Hilary Self, B.Sc., MNIMH
Western medicine has been significantly challenged by the emergence of Lyme disease, with treatments and cures for the disease proving elusive. Powerful antibiotics such as Doxycycline or Tetracycline are used in the acute stages of Lyme, but these antibiotics, although necessary, can further supress the immune system and have a negative impact on a horse’s organs and its digestive system.
Herbs, whose constituents and multiple actions can be used to help tackle the spirochete in its various locations, can reduce the knock-on effects to the horse’s physiology and help the immune system mount an effective and sustained response. The following list of herbs is a starting point for a holistic treatment program.
Herbs to Fight Infection and Support the Immune System
Indian Echinacea – Andrographis paniculate
This herb is known for its action against Gram negative bacteria (including spirochetes). It can boost immune function while helping redress the negative effects of the antibiotics on the horses’ vital organs, with its anti-inflammatory and liver protective actions. It is also suggested that the herb may be able to break down the encysted form of the spirochete.
Echinacea sp – Echinacea purpurea
This herb supports the immune system and one with an particular affinity for the stomach and digestive system as a whole, which makes it particularly appropriate for horses that have received antibiotics. The plant has an anti-spirochete action and has been shown to increase phagocytosis by the immune systems Natural Killer cells to engulf and destroy the invading bacteria.
Thuja – Thuja occidentalis
Possessing anti spirochete, anti-bacterial and anti-viral properties, Thuja is reccommended for use to help with the knock-on effects the antibiotics have on the liver, spleen, and stomach.
Echinacea and Thuja were historically used for the treatment of Syphilis.
Sarsaparilla – Smilax officinalis
Offering an anti-spirochete action, particularly when used in combination with echinacea, sarsaparilla is one of the “adaptogenic” herbs in the materia medica, and it has been known to help the body adapt to strain or stress by stimulating and mobilizing the body’s own defense mechanism. Adaptogens can affect many different cells and are powerfully supportive against stress and its effects.
Ashwagandha – Withania somnifera
This important Ayurvedic herb is a tonic, an adaptogen, and an immune modulator, and also offers anti-inflammatory action. In Ayurvedic medicine the plant is used for nervous exhaustion, especially due to stress, which can lead to signs of agitation, fatigue, or depression (all symptoms identified in Lyme horses). It is particularly suitable for weakened immunity, as research has confirmed its ability to significantly increase white blood cell and neutrophil counts.
Siberian Ginseng – Eleutherococcus senticosus
Offering immunomodulatory and anti-inflammatory actions, Siberian gingseng’s adaptogenic action will help the body adapt and mobilize its own defence systems, particularly when under stress. Trials of the herb on athletes and mountain rescue workers showed increases in their capacity to withstand challenging conditions, increased both mental and physical output, and, when taken long term, dramatically enhanced immune function.