contact your healthcare provider immediately.
It is important to keep in mind that the tick must be infected in order to transmit Lyme disease and Lyme disease is treatable.
It is always recommended to consult with your healthcare provider before adding any new herbal or dietary supplement to your regimen, especially if you are pregnant or nursing, or taking any medications.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC): Division of Vector-Borne Diseases. (2022). Data and surveillance. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. https://www.cdc.gov/lyme/datasurveillance/index.html
Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC): Division of Vector-Borne Diseases. (2022). Lyme disease: What you need to know. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. https://www.cdc.gov/lyme/resources/brochure/lymediseasebrochure-P.pdf
Shapiro, E. D. (2014). Borrelia burgdorferi (Lyme disease). Pediatrics in Review, 35(12), 500-509. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5029759/
Shapiro, E. D. (2014). Lyme disease. New England Journal of Medicine, 370(18), 1724-1731. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4487875/#:~:text=In%20the%20United%20States%2C%20Lyme,%2C%20and%20adult
Skar, G. L. & Simonsen, K. A. (2023). Lyme disease. StatPearls [Internet]. NIH National Library of Medicine: National Center for Biotechnology Information. StatPearls Publishing. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK431066/