In 2017 and 2018, two studies were undertaken to test various essential oils against persistent forms of Borrelia burgdorferi, the spirochetal bacteria known to cause Lyme disease. The essential oil studies hoped to find alternative modes of Lyme disease treatment for persistent forms of the bacteria that were less expensive, with fewer side effects than traditional antibiotics.
Though antibiotics such as doxycycline and ceftriaxone are known to eradicate log phase, or actively growing Borrelia, the spirochete is adept at avoiding antibiotics by entering stationary, or persistent phases when under threat.
In its persistent phases, Borrelia creates round bodies, microcolonies, and sticky biofilms that resist antibiotic penetration. These persistent forms reproduce much less aggressively but re-enter their active phase once antibiotic treatment stops. This is one school of thought as to why Lyme disease can continue despite antibiotic treatment.
Although the antibiotic daptomycin is effective against Borrelia’s persistent forms, it is extremely expensive, and must be administered daily in IV form due to its poor absorption — often, it’s combined with other antibiotics. My doctor informed me that the cost is roughly $600 per day, and treatment can take more than one month, which quickly adds up. Long-term antibiotic use can also come with side effects. Can essential oils kill Lyme disease? Let’s take a closer look at the studies:
Essential Oils for Lyme Disease
The first essential oil study, done in 2017, tested 34 different oils and found three with high anti-persister activity in lab cultures. They were oregano, cinnamon, and clove oils. These oils showed even better activity against persistent Borrelia than daptomycin, even at low concentrations. The second study, done in 2018, followed up by testing an additional 35 essential oils and found five with high anti-persister activity in vitro (test tube or culture), again at low concentrations. They were garlic, cumin, allspice, palmarosa, myrrh, and spiked ginger lily.
Despite promising results, more testing is necessary to see if these findings can be replicated in live animals. The study’s authors intend to test these oils next on Borrelia-infected mice, and if results are promising, on humans.
Though it’s not yet proven whether these essential oils are effective on live human beings, there are many anecdotal stories of people reporting a reduction in their Lyme disease symptoms after using them. Greg Lee, LAc, licensed acupuncturist at Two Frogs Healing Center treats Lyme with essential oils in his practice and claims excellent results. There are ways to experiment safely with essential oils, and it may be worthwhile to try.
When choosing essential oils for Lyme disease, look for 100% pure, certified organic, therapeutic grade oils. It is fine to combine several oils together. Choose combinations that smell and feel good to your system. Pleasure is a powerful guide. Each Lyme patient has a different microbial community, both beneficial and otherwise — your body’s intuition may be able to guide you to the oils that work best for you.
4 Ways to Use Essential Oils to Support Lyme Disease Treatment
The safest way to use essential oils is with a diffuser. Add water and drops of your chosen oil. The diffuser sends a cool vapor into the room, infusing the oils into the air. When inhaled, essential oil vapor is carried into your bloodstream in very low concentrations.
2. Topical application
Subscribe to the World's Most Popular Newsletter (it's free!)
Essential oils can also be applied topically. Don’t use them directly on your skin, as they can be too harsh. Dilute the oils either by adding drops to bath water, or to a carrier oil such as organic almond or olive oil. They will absorb in low concentrations to your bloodstream from your skin.
3. Under the tongue
Lee recommends another more potent way to use essential oils. He advocates emulsifying a few drops in a small amount of water by shaking, then holding the liquid beneath your tongue for a few minutes. As you do, inhale through your mouth quickly, as though sipping air. As the air passes over the oils, it picks up the vapors and distributes them to tiny blood vessels inside your mouth and nose. After a few minutes, swallow the liquid.
4. Nasal spray
I use essential oils in a nasal spray, which works well for me, and which my doctor has approved. I combine 20-40 drops of essential oil in a 4oz spray container of nano colloidal silver. (According to my doctor, it is important to use the smallest silver particles possible, to avoid them collecting in brain tissue.) I use one spray in each nostril twice a day. Lately, I have been combining thyme and lavender oils, but I plan to mix it up over time so that a broad spectrum of essential oils enters my system. This nasal spray method has eliminated all of my previous sinus pain and congestion and has improved my cognition. It smells great, but it can cause a mild sting when you first use it.
Essential oils are powerful medicine. I hope further study identifies the best essential oils for Lyme disease to safely eradicate its persistent forms — and soon! Until then, we won’t know which are the most beneficial oils for patients, the correct dosages, or how to most effectively to administer them until further testing is complete. Meanwhile, let the wisdom of your body (and the advice of your doctor) be your guide. As always, consult your healthcare provider if you’re incorporating essential oils into your treatment protocol.
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.
Activity of Essential Oils with Strong Activity against Stationary Phase Borrelia burgdorferi, MDPI website. https://www.mdpi.com/2079-6382/7/4/89/htm#B3-antibiotics-07-00089
Selective Essential Oils from Spice or Culinary Herbs have High Activity Against Stationary Phase and Biofilm Borrelia burgdorferi. National Institutes of Health website. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5641543/
Five Essential Oils for Stopping Relapsing Symptoms Caused by Lyme Disease that Thrives Despite Multiple Antibiotics. Goodbyelyme.com website. https://goodbyelyme.com/blog/eos_persistent_lyme/#_edn17