The Use of Chinese Herbs for Lyme Disease
A number of Chinese herbs can be useful for the many different facets of Lyme Disease. Lyme Disease is a bacterial infectious disease caused by the spirochetal organism, Borrelia Burgdorferi. It is usually caused by a tick bite. The prevalence of the disease is greatest in the northeastern United States, but there have been cases of the illness in all lower 48 states. The disease is easy to treat with antibiotics in its initial stages, but it is often not detected at that point. There is a bull’s eye rash that is characteristic of the disease, but many people never get the rash. The rash looks different in people with darker pigmentation, making it easy to mistake it for other skin conditions, including bruising or eczema. The wide variety of symptoms that a person can have in its later stages makes it hard to obtain a proper diagnosis, and the medical testing for the illness is still not very accurate in many cases.
People with later stages of Lyme need treatment on a number of different levels. At the very basic level, herbs that are anti-bacterial, specifically against spirochetal bacteria, are an important component of treatment. Herbs that have been shown to have activity against spirochetal bacteria include coptis (huang lian), andrographis paniculata (chuan xin lian), isatis (ban lan gen/qing dai), phellodendron (huang bai), scute (huang qin), forsythia (lian qiao), smilax (tu fu ling), and gardenia (zhi zi). Garlic is also a useful antibacterial supplement for those with Lyme Disease.
Lyme disease can lower body temperature and create poor blood circulation. A person is also likely to feel cysts, lumps, and swellings in different areas of their body that often change and move. The bacteria walls itself off, and creates an environment in which it can grow and thrive and the person with the disease ends up in severe pain, with horribly low energy, and neurological problems. The disease thrives in a low temperature, low oxygen environment, and that is the environment it creates within the body. People with the disease often have signs and symptoms similar to someone with severe altitude sickness (also caused by a low oxygen environment). Chinese herbs that clear blood stasis and break blood stagnation can be very useful for this aspect of the disease. The herb, pseudoginseng (san qi), can be extremely beneficial for people with Lyme Disease. It promotes blood circulation and oxygenation in the body, and can force open the cysts that protect the bacteria from being killed off. It also can help clear some of the brain fog that people with this disease have by improving blood circulation and oxygenation to the brain. Frankincense (ru xiang), and myrrh (mo yao) can also help by improving blood circulation, especially to the joints, where the bacteria often hides in cartilaginous tissue where blood circulation tends to be poorer. An herb that is frequently used by people with Lyme Disease, teasel root, is beneficial because it improves circulation in the body and also has a warming affect. All of these herbs can help significantly with the intense and chronic pain that those with later stages of Lyme disease experience.
Certain Chinese herbs can be used to reduce the person’s sensitivity to cold and improve microcirculation in the body. Herbs such as clove, cinnamon, ginger, and siegesbeckia can be useful for this purpose.
The lymphatic system and the metabolism are often compromised in people with Lyme Disease. The bacteria frequently hides inside the walls of white blood cells, and results in swollen and congested lymph glands. People with the disease often have symptoms of hypothyroidism and a slowed metabolic rate even if all of their thyroid tests are normal. In Chinese Medicine, herbs that treat phlegm are frequently used for conditions related to a slow metabolism and a congested lymphatic system. The Chinese herb, prunella vulgaris (xia ku cao), and scrophularia (xuan shen) are very useful for inflammation, congestion, and infection of the lymphatic system. Herbs such as citrus aurantium, kelp, epimedium, and Siberian ginseng, can be beneficial for improving a sluggish metabolism in people with Lyme Disease who have signs or symptoms of an underactive thyroid.
Another aspect of Lyme Disease is severe and debilitating fatigue and a total lack of energy. This can be due to a host of different factors. Poor oxygenation and blood circulation and lowered metabolism and body temperature are part of the picture. The person’s adrenal glands may not be functioning properly either. Someone with Lyme Disease may also have a host of digestive problems that result in a lack of adequate nutrition. The disease itself can trigger chemical changes in the brain that create severe depression and an inability to concentrate, which is debilitating as well.
In Chinese medicine, herbs that nourish the qi and blood can help this lack of energy. The herbs can improve the person’s digestive functioning, support the functioning of the brain, support proper functioning of the adrenal glands, and improve the person’s ability to handle stress. They can also help the proper functioning of the mitochondria in their production of ATP in the cells, which helps a person’s energy at a very fundamental level. Siberian ginseng, schizandra, licorice, and astragalus are all good herbs for improving a person’s energy level, digestive functioning, and their ability to handle stress. White peony, dong quai, and wolfberry nourish the blood and reduce fatigue. Polygonum and eucommia can help improve a person’s adrenal response and can improve brain functioning. Bupleurum, longan fruit, zyzyphus seed, dragon bone, oyster shell, and magnolia bark can be beneficial for the depression, anxiety, lack of concentration, and sleep problems that people with Lyme Disease experience.
As you can see, Lyme Disease is a complex illness with many facets. Chinese herbal medicine has numerous herbs in its pharmacopia that can treat the many different aspects of this disease in a comprehensive and holistic manner.