In this article Dr .Warren answers a question about natural antibiotics for Lyme vs prescription antibiotics that frequently gets asked when a patient finds out they have Lyme disease or a coinfections like bartonella or babesia. Dr. Warren has worked for years with patients recovering from tick borne illness with both natural and prescription based therapies.
Do I HAVE to use antibiotics to recover from chronic Lyme Disease or Post-treatment Lyme Disease?
A frequent question that gets asked is, “Do I have to use antibiotics, or are there other ways to recover from chronic Lyme disease or Post-treatment Lyme disease?” Certain patients can’t tolerate antibiotics, or the antibiotics’ side effects are too great, or maybe you’ve tried antibiotics and they didn’t work. There are still ways to heal from Lyme Disease if you can’t tolerate antibiotics, or if antibiotics did not work for you.
About a year ago, Johns Hopkins published a study showing the efficacy of natural antibiotics for Lyme disease. The study showed there are some natural things that we’ve been using for a long time that show great activity against Lyme disease. This is important because we know that antibiotics do not cure 100% of people with Lyme disease. When we’re looking at how to get people better, these agents can play a very important role in a person’s recovery. It’s nice to have some modern science to back up the value in using natural and herbal remedies to help patients heal from Lyme.
Will prescription antibiotics work faster or better than natural antibiotics for Lyme?
Unfortunately, from nearly a decade of experience my answer is no. Antibiotics are extremely effective if taken within the first 3 months of contracting Lyme. Doing antibiotic regiments for patients with chronic Lyme (anything past 3 months) does not work faster than natural methods. In fact, from my experience heavy prescription antibiotic methods cause a plethora of messy and harsh side effects. In the 20% of patients who require medical antibiotics to recover we spend much of our time trying to counteract the negative and unpleasant side effects the prescription is causing.
Only 10-20% of people who get Lyme show chronic symptoms.
If we look at some of the research on natural antibiotics for Lyme, we can see some efficacy for patients struggling with chronic Lyme or post-treatment Lyme disease in this study.
The study published February of 2020 by the Johns Hopkins research team titled “Evaluation of Natural and Botanical Medicines for Activity Against Growing and Non-growing Forms of Borrelia burgdorferi,” tests natural and botanical-like herbs, against Borrelia or Lyme disease to see if it kills it. They used a petri dish, so this is an in vitro study.
The first two lines of this study stand out. One: “Lyme disease is the most common vector-borne disease in the US and Europe.” They’re saying, “Lyme disease is common.”
The second sentence is what we will focus on. “The current recommended Lyme antibiotic treatment is effective for the majority of Lyme disease patients.” They are assuming the antibiotic were given in the first three months of contracting the disease. What we know is, if you miss that three-month window, you have people that end up being sick and not everyone who get the antibiotic in that window gets better. They say, “about 10-20% of patients continue to suffer from persisting symptoms.” It is important to remember when we’re dealing with Lyme disease, even if you don’t get treatment, 80-90% of people who get it just get better. Only 10-20% of people end up with this chronic Lyme or post-treatment Lyme disease syndrome. This means, you tried a course of antibiotics, maybe you’ve done 14 days, maybe you’ve done longer, but you still have not recovered.
Did you know Antibiotics don’t kill 100% of a bug or infection?
Before we dive in further, let’s discuss an important concept: Antibiotics never kill 100% of a bug or infection. This is not controversial. This is the accepted way that we think about antibiotics. The Columbia research team talks about it in their book Conquering Lyme Disease. When we take an antibiotic, what we’re hoping is to kill enough of the bug to where your immune system can get on the right side of it. So, whether you took antibiotics for strep, a gut infection, or Lyme, it never completely killed the infection. There’s always a baton hand off where your immune system has to come alongside it and right the ship for your own body. If you want to read more about Antibiotic and how they don’t kill 100% of a bug or infection,
Several Plants and Herbs can be used to successfully recover from Lyme.
What the John’s Hopkins study was looking for is this: In people who have chronic Lyme, who are not better and are not recovering, or have post-treatment Lyme disease syndrome, can you use natural antibiotics for Lyme recovery? Let’s highlight some of the things that they found.
They found some common herbs that have been used for a long time for Lyme disease patients to have very good activity against Lyme disease when they grow in the petri dish. For example, the first thing they found was that wormwood, also called “artemisia,” can work very well to kill Lyme disease in a petri dish… some others they found that work to kill Lyme include:
- Black Walnut
- Cat’s Claw
- Japanese Knotweed, (Resveratrol)
- Artemesia (Wormwood)
What they found in this study was several of your common plants and herbs that we use with patients to try and help them recover from chronic Lyme, show wonderful activity in helping us get on the right side of this disease. The study also showed how these natural agents work well against both the growing phase of Lyme and the cyst form of Lyme. This is essential as most antibiotic regiments require different prescriptions given simultaneously to go after the different forms. The natural agents worked against both forms which is an advantage.
The study also compared 2 antibiotics (doxycycline and cefuroxime) along with other controls for comparison. Interestingly the cryptolepis worked more effectively than either antibiotic. What’s surprising also is that several of these agents (Black walnut, cryptolepis, and artemisia) have been traditional used for the co-infection Babesia but this study found them to also be effective against Lyme Disease. This means using natural antibiotics for Lyme can be an efficient way to help against Lyme and its co-infections together.
There is certainly a place for Natural Antibiotics for Lyme Disease.
The important thing to take from this study if you’re someone who is asking the question, “Can I possibly get better without antibiotics?” is, that there is great validity to doing things in a natural way. There’s other practitioners who have been doing this for years and we’ve found certain patients can’t tolerate antibiotics, or the antibiotics’ side effects are too great or maybe you’ve tried antibiotics and they didn’t work. It is nice to have Johns Hopkins putting out research showing that many of these natural agents certainly have a place in helping people come through chronic Lyme disease, or post Lyme disease syndrome.
What does this mean for you?
We tell people, about 80% of the patients in our clinic can recover without the use of prescription antibiotics.
We find that with about 20% of people, we have to use prescription antibiotics, in order to help them achieve their health goals. So, we’re not against antibiotics, but we want to tell people, it’s not the only way. And it may or may not be the best way for you once you’re in this chronic Lyme world. Once again, we are not talking about the acute Lyme. However, if you have symptoms lasting longer than 3 months we are in this chronic Lyme or this post-treatment Lyme disease world, and antibiotics may or may not be the best choice for you. Finding the best way forward for you is something we do individually with each patient, but we have found overall herbal approaches for healing from Lyme work very well with less side effects than many experience with prescriptions.
If you would like to learn more about this topic here is the link the John Hopkin’s study. I hope you found this information helpful to you!