Detox Learning Center

13 Herbs to Combat Lyme Coinfections, Including Babesia and Bartonella

 If you’re looking for an effective, natural way to tackle Lyme coinfections, add herbs to your arsenal. Include ones that target bartonella and babesia, the top two coinfections. (1)

As with chronic borrelia (Lyme) infections, antibiotics often aren’t effective for coinfections. And relapses are common. Plus, many conventional approaches have unwanted side effects. (2, 3, 4

On top of that, you may have borrelia or Lyme coinfections and not know it. They’re difficult to test for. And many symptoms are vague — like fatigue, joint pain, and headaches. You may even have the coinfections without Lyme disease. (5, 6, 7)

Fortunately, herbs can help you fight back against these tricky infections. Some of the same herbs used to fight Lyme disease also help with bartonella and babesia. That includes boneset, black walnut hull, and sweet wormwood.

Several other herbs — including clove, red root, and oregano — also target coinfections. And some support your immune system, protect your liver, or help ease pain.

So, if you have any Lyme-related infections — or suspect you do — it’s wise to tackle them with synergistic combinations of herbs. 

Take a closer look at 13 herbs to help you combat Lyme coinfections, including babesia and bartonella. Some may support your journey through Lyme disease as well.

1. Cilantro

The leaves and stems of the Coriandrum sativum plant are commonly known as cilantro or Chinese parsley. Sometimes it’s called coriander. But in the United States, the term coriander is used for the dried seeds of the plant. They’re used as a cooking spice. (8)

Cilantro is popular in Mexican food, such as in salsa. The fresh leaves are also used to flavor Thai and Vietnamese cooking. But cilantro also has several potential health benefits. (9)

Preliminary animal and lab studies suggest cilantro and its phytochemicals may help:

  • Decrease pain (10)
  • Support liver health (11, 12)
  • Inhibit inflammation (13)
  • Provide antioxidant defense (11)
  • Combat DNA damage (14, 15)
  • Promote healthy blood sugar (11)
  • Improve cholesterol profiles (11, 16
  • Deter seizures (17
  • Protect skin from sun damage (18, 19)
  • Combat harmful microbes (8)

For example, an animal study suggests that cilantro extracts may work as well as morphine for reducing pain. The pain-lowering effects may come from cilantro’s rich stores of phytochemicals. This could be helpful for combating the pain of Lyme disease and its coinfections. (10)

Liver health is also a concern in chronic illness. Consider a study in which rodents were injected with a liver toxin. Those that were fed cilantro for three months had a reversal of liver damage. Their liver health was restored and became nearly as good as that of rodents not given the toxin. (20, 21, 22)

2. Clove Bud

Syzygium aromaticum or clove is a familiar cooking spice. But it could also help combat parasites. (23, 24)

Babesia is a single-celled parasite that often infects people with Lyme disease. The pathogen invades your red blood cells, multiplying until the cells burst. (125)

Lab studies suggest clove extract is effective against several species of babesia. And a mouse study found that clove extract inhibited a Babesia microti infection by 69%. That’s a species of the parasite that commonly infects people. (3, 26)

Clove may also help you tackle Lyme and coinfections by disrupting biofilm. So, what’s biofilm?

Biofilm is like a slimy “blanket” that microbes build to shield themselves. Borrelia and bartonella can use biofilm to hide from your immune system, antibiotics, and other threats to their wellbeing. (2, 27, 28

But clove may help disrupt biofilm production. In one lab study, clove extract reduced Candida’s biofilm formation by 65–84%, depending on what it was grown on. (29)

Other lab tests have found clove oil effective against the biofilm of Klebsiella pneumoniae, a common gut pathogen. It’s an opportunistic microbe. This means it takes advantage of people with immune system challenges. Does that sound like you? (30, 31, 32)

Another way clove may support you is by helping heal damaged tissues.

