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Lyme Disease Treatment: The Naturopathic Pathway to Healing with Herbal Compounds

Written by Portland Clinic of Natural Health on June 6, 2023

Lyme Disease Treatment: The Naturopathic Pathway to Healing with Herbal Compounds

Lyme disease, a bacterial infection transmitted through the bite of a tick, affects a significant number of people globally, with an estimated 300,000 cases occurring annually in the United States alone. This infection is typically caused by the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi (B. burgdorferi). The conventional approach to treatment involves the use of antibiotics such as doxycycline, cefuroxime, and amoxicillin. However, these antibiotics may not always eradicate the bacterium, leading to persistence of the disease. This occurs when the bacterial cells develop resistance to the antibiotics, resulting in their continued growth. These resistant cells are referred to as "persister cells".

In response to this challenge, researchers have been investigating alternative methods to combat B. burgdorferi, particularly focusing on plant-based remedies. Previous studies have shown promising results, with several plant-derived essential oils demonstrating potential in combating the Lyme disease bacterium.

Recently, a study conducted by researchers from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and the California Center for Functional Medicine suggested that two specific plant extracts could potentially provide more effective therapies for Lyme disease. The study involved the analysis of fourteen different plant extracts for their effectiveness in killing B. burgdorferi, with results compared to the effects of doxycycline and cefuroxime. (1)

The plant extracts investigated included black walnut, cat's claw, sweet wormwood, Mediterranean rockrose, Chinese skullcap, Ghanaian quinine, and Japanese knotweed. Results showed that extracts from these seven plants were more effective in combating the Lyme disease bacterium than the conventional antibiotics. Of these, Ghanaian quinine and Japanese knotweed demonstrated the highest antibacterial activity against B. burgdorferi.

Ghanaian quinine, traditionally used for treating malaria, hepatitis, septicemia, and tuberculosis, contains an alkaloid called cryptolepine. Japanese knotweed, on the other hand, is rich in an antioxidant called resveratrol, known for its potential anticancer properties and its protective effects on heart and brain health.

This research brings a new perspective to the treatment of Lyme disease, especially from a naturopathic and functional medicine standpoint, which emphasizes the role of natural remedies in promoting health and healing. While further research is required, these findings provide hope for a more effective and accessible treatment for Lyme disease, particularly for those with later-stage symptoms who have not responded to conventional antibiotic treatment. (2)


  1. Feng J, Leone J, Schweig S, Zhang Y. Evaluation of Natural and Botanical Medicines for Activity Against Growing and Non-growing Forms of B. burgdorferi. Front Med (Lausanne). 2020 Feb 21;7:6. doi: 10.3389/fmed.2020.00006. PMID: 32154254; PMCID: PMC7050641.
  2. Skar GL, Simonsen KA. Lyme Disease. [Updated 2023 May 31]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2023 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK431066/

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