To Your Health

Natural Treatment of Lyme Disease

Sometimes antibiotics are not enough.
Natural Treatment of Lyme Disease
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If you’ve ever done any research on Lyme disease (LD), an infection caused by Borrelia burgdorferi, a type of bacterium called a spirochete that is carried by deer ticks, you know there is dissenting opinion on how to define and treat the disease. LD is now the most common arthropod-borne illness in the U.S., with more than 150,000 reported cases since 1982. Early symptoms include lack of energy, headache, stiff neck, fever and chills, muscle and joint pain, and swollen lymph nodes. There may or may not be a circular rash at the site of the tick bite.

The U.S. Center for Disease Control is still endorsing the 2006 guidelines developed by the Infectious Diseases Society of America which calls for copious use of antibiotics. Not only can these drugs cause extensive damage to the intestinal system, but, according to a recent Wall Street Journal article, they do not in fact, cure the disease. Research at Yale University showed that residual Lyme spirochetes capable of causing continued inflammation in joints and cartilage were found in mice after treatment with antibiotics. 

Many health practitioners believe that an infectious disease consists of both the invading pathogen and the body’s reaction to the invasion. Treatment requires adjusting the body’s reaction to the invasion of the bacteria or virus. Relying on antibiotics to eradicate the bacteria of LD without enhancing the body’s immunity and repairing the damaged tissue is considered an incomplete strategy.

Several integrative medical doctors now believe that to cure or eradicate LD, its manifestations of spirochetes, round bodies and biofilm-like colonies all must be eliminated.  They are experimenting with herbal protocols in varying doses and types to help patients find relief from their symptoms.

According to Eva Sapi, Ph.D., an associate professor and research scholar in the Department of Biology and Environmental Science at the University of New Haven, there is minimal government or private funding currently available to study the efficacy of herbal treatments. She is one of a handful of researchers doing so and has published her results of a 2010 study in The Townsend Letter, an alternative medicine journal read by mainstream physicians.  She found two herbs —samento (a form of cat’s claw from the Peruvian jungle) and banderol extract—“very effective in killing the three types of bacteria in LD.”

Richard Horowitz, M.D., has had some success using these herbs to treat his LD patients at the Hudson Valley Healing Arts Center in Hyde Park, N.Y.  A past president of the International Lyme and Associated Diseases Society, Horowitz coined the term MSID, or “multi-systemic infectious disease syndrome” to describe LD’s complexity of symptoms. He is writing what he calls “the definitive textbook” on LD and other chronic auto-immune illnesses which will be published next year.

Qincai Zhang, M.D., a Chinese physician and infectious disease expert who serves on Dr. Andrew Weill’s advisory board, uses Modern Chinese Medicine (MCM), which combines the herbs of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) with Western medicine antibiotics, to treat LD. His protocol lasts at least six months, depending on the duration of infection, severity of symptoms, co-infections, strength of immune response, age, weight, and compliance to treatment. During the first three weeks of treatment, patients will exhibit Herxheimer's reaction, an inflammatory response that often results in more marked symptoms.  The disappearance of the Herxheimer’s is used as a way to determine the endpoint of treatment. He also recommends acupuncture and the Weill Anti-inflammatory Diet to LD sufferers.

Health providers and patients agree that more money and research need to be dedicated to LD, which if left untreated, may progress from mild symptoms to serious, long-term disabilities such as damage to the joints, nerves, and brain.

To Your Health!

International Lyme and Associated Diseases Society:

American Lyme Disease Foundations:

Qincai Zhang:

Dr. Richard Horowitz.