treatment part 7: herbal medicine

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My dear friends, today we’re talking about herbal medicine. It’s a fun topic for me, as I have noticed such a big shift in my own thinking as to the importance of herbs in conjunction with my Lyme treatment. Originally, I expected that we would rely almost solely on what I could pick up from the pharmacy. What we actually do is a combination of Western medicine (conventional medicine) and Herbalism. My Lyme doctor practices “integrative medicine”, which means that she aims to take the best of what all medicine has to offer and present me with that option. I really appreciate this about Dr. G – that she is looking at all of the possibilities in order to find the right combination for me.

Now, for those of us totally new to an herbal approach, let’s talk about it. The University of Maryland Medical Center says this:

“Herbal medicine, also called botanical medicine or phytomedicine, refers to using a plant’s seeds, berries, roots, leaves, bark, or flowers for medicinal purposes. Herbalism has a long tradition of use outside conventional medicine. It is becoming more mainstream as improvements in analysis and quality control, along with advances in clinical research, show the value of herbal medicine in treating and preventing disease.

Recently, the World Health Organization estimated that 80% of people worldwide rely on herbal medicines for some part of their primary health care. In Germany, about 600 to 700 plant based medicines are available and are prescribed by some 70% of German physicians. In the past 20 years in the United States, public dissatisfaction with the cost of prescription medications, combined with an interest in returning to natural or organic remedies, has led to an increase in herbal medicine use.”

My friends, before I share with you a little bit about my experience with herbal medications, I need you to raise your right hand and repeat aloud, “I, ______ (your name), do solemnly swear not to go off on my own and treat myself with super-duper powerful herbal medications.” Thanks, friends. That makes me feel a lot better. Because, honestly, herbal medications are potent, and it’s never a good idea to self-medicate.

I’ve tried many herbal medications over the years. Most of the time, it has been in conjunction with pharmaceutical antibiotics or antivirals, but I have also done ½ a year using only herbal medication.

Here are a few examples of one’s I’ve used:

Curcumin – is an anti-inflammatory, supports cognitive and cardiac function, etc

Berberine – kills bad bacteria, is an anti-inflammatory, regulates blood sugar, etc

Ginger – works as a pain reducer, decreases digestive issues, etc

Garlic – detoxifies heavy metals, combats sickness, is rich in vitamins, etc

Cordyceps Sinensis – increases energy, activates the immune system, acts as a tonic for the whole body, etc

Grapefruit Seed Extract – breaks apart Lyme cysts, is an antimicrobial and an antioxidant, etc

Sanguinolenta Root Extract – is an anti-malarial and an antibacterial, etc

Stevia Extract – helps to control blood sugar, blood pressure and cholesterol, etc

Baical Skullcap – is immunoprotective, is an antibacterial and antiviral, and helps circulatory issues

Houttuynia Extract – is an antiviral and an antibacterial

Licorice Root – useful for digestive issues, adrenal fatigue support, and pain relief, etc

Serrapeptase – reduces pain, is an anti-inflammatory, promotes normal blood clotting, etc

Andrographis – is an antiviral and an antibacterial, helps repair the gut, works against hypoglycemia, etc

Cat’s Claw – boosts immune function, repairs DNA, is an anti-cancer agent, treats arthritis, etc

Resveratrol Ultra – reduces inflammation and cholesterol, is an anti-cancer agent, etc

My experience:

I have enjoyed using herbal medications in my treatment. Dr. G has added herbs or taken them away in different seasons, according to where she feels like my body needs support. Under her care, I have also tried an all-herbal protocol laid out by Dr.Stephen Buhner, one of the foremost doctors in the Lyme herbalist community. I was using his protocol specifically for people who have Lyme, Bartonella, and Mycoplasma infections.

I have and still do herx (experience Lyme bacteria die-off) while taking herbal medications, including the 6 months where I was ONLY taking herbal medications. To me, this says that these herbs are valid and effective. I’ve rarely had side-effects with these meds, definitely fewer than western / conventional meds. The only non-herx symptoms I can knowingly attribute to herbs have been nausea and digestive issues.

Should you be interested in using herbal medications as part of your treatment, I suggest talking with your doctor to see what their views are AND if they have any experience with using it successfully in the treatment of others.

Researching for yourself is also very helpful; as we have painstakingly learned in the patient community, “You are your best advocate.”  Leafing through one of Buhner’s books could be a great starting place. His book Healing Lyme: Natural Healing and Prevention of Lyme Borreliosis and It’s Co-infections is his seminal work. He went on to write other books specific to groupings of co-infections: Babesia, Erlychia and Anaplasma and  Bartonella and Mycoplasma. What I appreciate about his books is that he takes the time to explain benefits, side-effects, dosages (remember your solemn vow above), and the most reputable places to buy herbs… as well as the longest list of medical journal references I’ve ever seen.

Final thoughts:

  • Herbs, which are basically “super-food” plants, have been used medicinally throughout all of human history.  To me, it’s reasonable that they would still be a viable form of treatment – either in conjunction with western medication or on their own.
  • Herbal medications are potent and should be used under the care of a doctor. Because it is easy to order them online, it’s natural to think that it’s not really a big deal. But actually, this stuff is a big deal, and you want a doctor who knows what they’re doing to find the right treatment plan and to be monitoring you.
  • An additional reason it is so important to be under the care of a doctor is that they will also tell you where to get your herbal meds and what brands to buy. Like food, not all herbs are grown and processed equal. You want to go with the reputable companies who sell pure, high-quality products.
  • My friends, I hope you feel the freedom to think about new things to add into your treatment protocol that seem doable and exciting. It’s amazing to me how many different things are available to help our bodies fight and recover. What a hopeful thought!
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