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When standard antibiotic treatment fails, many of us give holistic or complementary protocols a try. It takes determination to battle the stealth pathogens associated with Lyme and its coinfections. Where pharmaceuticals bombard the body, herbs are more elegant and complex. They work synergistically when encountering these organisms.
As Stephen Harrod Buhner says, “The bacteria are evolving, we need to, too.”
Buhner, master herbalist and author, is well-known to many in the Lyme community for his informative, meticulously researched, and beautifully written books. His popular Lyme protocol has helped scores of Lyme patients, as it picks up where technological medicine leaves off.
His new work, Healing Lyme Disease Coinfections is a reference book for people struggling with these common Lyme coinfections. There is increasing evidence that coinfections such as Bartonella and mycoplasmas are the rule, not the exception, when Lyme is present. How do these coinfections behave in the body, and what can be done to alleviate the problems they create?
Q: Who would you like to read this book, and what do you want them to walk away knowing?
A: Well, the book was written for both people with Lyme and Lyme coinfections and for health professionals and I tried to make it accessible to both groups. These kinds of emerging infections are what some epidemiologists and researchers are calling “second generation” infections. “First generation” are those bacteria that antibacterials were developed for after world war II. In essence, technological medicine already dealt with the easy ones.
The emerging infections, among which are included Lyme and its coinfections, are much more difficult. They tend to be stealth pathogens, much more clever when they infect the body, and they take a different approach. Technological medicine, while a great adjunct, is not capable, at this point in time (if it ever will be), of dealing with this second generation of infectious agents.
So, the purpose of the book is twofold. First: to begin giving a good general sense of how these infectious agents behave and why they do so. This takes a lot of the mystique away from them, lowers the fear level, and allows an intelligent response to treating them. This creates empowerment both for healing professionals and those who are infected.
Second: The standard medical model for treating infections is tremendously flawed and those flaws are rather glaring when it comes to treating stealth infections such as these. I am hoping the book will stimulate the development of a much different approach to treating infections, one that is a great deal more sophisticated than the one currently in use. The bacteria are evolving, we need to, too.
Q: Why should people with Lyme be concerned about coinfections and mycoplasma?
A: Coinfections make treating Lyme much more difficult due to the synergy between Lyme and other coinfectious agents. Research has found, time and time again, that coinfection is much more common than not. Those with coinfections tend to be sicker longer, have more difficult symptoms, possess a lower quality of life, and are much less likely to heal from the use of monotherapies such as antibiotics.
Q: Please give us a basic working definition of mycoplasma.
A: Perhaps the tiniest bacteria known, mycoplasma must scavenge almost all of its nutrients from its host by breaking down host cellular tissues. It has an affinity for mucus membrane systems and cilia and once in the body creates a kind of nutrient starvation in the host which results in a wide range of symptoms, much as lyme does.
Q: What is mycoplasma's relation to Lyme disease? How long have medical doctors been noticing its relationship to Lyme?
A: Mycoplasma, like most of the coinfections, is very new to medical doctors. Like most [coinfections], it has only come to prominence in the past 15 years or so, more so each year. As with the other coinfectious agents, it is spread by tickbite (among other things). As researchers have looked deeper into the Lyme epidemic, they have found that mycoplasma is a much more common coinfection than realized.
Q: Please elaborate on the issue of chronic Lyme -- the idea being that many of us go 'chronic' because we were not diagnosed early enough for treatment to be fully effective. How can a working knowledge of herbal remedies help?
A: About 60 percent of people who are infected with Lyme can be helped by antibiotics. Five to ten percent are not. Thirty to thirty-five percent appear to be helped initially but relapse. Added to that are the very large group of people who are never properly diagnosed with lyme. About half of those heal naturally over time, the others do not.
In consequence there is a large group of people that develop chronic Lyme. In that population, about half will respond to a fairly simple herbal protocol, the others will not. Herbs are much more elegant medicinal agents than pharmaceuticals in that they contain hundred to thousands of complex compounds that work together synergistically when confronted by disease organisms.
The plants have been here much longer than people and they have developed extremely sophisticated responses to infections. when we take them internally, those responses are medicines for us. The very nature of stealth pathogens and their wide impacts on the body make herbs a very useful approach.
In essence, successful treatment of Lyme infections needs to address: immune status, inflammation dynamics that are breaking down cellular tissues in the body (cytokine cascades), specific symptoms, and the long term damage, especially in the nervous system, that lyme causes. Pharmaceuticals are useless for most of those. Each of those problems can often be addressed with one or two plants due to the complexity of compounds in the plants.
Q: Please say a few words about the difference(s) between plain old resveratrol capsules and Japanese knotweed, and why you prefer whichever you prefer.
A: I always wanted to use Japanese knotweed root itself for treating Lyme, however, when I first wrote the book there were no decent suppliers for the herb in the U.S. It turned out that a number of resveratrols were made using knotweed root, in fact what they were were actually standardized knotweed root, so that is what I first suggested.
Now that the herb has proved so helpful to so many, a number of growers and harvesters have made it commonly available. I like the whole, powdered, root the best for several reasons. First it is much cheaper than the capsules. Second, I think that it is much easier to take these herbs if the powder is simply blended into liquid and then drunk. Taking all those capsules is a pain.
And, just my own preference . . . I like wild plants or those organically grown. They haven’t been mucked about with; there is much less standing between us and the plants.
Thank you, Stephen!