In this newsletter I try to select topics that interest as many readers as possible. Lyme disease probably would have been considered an odd choice just a few years ago. Many doctors even questioned whether it existed.
Not anymore. Lyme is an epidemic, and a great many people now take it seriously.
Recently I saw a couple of workers on my farm covering their exposed skin and spraying their boots and pant legs with insect repellent before venturing out to build a fence.
Why? Ticks. They knew about Lyme disease and were making darn sure it didn’t happen to them. These were big, tough guys – not stereotypical Whole Foods wimps.
Word about Lyme has gotten around. . .and if you think you’re not at risk,
think again. . .
Lyme disease caused Canadian pop star Avril Lavigne to be bedridden for five months.
Singer/songwriter Shania Twain called it “an evil silent thing” after her throat muscles were damaged, forcing her to have extensive speech therapy and vocal training.
Star of Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, Yolanda Hadid, has been battling the condition for six years, saying she just wants “to crawl in a hole and wait for it all to pass.”
These celebrities all became infected with Borrelia burgdorferi, the tick-carried microbe that causes Lyme disease.
For ongoing sufferers there’s some good news to report. It comes in the form of essential oils.
Oregano and Cinnamon – Top Lyme Busters
Antibiotics cure most Lyme victims if they start taking the drug soon after they get a bite, but for about one out of five, the condition can persist for months or even years after treatment. With about 300,000 a year diagnosed with Lyme, that makes 60,000 people looking at long-term disability.
Chronic symptoms include fatigue, muscular and joint pain, skin conditions, heart problems and cognitive impairment. Singer-songwriter-actor Kris Kristofferson was told he had hopeless Alzheimer’s until a smart doctor finally figured out he really had Lyme disease.
The reasons for “post-treatment Lyme disease syndrome” are not well understood, but it’s known that if the bacteria are not killed off in their early stages, cultures of the bacteria enter a stationary phase. These “persister” non-dividing cells are resistant to antibiotics.
Molecular microbiologist and immunologist Ying Zhang from Johns Hopkins University, together with international colleagues, first tested the activity of 34 essential oils on persister forms of Borrelia burgdorferi in stationary phase culture in 2017.
They did so because essential oils are known to have various kinds of antimicrobial activity and patients report improvements in symptoms. These patients take the oils orally, usually under the direction of health practitioners who know what they’re doing. The dosages may well depend on the practitioner and the type of oil prescribed.
The success of these herbal experts inspired Dr. Zhang and his team to undertake a more formal study.
In their research, many of the oils showed the ability to stop microbes, but not all. Powerful effects were seen in 23 oils at a 1% concentration, with five having strong activity at a weaker concentration of 0.25%. These were oregano, cinnamon bark, clove bud, citronella (lemon grass) and wintergreen.
Even at these very low concentrations, they were more effective than the best conventional medicine has to offer – the antibiotic daptomycin, which is prescribed for persister Lyme cultures.
The first three of the five had “remarkable activity” even at a very weak 0.125% concentration.
The scientists found oregano, cinnamon bark, and clove bud had “remarkable biofilm-dissolving capability and completely eradicated all stationary phase cells with no regrowth.” (Biofilms are a matrix of compounds that bacteria surround themselves with to guard against immune system attack or antibiotics).
Another Benefit Notched up to Garlic
For the follow up study recently published in Antibiotics, Dr. Zhang and four colleagues screened another 35 essential oils.
In total, 18 oils were more effective than daptomycin at a concentration of
0.2%. Ten of these were said to have “remarkable activity” at 0.1%.
Standing at the head of the pack was garlic. The research team found this “exhibited the best activity.” This was as good as the most active oils in the previous study.
If you’re well-informed about herbal remedies, you’re not surprised. Garlic’s antibacterial properties were described by the ancient Chinese and confirmed by Pasteur in the 19th century.
Garlic has many health benefits and people take it for protection against heart disease and cancer, although it was probably a lot more popular in the U.S. 20 to 25 years ago.
Other Herbs Can Also Help
The two other best performers were allspice and myrrh.
Allspice is commonly included as a flavoring agent in food processing and is known to act against bacteria. Traditionally, allspice is used to relieve digestive complaints.
Since ancient times, myrrh has been used as an antiseptic for treating wounds and preventing infections. Lab studies show it acts against multiple strains of bacteria that can cause disease in humans.
Also in the top ten were spiked ginger lily, may chang, palmarosa, lemon eucalyptus, amyris, cumin and white thyme.
Commenting on the study, Dr. Zhang said, “…these essential oils were even better at killing the ‘persister’ forms of Lyme bacteria than standard Lyme antibiotics.
“[They] look very promising as candidate treatments for persistent Lyme infection, but ultimately we need properly designed clinical trials.”