If you have Lyme disease a big question that you might be asking is what should I be eating? It may already be obvious to avoid foods known to cause disease, such as sugar, fried foods and processed foods. You may already be adopting a clean, organic diet, but that may not be enough. What foods or nutrients actually have antimicrobial properties against Borrelia species?
I consider herbs a type of food, and I have discussed studies looking at specific herbs and their activity against Borrelia species, the organism causing Lyme disease, in another article. Below, I have included a brief review of articles looking at various nutrients and possible implications they may have on nutrition for Lyme disease.
Goc and Rath completed a number of studies looking at micronutrients, plant extracts, fatty acids, and other natural substances and their activity against the growth of Borrelia species.1 They looked at these substances and their ability to inhibit growth of spirochetes, their ability to kill spirochetes, their ability to kill round forms, and their ability to eradicate biofilm. They found that serrapeptidase and oregano extract inhibited the growth of spirochete forms of Borrelia Burgdorferi sensu stricto and Borrelia garinii but it was B complex, extracts of grape seed, wild cherry, black walnut green hull, apricot seed, and anise that not only inhibited growth of spirochetes but remained bactericidal towards the round form as well. Extracts of grape seed, wild cherry, black walnut green hull and apricot seed also killed the round forms by 45-50% at concentrations of 125-250 µg/ml. Round forms and biofilm are considered persister forms of the Borrelia life cycle and may be responsible for the resistance seen with first line antibiotics such as doxycycline. Only serrapeptidase, kelp, and extracts of black walnut green hull, apricot seed and anise were able to eradicate biofilm at 25-40% at concentrations of 250-500 µg/ml.
These researchers also looked at various phytochemicals and found that quercetin, resveratrol, e-viniferin (a resveratrol dimer), amygdalin, and berberine sulfate inhibited growth and killed spirochete and round forms of Borrelia sensu stricto and Borrelia garinii. Quercetin is found in higher amounts (>100 mg/100 grams) in raw and canned capers and elderberry juice concentrate.2 Quercetin is found in lower amounts in asparagus, raw broccoli, red swiss chard, coriander, dock, horseradish, fennel leaves, hartwort leaves, hawthorn leaves, kale, okra, onions, ancho peppers, and arugula. Resveratrol is found in grapes, peanuts, soy, wine and Itadori root (or Japanese knotweed).3 E-viniferin can be found in grape vines.4 Amygdalin can be found in apricot almond seeds, peach, plus, loquat, apple and bayberry and does have the potential for toxicity.5 Berberines can be found in many Berberis and Mahonia species of plants.6 It can also be found in Coptidis chinensis.
Specific essential oils found in common culinary spices have been found to have activity against the stationary phase of Borrelia burgdorferi in vitro.7 Essential oils of oregano, cinnamon bark, clove bud, citronella and wintergreen at 0.25% concentration compared similarly to the drug daptomycin in eradicating B. burgdorferi. This study also showed that carvacrol, a compound found in oil of oregano, was able to kill B. burgdorferi in stationary cells as well as prevent regrowth on the culture, whereas daptomycin could not. Other essential oils have been studied and have shown activity against B. Burdorferi that is comparable to doxycycline, cefuroxime, and daptomycin.8 At 0.2% concentration, 16 essential oils and cinnamaldehyde (a constituent of cinnamon) could kill all live cells on stationary phase B. Burdorferi 7 day cultures. The essential oils included garlic, allspice, myrrh, hydacheim, palmarosa, lemon eucalyptus, amyris, cumin, thyme white, carrot seed, head ease, deep muscle, birch, ho wood, petitgrain, fennel sweet, and cornmint. Subculture studies were completed with these essential oils to determine whether spirochetes were found after 21 days. Regrowth did not occur with garlic, allspice, myrrh, hydacheim and Litsea cubeba at 0.1 %. Cinnamaldehyde at 0.05% showed similar results.
Goc et al studied other oils and found 23 that had demonstrated bactericidal effects, comparable to a daptomycin+cefoperazone+doxycycline antibiotic combination, against B. burdorferi and B. garinii spirochetes and round forms.9 These included oils of bay leaf, birch, black pepper, black seed, borage, cassia, coriander, chamomile German, chamomile Roman, fennel, Greek sage, helichrysum, hyssop, jasmin, laurel leaf, myrrh, nutmeg, pumpkin seed, pine needle, tarragon, thyme, turmeric, and white camphor. The most effective oils were bay leaf, birch, cassia and German chamomile, and thyme. Oils that had no effect on killing the strains were arnica, avocado, coconut, grapeseed, juniper, olive, safflower, and sunflower. Bay leaf oil and cassia oil and, their main ingredients eugenol and cinnamaldehyde, was shown to inhibit biofilm by 20-30%.
Other natural substances such as colloidal silver, monolaurin (a fatty acid), stevia (Stevia rebaudiana), grapefruit seed extract, and LL37 peptide had little or no activity against B. burgdorferi in vitro.10 In other studies, monolaurin did show activity against B. burdorferi and B. garinii spirochetes.11
Micronutrients such as flavones and other fatty acids have also been studied in vitro and in vivo. The fatty acids cis-2-decenoic acid and monolaurin used in combination did show significant activity against B. burdorferi and B. garinii spirochetes.11 The flavones, baicalein and luteolin, used in combination also showed inhibition of spirochete but towards round forms as well. Baicalein and luteolin also decreased biofilm aggregates by 50%. An additive effect against spirochete and round forms were seen when baicalein and luteolin was combined with rosmarinic acid and iodine from kelp. A small observational study was completed with 17 individuals diagnosed with persistent Lyme disease. They took the supplement forms of 10-HAD (fatty acid in royal jelly), monolaurin, baicalein, luteolin, rosmarinic acid and iodine for 6 months. 67% of the participants showed improved symptoms.12 Monolaurin can be found in coconut, palm kernel oil, and human breast milk.13 Baicalein can be found from the plant Scutelleria baicelensis. Luteolin can be found in chamomile flowers, parsley, tansy leaf, rooibos tea, fenugreek, peppermint, oregano, shiso, rosemary, sage, green tea, black tea, and oolong tea.14
The above studies do show that constituents of plants often found in common foods and herbs can have activity against specific Borrelia species in the laboratory environment. Studies need to be completed on toxicity and bioavailability before we can translate any of this information into clinical practice. Although one study did show benefit with six supplements, more larger scale double-blind clinical studies need to be performed to determine the effectiveness of treatment in humans. These studies do not imply that first-line treatment should be abandoned but does provide promising data that can guide nutrition for those with Lyme disease. Please consult with your provider regarding your treatment of Lyme disease.
The above information is not intended to serve as diagnosis or treatment for Lyme disease. Please consult with your healthcare provider regarding the treatment of Lyme disease.