CBD for Lyme Disease
“It’s like being in a torture chamber all the time but that chamber is your own body and you can’t escape it.” -Sarah Hook, a 35-year-old health and wellness coach, describing her battle with Lyme disease.
Lyme disease is a debilitating disease that is difficult to diagnose and even harder to treat. Today we’re going to talk about how utilizing CBD for Lyme disease might be able to help.
CBD for Lyme disease at a glance
- What the claims are: CBD can help relieve many of the symptoms and complications of Lyme disease, including pain and inflammation.
- What the studies show: While more studies are needed, research supports using CBD to manage some of the symptoms of the disease, such as pain and inflammation. However, so far the evidence does not suggest that it addresses the root cause.
- What the facts say: Early studies, as well as anecdotal evidence, appear to support that adopting a CBD regimen is beneficial for many people struggling with Lyme. However, researchers must continue to search for a cure.
What exactly is Lyme disease?
Lyme disease is caused by four main species of bacteria: Borrelia burgdorferi, borrelia mayonii, borrelia afzelii, and borrelia garinii. These types of bacteria can be transmitted through a bite from the black-legged tick, also known as the deer tick. Lyme disease is the most common tick-borne illness and effects more than 300,000 people a year in the United States.
People who spend time in grassy or heavily wooded areas where deer ticks are prevalent are more likely to get Lyme disease, but it’s possible that just a short traipse through a manicured lawn could result in a tick bite. The longer the tick remains attached to your skin, the greater your risk of getting the disease. If the tick is attached for less than 36 to 48 hours, it’s very unlikely that you will contract this disease.
The most important thing to note about Lyme is that the earlier it’s caught, the easier it is to treat. On that note, keep your eyes peeled for the following, especially if you’ve recently spent some time outdoors:
Between 3 and 30 days from the date of the initial tick bite, a rash that is lighter or even absent in the center and radiates outward into a red circle often appears. Typically, these rashes don’t hurt or feel itchy, but they are one of the hallmark signs of Lyme disease. If you have a rash that matches this description, especially one that spreads, give your doctor a call.
Because baby deer ticks can be the size of a pinhead, sometimes people don’t even know they were bitten. When in doubt, check it out! However, it’s important to note that many people who have Lyme disease don’t get a bulls-eye rash, so it’s still important to visit the doctor if any of the following symptoms occur.
Flu-like symptoms, including fever, chills, fatigue, body aches, headache, stiff neck, and swollen lymph nodes could indicate Lyme disease.
Joint pain, specially in your knees, but the pain can shift from one joint to another.
As the disease progresses, meningitis, Bell’s palsy (temporary paralysis of one side of the face), and weakness in limbs can occur.
While some doctors still reject the notion of chronic Lyme disease and believe the disease itself can be cured with a simple round of antibiotics, many others believe that, if left undiagnosed or untreated, the effects of this disease can cause a lifelong struggle. Anecdotal evidence seems to support the latter, as many people find that they still battle pain and many other complications, seemingly without end.
How can CBD be used to help with Lyme disease?
So far, it seems that CBD may be able to address some of the most common symptoms of Lyme disease. First, it can work to eliminate the inflammation and joint pain that often come hand in hand with this disease.
Our bodies’ endocannabinoid systems help regulate various cognitive and physiological functions, including our moods and response to pain sensations. Because CBD (cannabidiol) interacts with our natural cannabinoid receptors, it can help alleviate both the pain and inflammation that some people with Lyme disease experience.
People with chronic Lyme may also have trouble falling or staying asleep. CBD for Lyme disease might be able to assist on that front as well since it has been shown to help regulate sleep patterns.
It also bears mentioning that chronic pain diseases can be detrimental to a person’s mood and mental health. Having to crawl out of bed each day and try to function when you’re feeling fatigued and achy can be emotionally draining. Having a disease that some people don’t even believe in can make it even more difficult. Early studies have shown that CBD can alleviate anxiety and even help with depression, which might be a lifesaver for some struggling with the effects of chronic Lyme.
What are the risks of using CBD for Lyme disease?
It’s rare to have side effects or negative reactions from using CBD. It’s widely considered to be safe, well-tolerated, and, according to a recent study by the World Health Organization, is not associated with abuse potential.
Should I give CBD for Lyme disease a try?
At this time, both research and anecdotal evidence seem to support the benefits of CBD for managing the symptoms of Lyme disease. Everyone is different, so, while CBD is a game-changer for many people with Lyme, others find it might only help with certain symptoms, like anxiety or sleeplessness.
Because symptoms vary in severity so greatly, it’s also important to pay close attention to how you’re feeling when you begin your regimen and note any changes or improvements. This will help in determining the proper dosage for optimal results.
It’s also important to note that while CBD may help manage symptoms of chronic Lyme, it is not a cure. Lyme is best treated early on, so if you think you may have Lyme disease, it is imperative to seek medical attention early.
