Like many people with Lyme disease, I have quite the collection of vitamins and supplements as well as herbal therapies to help my healing process. I keep a kitchen drawer devoted to piles of supplements, a cabinet shelf above the drawer for herbal tinctures, powders, and teas, and a bag in the back of my closet full of all the above — some I plan to use soon, and some I tried throughout Lyme disease treatment, and I reacted badly to them. (Maybe someday, I’ll take them? Maybe I’ll fob them off on my husband?)
Also stockpiled in that closet bag are collections of my very favorite supplements, which I don’t want to run out of. They are little lifesavers for managing Lyme disease symptoms: soothing Herxheimer reactions, helping with sleep, healing the gut, and keeping my body going strong. Thank god for these tools!
The following is a list of four of those favorites, their known medicinal properties, and what they’ve done for me throughout Lyme disease treatment.
Natural Therapies for Lyme Disease
1. Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera)
This little, weird smelling root is at the top of my list of remedies for Lyme disease symptoms. Commonly known as Indian Ginseng, it has been used for thousands of years in Ayurvedic medicine as a general tonic. I take it in tablet form, though, you can also use it as a tincture or stir the powder into tea.
Ashwagandha tablets are my go-to for a herx or Lyme flare. If I feel shaky, if I feel anxious, if I need to make it through a long day or am up in the middle of the night – ashwagandha calms and normalizes my system. I’ve relied on it more than any other herbal therapy. Even if I feel just fine, I take it every morning and every night. (Hence the stockpile.)
Ashwagandha is considered an adaptogen – meaning it helps the body adapt to and tolerate stress. Studies on animals have shown that ashwagandha lowers cortisol levels, improves stamina, is neuroprotective, decreases stress-related inflammation, and supports the adrenal glands.
My subjective report is that ashwagandha does all of these things marvelously. Stress of any kind can exacerbate Lyme disease symptoms. Since stress is an unavoidable part of being alive, I’m grateful an herb exists to help.
Note: The use of ashwagandha may be contraindicated in women who are pregnant or breastfeeding, individuals with autoimmune diseases, or those who have blood sugar fluctuations.
2. Cistus (Cistus incanus)
Cistus incanus, or Rockrose, is native to the Mediterranean and has been used medicinally for centuries. I learned about Cistus from Dietrich Klinghardt, MD, PhD, Lyme disease expert and founder of Sophia Health Institute. I use it daily both in tea and as a tincture.
According to Klinghardt, most modern chronic illnesses, including Lyme, are a result of human endogenous retroviral activity. Klinghardt claims retroviruses have existed from the beginning of human evolution, embedded in our DNA. A healthy human body will silence these retroviruses, but toxic exposure lowers our resistance. Unfortunately, there is no shortage of toxic pesticides, metals, and pollutants in the modern world. Klinghardt claims toxicity combined with retroviral activity are the underlying root causes of susceptibility to Lyme and other modern chronic illness.
Cistus has been proven effective against HIV, Ebola, Lyme, and other bacterial infections. It has been shown to bust biofilms, unmasking persistent bacterial colonies. It is chock full of anti-inflammatory polyphenols, and it tastes pretty good. It has a bright, astringent quality and can take the place of caffeinated tea in the morning.
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3. Magnesium Citrate
An estimated 80% of adults are magnesium deficient. The primary reason for chronic deficiency is soil depletion, though, genetics and diet play a role as well.
Magnesium is a vitally important mineral contributing to heart health and brain function. It helps relax muscles, relieve stress, and improve sleep. I take it for all these reasons, but the reason it’s on my favorites list is that magnesium citrate, in particular, is an amazingly effective, gentle laxative.
Chronic constipation is a real issue for people with Lyme disease. We need to detox daily, efficiently, and thoroughly for our bodies to keep up with the toxicity created by Borrelia and coinfections. You can’t detox properly if you aren’t regular no matter how many saunas you sweat in. I mix a teaspoon of magnesium citrate into a glass of water every night. It tastes like lemonade, and it keeps things moving without cramping or discomfort. Plus, it’s keeping my heart and brain healthy at the same time.
4. Hydrochloric Acid
For some reason, Lyme disease destroyed my body’s ability to create hydrochloric acid (HCL), or stomach acid. Whenever I have a flare, my first symptom is gastritis and heartburn associated with low stomach acid and an inability to digest fats.
At first, this was a living hell. If I ate any fat at all, I suffered a burning that lasted for hours. I lost weight fast until I discovered what was going on, and I realized I could take HCl in capsule form. Initially, I had to take ten capsules with a meal to stay comfortable. But over time, taking HCl trains your body to produce stomach acid at normal levels. Now, I only take one or two capsules with fatty meals. HCl capsules also help me digest the piles of supplements I take daily.
We, with Lyme disease, are lucky there are so many wonderful natural therapies, vitamins, and supplements out there helping us heal and stay well. I remind myself of this when I feel burdened by my daily routine of pills, tinctures, and teas, or when I wish I was collecting chocolates in my kitchen and fabulous jewelry in my closet instead. Health is wealth! We are all healing together, one sip and swallow at a time.
Shona Curley lives and works in San Francisco. She is co-owner of the studio Hasti Pilates, and creator of the website www.redkitemeditations.com. Shona teaches meditation, bodywork and movement practices for healing Lyme disease, chronic illness and pain.
Chandrasekhar K, Kapoor J, Anishetty S. A Prospective, Randomized Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Study of Safety and Efficacy of a High-Concentration Full-Spectrum Extract of Ashwagandha Root in Reducing Stress and Anxiety in Adults. Indian Journal of Psychological Medicine. 2012 Jul-Sep; 34(3): 255–262. doi: 10.4103/0253-7176.106022
Sardinian Cistus Incanus: A Simple Treatment of Many – If Not Most – Chronic Illnesses, Klinghardt Institute Website. https://klinghardtinstitute.com/articles/sardinian-cistus-incanus/
Singh N, Bhalla M, de Jager P, Gilca M. An Overview on Ashwagandha: A Rasayana (Rejuvenator) of Ayurveda. African Journal of Traditional, Complementary and Alternative Medicines. 2011; 8(5 Suppl): 208–213. doi: 10.4314/ajtcam.v8i5S.9