Preliminary research suggests clove oil may help reduce skin inflammation and support tissue healing. It may also help combat scarring in your liver. Eugenol, a phytochemical in clove, is anti-inflammatory. (33)

3. Common Wireweed

Common Wireweed

Sida acuta or common wireweed is a traditional herbal remedy in India and is used in the practice of Ayurveda. Historically, the herb has been used for wound healing, liver issues, and anxiety. Now scientists are confirming these benefits, among others. (34, 35)  

Lab tests and animal studies suggest common wireweed may help: (34, 36, 37, 38)

  • Provide antioxidant protection 
  • Calm inflammation
  • Decrease pain
  • Reduce fevers
  • Safeguard the liver from toxins
  • Protect against seizures
  • Combat high blood sugar
  • Reduce anxiety and promote relaxation
  • Defend against harmful bacteria 
  • Fight fungi, including Candida 
  • Tackle viruses, such as herpes simplex 
  • Combat certain parasites

One parasite that wireweed could address is Plasmodium falciparum. It causes malaria. The parasite infects your red blood cells. That sounds familiar, doesn’t it? As mentioned above, babesia also infects your red blood cells and destroys them. (6, 39)

Wireweed helps protect red blood cells. Though the herb hasn’t been tested against babesia, it’s been shown to combat P. falciparum in lab tests. And, scientists use anti-malarial drugs to treat babesia since the two parasites are similar. (40, 41)

The phytochemical cryptolepine is a major component of wireweed. It tackles the malaria parasite and protects red blood cells. (42, 43)

One precaution is that a rodent study suggests certain extracts of common wireweed may interfere with pregnancy. But normal fertility returned when the herb was discontinued. (44)

4. Cryptolepis Root

Cryptolepis sanguinolenta or cryptolepis root has long been used to fight malaria in West Africa. The herb contains one of the same phytochemicals that common wireweed has — cryptolepine. Remember, it helps protect red blood cells from parasites. That may include babesia. (42, 45)

Cryptolepis root may help combat other harmful microbes as well. 

In lab tests, cryptolepis root extract helped prevent the growth of 11 of the 16 pathogenic bacteria tested. That included the opportunistic pathogens K. pneumoniae and Staphylococcus aureus. (46

Cryptolepis root may also help quell the pain and inflammation that accompanies microbial infections. That could be helpful if you have Lyme and coinfections. (47, 48, 49)

You might take pain medications like aspirin or ibuprofen. But they could damage your stomach lining. Cryptolepis root didn’t have this negative side effect in an animal study. Yet the herb calmed inflammation, particularly when taken in a higher dose. (50, 51)

Cryptolepis root may also protect liver health. Lab research suggests compounds in the herb could help prevent scar tissue in the liver. More research is needed in this area. (52)

5. Dandelion Root

Taraxacum officinale, commonly called dandelion, is a plant you probably try to banish from your lawn. But, this “weed” is edible. In fact, it has some unique phytochemicals that could support your health. That includes beneficial compounds in the plant’s roots.

In traditional Chinese medicine, dandelion is used to encourage good bile flow. It’s also used to promote liver health and combat inflammation. Now scientists are studying this plant to confirm these and other health benefits. (53)

Results from animal and lab studies suggest dandelion root extract may help:

  • Provide antioxidant and anti-inflammatory support: Some of these benefits come from sesquiterpenes in dandelion root. These are bitter phytochemicals. But clearly, bitterness isn’t all bad, given the protective effects of the compounds. (54, 55)   
  • Support bile flow: The bitter compounds in dandelion root promote bile production and secretion. In animal research, fresh dandelion root doubled the bile output of dogs. Remember, bile is one route by which you eliminate toxins. (56
  • Protect your liver: In a mouse study, dandelion root extract helped prevent liver scarring after toxin exposure. In another rodent study, the extract helped protect the liver from gamma radiation. That’s used in medical treatments. The extract was more effective if taken before radiation exposure. (57, 58)
  • Defend against pathogens: A lab study found dandelion root extract effective against MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus). That’s a tough-to-treat type of S. aureus. You’re at a higher risk of contracting it if your immune system is weakened. (54, 59) 
  • Promote microbiome health: In a lab test, dandelion root extract increased the growth of certain strains of bifidobacteria. These microbes support your gut health. Inulin — a type of fiber in dandelion root — is one factor that could encourage the growth of good bacteria. (60, 61)

      6. Licorice Root

      Licorice Root

      Glycyrrhiza glabra, commonly known as licorice root, isn’t just a candy flavoring. The herb has been used for medicinal purposes in Asia for centuries. Licorice has traditionally been used for stomach ulcers, viral infections, and mental health issues. (62

      Now science is confirming that licorice root could have potent health benefits. It may promote cellular health, protect your liver, and combat harmful microbes. Here’s a look at how.

