By Dr. Todd Watts and Dr. Jay Davidson
Detox Learning Center
- Borrelia burgdorferi is the bacteria associated with chronic Lyme disease.
- Lyme disease can be a challenging opponent if you don’t have the right tools.
- Chronic Lyme disease can manifest when the body is overburdened with other chronic infections, stress, or toxicity.
- Chronic Lyme disease presents many physical and neuropsychiatric challenges, but you can get your health back on track with the help of potent herbs from nature.
- Artemisia annua, or sweet wormwood, contains the compound artemisinin. It is a potent antiparasitic, antioxidant, and antibacterial which combats the Lyme disease bacteria — including the cyst form.
- The root of the astragalus plant is known for its immune-stimulating ability.
- The shells of black walnuts are rich in phytochemicals, some of which have antimicrobial and antioxidant properties that are known to kill B. burgdorferi bacteria.
- Buckthorn bark has antiviral, antibacterial, and antifungal properties. It helps to move the bowels and rid the body of toxins generated when B. burgdorferi dies off.
- Boneset (Eupatorium perfoliatum) has been traditionally used by Native Americans for fevers, to induce sweating, and to promote healing.
- Cat’s claw bark may help to regulate your immune function. It also has antioxidant, antiviral, and anti-inflammatory properties.
- Cranesbill root contains tannins, potent antioxidant compounds that are effective against certain bacteria, viruses, and protozoan parasites.
- Devils’ claw may help to relieve the joint pain caused by Lyme disease-associated inflammation.
- Essiac blend is a combination of four herbs: burdock root, Indian rhubarb root, sheep sorrel leaves, and slippery elm bark. The combo has potent antioxidant effects and may help regulate or normalize immune responses.
- Siberian ginseng (eleuthero root) is a staple in traditional Chinese medicine. Phytochemicals in this herb have anti-inflammatory, pain-reducing, immune balancing, and lymphatic drainage effects.
- Hawthorn is a shrub grown for its ruby-red berries. Hawthorn berries and leaves are rich in antioxidant phytochemicals, including ones with antioxidant properties that could protect the heart in cases of Lyme carditis.
- Horsetail has a long history of use for treating inflammatory disorders and may reduce Lyme arthritis-related inflammation.
- Japanese knotweed root has high levels of the phytochemical called resveratrol, which has potent antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and anti-cancer health benefits.
- Milk thistle seed contains a group of plant compounds called silymarins that have antioxidant, antiviral, and anti-inflammatory properties. Since milk thistle seed has been used for centuries to protect the liver, it may benefit Lyme-associated liver inflammation.
- Nettle leaf is a popular herbal medicine that is high in nutrients and phytochemicals, particularly polyphenols.
- Pau d’arco bark is native to the tropical rainforests of South America. It contains several anti-inflammatory compounds that may help with Lyme-associated joint pain.
- Teasel root has traditionally been used to reduce inflammation. Teasel root may be directly effective against B. burgdorferi spirochetes.
- Wormwood (Artemisia absinthium) has demonstrated the ability to relieve gut inflammation and rid the body of certain parasites. Parasites can carry B. burgdorferi inside them, so you must purge parasites, or they could reinfect you with Lyme disease.
- White willow bark is a traditional remedy for pain, inflammation, and fever. It contains a compound called salicin, which is similar to aspirin.
- Yellow dock root is used in herbal medicine for supporting liver function, which could help to remove the toxins generated in Lyme disease.
- Turmeric is a popular spice known for its health benefits, which include potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory actions. These benefits are primarily attributed to curcumin, a phytochemical in turmeric.
- Each herb discussed here offers unique properties and acts synergistically with the others.
You know chronic Lyme disease is real and can significantly derail your health. But do you know what to do about it?
Borrelia is the bacteria behind chronic Lyme disease. And it can be challenging to beat if you don’t have the right tools.
Though you may not notice symptoms when you’re initially infected, it’s a train wreck waiting to happen. When you become overburdened with other chronic infections, stress, or toxicity, the symptoms of chronic Lyme disease can surface. (1)
Chronic Lyme disease can weaken your immune system, ignite inflammation, squelch your energy, provoke pain, and trigger brain fog. It can also generate harmful free radicals, disrupt your mitochondria, and overwhelm your detox pathways. (2, 3)
But you can get your health back on track with the help of potent herbs from nature — including cat’s claw bark, milk thistle seed, wormwood, and many others. These herbs work together to support your immune system and detoxification. Plus, they help reduce your pathogen load.
