Spirochetes: Masters of Deception
Healing Lyme Disease with Herbs and Hope
Guest post by Danielle Eavenson
Lyme disease is plaguing us more than ever before in history. For those of us who find our sanctuary in the forest, tiny ticks are a huge haunting deterrent to entering our playground. If you live in tick country, it is particularly prevalent and important to understand prevention, diagnosis, and options for treatment.
Discovered in 1975 in Old Lyme, Connecticut after a strange outbreak of rheumatoid arthritis in children, lymes disease was found to be an infection of Borrelia burgdorferi (Bb), a spiral shaped bacterium carried and transmitted through tick bites. Deer ticks are the most common carriers, harboring the bacteria and spreading it as they feed on the blood of animals and humans. (6) In approximately 37% of cases, it presents as a red, circular bulls-eye rash (Erythema migrans) radiating from the bite. Initially, flu-like symptoms are common often along with painful joints. Once these clever spirochetes (spiral shaped bacteria) enter the bloodstream, inflammation and infection of many different tissues may arise, effecting all systems of the body. (3) Symptoms and misdiagnoses include, but are not limited to, intermittent arthritic pain, stiff neck and headaches, problems with eyesight, fever and chills, swollen lymph channels, insomnia, myalgia (muscle pain), toothaches, neurological problems, numbness, digestive disturbances and malabsorbtion of nutrients, tingling of hands and feet, multiple sclerosis, rhematoid arthritis, chronic fatigue, syphilis, alztheimers, colitis, lupus, scleroderma, chronic pain in entire body, paralysis and psychosis. Lymes disease is progressive and changes form as it goes untreated.
According to the US Center for Disease Control (CDC), there were about 25,000 reported cases in 2011, mostly in the North Eastern US. (2) However, studies from Harvard claim 200,000 new cases per year. (1) One of the biggest challenges that faces lyme disease sufferers is misdiagnosis. “No other disease fools doctors more than lyme disease.”, states herbalist and lyme specialist, Wolf D. Storl. (6) Tests are unreliable and for good reason. These stealth spirochetes are masters of deception and can imitate most any other disease. They can penetrate all types of body tissue and imitate the host’s own body cells, fooling the defense mechanisms of the body. (1) They successfully hide in synovial fluid of the joints and are, therefore, undetected by most tests. Borrelia are highly mobile and can cross the blood brain barrier within ten days, which even our white blood cells cannot do. So, as you can imagine, the accuracy of the test themselves is only 55%. (6) Might as well flip a coin, right? An average patient goes through seven doctors and twenty-two months before a correct diagnosis of lyme. (5) Finally finding the true root of one’s health challenges can be a great relief as the inability to accurately diagnose is often as debilitating as the disease itself.
Antibiotics are the preferred and only tool of most doctors to treat lyme. Often they work, especially if given within the first month or two of infection. Many times, however, they are ineffective and have a reverse effect, diminishing the bodies natural defenses and thus creating a wonderful environment for Borrelia to thrive. In my opinion, antibiotics are worth trying as it is much easier to recover from a round of drugs than a deeply invested lyme condition. However, opinions vary greatly on treatment. Lyme disease specialist, Dr. Dieter Klinghardt, states, “One recognizes the novice when it comes to lyme disease treatment. Antibiotics are pedantically prescribed which help only in the short term and seldom bring long-term relief. We have observed (with long-term antibiotic treatment) serious and permanent side effects, for example, kidney failure, tinnitus, and a weakening of the immune system, among other things.” (6)
Aho! This is when our sweet herbal allys get to shine! Herbal protocol are proving invaluable for ridding the body of spirochete born illnesses, especially Borrelia. Although one may never hear of such treatments from conventional doctors, there are thousands of cases studies available online showing their effectiveness. I share from my own experience with clients as well as from other experienced herbalist’s research and clinical practice.
There is a wildly beautiful herb growing mostly on roadsides and in waste places with a distinctive spikey flower head of lavender. Her name is Teasel and she is often seen in dried flower arrangements. I brought her dried inflourescence to one of my clients, bedridden and almost without hope, to keep by her side while she used her medicine. The dried teasel is still there looking pretty, but my client is up and about, feeling more life in her body than she can remember!
Teasel’s blossoms encircle her prickly flower head and as one ring continues to bloom towards the sun, the other spirals down, blooming as it goes. This, to me, is a doctrine of signatures, suggesting use for the ever burrowing spirochete bacteria as well as a picture of the ring that often appears around the initial bite. The roots are her medicine, drunk as a tea, prepared as a tincture, or powdered and mixed with honey or encapsulated.