      Licorice root may stimulate your cells’ Nrf2 pathway. That’s a true ally for your cells. Nrf2 boosts the antioxidant protection of your cells. It also helps decrease inflammation, regulate detox, and increase your cells’ creation of mitochondria. (63, 64)

      Animal and lab studies suggest licorice root extract may also help protect your liver. That includes defending this vital organ against toxins that it processes for elimination. At least part of this protection comes from the herb’s ability to increase Nrf2 activity. (64)

      In addition, the phytochemicals in licorice root have potent antimicrobial effects. That includes inhibiting bacteria, viruses, and fungi. Licorice root may prevent some microbes from making protective biofilms. It may also prevent them from multiplying. (65

      Lastly, licorice root may help combat inflammation, such as in joint pain. That could be of help if you have Lyme or its coinfections. Joint pain is a common symptom in borrelia, babesia, and bartonella infections. (66, 67, 68, 69, 70)

      7. Oregano

      Origanum vulgare or oregano may be best known as a flavoring for Italian dishes. More than likely, you have some in your kitchen.

      But you may not know oregano has traditionally been used for coughs, stomach issues, and menstrual cramps. And scientific interest in the herb has been growing. (71)

      Some potential health actions of oregano, according to lab and animal studies, include helping: (71)

      • Combat pathogenic bacteria
      • Inhibit fungal (mold) growth
      • Reduce inflammation
      • Provide antioxidant support
      • Protect nerves
      • Safeguard the liver
      • Prevent kidney stones
      • Reduce cancer risk

      One bacteria that oregano may help kill is borrelia. That includes biofilm and resistant round bodies, which the bacteria form when threatened. In fact, in one lab study, oregano oil was more effective than daptomycin. That’s a potent drug used for resistant forms of borrelia. (72

      Another lab study found that oregano oil killed all but 7% of resistant forms of bartonella bacteria within five days. Resistant forms promote chronic infection. (73)  

      Initial tests suggest much of oregano’s effectiveness against pathogens comes from carvacrol. This phytochemical may weaken bacterial membranes. Plus, animal studies suggest carvacrol could cross your blood-brain barrier. (72)

      Preliminary evidence also suggests carvacrol helps prevent bacteria and fungi from generating toxins. It’s often their toxins — rather than the pathogens per se — that make you feel sick. (74)

      8. Oregon Grape Root

      Oregon Grape Root

      Mahonia aquifolium — commonly known as Oregon grape — is native to the United States. Despite its name, this shrub doesn’t actually produce grapes. Instead, it bears tart purplish-blue berries. 

      The root of the plant has long been valued for its health properties. It’s traditionally been used topically for skin conditions. And several human studies suggest it’s effective for psoriasis when used in a skin ointment. (75)

      Some of Oregon grape root’s health effects come from berberine. This phytochemical’s benefits could extend well beyond your skin. (75)

      Both animal and human research have shown liver-protective effects of berberine. It may help defend your liver against toxins like heavy metals. And it may help shield your liver from pathogen-related damage. (76, 77, 78, 79)

      Part of berberine’s liver benefits come from its ability to help calm inflammation and oxidative damage. Inflammation increases in chronic infections as your immune system fights the pathogens. That includes borrelia and its coinfections. (80, 81, 82, 83, 84)

      In addition, berberine may help guard against pathogens directly. 