Here’s an overview of 21 herbs to help you tackle chronic Lyme disease.
1. Artemisia Annua
Artemisia annua also goes by the name sweet wormwood. That’s because it’s often used for parasitic worms, including schistosoma. (4, 5)
The herb is also used for malaria, which is caused by the parasite plasmodium. In addition, sweet wormwood has antiparasitic activity against Toxoplasma gondii and babesia. The latter is a Lyme coinfection. (4)
Artemisinin is the compound in Artemisia annua that has these antiparasitic effects. It also has powerful actions against the Lyme bacteria — including cyst forms. The cysts (also called round bodies) are tougher to kill than the spirochete (spiral) form. (6)
When tested in a lab, artemisinin left only 24% of borrelia cysts alive after one week. In contrast, drugs like ciprofloxacin and doxycycline were less effective. They left 28–49% of the Lyme cysts alive. (7)
In addition, Artemisia annua contains dozens of different antioxidants. You need that defense. Borrelia infection can lead to a lot of oxidative stress as your immune system fights back. (3, 4)
2. Astragalus Root
The root of Astragalus membranaceus or astragalus is probably best known for its ability to stimulate your immune system. This is important when you’re fighting an infection like Lyme disease. (8)
Also remember, Lyme can create a lot of inflammation, oxidative stress, and toxins. Fortunately, astragalus root could help with each of those challenges. It has anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and liver-protective properties. (9)
The ability of astragalus to support your immune system comes from phytochemicals. These include two classes or groups of phytochemicals called flavonoids and saponins. (9)
Interestingly, some saponins, flavonoids, and other phytochemicals have been shown to break up biofilm. That’s a protective covering that borrelia and other microbes can use to hide from your immune system and antibiotics.
Astragalus phytochemicals haven’t specifically been tested against borrelia biofilm. But some saponins and flavonoids from other sources have been found to disrupt the biofilm of candida and several pathogenic bacteria. (10, 11, 12, 13)
3. Black Walnut Green Hulls
The shells of black walnuts — known by scientists as Juglans nigra — are surrounded by a green hull. These hulls are rich in phytochemicals. That includes ones with antimicrobial and antioxidant properties. (14)
A lab study found that extracts of black walnut hulls kill borrelia bacteria. This included the spirochete, cyst, and biofilm of borrelia. Several other natural compounds and antibiotics failed to kill the cyst and biofilm forms, which are more resistant. So, that’s pretty impressive for walnut hulls. (15)
An antioxidant and antibacterial compound in black walnut hulls is juglone. This phytochemical also has antiparasitic and antifungal effects. That includes action against the yeast Candida albicans. (16, 17)
4. Buckthorn Bark
Dried buckthorn bark or Frangula alnus has traditionally been used as a laxative. Good elimination or drainage is vital for getting rid of toxins, including those generated when you’re killing borrelia. (18)
But the benefits of buckthorn bark go beyond helping you poop.
Phytochemicals — including polyphenols — in buckthorn bark have strong antioxidant activity. This could help protect your cells from free radical damage. Buckthorn bark also has antiviral, antibacterial, and antifungal properties. (18)
Flavonoids and saponins are two classes of polyphenols in buckthorn bark. As mentioned previously, these types of plant compounds may help disrupt biofilm. This is where harmful bacteria like borrelia commonly hide. (11, 13, 19)
Eupatorium perfoliatum or boneset also goes by the nicknames feverwort and sweating plant. In North America, it’s been used by Native Americans for fevers and to induce sweating to promote healing. In Europe, the herb is used for fevers and colds. (20)
Lab and animal studies show that boneset contains plant compounds that are: (20, 21, 22)
Boneset may also have antiviral effects. In a lab study, boneset extract inhibited the influenza A virus from attaching to a host cell. That’s important because Lyme disease dampens your immune defenses. So, herbal support against seasonal viruses is helpful. (23)
6. Cat’s Claw Bark
Uncaria tomentosa is a woody vine that’s native to tropical rainforests. Its common name, “cat’s claw,” comes from the plant’s claw-like thorns. It’s also known as the “life-giving vine of Peru.” (24)
Phytochemicals in cat’s claw bark may help regulate your immune function, helping it respond appropriately. The herb also has antioxidant, antiviral, and anti-inflammatory properties. (25, 26, 27)
