Lab-based research conducted at Johns Hopkins School of Public Health suggests various essential oils, including garlic, can effectively kill persistent forms of Lyme disease bacterium. While clinical trials are needed to validate the lab-based results, this is good news for anyone who had previously been relying on antibiotics alone to treat this life-threatening, tick-based disease.
Notably, 10 of the 35 essential oils tested showed strong killing activity against dormant and slow-growing "persister" forms of Lyme disease bacterium. 1
If you are struggling with Lyme disease, I encourage you to look beyond conventional treatment, which often focuses on the use of long-term antibiotics. You owe it to yourself to investigate essential oils and other natural solutions, which I highlight below.
Essential Oils Shown To Be Effective for Treating Lyme Disease
As presented in the featured video, a new study published in the journal Antibiotics 2 suggests essential oils such as garlic and eucalyptus may be useful in treating Lyme disease.
Interested in the oils’ strong antibacterial properties and many other health benefits, a team of researchers from the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health conducted lab tests designed to treat Lyme bacterium with 35 essential oils.
Previously, lead study author Dr. Ying Zhang, professor in the department of molecular microbiology and immunology, and his colleagues identified five essential oils, including oregano, cinnamon bark and citronella, that have higher antipersister activity than the commonly used Lyme antibiotic drug daptomycin. 3 Results of the current research revealed: 4 , 5 , 6
- Ten of the 35 essential oils that were tested showed "strong activity" against persister forms of Lyme disease bacterium
- Essential oils derived from allspice berries, cinnamon bark, cumin seeds, eucalyptus, garlic cloves, myrrh trees and thyme leaves are among those found to effectively combat persister forms of Lyme disease
- Five of these oils were effective against dormant forms of the Lyme bacterium in a concentration of only 1 part per 1,000
- Essential oils from allspice berries, garlic, may chang trees, myrrh trees and spiked ginger lily not only eradicated all Lyme disease bacteria in seven days, but also prevented regrowth in 21 days
About the study outcomes, Zhang stated, "We found that these essential oils were even better at killing the 'persister' forms of Lyme bacteria than standard Lyme antibiotics. At this stage, these essential oils look very promising as candidate treatments for persistent Lyme infection, but ultimately we need properly designed clinical trials.” 7
Given the study outcomes, essential oils are certainly worth consideration when it comes to addressing Lyme symptoms. Later in this article, I will share other natural remedies you may want to consider. For now, let’s take a closer look at what causes the disease and how it is most commonly contracted.
What Causes Lyme Disease?
Lyme disease is caused by a spirochete — a corkscrew-shaped bacterium called Borrelia burgdorferi. It is primarily transmitted by deer ticks and black-legged ticks found in grassy and wooded areas throughout the U.S. and at least 60 other countries. 8
Lyme is sometimes accompanied by a characteristic bullseye rash and may include flu-like symptoms such as: body aches, fatigue, fever, headaches and stiff or swollen joints .
As I have often mentioned, early treatment is vital because it may help you avoid future complications such as chronic joint inflammation (Lyme arthritis), cognitive defects, heart rhythm irregularities and neurological symptoms.
Quite often, Lyme disease can be complicated by factors such as coinfections, nutrient deficiencies and toxin overload. 9 LymeDisease.org provides the following facts about the disease: 10
- Most people contract Lyme from the bite of an immature tick — and the bite is often so tiny and painless, you may not realize you’ve been bitten
- An undisturbed tick can feed for several days; the longer it is attached to your body, the greater the chances it will transmit Lyme and other pathogens into your bloodstream
- Lyme, which is known as “The Great Imitator,” is very challenging to diagnose because its symptoms mimic conditions such as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), chronic fatigue syndrome, depression, fibromyalgia and multiple sclerosis
- Lyme disease can affect any organ of your body, including your brain and nervous system, muscles and joints and even your heart
Who Gets Lyme Disease?
Lyme disease is no respecter of persons and one bite from a tick the size of a poppy seed may be the only thing separating you from this devastating illness. At least 300,000 Americans are diagnosed with Lyme disease annually. 11
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Lyme disease cases are mainly concentrated in the Northeast and upper Midwest, with 14 American states accounting for more than 96 percent of the cases reported to the CDC. 12
The people at greatest risk of picking up a Lyme-infected tick include children and older adults, as well as firefighters, park rangers and others who spend time in areas known to increase their exposure to ticks. 13
Antibiotic Treatment for Lyme Disease Is Not Always Effective
In most cases, the first line of treatment for Lyme disease usually involves the administration of antibiotics such as amoxicillin, cefuroxime or doxycycline for two to four weeks. That said, antibiotics are not always effective. It’s also important to note that the overuse of these drugs contributes to antibiotic resistance , which is becoming an increasingly bigger issue worldwide.
A 2013 study suggested 36 percent of antibiotic-treated patients continued to suffer from fatigue six months after taking the medication, whereas 20 percent experienced ongoing joint or musculoskeletal pain and 45 percent dealt with persistent neurocognitive symptoms. 14
This poorly understood condition that lingers after standard treatment has been completed is known as "persistent Lyme infection" or “post-treatment Lyme disease (PTLDS) syndrome.” 15 While the cause of so-called persistent Lyme infection is unknown, experts have observed that the Lyme bacterium can enter a dormant stage in which its cells multiply very slowly or don’t divide at all.
