Choosing an antimicrobial strategy for the treatment of Lyme disease can be challenging, due to the multitude of natural treatment options that are out there, and the lack of good information about outcomes with each one. Within the Lyme disease community, it has generally been accepted that long-term antibiotic regimens are one of the best solutions for chronic Lyme disease.
The Role of Lyme Disease Herbal Protocols
However, over the past couple of months, I’ve interviewed about 10 Lyme-literate doctors and have discovered that heavy-handed antibiotic approaches seem to be falling out of favor among some doctors. Antibiotic therapy is still widely used—but whereas the consensus once seemed to be that high doses of multiple antibiotics were necessary to eradicate Lyme disease pathogens, it now seems that some doctors are treating their patients for just one or two infections at a time, using lower doses of antibiotics.
This is to avoid massive Herxheimer, or detoxification reactions that can cause further toxicity and damage to the body. It used to be that “Herxing” was viewed as evidence that treatments were working. Yet the doctors that I’ve spoken with lately have stated that a too-strong detoxification reaction can actually worsen Lyme patients’ symptoms because it means that the body hasn’t been able to effectively process the toxins caused by pathogenic die-off. So instead of those toxins being eliminated by the body, they get recycled.
Through my interviews, I’ve also discovered that some doctors prefer to use herbal antimicrobials as a primary, natural treatment modality. Interestingly, these doctors believe that the antimicrobial properties of herbal remedies are just as powerful as those of antibiotics, and that herbs can be effectively used to help the body to heal from Lyme disease. That is, as long as they are used along with a comprehensive healing program that includes immunotherapy, nutrient repletion, detoxification, and other tools to restore the body.
What’s more, many patients are choosing to forego antibiotic therapy, or at least do less aggressive Lyme disease treatment regimens, because of the detrimental and sometimes devastating side effects that antibiotics can cause to the body. Another reason is simply that they cannot afford to see a Lyme-literate doctor and so choose to self-treat at home with herbal antimicrobials.
I personally do not advocate self-treatment; I believe that Lyme disease is too complex and challenging an illness to manage without the help of a Lyme-literate doctor, but that doesn’t change the difficult reality that many people simply don’t have the money for, or access to, a Lyme-literate doctor. Such people will often choose to self-treat using a Lyme disease herbal protocol and other modalities.
Herbs Used for Lyme Disease
Regardless of a patient’s or practitioner’s reason for choosing herbs for Lyme disease to assist them in the battle against chronic illness, when these remedies are properly administered and taken in the right doses, they can be a powerful tool in the recovery process.
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Some of the most popular and useful antimicrobial herbs used for Lyme disease include those developed by naturopath Byron White, master herbalist Steven H. Buhner, Lee Cowden, MD, naturopath and nutritionist Susan McKamish, and David Jernigan, DC. Many of the herbal remedies that comprise these practitioners’ regimens can be purchased online without a doctor’s prescription, although some can only be purchased through a healthcare practitioner.
People often ask me which herbal antimicrobials are best for supporting the body in chronic Lyme disease. My answer is that it depends; each person is unique and requires a different strategy. The Byron White formulas are strong, and I have personally found them to be powerful for knocking down the infectious load. They can only be obtained through a healthcare practitioner, but they are very effective against tenacious Lyme pathogens, including some strains of Borrelia, and coinfections like Bartonella, Babesia and Mycoplasma—among others.
The NutraMedix antimicrobial remedies, developed by W. Lee Cowden, MD, are a convenient option for people who need gentler remedies and who can’t afford to see a Lyme-literate doctor. This is because W. Lee Cowden, MD, has created a Lyme treatment protocol that can be accessed for free here. I have personally found Samento to be useful for managing Borrelia and for general immune support; Banderol and Cumanda for Bartonella; Noni for Babesia, and Takuna for viruses. These herbals also have a number of other uses.
Master herbalist Stephen Buhner, who brings a wide variety of knowledge about herbs to the Lyme disease community, outlines his core protocol in his book: Healing Lyme and on his site. Buhner recommends not only antimicrobial herbs, but herbs that will support things like immune function, blood flow to the tissues and lymphatic drainage. For example, he recommends red root for lymphatic drainage and Japanese knotweed for immune modulation and for reducing the severity of Herxheimer reactions, among other reasons. His core protocol includes Japanese knotweed, cat’s claw, eleuthero (or Siberian ginseng) and astragalus.
David Jernigan, DC has a variety of products that can also be purchased online without a doctor’s order. Among these are Lymogen, Microbogen and Borrelogen. His Neuro-Antitox I and II formulas are useful for removing neurotoxins out of the brain, heart and other parts of the body. According to Dr. Jernigan, Lyme disease microbes create ammonia, which is a potent neurotoxin that causes inflammation and symptoms, but he believes that it can be removed with these remedies.
Finally, Sue McKamish, developer of the Beyond Balance remedies, also has a broad range of herbal products that have proven to be valuable for many in the battle against Lyme. Beyond Balance remedies are only available through health care practitioners.
Both over-the-counter and practitioner-prescribed antimicrobial herbal remedies are useful for supporting the body in Lyme disease. That said, regardless of the antimicrobial strategy that a practitioner or patient uses, antimicrobial remedies are only one piece of the healing puzzle. By themselves, they are usually inadequate for restoring the body, but when used in the right way, sometimes with the help of a Lyme-literate health care practitioner, and as part of a comprehensive healing regimen, their effects can be powerful. Indeed, herbal remedies (sometimes in conjunction with antibiotics), are a crucial tool for many people in the Lyme disease recovery process.
This article was first published on ProHealth.com on December 27, 2015 and was updated on May 2, 2019.
Connie Strasheim is the author of multiple wellness books, including three on Lyme disease. She is also a medical copywriter, editor and healing prayer minister. Her passion is to help people with complex chronic illnesses find freedom from disease and soul-spirit sickness using whole body medicine and prayer, and she collaborates with some of the world’s best integrative doctors to do this. In addition to Lyme disease, Connie’s books focus on cancer, nutrition, detoxification and spiritual healing. You can learn more about her work at: ConnieStrasheim.com