As with any change to your healthcare regimen, you should talk to your doctor before trying CBD for Lyme disease. And, if you’re currently taking any prescription medications, you should check with your pharmacist to ensure that CBD won’t interact with any of them in a negative way.
CBD for Lyme disease is a bit ofa mixed bag. While research indicates that CBD can help with many of the symptoms, it may not address the root cause.
CBD Oil and Lyme Disease
The amount of chronic pain I’ve experienced in the wake of Lyme Disease is astounding—astounding and debilitating—mostly as it relates to disrupted sleep.
As a former pain management specialist, I find this ironic. Karmic even. It’s as if I sold my practice only to become one of my patients.
Now if you’ve been following my work since last summer, you know I’ve tried a lot of different treatments—from narcotics, to steroids, to acetaminophen, to NSAIDS (all bad for me, all with bad side effects). Then I tried multiple injections, Low-Dose Naltrexone, teas, tinctures, and other botanical treatments (all with short-term relief, no-relief, horrific expense, or bad side-effects).
So for the last two weeks I’ve been experimenting with cannabidiol (CBD oil). So far, so good. I have only had to take Motrin twice in the middle of the night since starting a regimen of 20 mg CBD each evening.
I remain cautiously optimistic.
The cannabidiol I use is a supercritical CO2 extraction from hemp aerial plant parts. It contains essentially no THC, so this is not some form of pot, thank you very much. (THC-Free cannabidiol is legal in all 50 states.)
I got the idea of trying CBD from my colleague, Dr. Bill Rawls. He wrote what has become my new favorite book on Lyme Disease: Unlocking Lyme.
The fact that CBD has the potential to relieve pain without causing euphoria or intoxication makes it interesting from a medicinal point of view. In fact, CBD-rich cannabis may be the ideal option for acute management of pain and sleep dysfunction associated with Lyme disease and fibromyalgia. —William Rawls, MD.
CBD is just one of 113 cannabinoid compounds that can be isolated from cannabis. How it works is still being elucidated. But we do know it modulates both CB1 and CB2 receptors throughout the body, which makes it good for both neuropathic pain and inflammatory pain (it decreases the cytokine storm of Lyme Disease, for example).
But it also appears to have more subtle effects, like modulating the serotonin system (via the 5-HT1A receptor), thus decreasing the anxiety associated with chronic pain.
This is important. Because, as any chronic pain sufferer will tell you, anxiety is what happens when you feel trapped inside a body that won’t stop torturing you. It’s like claustrophobia, only worse—because you’re not just stuck in a closet, you’re stuck in a closet with needles and spikes.
In my case, I couldn’t even breathe without pain due to intercostal inflammation. So the anxiolytic effects of CBD have been especially helpful.
We’ll see how this goes. It remains to be seen whether or not this treatment will stop working for me over time (tachyphylaxis). I’ll keep you posted. For now, I find it interesting and promising.
As always, check with your doctor before trying anything new like CBD oil. These are natural substances, but they are also powerful medicines, which may interact with other medicines.
12 Weeks Later.
Okay here’s a quick update.
I did have to increase my CBD dose over time to get the same results. all the way up to 60 mg. So there does appear to be some potential for tachyphylaxis here. CBD is expensive at this dose so I’m less enthusiastic about it now than I was at first. But it IS helpful.
For me, CBD is an adjunctive treatment. That means it is something I use in addition to physical modalities like sauna, contrast baths, and electrical stimulation, and physical practices like yoga, shoulder range of motion, and gentle strengthening with resistance bands, as well as mindfulness practices like meditation, breathwork, and gratitude poetry, AND resilience training like reframing, refocusing on growth, affirmations, etc.
I’m also pursuing an injection strategy for the body part with the most structural damage: my left shoulder.
What I’m trying to say is this: I doubt whether CBD would be a stand-alone treatment for people with severe pain. But it may help them avoid having to resort to opioids if they are committed to a program of total wellness, including mindfulness, modalities, mobility exercises, procedures, and a willingness to remodel their inner narrative—to believe they can get better. To believe—dare I say it—that they can feel amazing again. That’s what I’m going for.
Fine, P. G., & Rosenfeld, M. J. (2013). The Endocannabinoid System, Cannabinoids, and Pain. Rambam Maimonides Medical Journal, 4(4), e0022. http://doi.org/10.5041/RMMJ.10129
Rawls, William (2017). Unlocking Lyme: Myths, Truths, and Practical Solutions for Chronic Lyme Disease (Kindle Locations 3101-3102). FirstDoNoHarm Publishing. Kindle Edition.
Cover Photo by Esteban Lopez on Unsplash
Marc Wagner M.D.
Marc Wagner is a physician and writer, relentlessly pursuing the stories and reasons behind human flourishing.
A New Treatment for Pain? The amount of chronic pain I’ve experienced in the wake of Lyme Disease is astounding. Here are my results with CBD so far…