Disclaimer: I am not a doctor and this information should not be considered medical advice. This post is for informational purposes only; you should seek the advice of your own medical professional for your own situation.
The weather has been beautiful the past several weeks, which means that we have been outside a great deal. Being outside is great for our health; we are soaking up Vitamin D from the sun, walking around barefoot and grounding our energy, and getting lots of fresh air. But spending time outdoors, as good for you as it is, comes with its own set of risks. Warm weather brings about an increase in ticks, which carry Lyme disease, among many others. Tick bites require immediate treatment to be able to minimize the potential effects of Lyme. So you’ve gotten a tick bite; what do you do now?
First things first: Remove the tick
If you have found a tick on yourself, you need to remove it properly and have it tested. In order to properly remove a tick, you need to get some tweezers with a very fine point. Grasp the tick as close to the surface of your skin as you can and pull upward firmly, but slowly. Put it in a sealed plastic bag and send it to a lab to find out what diseases it was carrying. This is the best way to know what you’re dealing with.
Don’t use essential oils to remove a tick, as this can stimulate the tick and cause regurgitation as well. You want to minimize the amount of microbes that are being passed into your body.
Do not wait for results from the lab, just immediately start treating. You don’t need a CDC positive test in order to begin treatments. Lyme testing is notoriously unreliable, so you don’t even need to waste your time with it; it’s more important to immediately start treatment. If you were “lucky enough” to get the bulls-eye rash (as only 1/3 of those bitten get the rash), that is a positive test right there. You have Lyme.
Remember- these steps for treatment of a tick bite are regardless of symptoms. You can be asymptomatic and still have Lyme in your bloodstream, just waiting for an opportunity. Treat first.
Once you have removed the tick and cleaned the bite area, Stephen Buhner (genius herbalist and creator of the Buhner Lyme Protocol) recommends that you make a paste out of andrographis tincture mixed with bentonite clay. Apply it to the bite area and let it dry, then wash it off. You may re-apply every few hours for a couple of days if it’s not irritating your skin.
The bentonite clay can cause minor skin irritation, so be sure to moisturize in-between treatments. This paste will help absorb many of the toxins out of the immediate area and hopefully minimize the impact of the microbes if it’s done soon enough.
Additionally, Buhner recommends that you get some astragalus tincture and begin taking 3,000mg daily (for adults) for 30 days, followed by 1,000mg daily indefinitely. Remember, Lyme can hide in your tissues and once you have it you can put it into remission; but it will likely never be completely out of your body again. It just lies in wait until it sees another opportunity.
Antibiotics for a Tick Bite
If you have a doctor who understands Lyme, try to get an antibiotic from them. Antibiotics are only useful for acute Lyme; once it’s crossed the threshold into chronic Lyme, antibiotics are useless. Adults should get 100mg doxycycline for 6 weeks if they can from their doctor. However, if your doctor doesn’t understand Lyme and refuses this prescription for you, then you can either find an LLMD (Lyme Literate MD) to treat you, or just skip this step and move on to herbal therapy.
Herbal Therapy for a Tick Bite
The core herbal protocol that Stephen Buhner recommends is as follows:
- Japanese Knotweed Root
- Cat’s Claw Bark
- Additional herbs required for co-infections*
His book explains the treatments in more detail, and I highly recommend reading it to understand the disease you’re treating more thoroughly. It’s extremely complex, but the more you understand it, the more successful you will be at treating it!
An easier way to begin immediate herbal therapy is to go with the Restore Program from Vital Plan. These have many of the same herbs that Buhner recommends, but they’re easier to take and eliminates having to have several tinctures on hand and measuring doses 3 times a day.
I find it to be much easier, and have personally been on it for 14 months. While I still take tinctures for co-infections, I feel that this protocol has been 75% of my healing.
So, you’ve treated the tick bite, started on herbs, and perhaps even gotten an antibiotic. Now what?
Detox Your Body
Please, please, please don’t overlook this one. Detoxification when treating Lyme disease is so important. The herbs and antibiotics have one purpose when it comes to Lyme; to kill it off. However, the microbes die-off in large amounts, releasing toxins into our body and backing up our liver and detox pathways. This causes a Herxheimer Reaction, or a herx.
It causes additional inflammation in the body, which exacerbates symptoms and makes you feel very sick. You can have flu-like symptoms, headache, nausea, aching; or you could have physical pain, increased anxiety, brain fog, and other issues.
You have to help your body to detoxify from the Lyme die-off so that it can function properly. How do you do that?
- Epsom Salt Baths– These help immensely because they help to draw the toxins out through your skin, allowing the burden to be eased on your liver. Put 1-2 cups of epsom salt in a warm bath, and soak in it for 20-30 minutes.
- Activated Charcoal– This is great for adhering to the endotoxins responsible for a herx. It’s suggested to take 1/4-1/2 teaspoon one to two hours after a treatment. However, make sure that you don’t take supplements or meds within 2 hours of taking charcoal; it can bind to the medicine too and prevent it from being absorbed. Drink LOTS of water with activated charcoal, or it can constipate you. (Be careful with the powder- it stains!)
- Chlorella- This works in a similar way as the charcoal- it binds to toxins and removes them from the body. It also stimulates your liver and helps it to function more optimally.
- Castor Oil Pack- These packs are fantastic for stimulating your lymphatic system and your liver and encouraging them to detoxify. They work very quickly, and offer numerous health benefits, while being very safe and easy to do.
- Dandelion Root Tea- Dandelion root is known for stimulating your liver and helping it to function correctly in order to eliminate toxins from the body.
- Dry Brushing- Using a stiff-bristled dry brush, you brush your skin in the direction of lymph flow in order to stimulate your lymphatic system and get it pumping, eliminating toxins.
- Mild Exercise- If you can move, move. Even if it’s just a light walk; moving your muscles, getting your blood & lymphatic system pumping, and sweating is a great way to help your body to clear out toxins.
Detoxing is not a one-time event. It’s something that needs to become a regular part of your routine, because there will be continued die-off as you treat. And you do not need to do all of these detox routines; pick and choose which ones work for you. If you’ve got a major herx going on, you may need to take a detox bath 3 times a day while drinking dandelion tea. Or perhaps just dry brushing in the morning is enough to keep your symptoms at bay. Each person will be different.
How long does this treatment last?
If you’re asymptomatic, I would personally give the herbs 3 months; if you’re symptomatic, then I would follow the treatment until 3 months after your symptoms disappear. Your length of time depends on how long you’ve been ill, the state of your immune system, and what you know about your healing.
It’s much easier to treat acute Lyme than chronic Lyme. During this time, you really need to clean up your diet. The Standard American Diet causes extreme inflammation, which exacerbates chronic illness and makes healing more difficult.
Eliminating sugar, gluten, dairy, alcohol, and other highly inflammatory foods will exacerbate symptoms of Lyme and its co-infections, and will also continue to feed the microbes. Stick to a clean, diet that is at least 40% veggies, healthy fats, and organic, grass fed meat. Skip the grains and minimize the fruits, and make sure you continue to detox. Our bodies store the toxins from the food we eat, so when we start eating healthier foods, we may feel worse at first; but stick to it, because it’ll get better.
This post was originally written in July 2017. It was updated in April 2020.