For people struggling with Herxheimer reactions and elevated Liver enzymes due to Lyme toxins
by Greg Lee
When I was a boy, I was given a Swiss army knife. In addition to having a knife, it had all sorts of great attachments like a screwdriver, saw, and scissors. I used it to cut rope for holding up tents, saw up kindling for fires, and slice up Vienna Sausages when I would go camping with my friends.
How can liver protecting herbs help you fight Lyme disease similar to the many uses of a Swiss Army Knife?
Herbs can help you in several ways against Lyme disease toxins
Patients face a big challenge in trying to prevent Lyme disease toxins from aggravating symptoms and damaging vital organs like the liver. Similar to the multiple tools on a Swiss Army Knife, there are herbs that have multiple ways of helping the liver to deal with these toxins, fight infections, and reduce toxic symptoms. These herbs are especially useful when anti-Lyme medicines and treatments increase the level of toxins in the body which stress the liver and increase symptoms.
Medications and treatment can release more toxins which intensify Lyme disease symptoms
When Lyme spirochetes are killed by anti-Lyme medicines or treatments, the dead pieces of the bacteria release toxins called endotoxins in the body. The liver filters these toxins out of the blood and dumps them into your intestines to be eliminated. Huge releases of toxins can overwhelm the liver’s ability to filter them out. These toxins overflow throughout the body and can aggravate symptoms of pain, fatigue, and confusion. Aggravated symptoms due to a toxic die off of Lyme bacteria is called a Herxheimer reaction or Herx for short. Unfortunately, some people cannot eliminate these toxins very effectively.
Approximately, 25% of the population is lacking the genes to eliminate Lyme toxins1
When antimicrobial medicines or treatments kill off infections, people who lack the genes to eliminate toxins feel much worse for longer periods of time than other people who have the genes. People who are missing the antitoxin genes get much sicker much faster than other people. These people usually take longer to recover and require more extensive support to eliminate their toxins.
Can herbs help to neutralize Lyme toxins?
There are several herbs that are effective at neutralizing Lyme disease endotoxins
Here are four herbs that help Lyme disease patients to reduce their herxheimer reactions. The anti-endotoxin properties of these herbs are demonstrated in animal studies and in clinical results with patients. Just like a Swiss Army Kinfe, these herbs can provide other benefits like protecting vital organs like the liver, killing spirochetes, and reducing inflammation.
Herb #1: Fructus Forsythiae, Chinese name: Lian Qiao2
The properties of this herb are bitter, and cool. Forsythia clears heat, eliminates toxins, treats bleeding under the skin that produces red and purple lesions (purpura), stops vomiting, and promotes urination. This herb is used extensively to treat viral infections that produce heat in the heart and phlegm the lungs3. It treats high fever, irritability, delirium, red swollen eyes, sore throat, ulcers on the tongue, intestinal or lung abscesses, sores, lesions, ulcerations, lumps, nodules, and furuncles.
In one canine study, forsythia was found to be the most effective at clearing bacterial endotoxins4. This herb has also been used to reduce inflammation in a guinea pig study. Forsythia has liver protecting properties. The essential oil of forsythia inhibits Staphylococcus aureus, Diplococcus pneumoniae, Bacillus dysenteriae, Hemolytic streptococcus group a, Hemolytic streptococcus group b, Neisseria catarrhalis, Salmonella typhi, E. coli, Mycobacterium tuberculosis, Bacillus proteus, Bordetella pertussis, Corynebacterium diphtheriae, leptospira, and influenza viruses. This herb is very safe to use and there were no documented cautions or contraindications with medications at the time of publication.
Herb #2: Radix Scutellariae, Chinese name: Huang Qin5
The properties of this herb are: bitter and cold. Scutellaria is used to clear heat, reduce symptoms of infection and inflammation, sedate heat symptoms, eliminate toxins, stop bleeding, calm and stabilize the fetus, and for disorders of the skin, eyes, ears, throat, and nose. It is used to treat abdominal fullness, poor appetite, nausea, sensations of heaviness, thirst with no desire to drink, and people with the diagnostic signs of a red tongue with a greasy yellow coating.
