Lyme Disease: Symptoms, Causes & Natural Remedies
Spending time in nature offers a mountain of benefits. A walk in the woods or the park can help you feel more energized, uplifted, and focused. But being outdoors isn’t without its risks. Ticks can quickly turn your outdoor adventure into a nightmare. And if you don’t remove them fast enough, you could wind up with Lyme disease. An estimated 476,000 Americans are diagnosed with Lyme disease each year. But exactly what is Lyme disease, its symptoms and causes? Are there any natural remedies that can help?
What is Lyme Disease?
Lyme disease is a type of bacterial infection caused by the bite of an infected tick. The bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi is typically the culprit, and it usually infects black-legged ticks (or deer ticks).
These ticks can now be found in most of the United States, and they can attach themselves to any part of your body. In most cases, the tick has to be attached for 36-48 hours for the bacterium to spread.
Although you can develop Lyme disease at any time during the year, April through October is considered tick season. Lyme disease cases have been reported in virtually every state in the U.S. However, the disease is most prominent in the Northwest, Northeast, and upper Midwest.
Lyme Disease Symptoms & Causes
A bite from an infected tick causes Lyme disease. However, it’s important to note that not all ticks carry the bacteria that causes Lyme disease. In some locations, less than 1% of ticks are infected, while in others, more than 50% carry the disease.
Ticks prefer wooded, grassy areas, so spending a lot of time in the woods or in tall grass can increase your risk of developing Lyme disease. In addition, while most tick bites occur in the summer, it’s also possible to get bitten in the fall or late winter if temperatures are mild.
Common Lyme Disease Symptoms
Lyme disease is a progressive condition. In the early stages, symptoms may appear 3-30 days after being infected. These symptoms may include:
- A red rash (typically in the shape of a bull’s-eye)
- Swollen lymph nodes
- Joint and muscle aches
If the infection is left untreated, it can eventually progress to your nervous system, joints, and even your heart.
In later stages of the disease, symptoms can include:
- Additional rashes
- Severe neck stiffness and headaches
- Irregular heartbeat
- Heart palpitations
- Facial palsy
- Inflammation of the spinal cord or brain
- Shortness of breath
- Pain in your muscles, tendons, joints, and bones
- Nerve pain
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Lyme disease is not contagious, nor can mothers transmit the disease to their babies through breast milk.
Who is at Risk of Developing Lyme Disease?
Anyone can be bitten by a tick, so anyone can develop Lyme disease. However, some people are at a greater risk of tick bites than others, such as:
- People who spend a lot of time in wooded or grassy areas. Campers, hikers, backpackers, and those who do work outdoors are more likely to be bitten by an infected tick.
- Not covering up when outdoors. If you live in an area where infected ticks are common, exposed skin can increase your risk of developing the disease. Ticks can easily attach to bare skin.
- Not removing ticks quickly. Ticks generally need to stay attached to the skin for 36-48 hours before they cause infection. If you don’t check yourself for ticks regularly or remove them promptly, you may be at a greater risk of developing Lyme disease.
How is Lyme Disease Treated?
Conventional Lyme disease treatments include antibiotics.
- Oral antibiotics may be prescribed if the disease is in its early stages. A 2-3-week course may be recommended.
- Intravenous antibiotics may be necessary if the disease has affected the central nervous system. In this case, the course can last 14-28 days.
Even after the infection has cleared, it can take some time to recover from the symptoms of Lyme disease.
Some people also develop post-Lyme disease syndrome or PLDS. PLDS can cause chronic fatigue, nerve pain, and memory issues.
It’s important to note that you can’t develop an immunity to this disease. If you’ve had Lyme disease in the past, you can get it again in the future.
Lyme Disease Natural Remedies
Along with conventional treatments, there are several natural remedies that can help with Lyme disease, such as:
CBD Pain Cream
Cannabidiol, or CBD, has antibacterial effects and can also help with nerve pain, nausea, and headaches – all symptoms of Lyme disease. One study from 2008 also found that CBD can help fight the bacteria that cause this disease.
Other research shows that CBD can be effective for migraines and headaches, which are common with Lyme disease.
For aching joints and muscles, CBD pain creams can help bring some relief. Other ingredients, such as essential oils, can help you feel more relaxed and may further boost the cream’s pain-relieving effects.
DMSO Gel or Cream
Dimethyl sulfoxide, or DMSO, is known for its pain-relieving and anti-inflammatory effects. Naturopaths have successfully used DMSO to treat nerve and joint pain, like those caused by Lyme disease.
Topical DMSO gels and creams allow for quick and easy localized relief without side effects.
Many essential oils have anti-inflammatory, pain-relieving, and antibacterial effects that may help reduce the symptoms of Lyme disease.
One study tested 34 different essential oils against the bacteria that causes Lyme disease. Oregano, cinnamon bark, and clove bud essential oils were able to kill the bacteria without causing any regrowth. However, these results were achieved in a laboratory setting, so more research is needed to determine whether they are effective for humans.
Quinine and Knotweed
In a recent study, researchers looked at the effectiveness of plant extracts against the bacteria that cause Lyme disease. In vitro tests revealed that Japanese knotweed and Ghanaian quinine exhibited the greatest antibacterial activity against B. Burgdorferi.
Why are these plants so effective?
- Ghanaian quinine contains cryptolepine, which is an alkaloid commonly used to treat hepatitis, malaria, tuberculosis, and septicemia.
- Japanese knotweed contains resveratrol, a potent antioxidant.
More research is needed, but the results of these two plant extracts are promising.
Lyme disease is a progressive condition. The earlier the diagnosis and intervention, the better the outcome in most cases. While conventional treatments are available, some people don’t respond to antibiotics. Natural remedies, like the ones shared above, may help bring some relief.
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