For patients suffering from persistent Lyme disease symptoms, there is hope that certain botanicals offer a new therapeutic option. For the first time, a study documents that 7 herbal extracts are effective in fighting B. burgdorferi, the bacteria that causes Lyme disease.
Lyme disease is the most common vector borne disease in the Northern Hemisphere. Vectors are infected mosquitos, ticks, and fleas that spread germs between humans, or from animals to humans who gets sick after being bitten by the vector. In the case of Lyme disease, the vector is a tick caused by a bacteria called Borrelia burgdorferi (B. burgdorferi).
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said that reported cases of tickborne disease have more than doubled during 2004-2016. Lyme disease accounts for 82% of cumulative reported cases. Tickborne diseases occur throughout the continental United States and have the highest number of cases in the eastern part of the country and along the Pacific Coast. Visit the CDC site to view statistics and cases happening in your state.
The best way to protect yourself and your family from vector borne diseases is to use insect repellent. Read more about how the best insect repellants prevent inflammatory diseases.
Untreated Lyme disease symptoms can vary by stage of infection and can include rash, fever, headaches, facial palsy, and arthritis.
The majority of Lyme disease patients respond well to traditional Lyme antibiotic treatment. However, B. burgdorferi that causes Lyme disease can evade the immune system response and persist in tissues despite aggressive and prolonged antibiotic therapy. Traditional antibiotic therapy appears to be more effective against the actively dividing spirochete form (a flexible spirally twisted bacterium). Antibiotics perform poorly when B. burgdorferi changes to atypical forms (round bodies, microcolonies, and biofilm). According to Lymedisease.org, up to 25% of patients continue to suffer from unresolved symptoms that can lead to an ongoing disability and may turn to herbal remedies for support.
A study conducted by Frontiers in Medicine, researched the antimicrobial effects in 12 commonly used herbal extracts. Among them, 7 natural herbal extracts at 1% were found to have good activity against the stationary phase B. burgdorferi culture compared to the control antibiotics doxycycline and cefuroxime. It is unclear whether the effect of the herbal supplement is the result of their direct antimicrobial activity or due to their effect on the person’s immune system. These active botanicals include:
- Cryptolepis sanguinolenta,
- Black walnut (Juglans nigra),
- Japanese knotweed (Polygonum cuspidatum),
- Sweet wormwood (Artemisia annua),
- Cat’s claw (Uncaria tomentosa),
- Cistus incanus, and
- Chinese skullcap (Scutellaria baicalensis).
Keep in mind that each of these products have the potential for significant side effects in patients, and should be taken under the advise of a knowledgeable clinician.
On the surface, it is hard to believe that certain herbs are found more effective than commonly prescribed drugs. The top two active herbs found to be most effective against B. burgdorferi in Lyme disease are Cryptolepis sanguinolenta and Polygonum cuspidatum (Japanese knotweed). Furthermore, only 1% Cryptolepis sanguinolenta extract caused complete eradication B. burgdorferi.
These are the key highlights from their study:
Using fluorescence microscopy, we confirmed that 1% Cryptolepis sanguinolenta, Juglans nigra (Black walnut), and Polygonum cuspidatum (Japanese knotweed) could eradicate almost all live cells with only dead and aggregated cells left.
At 0.5% concentration, 11 natural product extracts (Polygonum cuspidatum 60% EE, Cryptolepis sanguinolenta 60% EE, Artemisia annua 90% EE, Juglans nigra 30–60% EE, Uncaria tomentosa WE, Artemisia annua 60% EE, Polygonum cuspidatum 90% EE, Scutellaria baicalensis) still exhibited stronger activity than the current clinically used doxycycline and cefuroxime.
In particular, 0.25% Cryptolepis sanguinolenta could eradicate or dissolve all the B. burgdorferi cells including aggregated forms as we found rare live and even dead cells with SYBR Green I/PI microscope observation.
We also tested several other herbs and substances that are used by Lyme patients including Stevia rebaudiana, Andrographis paniculata, Grapefruit seed extract, Ashwagandha somnifera, Colloidal silver, Lauricidin, and antimicrobial peptide LL-37, but found they had little or no activity against stationary phase B. burgdorferi cells.
The minimum inhibitory concentration (MIC) is a measurement of how much antibiotic is needed to halt the growth of an organism. The smaller the number means the more effective the antibiotic is. The study goes on to document the following botanical potency results:
The MIC values of Artemisia annua, Juglans nigra, and Uncaria tomentosa were quite high for growing B. burgdorferi despite their strong activity against the non-growing stationary phase B. burgdorferi.
On the other hand, the top two active herbs, Cryptolepis sanguinolenta and Polygonum cuspidatum, showed strong activity against both growing B. burgdorferi (MIC = 0.03–0.06% and 0.25–0.5%, respectively) and non-growing stationary phase B. burgdorferi.
In subculture studies, only 1% Cryptolepis sanguinolenta extract caused complete eradication, while doxycycline and cefuroxime and other active herbs could not eradicate B. burgdorferi stationary phase cells as many spirochetes were visible after 21-day subculture.
To improve the treatment of persistent Lyme disease, more studies are needed to identify the essential components of the effective botanicals. This would help evaluate their synergies to be taken in combination for more effective eradication of B. burgdorferi. The lack of clinical trials show there is much still to be learned about these 7 herbal supplements.