Fall is truly upon us now and this is one of the times of the year that ticks seem to be most prevalent in the Northeast/Adirondack foothills. Spring is the other season when they're highly active. During the summer when we may popularly think of ticks being about, they are less of a problem because they don't thrive in hot or dry conditions. Ticks thrive in cold, damp conditions and although they can be present during both winter and summer, they are far more active at spring and fall.
For me this means that I become more vigilant and discerning when I’m out walking, hiking, or wildcrafting. Ticks are found most abundantly in tall grass, brush-like areas such as where you would find goldenrod growing, and in leaf litter on the forest floor. Any place where you may be standing or walking where the vegetation is high enough that it touches your ankles or legs and part of your clothing or person, including hair, is a place where there could potentially be ticks. I know, it’s crazy!
It’s important to note that what we call Deer Ticks are called that because our white-tail deer host them during all phases of their life cycle, BUT, and this is important, all mammals can carry ticks. AND the primary vector for spreading ticks in the grasses and leaf litter are rodents. When we consider Lyme disease from a standpoint of ecological imbalance we can see that overpopulation of various rodents, as well as deer, is a major contributing factor. I must add that the word “overpopulation”, when regarding both deer and rodents, or any species other than human, is really not accurately placed upon them. It’s more an overpopulation of humans resulting in habitat loss and overcrowded living conditions for other animals. I will also take this opportunity to add a plug for the goodness of predators and, specifically here, coyotes. Coyotes are hunted ruthlessly and I am a strong proponent of stopping this behavior immediately. Rodents are a mainstay of coyote diets.
Tick season also means that I’m receiving a lot of calls and messages from folks who want to know about prevention and treatment of Lyme disease so I decide to update and post my latest recommendations. These are the herbal preparations that I use for myself and my family as well as what I have been suggesting to friends and client for several years. I’ve updated some of the herbs and added a list of where they can be purchased. If you get bit by a tick and don’t have everything that is recommended just use what you have.
Please note that I cannot make recommendations about whether or not folks should take antibiotics after getting bit, if there is a suspected infection, or at any stage of lyme dissemination. This is a personal choice and I have seen successes of treatment with and without antibiotics. I have also seen the effects of undiagnosed and untreated Lyme disease and the personal risk of not taking antibiotics for a confirmed infection should be strongly examined. I can say that early diagnosis and treatment with antibiotics coupled with herbs is extremely effective based on my clinical and personal experience. Antibiotics have their highest level of effectiveness during early stage infection. Both Lyme (and Lyme co-infections) and the excessive use of antibiotics can have long-term and devastating health effects. In making any decision about treatment protocols for yourself or family members it’s important to consider overall immune conditions, other health related concerns, health history, lifestyle, intuition, and the ability to comply successfully with whatever treatment is chosen.
Herbal Recommendations for Post-Tick Bite Lyme Prevention
I. Your best defense against Lyme disease is a healthy immune system. Your immune cells are capable of fending off a Lyme infection when it is in optimal health. These tips will support and strengthen your body to its highest immune potential.
A well-balanced diet that includes essential nutrients, healthy fats and good quality protein. Animal proteins are the most nutritious when they are derived from grass-fed and humanely raised animals or wild game. Vegetarian proteins are best sourced from organically grown plants.
A healthy microbiome/gut flora that includes a diverse population of “good” bacteria that promotes the complete digestion and assimilation of nutrients.
Sunlight and fresh air. The best and, possibly, the only true and reliable source of Vitamin D is sunlight. Even as little as 20 to 30 minutes per day of morning sunlight is enough depending on skin type.
Balanced activity and effective coping mechanisms. Stress is a major impediment to good health as stress hormones interfere with the immune response. Excessive activity and time demands increase stress and making it more difficult to cook good quality meals and gain enough rest
Rest, rest, rest! At least 8 hours per night or more is essential to good health. Naps are like super heroes for your health if you can take them. Rest is difficult when we are stressed out or feel like we have too much to do but if you get sick with a chronic illness it will be hard to get anything done at all.
II. If bitten by a tick or other possible Lyme vector:
***There has been much recent speculation that Borrelia burgdorferi(Lyme bacteria) can be spread by other insects including mosquitoes and black flies
- Most importantly, don't panic. I know that's hard and I've done it myself but just because you have been bitten by a tick does not mean you will get Lyme disease. And stress hormones reduce the effectiveness of your immune system. Just try and align with the knowledge that your body has an awesome way of protecting you and, in the meantime, stay vigilant for signs and symptoms. Knowing the symptoms of Lyme disease is crucial
- Remove the tick as soon as possible. It is not true that the bacteria can’t be transmitted unless the tick is embedded for several hours. The bacteria live in the gut of the tick and are released into the bloodstream of a mammal host when the tick regurgitates as it backs itself out. This can happen at any time. I repeat, the borrelia, the lyme disease causing bacteria, live in the stomach of the tick and at any time when they are embedded they can regurgitate it into the bloodstream of their host.
