LYME SCI: Might essential oils cure Lyme disease? A tantalizing premise
A group of researchers has recently identified several essential oils, derived from common spice or culinary herbs, that have better antimicrobial activity against the bacteria that causes Lyme disease than some antibiotics.
The study screened a panel of 34 essential oils, and identified the three most effective against Borrelia burgdorferi (Bb) in the laboratory.
One of the researchers, Dr. Ying Zhang, is a Professor of Molecular Microbiology and Immunology at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. Dr. Zhang is a leader in finding more effective treatments for drug resistant and persistent bacterial infections. Recently, he has directed several projects towards finding more effective treatments against the persistent form of Bb.
According to Dr. Zhang, “This new study is significant because we found some highly active essential oils such as oregano, cinnamon bark and clove bud, that have excellent in-vitro activity against Borrelia persister forms—even the most resistant biofilm form. What is particularly interesting is that their anti-persister activity seems to be even more active than daptomycin, one of the most active Borrelia persister drug candidates we have identified so far. ”
Better treatments are needed
It is estimated that over 300,000 Americans are diagnosed with Lyme disease on an annual basis. Studies have shown that 10-20% of patients who receive an early diagnosis will fail to improve after the standard two to four week course of antibiotics. This means that at least 60,000 patients per year will be left with symptoms of Lyme disease.
Unfortunately, the treatment failure ratio is even higher (35-50%) for patients who receive a late diagnosis. Chronic symptoms reported by patients can range from muscle and joint pain to neurological impairment and fatigue that can leave many unable to work or enjoy a normal life.
One of the potential reasons that standard treatment fails may be due to resistant bacteria known as persister cells. A common method for combating persistent infection in other bacteria is to use a broad-spectrum antibiotic or a combination of antibiotics. With a growing trend to reduce antibiotic use, many researchers are looking at alternatives—like essential oils.
There are two kinds of oils derived from plants: fixed oils and essential oils. Fixed oils (or natural oils) are mainly sourced from the seeds, whereas essential oils (or volatile oils) are primarily extracted from the leaves, roots, petals or bark of the plant, through a process called steam distillation.
Botanicals including plants, bark, and plant oils have been used in traditional medicine for thousands of years, and their safety has been well established for many uses. Recently, there have been multiple USDA studies providing clear evidence to support the use of plant-derived chemicals as immune-enhancing and antimicrobial agents in farm animals.
Many essential oils are known to have antimicrobial properties. However, the antimicrobial activity against Bb has not been carefully studied. Until now.
With the essential oil study, the researchers employed the same model that was used in Dr. Zhang’s previous FDA drug screen that identified the triple-drug combination (daptomycin/doxycycline/cefuroxime) which was most effective against Borrelia persister cells.
In the previous study, two-drug or three-drug combinations without the persister drug daptomycin did not eradicate Borrelia persisters. Only the triple-drug combination daptomycin/doxycycline/cefuroxime completely eradicated Borrelia persisters in vitro. (Read more about “Why persisters matter with Lyme disease” here)
For the new study, the researchers tested 34 essential oils at four different concentrations against seven-day-old laboratory-grown Bb stationary phase bacteria, which are enriched in persisters and biofilm-like micro-colonies.
A week later, they examined the cultures and identified 18 essential oils (at 1% concentration) which were similar to daptomycin in their antibacterial activity against Bb.
Further study revealed that oregano, cinnamon bark and clove bud were the most effective essential oils because of their high activity against Bb, at the lowest concentration of 0.125%.
To specify the active ingredients of oregano oil, the researchers further tested the three major components and discovered carvacrol (at either 0.1% or 0.05% concentration) was the most active ingredient in oregano oil.
In fact, carvacrol was highly effective against all phases of Bb, including the active spirochetal phase, the stationary (non-growing) phase and the biofilm-like structures. Importantly, oregano and carvacrol appear to be more active than daptomycin and seem to dissolve the most difficult to kill biofilm structures.
To confirm their results, the researchers re-tested their top six essential oils. After 21 days, there was no regrowth of Bb in three of them—oregano, cinnamon bark and clove bud. The other three oils, citronella, geranium bourbon and wintergreen, did not completely kill the organism, with many spirochetes still visible after 21 days.
Just because something works in a test tube or a petri dish doesn’t mean it will work in a person—especially with a bacterium like Borrelia that is capable of evading the immune system and hiding in hard-to-reach places.
Therefore, the next step for researchers must be animal studies, before proceeding to human trials.
At this stage, using essential oils to treat Lyme disease in humans is a tantalizing premise. However, more research is needed to find out if this is an appropriate and helpful treatment for people with persistent symptoms of Lyme disease.
LymeSci is written by Lonnie Marcum, a Licensed Physical Therapist and mother of a daughter with Lyme. Follow her on Twitter: @LonnieRhea Email her at: firstname.lastname@example.org .
Selective Essential Oils from Spice or Culinary Herbs Have High Activity against Stationary Phase and Biofilm Borrelia burgdorferi
Drug Combinations against Borrelia burgdorferi Persisters In Vitro: Eradication Achieved by Using Daptomycin, Cefoperazone and Doxycycline
- October 27, 2017 at 4:05 pm
Are the essential oils taken internally or used as body rubs or infusers?