      For example, lab tests have found berberine extract was effective against single-celled parasites. These included Giardia lamblia and Entamoeba histolytica. You may think you’re “just” fighting Lyme and coinfections. But parasites are often a factor in complex illness, too. (85)

      Berberine may have antibacterial activity as well. It hasn’t been tested against borrelia and common coinfections. But lab tests found it effective against several other harmful bacteria. (86, 87

      9. Quassia Bark

      Picrasma excelsa or quassia is a tree that grows in tropical areas. Quassia bark has been used in traditional medicine to support digestion and relieve diarrhea. Traditionally, it’s also been used for intestinal parasites, malaria, and fevers. (88, 89)

      Quassia’s claimed benefits for digestive health may be due to its bitter nature. Bitter-tasting plants are commonly used to support digestion. They may stimulate the release of digestive juices and bile. (89, 90)

      Some of the bitterness of quassia bark comes from phytochemicals called quassinoids. These may have benefits beyond digestion. (91)

      Quassinoids may help lower inflammation and increase your antioxidant defenses. That may help protect your liver, which is vital for detox. 

      Quassia extract increased antioxidant defenses in rats exposed to a liver toxin. The extract prevented damage to liver cells, compared to the control group. (92)

      Lab studies also suggest quassinoids may help combat viruses, malaria, and cancer. In one lab test, certain quassinoids inhibited malaria parasite growth by 50%. (93, 94

      Plus, the phytochemicals in quassia bark may help you with babesia. Remember that this parasite infects and damages your red blood cells. Without enough red blood cells, you could develop anemia. That could leave your cells short on oxygen, resulting in fatigue. (95

      Quassia may have anti-anemia effects. Consider a study of rats given quassia extract. Their red blood cell count increased significantly compared to the control group. Quassia triggered the production of new red blood cells. (88)

      10. Red Root

      Red Root

      Ceanothus americanus is a short, dense bush. It’s commonly known as red root because of its thick — you guessed it — red roots. It’s also known as New Jersey Tea. That’s because its leaves were used as a tea substitute during the Revolutionary War. (96)

      In traditional medicine, red root has been used to stop bleeding. It’s also been used for high blood pressure, cancer, and spleen pain. (96)

      Your spleen is part of the lymphatic system and helps filter out pathogens from your blood. It also filters out infected red blood cells, such as those damaged by babesia. And it helps make new red blood cells when there’s an increased demand. (97, 98)

      Based on traditional usage, red root may support your spleen and lymphatic system. This includes increasing lymph flow. That could help your spleen remove cellular debris from dead microbes. And this could potentially reduce die-off symptoms. (96, 98)

      Red root may also fight some pathogens directly. Initial lab tests suggest red root may help combat bacteria that cause tooth decay. A common example is Streptococcus mutans. (99, 100)

      Considering the promising preliminary evidence and historical usage, more research is needed on this impressive plant.

      11. Suma Root

      Pfaffia paniculata or suma root is also called Brazilian ginseng and grows in South America. But it isn’t a true (Panax) ginseng. Rather, suma root has some similar benefits as ginseng. (101)

      Both suma root and ginseng are adaptogens. This means they could help your body handle a broad-spectrum of stressors. That includes things like infections, toxins, and psychological stress. (101, 102)

      For example, scientists exposed rats to a toxin that causes gut inflammation. Then they were given suma root extract for a week. Rodents given suma root had significantly less colon inflammation than the control group.

      This was partly due to suma root triggering increased production of protective mucus. The herb also acted on cells’ master regulators of inflammation, reducing inflammatory “signaling.” (103, 104)

      Lab tests suggest that suma root may also be a potent biofilm disruptor. Lyme and its coinfections can be tough to treat because of the protective biofilm they create. (2, 105)

      Suma root hasn’t been tested against Lyme biofilm. But it has been tested against other bacteria, including antibiotic-resistant K. pneumoniae. In a lab test, suma root extract reduced the amount of K. pneumoniae biofilm by 55% within five minutes. (105)

      12. Thyme

      Thymus vulgaris or thyme contains potent phytochemicals, including thymol and carvacrol. (The latter is the same as what’s in oregano.) These and other phytochemicals in thyme contribute to its health benefits. (106)