Burning the tick, using soap or alcohol, or twisting the tick to get it out will provoke it to regurgitate.
Use a pair of pointed tweezers or a commercial tick removers to quickly pull the tick straight out. It’s ok if the head remains although it freaks everyone out. The head does not cause Lyme infection and digging at it to get it out CAN cause infection. If it’s driving you crazy you may want to go to an urgent care or your primary physician to have them remove it.
Some people choose to send the tick to a lab for testing. You can have the tick tested for Borrelia and other co-infections. To find a lab to send the tick to you can go to: Tickencounter.com. They have a list of labs and full instructions on how to package up your tick. The cost is around $40 depending on the lab and extra for various co-infections.
III. Once you have removed the tick have some or all of the following herbs in your medicine cabinet.
- 2-4 ounces of Echinacea purpurea or angustifolia (or a combination) extract
Soak a cotton ball in Echinacea extract and place it directly on the bite with a band-aid. Do this 2x per day for 2 days. Cryptolepis (see below) can be added to the cotton ball as well.
Take Echinacea extract internally at the dose of 1 dropper 3-4 x per day for 2 weeks
2-4 ounces of Astragalus Root extract at the dose of 30-60 drops 3x per day for 30 days
****PLEASE NOTE! It is generally NOT recommended that Astragalus Root be used post tick bite by those with chronic Lyme disease. If you have chronic Lyme you may want to eliminate this part of the protocol. BUT I have chronic Lyme and I do use it with no problems.
****Astragalus is contraindicated in pregnancy but safe for children
Homeopathic Ledum palustre 30c, 3 pellets 3x per day for 3 days
POST TICK BITE PLUS (If you have the resources add this)
2-4 ounces of Cryptolepis extract at the dose of 30-60 drops 3x per day for 2-4 weeks. Also can be added to Echinacea soaked cotton ball and placed directly on bite.
Cryptolepis is a broad spectrum antibiotic herb from Africa that was used widely as a traditional herb for the treatment of malaria. It has been well researched and written about by Stephen Buhner in his book "Herbal Antibiotics". I have had many years of experience using it and find it to have variable results for Lyme and Lyme co-infections. It seems to work remarkably well for some and not as well for others but, because of its well-recorded anti-bacterial activity, it is a worthy advocate for any tick related situation.
POST TICK BITE PLUS PLUS (If you're really on your game)
You may want to add Plantain fresh leaf or tincture directly on the bite with Echinacea soaked cotton ball as well.
Teasel flower essence treatments are my personal primary treatment for post tick bite and any stage of Lyme infection. These treatments must be done by a qualified flower essence practitioner. To find one near you call Delta Gardens: 603-601-6929 or go to deltagardens.com
In the Mohawk Valley these treatments are available from myself and Susan Roback at Windspirit Holistics
IV. Signs of Lyme Infection
- You may get a rash. This happens in about 50% of Lyme infections. The classic bull’s eye rash is only ONE way that a Lyme rash can appear. There are several atypical rashes that may arise and they can be round or irregular, there may be more than one and may or may not be at the bite site. They can look like a bruise, ringworm, a spider bite, cellulitis, and can be in the shape of a line.
If you take antibiotics take a good quality probiotic. My favorite brands are: Pharmax and Ultra Flora Plus by Metagenics
See a qualified alternative health care practitioner. Antibiotics have a high failure rate as a treatment for Lyme disease with the best outcomes occurring if used as quickly as possible after infection. There are numerous alternative and holistic protocols available and I have not yet found one protocol that works for everyone. Lyme manifests uniquely in each person and usually finds its way to the weakest system or point in the body. This is why protocols must be crafted individually with a holistic approach that includes nutritionally, emotional and lifestyle components.
For info on some of the major herbal protocols you can refer to:
Healing Lyme, by Stephen Buhner
Healing Lyme Disease Naturally, by Wolf D. Storl
For the most up to date information on Lyme disease for physicians, public awareness, treatment guidelines and patient advocacy go to: International Lyme and Associated Disease Society: ILADS.org
Where to buy herbs:
- Woodland Essence has all of the tinctures mentioned above: Echinacea, Astragalus, and Cryptolepis: https://woodlandessence.com
- The homeopathic remedy, Ledum palustre, is available at amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Boiron-Ledum-palustre-pellets-Pack/dp/B01M9BB4B7/ref=sr_1_1_sspa?ie=UTF8&qid=1507835856&sr=8-1-spons&keywords=ledum%2B30c&th= And may be found at your local health food store.
- In the Mohawk Valley the Little Falls Co-op has all of these available but call ahead to make sure they're in stock: (315) 823-0686