Chronic Lyme disease can result in inflammation in your nervous system and joints. Cat’s claw bark may help with this. When people with rheumatoid arthritis took an extract of cat’s claw for six months, they had a significant reduction in joint pain, compared to a placebo. (28, 29, 30)
Also, lab tests have found that cat’s claw extracts suppress the production of molecules that generate inflammation. (27)
7. Cranesbill Root
You may be more familiar with the first part of cranesbill root’s scientific name, Geranium maculatum. In traditional medicine, various Geranium species have been used for coughs, fever, rashes, and diarrhea. (31)
In addition, some geranium species are effective against certain bacteria, viruses, and protozoan parasites. (31)
Some of the antiparasitic activity of cranesbill root may come from phytochemicals called tannins. Animal research has found that tannins help fight parasitic roundworms. The tannins may also bolster your resistance to parasites. (32, 33)
Parasites could play a role in Lyme disease because borrelia bacteria can hide inside parasites. So, you can’t beat borrelia if you don’t kick out the parasites that harbor it. (34)
The tannins in cranesbill root are also potent antioxidants. Those could have a protective effect as you combat Lyme disease. (35)
8. Devil’s Claw
Harpagophytum procumbens or devils’ claw is native to the southern part of Africa. Traditionally, the herb has been used for pain, allergies, indigestion, and liver and kidney issues. (36)
In some countries, devil’s claw is also commonly used to help with arthritis. As mentioned earlier, Lyme disease can lead to joint inflammation and pain, especially in your knees. In fact, knee arthritis may occur in up to 90% of people with Lyme disease. (37)
Human research supports the ability of devil’s claw to help relieve joint pain. When people with arthritis received devil’s claw extract for two months, they had a 37% drop in scores for knee pain. (36)
So, how might devil’s claw reduce joint inflammation and pain? Lab research suggests that extracts of the herb may help turn off the genes that promote inflammation. (38)
9. Essiac Blend
It’s believed that the Ojibwa tribe in Canada created this combination of four herbs known as Essiac. It contains burdock root, Indian rhubarb root, sheep sorrel leaves, and slippery elm bark. Essiac is a popular alternative cancer therapy. (39)
The Essiac blend may have potent antioxidant effects. One lab study found that it effectively quenched highly reactive hydroxyl free radicals. Essiac helped prevent free radical damage to cellular DNA. (39)
In addition, lab research suggests Essiac may help regulate or normalize immune responses. In other words, it makes them appropriate for what’s needed. That could be important in Lyme disease, as the condition may lead to autoimmunity over the long term. (40, 41)
10. Eleuthero Root
Eleuthero root is sometimes called Siberian ginseng. But the U.S. Food and Drug Administration says it should be called eleuthero because it’s not a true ginseng. Scientifically, the herb is known as Eleutherococcus senticosus or Acanthopanax senticosus. (42)
Regardless of what you call it, eleuthero root is a staple in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM). According to TCM, the herb increases energy, strengthens the spleen, supports the kidneys, and calms your mind. (43, 44)
Research suggests eleuthero root may help with pain and inflammation, which are common issues in Lyme disease. Animal and lab studies suggest that phytochemicals in the herb have anti-inflammatory and pain-reducing effects. (43)
Eleuthero root may also help get stagnant toxins, such as from borrelia, moving through your lymphatic system. If your lymphatic system is backed up, you can get edema or swelling. When healthy women with leg edema took the herb, they had a significant reduction in swelling within a few hours, compared to the control group. (45)
Lastly, similar to some other herbs in this list, eleuthero root may have a balancing effect on your immune system. That helps it respond appropriately. (43)
11. Hawthorn Berry/Leaf
Hawthorn is a shrub known scientifically as Crataegus monogyna or C. laevigata, which is closely related. It’s often grown for its ruby-red berries, which are made into jam. But this herb offers a lot more than a tasty spread for toast. (46)
Both hawthorn berries and leaves are rich in phytochemicals, including ones with antioxidant properties. That could protect your heart. In fact, one of the best-studied uses of the plant is for cardiovascular problems. These include heart failure, high blood pressure, and irregular heartbeat. (46)
