Lyme disease is a growing concern in parts of the United States. While summer means goodbye to multiple layers and hello to shorter sleeves and pants, there is a downside. Summer also means spending more time outdoors. This, unfortunately, increases the risk of Lyme disease. Fortunately, researchers are discovering alternative natural ways to avoid getting Lyme disease
Lyme Disease is an infection that occurs in the body following a tick or insect bite. The majority of Lyme cases are caused by a bite from the black-legged tick. The tick will become infected with a bacteria known as Borrelia burgdorferi after feeding on infected deer to mice. The infected tick then carries and passes on the bacteria, which then leads to Lyme disease. However, it should be important to note that the tick will have to be present on your skin for 24 to 48 hours in order to transmit the infection.
While the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that 300,000 people are infected with Lyme disease in the United States every year, many experts believe this number to be higher due to the fact that many people go undiagnosed.
Indeed, Avril Lavigne is one of many celebrities who were not aware at first she had contracted the disease in her 2015 PEOPLE cover story, where the singer revealed she had been battling Lyme disease for a year. “I had no idea a bug bite could do this,” said Lavigne, who believes she was bitten by a tick in 2014. “I was bedridden for five months.”
There are two types of Lyme disease: Acute Lyme and Chronic Lyme.
If you live or spend a lot of time in wooded areas, or if you work and live with domesticated animals that trek in wooded areas, then your risk of contracting Lyme is quite higher than the average person.
The CDC has an online map that details known high-risk areas, the most notable being Connecticut, the District of Columbia, Delaware, Maryland, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Rhode Island and Vermont (1).
– Lyme disease is historically concentrated in Pennsylvania and New England states. However, it has been detected in each of the 50 United States and the District of Columbia.
(APNUM0 Outside of the northeastern U.S., California and Florida, states not historically associated with significant rates of Lyme disease – saw the largest absolute increases in positive Lyme disease test results.
It is good to be vigilant about avoiding ticks in high-risk parts of the country and in rural areas with lots of vegetation. However, you may still need to take some of the precautions no matter where you live.
As mentioned, Lyme isn’t the only disease that can be passed from ticks. You shouldn’t automatically assume that you’ll get the illness after getting a tick bite. This is why it’s important to educate yourself on the ins and outs of the disease. Luckily, we’re discussing the causes, prevention and natural treatments that are associated with the sickness.
While Lyme disease occurs in the body after one is bitten by an infected tick, the illness is triggered by an inflammatory process due to a weakened immune system.
Some believe that the body can suppress symptoms of Lyme disease for long periods of time, like a tick bite. However, when the immune system suffers trauma that weakens it, then the symptoms are most likely to crop up.
As mentioned, if caught and treated early, Lyme disease can often be resolved before evolving into chronic Lyme. However, in order to do this, one would have to be able to identify the various symptoms associated with the illness.
Symptoms of Lyme disease depend on which stage of the disease one is in following the tick bite.
A week after the tick bite:
One can expect to start experiencing symptoms a week or so after a tick bite. The most notable of these symptoms is the bulls-eye rash that is rarely itchy or painful. A central red spot surrounded by an area of redness, this rash will appear at the site of the bite. Other forms of the rash appear to be completely red or a bruise-like color.
Several weeks after the tick bite:
If your Lyme disease has not been detected and treated, then the bacteria will begin to spread throughout the body. Symptoms associated with this migration include chills, high fevers, more rashes, numbness, fatigue, headaches and muscle aches.
Several months or even years after the tick bite:
If your Lyme disease is still yet to be treated and your immune system has been compromised, then you are most likely to experience more severe symptoms. These include brain fog, difficulty concentrating, poor memory, insomnia, depression, numbness, joint pain and even digestive issues. It is important to immediately contact your doctor if you start to notice these symptoms.
Your doctor will perform a series of blood tests to figure out what’s plaguing your body. The most popular blood test is ELISA (enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay), which will be used to measure one’s antibody’s response to an infection. Following a positive reading, the patient will be given the Western blot which is used to confirm the positive ELISA test. Unfortunately, some tests can be wrong and give a false reading. In the case that it does, it is advisable to get a second opinion, particularly from a doctor that specializes in Lyme.
Protecting yourself against Lyme disease all comes down to protecting yourself against tick bites. To prevent any future tick bites, try to take note of the following tips:
One sure way to naturally boost your immune system is by consuming foods high in antioxidants throughout the year. Fresh fruit, vegetables and even probiotic foods can help to boost your immune system. Probiotic-rich foods include Greek yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut and miso.
Chronic stress is another factor that can weaken your immune system so it’s important to have healthy-stress coping habits such as practicing yoga, meditation, regularly listening to music or even getting an ear massage.
It’s important to get Lyme disease treated in its early stages. The treatment comes in the form of antibiotics that are used for a period of 14-21 days. The purpose of the medication is to eliminate the infection and improve your symptoms.
