What Are Essential Oils And How Relevant Are They In The Treatment Of Lyme Disease?

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The treatment of chronic Lyme can often be a long, complex process. In its acute stage, Lyme can usually be fully treated with antibiotics. However, this narrow treatment window is often missed, which affords the Borrelia burgdorferi bacteria the opportunity to embed itself further into the patient's system. This shift is known as the chronic form of Lyme. Symptoms at this stage are a mix between infection and inflammation as the body’s immune response goes into overdrive. Antibiotics alone won’t treat chronic Lyme, and other avenues of remedy need to be considered to address the disease. Inflammation is a naturally occurring symptom as opposed to an invading pathogen, and so needs to be treated accordingly. Could essential oils have a place in that treatment plan?


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Image by Mareefe on Pixabay: Which essential oils are good for Lyme disease? Recent studies suggest some are better than others.

What are Essential Oils?

Before we explore how essential oils might help Lyme patients, we should examine what exactly they are. Essential oils are compounds extracted from plants, which preserve the plant’s scent, or ‘essence’. The oils are obtained from the plant via steam and/or water distillation, or by cold pressing, where the oils are literally pressed out of the plant. Once extracted, the natural plant oils are combined with a carrier oil, to create the end product. Essential oils have three main characteristics in common: they are soluble in fat and alcohol, they are fleeting, and they are very specific in their smell. The method used for extraction is important; an oil is only considered essential if it has been obtained naturally through this process, as opposed to by chemical means.

Essential oils are primarily used in aromatherapy, a branch of alternative medicine that uses the oils to cultivate general wellbeing and health. Like most forms of alternative medicine, anecdotal evidence that promotes the use of essential oils is strong, whereas scientific evidence is a little thinner on the ground.


Can Essential Oils Help Treat Disease?

The use of essential oils to treat maladies dates back thousands of years, to 3,000–2,500 B.C. It’s hard to say if the Egyptians or the Chinese were the first to use essential oils for medicinal and wellbeing purposes, but their use can be traced back to these two ancient civilisations. India was also an essential oil pioneer; they used oils in conjunction with Ayurvedic medicinal practises. Following in their footsteps, there is also evidence that the ancient Greeks and Romans utilised essential oils. Hippocrates, the famous Greek physician, prescribed aromatic treatments for fallen soldiers on the battlefield, utilised aromatic fumigation to combat the plague in Athens, and promoted their health benefits to the wider public. The Romans enjoyed using oils as perfumes, bathing lavishly in them and applying them over their hair, bodies, clothes and bedding. There are even references to aromatic oils in the Bible; the most famous of these is undoubtedly the gifts of frankincense and myrrh the Wise Men bring to the newborn Jesus.

Although there is not enough concrete scientific evidence to advocate the use of essential oils to treat medical conditions, the practice of using them medicinally has endured for centuries. Some studies indicate that essential oils can be beneficial for a number of conditions, while others maintain that they’re not. Many doctors maintain that if essential oils may benefit a patient, there is no harm in trying them out. If the least they do is put you in a calmer, improved mood, then that can only be a good thing as far as your wellbeing is concerned. Essential oils, when inhaled, help stimulate your limbic system, an area of your brain that helps regulate emotions, memories and behaviours. They can also be absorbed by the skin and are used routinely in skincare.


Can Essential Oils Ease Symptoms of Lyme Disease?

Treatment for the inflammation symptoms of chronic Lyme revolves around nutritional changes supported by supplements.  But could essential oils have a place in the treatment plan? Recent studies suggest they might. One particular study found that oregano, cinnamon bark and clove bud were the most active essential oils against stationary B. burgdorferi, completely eradicating the bacteria with no regrowth. In particular, carvacrol (found in oregano) was found to be the most effective ingredient against the pathogen. This ingredient could potentially be more effective than the current drugs used to combat the disease, though more studies need to be conducted.

The results, published in Antibiotic, also posit that no less than ten essential oils can be detrimental to B. burgdorferi, including oils derived from garlic cloves, myrrh trees, thyme leaves, cinnamon bark, allspice berries, cumin seeds and eucalyptus, among others. While this represents exciting developments in the continuing battle against Lyme, more studies are required before these oils can potentially have widespread application.


Make Well - essential oil bottle
Image by Mareefe on Pixabay: Certain essential oils, when inhaled, can help stimulate your limbic system, an area of your brain that helps regulate emotions.


Essential Oil Uses

As it stands, there are plenty of ways to utilise essential oils in your day-to-day life, whether you suffer from chronic disease or not. Lavender oil is a great way to relax; it’s often utilised to reduce stress and anxiety and promote sleep. Tea tree oil can be a great way to ease muscles and treat skin conditions like eczema and acne. Peppermint oil has long been linked to digestive health and might help ease tension headaches when applied topically. The zesty aroma of lemon oil routinely makes people feel more alert and brightens their mood, as do chamomile and jasmine oils.

While most of these uses are strictly palliative, that shouldn’t diminish the benefits they have for people. If a particular essential oil improves your general health and wellbeing, it is worth applying or inhaling. If you’re apprehensive about essential oil usage, simply check with your usual doctor or GP before beginning.

Featured image by stevepb on Pixabay