Dosage is difficult to discern and variable according to the person being treated. Herbalist Matthew Wood has had extensive experience using teasel root and believes it is most effective in a homeopathic dose of 3 drops of tincture, three times a day. (7) Storl suggests that “for roughneck cowboys and cowgirls, tough loggers or truckers, and those who prefer steaks and whiskey to granola, it is probably just not enough. In such cases, a tablespoon three times a day is just more effective.” (6) However one decides to take teasel, alway do so before a meal on an empty stomach. Many, such as my client, start with a smaller dose and add a drop a day, often reaching thirty drops, three times a day. Sometimes the Herxhimer, or die-off reaction of the spirochetes becomes too strong, and one will choose to stop increasing due to side effects. As a tea, the dosage is three cups of standard decoction (1tsp chopped root per cup of water), three times a day. For children, the powder is often used, 1 teaspoon rolled in honey per day. (6)
How long before one should see results? From my research, I concluded at least 6 weeks of the mimimum dosage. Effects may be seen immediately but the nature of Borrelia is that it cycles in intensity and lies dormant from time to time. As a result, some have taken teasel and/or the following formula for up to two years, increasing to highest recommended dosage and then tapering down. (1, 3, 5, 6)
Stephen Harrod Buhner, a well respected herbalist in North America and specialist in lyme disease treatment, has written several on the subject of lyme disease and has had much success using the following core protocol: (1,5)
Japanese knotweed (Polygonum cuspidatum) (Green Dragon Botanicals) – 1-4 tablets 3-4x daily for 8-12 months
Cat’s claw (Uncaria tomentosa) (Green Dragon Botanicals) – 1-4 tablets 3-4x daily for 2-3 months, then 2-3 capsules 3x daily
Eleuthero (Eleutherococcus senticosus) (HerbPharm tincture) – 1/2 to 1 tsp upon rising and at lunch
Astragalus (Astragalus membranaceus) – 1,000mg daily (not to be used in chronic lyme)
Ashwagandha (withania) to help remedy sleep problems at night and brain fog – 1000 mg at night just before bed. (1, 5)
It is important to note that all herbal protocals work best coupled with healing foods and lifestyle choices. Specifically in treating lymes, it is important to follow a warming and deeply nourishing diet which incorporates traditional foods such as ferments, bone broths, bioflavenoid rich foods, and foods rich in essential fatty acids (EFA’s) such as cold water wild caught fish. Borrelia creates a cold condition in the body. It cannot survive in high heat. Thus the use of saunas, sweat lodges and hot baths is essential alongside a warming diet. Bringing in the element of fire and heat is ancient healing method, opening pores to sweat out toxins, encouraging blood circulation, and stimulating the bodies immune defenses by creating fever. (6)
Understanding our enemies patterns and proper prevention may be our best ally and cannot be overlooked. Ticks are shady characters and tend to lurk in moist, grassy places where they lie in wait of a bloodmeal. They do not climb trees, but rather bushes, up to 1.5 yards up, the average height of most hosts. They can wait for months and, although blind, they are incredibly sensitive to movement. Ticks can live in temperatures way below freezing but do not become active until spring when temperature rises above 50 degrees F. By the end of summer, its too hot and they retreat.(6) Ticks tend to like acidic, sour smealling sweat, which results from stress and overconsumption of rich animal proteins and sugar.
Daunting, I know. But there is hope for us forest lovers! Most bites are harmless, especially if the tick is removed within the first 12 hours. Only 1.2-1.4% of bites will infect the host. (4) Taking immune supporting herbs coupled with healthy lifestyle and dietary choices is essential for all disease prevention. For new tick bites, Buhner suggests 3,000 mg/day of astragalus for 30 days and 1,000 mg day indefinitely. (1) I would suggest also incorporating reishi mushrooms, bone broths and other tonic, anti-inflammatory and liver supporting herbs such as nettles and dandelion if you live in a lyme endemic area. I would also recommend saving every tick that bites you in the freezer labeled with your name and date. Testing the tick for lyme is much more accurate and less expensive.
I leave you with a question. What if this strange, determined bit of bacteria is here to teach us? To, perhaps, remind us to get naked more? To have our friends massage our heads while checking for little critters? Or really, to draw us back to our primal natures. To the diets we were designed to thrive on. To remind us of the power of plants and fire. And prayer.
My client I mentioned earlier is 25 years old and was bedridden for 18 months and on and off antibiotics for 6 years. She saw no lasting improvement and became chronically weaker until she chose the guidance of nature and God. Now she is a living miracle and testimony. She and her mom (who also has suffered with lyme) say, “We know God is the greatest physician and prayer the best medicine. We also learned that healing requires patience and humility. We need to learn to respect and embrace nature, rather than fight or fear it. Our message to others who have lyme disease is to have hope-lyme disease is treatable and you can get your life back.” (8)
1. Buhner, Stephen. http://www.buhnerhealinglyme.com
2. Center for Disease Control and Prevention, http://www.cdc.gov
3. Fogg, Wendy Snow. “Lymes Disease: A Practitioner’s Experience and Discovery” http://www.mistymeadows.org.
4. Four Seasons Pediatrics, http://www.fourseasonspediatrics.com
5. Lymes Disease Research Database, http://www.lyme-disease-research-database.com
6. Storl, Wolf D. “Healing Lymes Disease Naturally”
7. Wood, Matthew. “ The Book of Herbal Wisdom: Using Plants as Medicine”
8. Smith, Carolyn and Dana. “Faith, Hope and Family: Dana Smith’s Story” Discover Smith Mountain Lake Magazine, summer 2013