This herb is also used to treat jaundice with bright yellow skin, infectious hepatitis, dysentery, foul-smelling diarrhea, fever, heat sensations in the chest and abdomen, irritability, sore throat, toothache, oral ulcers, tonsillitis, epigastric burning and discomfort, and constipation. Scutellaria is also used to treat burning, scanty, painful, dark urination which may be cloudy or bloody. This herb also treats cough with yellow sputum, yellow nasal discharge, fever, shortness of breath, dry mouth, chest congestion, sore throat, and eye disorders with redness and pain. Scutellaria also treats lesions, sores, and ulcerations.
It stimulates gallbladder activity and has anti-viral, anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, and anti-inflammatory properties. Scutellaria inhibits the cancer-causing effects of fungal toxins, is used to treat chronic fatigue syndrome, reduces anxiety and stress, and relieves headaches. Scutellaria is used to treat encephalitis, hepatitis, Scarlet fever, bacterial eye infections, and hypertension.
It has a wide spectrum inhibitory effect against beta-hemolytic streptococcus (Group B strep), Streptococcus pneumoniae, Staphylococcus aureus, Pseudomonas aeruginosa (which causes problems in cystic fibrosis patients), E. coli, Bordetella pertussis (whooping cough), Vibrio cholerae (cholera), and multiple influenza viruses. It also kills leptospira (another spirochete disease) and is highly effective at neutralizing endotoxins6. A compound from Scutellaria called baicalin potentiates the effectiveness of antibiotics such as ampicillin, amoxicillin, methicillin, and cefotaxime. This herb enhances the antibiotic effect of beta-lactam antibiotics against drug resistant staph infections like MRSA and beta-lactam resistant Staphylococcus aureus. This herb is very safe to use and there were no documented cautions or contraindications with medications at the time of publication.
Herb #3: Radix Bupleuri, Chinese name: Chai Hu7
The properties of this herb are bitter, acrid, and cool. Bupleurum is used to treat disorders that have chills and fever, fullness and distention of the chest and hypochondriac region, a bitter taste in the mouth, dry throat, poor appetite, nausea and vertigo, and irritability. It is used specifically used to guide pathogenic illnesses, like malaria, out of the body. This property makes it an excellent supporting herb for patients with Babesia.
This herb also treats emotional distress, headache, eye disorders, breast swelling and pain, irregular menstruation, amenorrhea, menstrual cramps, and jaundice. Bupleurum treats prolapse of internal organs including the rectum and uterus, shortness of breath, fatigue, and hypermenorrhea. It is used to treat pain, relieve insomnia, reduce inflammation, protect the liver, induce the flow of bile, reduce cholesterol, and stimulate the immune system. This herb is used along with other herbs to treat colds, cough, influenza, chronic bronchitis, pneumonia, and lung cancer.
Bupleurum has an inhibitory effect against beta-hemolytic streptococcus (Group B strep), Vibrio cholerae, Mycobacterium tuberculosis, leptospira, some influenza viruses, poliomyelitis viruses, and hepatitis viruses. The saponin compounds in demonstrated an anti-endotoxin effect even at very low concentrations in one rabbit study8. This herb should be used with caution in patients that are deficient in fluids and have signs of excess heat.
The herb formula Minor Bupleurum Decoction reduced the bioavailability of tolbutamide in one rat study. When used in combination with interferon, there may be an increased risk of acute pneumonitis. One theory is that the herbal combination may over stimulate neutraphils (white blood cells that are part of the innate immune system) to release granulocytes elastase and oxygen radicals which can then damage lung tissue. The single herb Bupleurum may not have the same risk as the herbal combination. This herb has a very low toxicity.
Herb #4: Fructus Gardenia, Chinese name: Zhi Zi9
The properties of this herb are bitter and cold. Gardenia is used to reduce swelling and pain, and to treat febrile disorders, liver infections, and gall bladder infections. It is highly effective in treating irritability, frustration and restlessness, heartburn, high fever, short temper, delirium, depression, and semi-consciousness. This herb also treats carbuncles, furuncles, ulcers, abscesses, headache, red eyes, toothache, sore throat, ulcers on the tongue, and constipation. It is also effective for treating jaundice, infectious hepatitis, gall bladder inflammation, gallstones, urinary tract infections, and painful urination. Gardenia is also used to treat bleeding disorders hematuria (blood in the urine), hemoptysis (coughing up blood), hematemesis (vomiting blood), and epistaxis (nosebleeds). This herb is used especially when the color of the blood is bright red. It is also used for treating traumatic injuries with swelling and bruises like sprains, strains, soft-tissue injuries, and musculoskeletal injuries.
