Lyme disease — spread by tick bite — is affecting thousands of people around the world and in the United States. Doctors are currently using antibiotics to treat it but could plant-based treatments be more effective?
Lyme disease is an infectious disease of the Borrelia burgdorferi (B. burgdorferi) bacterium.
The disease spreads to humans through the bite of a tick carrying the bacterium and affects an estimated 300,000 people in the U.S. alone each year.
Health care professionals are currently choosing between three antibiotics to treat Lyme disease. Doxycycline, cefuroxime, and amoxicillin are these.
Though, antibiotics sometimes aren’t successful in eradicating all traces of B. System burgdorferi which means that the disease will proceed.
Bacterial cells which have developed antibiotic resistance can continue to proliferate when this happens. Those are called persistent cells.
Because of this, researchers have been investigating alternative ways of combating the bacterium, and their first line of investigation has focused on natural remedies.
A study carried out in vitro (in culture cells) in 2018 suggested that 10 essential oils derived from plants could help fight off B. Burgdorf.
Now, researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore, MD, and at Berkeley’s California Center for Functional Medicine and Focus Health, have conducted a new study that has led them to believe that two specific plants can lead to more reliable Lyme disease therapies.
“Currently, several thousands of Lyme patients, especially those with later-stage symptoms that have not been treated successfully, are in great need of effective, affordable treatment options,” states the study co-author Dr. Sunjya Schweig.
Quinine and knotweed show promise
The investigators analyzed the potential of 14 different plant extracts in killing B in their study— whose findings appear in the journal Frontiers in Medicine — Burgdorf.
They compared the results with those of the two traditional anti-Lyme disease drugs: doxycycline and cefuroxime.
The researchers pitted against free-swimming (planktonic) B on each of these plant extracts. Burgdorferi and microcolonies of this bacterium-bacterial cell aggregates.
The in vitro experiments showed extracts from seven different plants were more successful than doxycycline and cefuroxime against the Lyme disease bacteria.
The plants concerned were black walnut (Juglans nigra), cat’s claw (Uncaria tomentosa), sweet wormwood (Artemisia annua), mediterranean rockrose (Cistus incanus), Chinese skullcap (Scutellaria baicalensis), Ghanaian quinine (Cryptolepis sanguinolenta), and Japanese knotweed (Polygonum cuspidatum).
The researchers note that those with the highest antibacterial activity were geared toward B. The burgdorferi were quinine ghanaians and knotweed japanese.
Ghanaian quinine’s active ingredient is an alkaloid called cryptolepine that people have historically used against malaria, hepatitis, septicemia and tuberculosis.
Japanese knotweed contains Resveratrol, an antioxidant. Several studies suggest that resveratrol may have anticancer effects, and may protect the health of the heart and brain.
“This study provides the first convincing evidence that some of the herbs used by patients, such as Cryptolepis, black walnut, sweet wormwood, cat’s claw, and Japanese knotweed, have potent activity against Lyme disease bacteria, particularly those dormant persistent types that are not killed by the current Lyme antibiotics,” says study co-author Prof. Ying Zhang.
1-week treatment eradicates bacteria
In the current study, the scientists observed that extracts from Ghanaian quinine and Japanese knotweed prevented the proliferation of free-swimming bacteria, even when present in laboratory dishes at low concentrations— 0.03-0.5 per cent.
The two plant extracts have destroyed whole bacterial microcolonies causing Lyme disease.
In addition, in lab dishes, only one 7-day treatment with 1 per cent Ghanaian quinine extract was able to eradicate the bacterium. What’s more, after this treatment the bacterium was unable to make a comeback.
At the same time some of the other natural compounds examined by the researchers gave marginal or no results.
This was the case with grapefruit extracts, green chiretta (Andrographis paniculata), ashwagandha, stevia, teasel fulller (Dipsacus fullonum), and Japanese teasel.
The researchers also tested some other substances that may be effective against Lyme disease as anecdotal evidence had indicated. These were colloidal silver, monoglyceride monolaurine, and antimicrobial peptide LL37—the immune cells also found in humans. None of these substances affects B. Bugdorf in any significant way.
Although current findings suggest that many plants hold promise in treating Lyme disease, the researchers caution that animal and human trials are still needed to confirm the efficacy and safety of the natural remedies.
“Patients and their clinicians are increasingly turning to herbal remedies as additional treatment options, and we hope that these findings will help point the way toward a greater understanding of these therapies. But further preclinical studies and clinical trials will be required to establish evidence for effective treatment of Lyme disease patients.”– Study co-author Jacob Leone, Ph.D.
Co-author Jacob Leone, Ph.D., also acknowledges potential conflicts of interest, stating he is the “owner of two naturopathic medical practices, FOCUS Health Group and Door One Concierge, which[ provide] treatment for patients with tick-borne diseases.”