It’s estimated that chronic Lyme disease leads to carditis in up to 10% of cases. That can result in heart palpitations or the feeling that your heart is beating too fast or hard. It can also cause chest pain and difficulty breathing. (47)
Human studies suggest that hawthorn may help reduce heart palpitations and difficulty breathing. It may also support blood flow. (48)
12. Horsetail Plant
Equisetum arvense or horsetail is considered one of the oldest species of plants on earth. In Europe, horsetail has a long history of use for treating inflammatory disorders. Animal research supports this use, including to reduce arthritis-related inflammation. (49)
Studies also suggest that horsetail may: (49)
- Protect your liver
- Act as a diuretic (to protect your kidneys and urinary tract)
- Provide antioxidant defense
In addition, a lab test of horsetail essential oil suggests it has potent antimicrobial properties. The herb oil had strong effects against all seven harmful bacteria and fungi tested in the study, including Candida albicans. (50)
An animal study suggests horsetail may also have pain-lowering effects. When rodents were given horsetail extract, it reduced their pain in a dose-dependent manner. In other words, the more of the herbal extract they were given, the less pain they felt. (51)
13. Japanese Knotweed Root
Japanese knotweed root is known scientifically as either Fallopia japonica or Polygonum cuspidatum. It’s considered a troublesome weed in some parts of Europe, North America, and Australia. But labeling this botanical problematic overlooks its potent health benefits. (52)
Japanese knotweed root is rich in a phytochemical called resveratrol. This highly researched compound may have powerful antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and anticancer effects. (53, 54)
Resveratrol might also help with Lyme disease. Lab tests suggest that resveratrol helps kill borrelia spirochetes, which are the active form of Lyme bacteria. The compound also helped kill borrelia in its more resistant cyst form. (15)
Resveratrol may also help to calm inflammation by increasing regulatory T cells. These immune cells help keep your immune system in balance. That shifts you away from autoimmune diseases, which you’re at increased risk for with chronic Lyme disease. In one study, resveratrol boosted regulatory T cells by 47%. (54, 55)
14. Milk Thistle Seed
Silybum marianum or milk thistle seed contains a group of plant compounds called silymarin. Studies suggest silymarin has antioxidant, antiviral, and anti-inflammatory properties. (56)
For more than 2,000 years, milk thistle seed has been used to protect the liver. This may be due in part to its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. (57)
Today, lab and animal studies also indicate that milk thistle seed and silymarin could support liver health. And studies of people with liver diseases suggest the herb may help reduce liver inflammation and oxidative damage. (57, 58)
Liver protection is important in chronic Lyme disease, which can cause liver inflammation. Babesia — a common Lyme coinfection and parasite — can also damage your liver. In fact, babesia is one cause of liver failure. (59, 60, 61, 62)
15. Nettle Leaf
Urtica dioica, commonly known as nettle, is popular in herbal medicine worldwide. The leaves are high in nutrients and phytochemicals, particularly polyphenols. Yet, some people consider the herb a weed. But this “weed” can actually purify the soil, helping remove heavy metals. (63, 64)
Nettle leaf could also support your health. The phytochemicals in the herb may have anti-inflammatory effects in your joints. Human studies suggest the herb may help with joint pain in arthritis. As you know, joint pain is often a problem in Lyme disease. (63, 65)
In addition, the herb may support your immune system. Animal research suggests that nettle helps fend off bacterial infections. And lab studies suggest nettle has antimicrobial activity against a variety of harmful bacteria and candida. (63, 66, 67)
Studies also suggest that nettle may help with seasonal allergies, skin rashes, bladder infections, and an enlarged prostate. (63, 68)
16. Pau D’Arco Bark
Pau d’arco bark, also known as taheebo, comes from the Tabebuia impetiginosa tree. This tall tree is adorned with pink flowers and is native to the tropical rainforests of South America. In traditional medicine, some of the herb’s uses have included arthritis, fever, and pain. (69)
Lab and animal research supports the use of pau d’arco bark for arthritis. When rodents were given an extract of the herb, it significantly reduced arthritis symptoms. It also reduced their blood levels of inflammatory markers. (70)
Remember, in chronic Lyme disease, inflammation can get stuck in the “on” position. That can worsen pain, such as in your joints, and may lead to autoimmune issues.