As such, these so-called persister cells are known to be more resistant to antibiotics. About this aspect of Lyme disease, authors of the Johns Hopkins study stated: 16
“We found that the variant persister forms such as round bodies, microcolonies and biofilms with increasing degree of persistence in vitro, cannot be killed by the current Lyme antibiotics or even persister drugs like daptomycin alone. [T]hey can only be killed by a combination of drugs that kill persisters and drugs that kill the growing forms.
These observations provide a possible explanation in support of persistent infection despite antibiotic treatment in vivo.
Although daptomycin has good antipersister activity, it is expensive and is an intravenous drug and difficult to administer and adopt in clinical setting, and it has limited penetration through blood brain barrier (BBB). Thus, there is interest to identify alternative drug candidates with high anti-persister activity.”
Natural Strategies to Fight Lyme Disease
As mentioned, conventional Lyme treatment usually focuses on antibiotics, which often stop short of addressing the underlying issues associated with the disease. Due to the damage it will do to your gut microbiome, I do not recommend long-term antibiotic use for Lyme.
The use of antibiotics also increases your risk of fungal or yeast infections. Moreover, antibiotics tax your natural immune function and increase your risk of antibiotic-resistant infections .
Rather than choose antibiotic therapy as your primary means of treating Lyme, you’d be wise to investigate the many natural alternatives first, or, at least use the natural remedies in concert with any recommended pharmaceutical medications. You may find the following nutritional supplements useful in addressing Lyme disease:
Andrographis and artemisinin — herbs that treat a Lyme coinfection called Babesia
Krill oil — this omega-3 powerhouse helps reduce inflammation and relieve Lyme symptoms
Astaxanthin — a powerful antioxidant that neutralizes toxins and relieves joint pain
Probiotics — promotes healthy gut flora and boosts your immunity
Cilantro — a natural chelator for heavy metals
Quercetin — an antioxidant known to reduce histamine, which is usually high in Lyme patients
CoQ10 — a potent antioxidant that alleviates muscle pain, boosts cardiac health and reduces brain fog
Resveratrol — this antioxidant helps with detoxification and may treat the common coinfection called Bartonella
Curcumin — the active ingredient in the spice turmeric, which eliminates neurological toxins and helps reduce brain swelling
Serrapeptase — helps dissolve biofilms
GABA and melatonin — two great sleep supplements that will help address insomnia, a common complaint of Lyme sufferers
Transfer factors — help boost your immune function
Grapefruit seed extract — known to kill bacteria, Candida and parasites and may help treat the Borrelia bacterium in cyst form
Whey protein concentrate — may be useful as a dietary supplement
Lumbrokinase Also Shown to Help Treat Lyme
Beyond the natural remedies mentioned above, lumbrokinase, a group of six proteolytic (protein digesting) enzymes derived from earthworms, has been successfully paired with antimicrobial remedies for the treatment of Lyme disease.
Lumbrokinase is believed to effectively penetrate through thick clumps of gut bacteria known as biofilms, which are one of several factors involved with Lyme. When pathogenic bacteria hide within biofilms, they can feed and replicate out of the reach of your immune system.
As such, they remain strong and unaffected by any antimicrobial medications, including antibiotics and herbs, you may be taking. The fact lumbrokinase is helpful in breaking down fibrinogen is an important aspect of Lyme treatment because the pathogenic bacteria use fibrinogen, which they convert to fibrin, to strengthen their network. 17
Researchers studying the effects of lumbrokinase 18 say earthworms have been used for thousands of years within traditional medicine in Asian countries such as China, Japan and Korea. In these countries, dry earthworm powder taken orally has been shown to promote healthy blood circulation.
Dr. Miguel Gonzalez, a functional, integrative and holistic medicine specialist from Thousand Oaks, California, and creator of the Lyme People website, suggests lumbrokinase, “appears to assist in dissolving the excess fibrin that covers and hides the bacteria, is involved in the regulation of blood clotting and also eliminates the abnormal proteins that are released as a result of the bacteria’s activity.” 19
You May Want to Try Klinghardt Academy’s Lyme Treatment Protocol
My mentor Dr. Dietrich Klinghardt, founder of the Klinghardt Academy in Woodinville, Washington, is one of the leading authorities on the treatment of Lyme disease. Having been used successfully to restore health to hundreds of patients, his Lyme disease treatment protocol is most definitely something you should check out, especially if you have been unable to get the help you need elsewhere.
Be Vigilant: Preventing Lyme Disease Is Your Best Option
Lyme disease is a complex, controversial and extremely challenging condition to treat, making prevention your safest and best option. Your first line of defense is to take precautions to avoid the ticks that transmit the disease. After all, no tick bites, no Lyme disease. Because the ticks can be as small as poppy seeds, you must be vigilant to safeguard yourself, your loved ones and your pets from ticks.
Whatever you do, do not spray your body or your clothes with insect repellant containing N,N-Diethyl-m-toluamide, also known as DEET. Because DEET is a known neurotoxin, 20 I recommend avoiding all DEET-containing products. If you live or spend time in a high-risk area, you can protect yourself from tick bites by: 21 , 22
- Avoiding tick-infested areas such as densely wooded areas and always walk in the middle of trails to avoid brushing against tall grasses and other plant material that may house ticks
- Looking for ticks on your body and hair immediately upon returning from a high-risk area and continuing to check your body, hair and bedding daily for several days afterward
- Wearing long sleeves and pants, as well as closed shoes and a hat, when venturing into wooded areas
- Checking your pets for ticks, which can latch onto collars and fur
- Removing ticks properly and, if possible, keeping them alive; for detailed instructions on handling ticks, visit the lymedisease.org tick removal page