This herb should be used with caution for patients with loose stools combined with a decreased intake of food. This herb can possibly cause drowsiness and sedation. It is to be used with caution in people who operate heavy machinery or in people when they drive vehicles. It may increase the drug induced sleeping time of barbituates which was found in one animal study. In other animal studies, this herb has reduced blood pressure because of it’s stimulation of the parasympathetic nervous system. Gardenia has been found to lower liver enzymes and serum bilirubin, and protects and prevents liver cells from dying. It also stimulates contraction of the gall bladder, production of bile, and increases excretion of bile into the intestines in animal studies. In another mouse study, a Gardenia compound called genipin prevented glutathione depletion, reduced tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-alpha), and demonstrated antioxidative properties10. Two other compounds found in Gardenia, Crocin and crocetin have anti-hyperlipidemic, anti-atherosclerotic, and anti-cancer effects. These two compounds also provide neuroprotection in one rat study by reducing the production of various neurotoxic molecules which shows promise for treating Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease11. It also protected mice from E. coli endotoxin sepsis in another study12.
Gardenia inhibits Staphylococcus aureus, Neisseria meningtidis, and dermatophytes. It also kills leptospira and schistosoma.
The right herbs can help you to protect your liver, kill spirochetes, and neutralize toxins
Just like a Swiss Army Knife, these herbs have multiple properties for helping you to overcome the multiple challenges of a Lyme infection. Through their ability to neutralize endotoxins, these herbs have helped Lyme patients to reduce Herxheimer symptoms of pain, inflammation, and fatigue quickly. Most of these herbs are very safe and have a very low toxicity. Working with a Lyme literate herbalist can help you to develop a proper, safe, and effective herbal strategy for protecting your liver from toxins, killing Lyme and co-infections, and reducing painful Herxheimer reactions.
Next step: Come to our evening lecture: Getting Rid of Lyme Disease in Frederick, Maryland on Monday January 2nd at 6pm to learn more about natural methods for eliminating Lyme disease and toxic symptoms of headaches, fatigue, and pain.
1. R. Shoemaker. Surviving Mold. p. x (Foreward).
2. Chen, John K., and Tina T. Chen. 2004. Chinese Medical Herbology and Pharmacology. City of Industry CA: Art of Medicine Press, Inc., pp. 174 – 176.
3. J. Fratkin. Modern Applications for Anti-Viral Therapy. http://drjakefratkin.com/articles/modern-applications-for-anti-viral-therapy
4. S. Dharmananda. Lonicera and Forsythia: Representatives of the “Floating” Toxin-Cleaning Herbs. http://www.itmonline.org/arts/lonicera.htm
5. Chen, John K., and Tina T. Chen. 2004. Chinese Medical Herbology and Pharmacology. City of Industry CA: Art of Medicine Press, Inc., pp. 137 – 140.
6. S. Dharmananda. Lonicera and Forsythia.
7. Chen, John K., and Tina T. Chen. 2004. Chinese Medical Herbology and Pharmacology. City of Industry CA: Art of Medicine Press, Inc., pp. 84 – 87.
8. Liu Y, Chen Y, Xi W, Bai J. Studies on antiendotoxin action of total saponins from radix Bupleuri. Zhong Yao Cai. 2003 Jun;26(6):423-5.
9. Chen, John K., and Tina T. Chen. 2004. Chinese Medical Herbology and Pharmacology. City of Industry CA: Art of Medicine Press, Inc., pp. 121 – 124.
10. Kim SJ, Kim JK, Lee DU, Kwak JH, Lee SM. Genipin protects lipopolysaccharide-induced apoptotic liver damage in D-galactosamine-sensitized mice. Eur J Pharmacol. 2010 Jun 10;635(1-3):188-93. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20303938
11. Nam KN, Park YM, Jung HJ, Lee JY, Min BD, Park SU, Jung WS, Cho KH, Park JH, Kang I, Hong JW, Lee EH. Anti-inflammatory effects of crocin and crocetin in rat brain microglial cells. Eur J Pharmacol. 2010 Dec 1;648(1-3):110-6. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20854811
12. Zheng X, Yang D, Liu X, Wang N, Li B, Cao H, Lu Y, Wei G, Zhou H, Zheng J. Identification of a new anti-LPS agent, geniposide, from Gardenia jasminoides Ellis, and its ability of direct binding and neutralization of lipopolysaccharide in vitro and in vivo. Int Immunopharmacol. 2010 Oct;10(10):1209-19. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20655404