Scientists have found several anti-inflammatory compounds in pau d’arco, including one called beta-lapachone. This compound may even help with nerve inflammation. Lyme disease can lead to nerve inflammation, which may result in issues such as difficulty concentrating. (71, 72, 73)
Animal and lab studies also suggest pau d’arco may help combat some bacterial and fungal infections. This may be due in part to beta-lapachone and a related compound called lapachol. These phytochemicals may also help fight parasites, including leishmania and helminths. (74, 75, 76, 77, 78)
17. Teasel Root
Dipsacus asperoides is commonly known as teasel root. It has traditionally been used for back and knee pain, liver conditions, and bruises. One way the herb may help is by reducing inflammation. (79)
In a lab study, immune cells called macrophages were exposed to an inflammatory toxin. Teasel root extract inhibited the macrophages from releasing certain inflammatory compounds. (80)
Lowering inflammation could also help with joint pain, which you know can be a problem in Lyme disease. Animal research suggests that teasel root may help reduce inflammatory compounds that cause arthritic joint pain. It may also improve joint health. (81)
Most importantly, teasel root may be directly effective against borrelia spirochetes. In a lab study, scientists tested a specific teasel root extract from Dipsacus sylvestris (a species closely related to D. asperoides). It inhibited around 95% of the spirochetes within four days. (15, 82)
Artemisia absinthium or wormwood is related to the herb A. annua or sweet wormword. The latter herb was covered at the beginning of this blog. A. absinthium smells like sage. It has traditionally been used to help with digestive disorders. (83)
Research supports wormwood’s ability to relieve gut inflammation. When people with Crohn’s disease took wormwood alongside their standard medicine, 80% of them went into remission within six weeks. But only 20% of people in the placebo group (on standard therapy) achieved remission. (83)
Wormwood may also be a potent tool to help get rid of certain parasites. Remember, parasites can carry borrelia inside them. If you don’t purge parasites, they could reinfect you with Lyme disease.
Both animal and lab research suggest womwood extract may be as effective against Hymenolepsi nana — a common intestinal tapeworm — as the drug praziquantel. Though that drug has a high cure rate for tapeworms, the critters are developing resistance to it. So, scientists are turning to alternatives like wormwood. (84)
19. White Willow Bark
Medicinal use of Salix alba, commonly known as white willow bark, dates back to ancient times. The herb has traditionally been used as a natural remedy for pain, inflammation, and fever. And as you know, pain and inflammation are common issues in chronic Lyme disease. (85)
White willow bark contains a compound called salicin, which is similar to aspirin. But the amount of salicin in white willow bark isn’t enough to account for its pain-reducing qualities. Scientists believe a combination of salicin and other phytochemicals in the bark helps lower pain. (86)
Lab research shows that white willow bark extract prevents immune cells from releasing inflammatory compounds, such as when they’re triggered by toxins. (87)
And a one-month study of people with low back pain found the herb helpful. When people took a high-dose of white willow bark extract, 39% of them had complete relief of their back pain. There was little change in the placebo group. (88)
20. Yellow Dock Root
Rumex crispus or yellow dock root is used in herbal medicine to promote liver function and as a laxative. Your liver is vital for detoxification, including toxins generated in Lyme disease. (89)
Similar to a few other herbs in this list, yellow dock also contains plant compounds that may be biofilm busters. Breaking up biofilm helps to expose sneaky borrelia bacteria to your immune system.
Specifically, yellow dock contains a phytochemical called napodin. Lab studies suggest napodin inhibits Candida albicans and some bacterial pathogens from generating biofilm. One way it may do this is by suppressing the expression of microbial genes involved in making biofilm. (90)
Animal studies and lab research also suggest that the napodin in yellow dock combats Plasmodium falciparum. That’s a parasite that causes malaria. (91)
Curcuma longa, better-known as turmeric, is a popular spice. It’s also known for its health benefits. The botanical has potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects. These benefits are primarily attributed to curcumin, a phytochemical in turmeric. (92)
Could curcumin help with the joint pain associated with Lyme disease?
Several human studies confirm turmeric’s benefits in arthritis. They show that turmeric helps reduce joint pain and improve physical joint function. This evidence is also supported by blood tests. People who took turmeric had a drop in inflammatory markers in their blood. (92)
Turmeric may also help you purge parasites. When rodents were given turmeric for four weeks, they had a 49% drop in Schistosoma mansoni worms. These parasites can infect your liver, intestines, and bladder. (93, 94)
The rodent study also found that turmeric helped restore the health of liver cells damaged by the parasitic worms. Scientists think this is because of turmeric’s potent anti-inflammatory properties. (93)
Get Back on the Rails
Chronic Lyme disease can shift your health off track. But many natural herbs could help change that.
No less than 21 different botanicals — including wormwood, Japanese knotweed root, and nettle leaf — could support your journey through Lyme disease.
Each herb offers unique properties and acts synergistically with the others to help:
- Lower inflammation
- Reduce joint pain
- Fight free radical damage
- Combat Lyme bacteria
- Break up biofilm
- Decrease your viral load
- Regulate your immune system
- Purge parasites
- Support detoxification
Are you ready to emerge like a mighty steam locomotive out of the dark tunnel of chronic Lyme disease? Use these 21 herbs to help. Learn more here.