However, symptoms may still persist after the prescription of antibiotics.
According to a 2018 study published in the journal Antibiotics, essential oils may prove to be an effective form of treatment against Lyme disease.
Dr. Ying Zhang, Ph.D., who is a professor in the Department of Molecular Microbiology and Immunology at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore, MD, led the new study.
Lab-dish tests revealed that ten of these 35 plants have “strong activity” against latent, “persister” forms of Lyme disease. These essential oils are derived from garlic cloves, myrrh trees, thyme leaves, cinnamon bark, allspice berries, cumin seeds, and eucalyptus, among others. Thyme leaves, cumin seeds, Amyris wood, and cinnamon bark oil were also highly effective against stationary phase B. burgdorferi.
“We found that these essential oils were even better at killing the “persister” forms of Lyme bacteria than standard Lyme antibiotics.” Dr. Ying Zhang said, “At this stage, these essential oils look very promising as candidate treatments for persistent Lyme infection, but ultimately we need properly designed clinical trials.”
Bill Rawls, M.D., an integrative physician and author of Unlocking Lyme, also recommends using natural repellents containing ingredients like clove, tea tree, and eucalyptus essential oils. He says, it’s important to pick the right repellent for your particular situation—if you’re going to be hiking on a well-groomed path or walking in your yard, natural is probably fine; if you’re going to be wading through knee-high brush or walking through some untamed woods, then you might need to use products that are stronger.
Invest in a non-toxic insect repellent and spray away when you’re about to head off to a bushy or wooded area. Avoiding products containing DEET is important for your long term health. A common ingredient in most conventional bug sprays (or diethyl-meta-toluamide) of up to 15% of DEET can be absorbed into the bloodstream, according to some studies. The FDA also advises caution and using DEET sparingly. If you need more help on understanding which repellents are safer than others, visit The Environmental Working Group’s website for details.
We like this easy to prepare natural remedy that you can make at home, as suggested by Dr Z and Mama Z.
Keep this simple “lotion” of diluted oils on hand to apply on exposed skin whenever tick exposure is high. Hikers, campers, and others enjoying outdoor activity that will take you into the woods should be considered at risk. Remember that these oils are powerful, so you should keep them away from your eyes and mouth.
Blend and pour into a glass spritzer bottle. You should then spray periodically to your ankles, arms, and the rest of your body.
Some herbs may be effective in protecting the body from B. burgdorferi. Studies have highlighted the antibacterial properties of both oregano and cloves (2).
Neem is also a good option for consideration. Neem is a traditional Ayurvedic herb, popular in its native country of India. With its pesticide and germicide properties, it makes a very effective insect repellent. Mix ten (or so) drops of neem essential oil with a quarter cup coconut oil. Spread this on any exposed skin. Avoid neem oil if your skin is cut, broken, or abraded.
Catnip provides strong protection against biting insects. It is also an easily made part of your daily herb protocol. The human body gives off a myriad of scents seemingly designed to attract insects, but the scent your body exudes after ingesting catnip can discourage insects from finding you so irresistible. To make catnip tea, brew (at least) two teaspoons per cup of hot (not quite boiling) water and steep for ten minutes. You can also take a couple of catnip capsules for a few hours before venturing outside. Catnip is absolutely safe for children and breastfeeding women, but should be avoided while pregnant.
Fennel, lavender and peppermint are all strong repellents (lavender is especially good if ticks are a worry), but only last 60-90 minutes on their own. When combined with basil oil, however, you will reportedly get about eight hours of protection.
Vetiver is a similar plant with a similar aroma that is used in similar ways. And, again, like cloves, vetiver essential oil seems to be more effective against ticks than citronella. In tests of efficacy against ticks and their larvae, vetiver essential oil was tested for its efficacy. Whether it is because of resistance built up against the more commonly used treatments or whether vetivers have always been this good, vetivers were able to keep ticks at bay even better than standard treatments. (4)
B. burgdorferi is a borrelia bacteria, and as a result, it is not a fan of oxygen. Too much oxygen can help to kill off all types of Borrelia bacteria.
One way in which Lyme patients have begun to get oxygen into their bodies is through Hyperbaric oxygen therapy. This is a form of therapy whereby patients exposed to 100 percent of oxygen at high pressure, after being placed inside a hyperbaric oxygen chamber.
Another sure way to get oxygen pumping through your body is by exercising. While your body may not be in the best mood to start moving, exercising can help to get both your blood and oxygen flowing. Stretching, yoga, tai chi, and swimming are all effective forms of exercise that Lyme sufferers can engage in.
Lyme symptoms are triggered after an inflammatory process. With that said, reducing inflammation in your body may help to combat these symptoms. One way to do so would be by removing pro-inflammatory foods from your diet.
These include all sugars, alcohol, dairy, refined grains, and even processed meats.