      Lab and animal tests suggest thyme may help in complex, chronic illness by:

      • Inhibiting Lyme bacteria: Thyme essential oil suppresses both the spirochete and cyst forms (active and resistant forms, respectively) of borrelia, according to lab tests. (107)
      • Breaking up biofilm: Lab tests suggest that thyme oil may significantly reduce bacterial biofilm. In fact, thyme may work better than some major antibiotic drugs. Also, lab tests suggest thyme may inhibit biofilm formation by Candida albicans. (108, 109)
      • Lowering inflammation: Scientists are studying thyme extracts — including thymol and carvacrol — for use in treating inflammatory disorders. Lab tests suggest thyme may reduce your inflammatory response to bacterial toxins. (106, 110)
      • Reducing pain: Human and animal studies suggest thyme helps reduce pain. In one study, 71% of women taking supplemental thyme rated it “excellent” for reducing their monthly cycle pain. But only 28% of women taking ibuprofen rated the drug as excellent. (111, 112)
      • Protecting your liver: Animal studies suggest thyme helps prevent liver damage due to chemical toxins and drugs, including acetaminophen. Thyme helps protect against toxins by bolstering antioxidant defenses in your liver. (113)
      • Preserving joints: Animal studies of rheumatoid arthritis — an autoimmune disease — suggest thyme helps prevent collagen breakdown in joints. Thyme may also reduce joint inflammation. Remember, Lyme and coinfections can inflame your joints. (113)
      • Combating parasites: Mice infected with Trichinella spiralis — a parasitic roundworm — were given thyme extract for three days. The number of adult worms decreased by 79%. Research suggests the herb could be effective against other parasites as well. (114)

      13. White Oak Bark

      White Oak Bark

      Quercus alba or white oak bark was used during the American Civil War as an antiseptic for wounds. In the mid-1800s, there weren’t big pharma companies cranking out all manner of antibiotics. Germs and antibiotic drugs weren’t even a “thing” yet. (115, 116)

      Now research suggests that this traditional use of white oak bark has merit. 

      Scientists found white oak bark extracts effective against drug-resistant bacteria. That included certain strains of K. pneumoniae and S. aureus. As mentioned earlier, these bacteria can take advantage of weakened defenses in chronic illness. (115)

      White oak bark extract may help with infections by: (115, 117)

      • Inhibiting bacterial growth: White oak bark contains phytochemicals called tannins. These could interfere with the biological activities of bacteria.
      • Disrupting biofilm: Remember, biofilm enables bacteria to “hide” and resist attack. White oak bark interferes with biofilm formation. This may be partly due to the barks tannins.
      • Interfering with quorum sensing: Bacteria produce chemicals so they can “talk” to each. This is called quorum sensing. That helps them band together and resist your efforts to kill them. White oak bark interferes with quorum sensing.

      And unlike drugs, white oak bark contains a mixture of phytochemicals that could fight bacteria. That makes it unlikely that bacteria will develop resistance to the herb. In contrast, drugs often have just one active compound. (115, 117)

      Herbal Help for Lyme Coinfections

      Herbs that help fight chronic Lyme disease and its coinfections, including babesia and bartonella, could be as close as your kitchen or backyard. Others only grow in specific regions, such as tropical areas.

      Who knew that simple herbs like dandelion root, thyme, and oregano could have such potent antimicrobial and health-supportive actions? So do less familiar ones like quassia bark, suma root, and cryptolepis.

      Research suggests these and other herbs may help:

      • Fight Lyme and coinfections
      • Disrupt resistant biofilm
      • Tackle opportunistic infections
      • Bolster antioxidant defenses
      • Calm inflammation
      • Reduce pain
      • Safeguard red blood cells
      • Protect your liver
      • Heal tissue damage
      • Promote good drainage
      • Aid detoxification

      On top of that, combining synergistic herbs could give you greater results than using them individually. That’s just what you need to get the upper hand on Lyme and its coinfections.

      What coinfection symptoms are you up against? How will you use herbs to help?

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