- October 28, 2017 at 4:27 pm
Best and safest way to take essential oils is by using a diffuser. Be careful; the undiluted oils are very irritating and need to be added sparingly to the water in the diffuser, especially if you plan to use it as a kind of inhaler.
- October 28, 2017 at 6:37 pm
I suggest that inhaling oil is not safe for the lungs.
These studies were done in a petri dish. You can experiment with your body all you like, but inhaling oils into the lungs is not safe. Swallowing these oils seems to be safe if diluted with other oils, but to get enough carvacrol into the blood stream to reach .01 concentration by volume would require swallowing 50ml of oil. You would throw up if you swallowed more than 3ml.
If we can get someone to sell carvacrol independent of oregano oil, that might be an option. But some people already hold a patent on such a treatment.
- October 29, 2017 at 8:36 am
Diffusion of essential oils has been done for centuries, so the stage of experimentation is history. I’ve been doing it for the last 30 years on a regular basis and my lungs are in excellent condition (confirmed by a recent lung test). As I pointed out in my previous message one needs to be careful. For example: I use 6 drops in total of different oils on 5 liters of hot water to get rid of migraines.
For ‘background’ diffusion there are plenty of diffusers available on the net. I personally use an ultrasound version.
- October 27, 2017 at 6:17 pm
A person would have to swallow 50ml of oregano oil to get the concentration in vivo that the study found was effective in vitro. A better option would be to take the effective agent – carvacrol.
- October 28, 2017 at 11:22 am
Yes. The study tested out the specific components of oregano oil and found carvacrol to be most effective in the laboratory.
- October 28, 2017 at 7:49 pm
“For consideration in clinical applications, there is limited safety information on carvacrol and essential oils in humans. In mice, carvacrol has been given at 40 mg/kg daily for 20 days with no apparent toxicity (33). However, carvacrol and other active components of essential oils showed certain cytotoxicity (IC50 of carvacrol was 200–425 µM) (34, 35) on mammalian cells and genotoxic activity in vivo (10 mg/kg) (36). ”
from the study
so glad these researchers are looking at alternatives or possibly, better adjuncts for antibiotics.
- October 27, 2017 at 10:44 pm
Great research! I think those that have chronic Lyme are desperate, so bypass the animal studies and get to the humans first.
- October 28, 2017 at 11:34 am
If you follow the hyperlink I provided to the FDA animal studies you can see these oils are safe and effective against other organisms. Considering the large percentage of patients that fail standard treatment it would be great to know how well these alternate therapies work in humans.
- October 28, 2017 at 12:09 pm
I would be willing to be the in the 1st human trial NOW.
I’ll sign whatever waivers l need to so we can get this started on human trial, I’ve suffered for 30yrs & I’ll soon be 39,so I am willing to take ANY risks necessary to give myself & others a cure to this horrific disease.
I am willing to sign away any rights to sue, ANYTHING to get help! I’ll do whatever needed to test this on myself! My lack of ability to do much of anything & the extreme severe life consuming pain, has me to the point I don’t care about any potential risks, honestly I don’t know how it could get any worse than it is already. I am ready, if at all possible!
- October 28, 2017 at 9:52 pm
I wonder if Dr Eric Z of essential oil fame would be able to help here. There are so many people in your position who would also be ready to queue up. If as Dr D Klinghardt and others say, this is a man-made disease spread by insects not just ticks by accident or by design, we are on our own to find a cure.
- October 29, 2017 at 9:00 pm
Thank you for reading my blog. My heart goes out to you and all those who are suffering. I am hearing this from so many patients who are willing to participate in the first trial. Currently I am not aware of anything in the pipeline. If I hear of a trial I will post a reply here.
- October 30, 2017 at 5:33 am
I personally use essential oils, internally for lyme and co-infections. I use THIEVES, FRANKINCENSE, AND OREGANO, 1-2 drops in a “00” gel cap. I am not telling anyone else what to do, just sharing what works for me. I am a Naturopathic Dr. as well and have recovered from almost dying from lyme. In 1999, the Drs. (medical) gave me 3 yrs…..
Dr. Sue ND
- October 30, 2017 at 7:51 pm
That is great info, Thank You! I see Natural Doctors in Shipshewana, Indiana, and this is something that I will definitely have to ask them about!
How long did you follow this protocol, before starting to noticeably feel better?
- November 18, 2017 at 2:16 pm
Sue how old were you when you recovered and what were your symptoms?
- March 5, 2018 at 11:13 am
I don’t have thieves, I use DoTerra. What’s in it? And how often do you take them? Thank you.
- October 29, 2017 at 11:47 am
I wonder if Boswellia was also tested.
- October 29, 2017 at 8:57 pm
The researchers tested 34 essential oils, it does not appear that Boswellia was not one of them. If you click on the first link under references and go to Table 1 you will find a list of all the essential oils that were tested.
- February 27, 2018 at 11:20 am
Are the 3 that are mentioned, the ones that we should use for Lyme disease and how should they be used? What about finding a safe essential oil product,that is not too costly?
- April 24, 2018 at 4:11 pm
How about skip the animal studies and give the oils to humans who are suffering with Lyme? It cannot hurt them and may be the long sought answer to the problem.
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