Lyme disease is a condition caused by an infection from bacteria called Borrelia burgdorferi. It’s passed to humans through the bite of infected black-legged ticks or deer ticks. Ticks are small arachnids usually found in wooded or grassy areas.
Antibiotics are the main treatment for Lyme disease. In many cases, a two- to four-week course of oral antibiotics clears up the infection. But more severe cases might need intravenous antibiotics.
Still, up to 20 percent of people with Lyme disease continue having symptoms after antibiotic treatment. Some call this “post-treatment Lyme disease syndrome” or chronic Lyme disease. It may be related to an immune system response, but experts aren’t sure.
Can natural treatments be a more effective, gentler option? Read on to learn about the use of essential oils, oxygen therapy, and other popular natural treatments for Lyme disease.
Essential oils are concentrated liquids from plants. Some of them have antibacterial properties, meaning they can kill bacteria.
A 2017 study evaluated the use of 34 essential oils to kill B. burgdorferi bacteria in a laboratory setting. Cinnamon bark, clove bud, and oregano essential oils killed the bacteria without any regrowth. <
These results are promising, but there’s no evidence that they work in humans with Lyme disease. Essential oils are used in aromatherapy, where the fragrant oils are inhaled through a diffuser or diluted in a carrier oil and applied topically. It’s not safe to ingest essential oils, especially in the quantities that you would likely need to treat Lyme disease.
Some people claim that immune system-boosting supplements can naturally treat Lyme disease.
- vitamin B-1
- vitamin C
- fish oil
- alpha lipoic acid
- cat’s claw
- olive leaf
However, there’s no evidence that any of these, or any other supplements, can get rid of Lyme disease.
Hyperbaric oxygen therapy involves exposure to 100 percent oxygen at a high pressure. It’s often in a room called a hyperbaric oxygen chamber to promote wound healing.
There isn’t much research about the effectiveness of hyperbaric oxygen therapy for Lyme disease. But a 2014 case study from Taiwan reports that it treated Lyme disease in a person who hadn’t responded to antibiotics. Still, more large-scale studies are needed to understand whether it’s an effective treatment.
Some people believe Lyme disease symptoms are linked to heavy metal toxicity from materials like lead or mercury. Chelation therapy is a method of removing heavy metals from the bloodstream.
It’s done using a type of medication called a chelator or chelating agent. This medication binds to metals in the bloodstream, collecting them into a compound that can be processed by your kidneys and released in urine.
Chelation therapy is an effective treatment for a buildup of heavy metals. But there’s no evidence that heavy metals contribute to Lyme disease, and chelation therapy won’t treat the underlying infection.
The treatments discussed above are only some of the natural treatments that claim to treat Lyme disease. According to a 2015 study looking at the alternative treatments found during an Internet search, other natural treatments people use for Lyme disease include:
- saunas and steam rooms
- ultraviolet light
- photon therapy
- electromagnetic frequency treatments
- urotherapy (urine ingestion)
- bee venom
The investigators noted that there’s no research backing up these treatments, any many don’t have a logical rationale behind them.
If you decide to explore natural treatments for Lyme disease, talk to your doctor about the risks beforehand. Natural treatments, just like traditional treatments, can still be toxic or dangerous. But in combination with medical treatment, a complementary approach might improve health.
For example, a product called bismacine contains an injectable form of bismuth. This is a type of metal that’s a common ingredient in some digestive aids. But bismacine contains a higher dose of bismuth that’s injectable. Injecting a high dose of bismuth can cause bismuth poisoning, which can lead to heart and kidney failure.
Other natural treatments may interact with other medications or supplements you take. Your doctor can help you confirm whether any medications you currently take will interact with treatment you’re interested in trying.
If you’ve recently had a tick bite or think you might have Lyme disease, see your doctor right away. Antibiotics are the only proven treatment for Lyme disease, and it’s best to start taking them earlier rather than later. If you do decide to try natural treatments, check with your doctor first. They can help you avoid any risky medication interactions.