Lyme Disease

Lyme disease is beeoming more and more prominent in the UK and other parts of the world. Even 10 years ago it was much less commonly seen than it is now.

While many folk with Lyme Disease come to herbalism late on in the journey, often having tried many therapies or had many tests – more often than not to no avail nor answers, there is much that herbalism can offer. When Lyme Disease moves past the point of an acute infection from a tick bite (or other vector), it becomes much more complex and chronic, or long, Lyme is a challenging condition that can affect an individual in so many ways and on so many levels.

Plant allies can fight infection and are plentiful. We have an abundance to choose from. When it comes to Borrelia and numerous co-infections care must be taken to find out what is the most likely cause of symptoms and the pattern of infection. As we build a picture of how Borrelia or any other stealth or opportunistic pathogen is affecting the individual we start to be able to choose our plant allies, change our diet and factor in supplements, antibiotics, heat therapy, massage etc. to maximise benefit for each person.

Herbal Medicine
Smilax sp.

Lyme Disease is very close to my heart. It changed my life. Before Lyme, I was living in the woods, about to step into a wilder world of herbalism and off grid living but after the initial infection – which for me felt like the craziest flu I’d ever experienced and new sensations I’d never experienced, like I was constantly falling backwards, dizzy when sitting and eyes clunking along when reading – I had to modify my life.

The journey from initial infection – and I remember that first symptom so clearly, I was about to eat a beautiful meal someone had prepared and as I went to eat my first mouthful, I felt like my stomach had dropped out of my body, that my arms couldn’t lift the fork, that my brain had just emptied its contents down my back. I was totally thrown, friends asked if they should call a GP and I so wish I had said yes – but being typically melancholic, I did not want to put anyone out so I treated with my flu herbs by myself. This may have given me some protection but I do wish I would have had antibiotics there and then.

From then, I had sporadic episodes of nausea, dizziness, vertigo, flu type symptoms, palpitations and strange sensations. I couldn’t live in the woods by myself anymore and moved to Stroud. I managed to set up the apothecary, work on the Land and teach but after a while I could only keep the apothecary because the symptoms were so difficult to manage and I had two small babes. At that point, after seeing various ENT specialists and been offered antipsychotics (yes!), I asked for a Lyme test. Sure enough, it was positive. But. Then it was negative. The guys at Porton Down decided it was a false positive despite me having had tick bites, been in an endemic area for Lyme, had all the symptoms of Lyme Disease and a positive first test! The local GP had no real knowledge of Lyme and eventually, on my request, referred me to a Lyme literate doctor, he in turn decided that my bloods were ‘nothing to get excited about’ and stated that as 2 weeks of doxy had had little effect, I didn’t have Lyme.

I went to a private clinic too to have more bloods and after spending a lot of money, still came back totally confused as to what they thought was going on.

Oh! If you could see the research now! There is so much more knowledge about Lyme and how difficult it is to treat, diagnose and read the bloods. There are also better tests now.

Lyme Disease
A nymph tick on my finger nail

So, after the most debilitating time – days in bed, muscle fatigue, tremors, numbness, vertigo, nausea, panic attacks (my first driving over a bridge, it came from nowhere and then happened every time I drove over a bridge or by an edge), night sweats, air hunger, brain fog, tics, spasms, crawling sensations, etc. didn’t shift, I knew I needed to change my life again.

I cut out all sugar and caffeine, ate very little gluten and dairy, drank green smoothies every day. I could only manage gentle exercise and couldn’t teach yoga anymore due to inability to do inverted postures. If I bent my head upside down, I felt as if my head would explode.

Each day I went in my infrared sauna twice a day and consumed books as I sat there getting sweaty – sometimes I would be drenched in sweat and othertimes hardly break one. I had to make sure I got good sleep – no more late nights or wild parties.

Absolutely every day I took herbs. They have saved my life, I am in no doubt. Eventually after a year I was pretty much symptom free and started to work a little more, play (with my kids) a little more, even do the odd headstand occasionally. That was about 5 years ago and I still have a bottle of Lyme mix ready if I ever feel a hint of symptoms.

My personal allies for this journey have been eleuthero, vervain, andrographis, scute root, red sage, St. John’s wort and medicinal mushrooms. Other plant allies who I have in my mixes include Smilax, Guaiacum, cat’s claw, Japanese knotweed, Schisandra, ashwagandha, nettle, rose, bilberry. There are others I didn’t need or couldn’t source when I was at my most ill – Cryptolepis, Sida acuta, woad, Bidens and more.

If you are experiencing acute or chronic Lyme disease, I cannot stress enough that there is help out there with diagnosis, bloods, anti-biotics, herbs, diet and lifestyle. You are not alone and you can get better.

If you would like a Lyme consultation with me, tell me when you email or call as it usually takes more time to go through your history (or herstory), diet, tests etc. I am so thankful to now belong to a group of herbalists who meet to discuss Lyme every month – I was so alone before and now I feel the support of community, if you are there, know there is a community of support for you too.

Plant Ally, Motherwort