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Lyme disease is caused by a bacterial infection 1. The Family Doctor website states that Lyme disease is carried by both deer ticks and western black-legged ticks and is spread to humans via tick bites 1. Lyme disease most commonly occurs in parts of the northeastern and midwestern United States 1. Herbal remedies have been used for many years to help treat Lyme disease, but you should always meet with your doctor before taking herbs to discuss other beneficial treatments 1.
If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, seek emergency treatment immediately.
According to the American Lyme Disease Foundation, if left untreated, the bacteria that cause Lyme disease travels through your bloodstream and invades certain body tissues, causing symptoms ranging from mild to severe 1. One of the most characteristic symptoms of Lyme disease is a red rash that resembles a bull's-eye or target 1. Other common symptoms include flu-like symptoms, joint pain that moves from one joint to another, neurological symptoms and an irregular heartbeat.
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Phyllis A. Balch, a certified nutritional consultant and author of "Prescription for Nutritional Healing," states that Lyme disease is usually treatable and curable, as long as it is caught in its early phases 12. Balch recommends several herbs for Lyme disease, including alfalfa for the minerals it supplies your body, dandelion root, ginseng, hawthorn and marshmallow root for rebuilding your blood and injured tissues, and echinacea to improve your immune system 1. Other helpful herbal remedies may include goldenseal, milk thistle and red clover.
Goldenseal is an herbal remedy that herbalists and other health-care providers often prescribe for Lyme disease 1. The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine states that goldenseal was historically used by Native Americans to help treat ulcers, gonorrhea and skin diseases 3. Goldenseal is a natural antibiotic that may also help treat Lyme disease, allergies, bladder disorders, prostate problems and weakened immune system 1. Goldenseal helps fight infection and reduces inflammation in your body.
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Lyme disease, although easily treated if caught early, can lead to serious health complications if left untreated, including arthritis, spleen and lymph node enlargement, eye inflammation, hepatitis, irregular heart rhythm and damage to your cardiovascular and central nervous systems 1. If you suspect you might have Lyme disease, visit a qualified health care professional as soon as possible to get a definitive diagnosis and discuss treatment options 1. Always talk with your doctor about the safety and efficacy of herbal treatments before using herbs to treat this condition.
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- Family Doctor: Lyme Disease
- "Prescription for Nutritional Healing"; Phyllis A. Balch, CNC; 2010
- National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine: Goldenseal
- Skar GL, Simonsen KA. Lyme Disease. [Updated 2018 Oct 27]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2019 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK431066/
- van der Heijden A, Mulder BC, Poortvliet PM, van Vliet AJH. Social-cognitive determinants of the tick check: a cross-sectional study on self-protective behavior in combatting Lyme disease. BMC Public Health. 2017;17(1):900. Published 2017 Nov 25. doi:10.1186/s12889-017-4908-1
- Nadelman RB. Erythema migrans. Infect Dis Clin North Am. 2015;29(2):211-39.
- InformedHealth.org [Internet]. Cologne, Germany: Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care (IQWiG); 2006-. Tick bites: Lyme disease. 2012 Apr 3 [Updated 2019 Apr 25].Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK279242/
- Cook MJ. Lyme borreliosis: a review of data on transmission time after tick attachment. Int J Gen Med. 2014;8:1–8. Published 2014 Dec 19. doi:10.2147/IJGM.S73791
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- Djukic M, Schmidt-Samoa C, Lange P, et al. Cerebrospinal fluid findings in adults with acute Lyme neuroborreliosis. J Neurol. 2012;259(4):630–636. doi:10.1007/s00415-011-6221-8
- Marques AR. Laboratory diagnosis of Lyme disease: advances and challenges. Infect Dis Clin North Am. 2015;29(2):295–307. doi:10.1016/j.idc.2015.02.005
- Wormser GP, Molins CR, Levin A, et al. Evaluation of a sequential enzyme immunoassay testing algorithm for Lyme disease demonstrates lack of test independence but high diagnostic specificity. Diagn Microbiol Infect Dis. 2018;91(3):217–219. doi:10.1016/j.diagmicrobio.2018.02.006
- Waddell LA, Greig J, Mascarenhas M, Harding S, Lindsay R, Ogden N. The Accuracy of Diagnostic Tests for Lyme Disease in Humans, A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of North American Research. PLoS One. 2016;11(12):e0168613. Published 2016 Dec 21. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0168613
- Hofhuis A, van de Kassteele J, Sprong H, et al. Predicting the risk of Lyme borreliosis after a tick bite, using a structural equation model. PLoS One. 2017;12(7):e0181807. Published 2017 Jul 24. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0181807
- Thomm AM, Schotthoefer AM, Dupuis AP, et al. Development and Validation of a Serologic Test Panel for Detection of Powassan Virus Infection in U.S. Patients Residing in Regions Where Lyme Disease Is Endemic. mSphere. 2018;3(1)
- Wills MKB, Kirby AM, Lloyd VK. Detecting the Lyme Disease Spirochete, Borrelia Burgdorferi, in Ticks Using Nested PCR. J Vis Exp. 2018;(132):56471. Published 2018 Feb 4. doi:10.3791/56471
- Jabbari N, Glusman G, Joesch-Cohen LM, et al. Whole genome sequence and comparative analysis of Borrelia burgdorferi MM1. PLoS One. 2018;13(6):e0198135. Published 2018 Jun 11. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0198135
- Lymedisease.org About Lyme Disease. 2018
- Koester TM, Meece JK, Fritsche TR, Frost HM. Infectious Mononucleosis and Lyme Disease as Confounding Diagnoses: A Report of 2 Cases. Clin Med Res. 2018;16(3-4):66–68. doi:10.3121/cmr.2018.1419
- Arvikar SL, Crowley JT, Sulka KB, Steere AC. Autoimmune Arthritides, Rheumatoid Arthritis, Psoriatic Arthritis, or Peripheral Spondyloarthritis Following Lyme Disease. Arthritis Rheumatol. 2017;69(1):194–202. doi:10.1002/art.39866
- Patrick DM, Miller RR, Gardy JL, et al. Lyme Disease Diagnosed by Alternative Methods: A Phenotype Similar to That of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. Clin Infect Dis. 2015;61(7):1084-91.
- Batinac T, Petranovic D, Zamolo G, Petranovic D, Ruzic A. Lyme borreliosis and multiple sclerosis are associated with primary effusion lymphoma. Med Hypotheses. 2007;69(1):117-9.
- Donta ST. Issues in the diagnosis and treatment of lyme disease. Open Neurol J. 2012;6:140–145. doi:10.2174/1874205X01206010140
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Signs and Symptoms of Untreated Lyme Disease. cdc.gov August 15, 2019
- Touradji P, Aucott JN, Yang T, Rebman AW, Bechtold KT. Cognitive Decline in Post-treatment Lyme Disease Syndrome. Arch Clin Neuropsychol. 2019;34(4):455-465.
- Ścieszka J, Dąbek J, Cieślik P. Post-Lyme disease syndrome. Reumatologia. 2015;53(1):46–48. doi:10.5114/reum.2015.50557
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- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Two-Step Laboratory Testing Process. Updated March 26, 2015.
- National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. Chronic Lyme Disease. National Institutes of Health. Updated September 3, 2015.
Robyn Hughes has been writing since 2008 about health, nutrition, fitness and botanical medicine. She is a naturopathic physician and freelance writer based in Durham, N.C. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in cognitive science from Indiana University and a doctoral degree from the National College of Natural Medicine in Portland, Ore.