What is Lyme Disease?

Lyme disease is the most common disease transmitted by ticks in North America and Europe. It is caused by Borrelia burgdorferi bacteria in the United States as well as Borrelia afzelli and Borrelia garinii bacteria in Europe. This bacteria is in the spirochete family and is hard for the immune system to detect and kill. People are at risk for being bit with a tick that carries the bacteria if they spend time in the woods or in high grass. Wearing tick repellent when entering environments where ticks live may prevent contracting Lyme disease. Lyme disease is not contagious between humans.

If you have been bitten by a tick in the past month, it is important to get tested for Lyme disease so you can be treated with antibiotics and recover completely. Early symptoms include a small red bump near the site of the tick bite, which is normal from any tick bite and does not mean you have Lyme disease. If a rash appears in a bull’s-eye patten around the bite, this is a hallmark of Lyme disease. Flu-like symptoms including chills, fever, fatigue, headaches, swollen lymph nodes, muscle and joint stiffness, and body aches may also occur.

The second stage of the disease includes heart and nervous system issues. Abnormal heart rhythms occur in less than 10% of Lyme patients, and heart failure is a rare complication. Facial paralysis, known as Bell’s palsy, stiff neck and severe headaches, known as meningitis, confusion, and abnormal sensations in limbs, known as peripheral neuropathy, can develop. About 60% of patients not treated with antibiotics after several weeks of infection with Lyme disease will develop attacks of painful and swollen joints that last for days to months and shift from one or more joint to another. 10 to 20% of untreated patients will develop permanent arthritis.

The unfortunate part of Lyme disease is many people do not know they have been bit by a tick, and find out years later that they have Lyme disease. Treatment with antibiotics years later causes a slow and incomplete recovery from the disease. The third stage of the disease includes damage to motor and sensory nerves and brain inflammation. Anxiety and depression occurs at a higher rate in patients with Lyme disease than those without it. Memory loss, fatigue, changes in mood and sleeping habits, and difficulty with concentration are also common.

How is the Endocannabinoid System (ECS) Disrupted in Lyme disease?

Little research has been done on this topic. Many patients bitten by ticks infected with the bacteria that causes Lyme disease get better with no treatment, while some have permanent symptoms years later even after treatment. It is possible that patients with Lyme that do not get better may have underlying problems with their immune systems. As the cannabinoid receptor type 2 (CB2) is found on immune system cells, it is likely that the ECS is impaired in these patients and prevents them from bouncing back after infection with Lyme.

How Does Cannabis Help Lyme disease?

Cannabis is effective at killing bacteria, viruses, and fungus. All 5 major cannabinoids (THC, CBD, CBN, CBG, and CBC) has been shown to kill MRSA, known as the “flesh eating virus.” Less studied cannabinoids such as 8-hydroxycannabinol have potent antibacterial properties, and single extracts may provide new targets to kill the bacteria that causes Lyme disease.

Cannabis may also be effective at treating the later stage symptoms of Lyme disease. Cannabis can help reduce pain, spams, headaches and nausea. Dr. Sanjay Gupta stated that cannabis is one of the safest and effective treatments for peripheral neuropathy, a crippling symptom most Lymies (patients with Lyme disease) suffer from. Many Lymies take opiate pain medication to deal with their pain, which can be ineffective, addictive, and can even end in overdose. Every 19 minutes a patient dies in the United States from prescription drug overdose.

Initial treatment with antibiotics for Lyme disease can damage your gastrointestinal (GI) system as well as kill all the healthy bacteria in your system, leaving your body open to fungal and bacterial infections. Painkillers can also damage the lining of your GI tract, which is lined with cells containing CB1 receptors. Eating cannabis or taking cannabis oil can stimulate these CB1 receptors to repair the GI tract and reduce unwanted symptoms such as stomach pain, food sensitivity and diarrhea.

Future Research

While whole plant cannabis or extracts has not been examined in a clinical trial looking at its effectiveness against the bacteria that causes Lyme disease, this is something that should be done in the future. We have strong hope that it will be effective. If you’d like to sponsor a future study or be part of a clinical trial, please contact us.

How Can I Take Cannabis For Lyme disease?

In order for cannabis to be effective at fully eliminating the bacteria that causes Lyme disease from your body as well as reverse the long-term damage to your nervous and immune system, we suggest eating as much cannabis oil or cannabis in edible form as possible. Merely smoking it will not cure your Lyme disease, but may aid in pain and nausea relief as well as help you sleep.

Eating cannabis tincture, cannabis pills, cannabis drinks, or cannabis edibles may help control your symptoms. If you take cannabis oil or pills, you may want to take as much as you can afford as these products are expensive. Sprinkle flax seeds on your food at every meal you can, as they naturally contain CBD.

Vaporizing cannabis is better than smoking cannabis in a joint, pipe, or bong because it doesn’t burn the cannabis. Smoking cannabis releases toxins similar to cigarettes, can cause lung irritation and often disintegrates cannabinoids with healing properties. Vaporizing cannabis heats the air around the cannabis, releasing a range of cannabinoids, each with unique health benefits.

A new way to get cannabis into your body is via a transdermal patch, similar to the birth control patch or the nicotine patch. This discrete method provides extended release medication for up to ten hours and is perfect for people who feel uncomfortable with other methods such as smoking cannabis.

Cannabis topicals, in the form of creams or lotions you put on your skin, can help with pain and spasms during the day.

Juicing raw cannabis may reduce pain and inflammation associated with Lyme disease, without that high you get from heated cannabis. That’s because raw cannabis has THCA and CBDA, the non-psychoative forms of THC and CBD. Juice strains of cannabis with high levels of CBD(A) for best results.

What Strains Are Best For Lyme disease?

Long-term use of CBD is associated with brain fog and short-term memory problems. This may exacerbate the cognitive symptoms of Lyme disease patients and should be avoided. We suggest using medium THC potency cannabis strains or 1:1 THC:CBD strains as opposed to high CBD strains.

Let’s Make This Easy

  1. Take a CBD pill (or patch) during the day to control your symptoms without getting high.
  2. Vape cannabis whenever you need pain or other symptom relief. Be safe and don’t drive immediately after using your vaporizer, you could get a chemical DUI in most states.
  3. Eat an edible at night to help you sleep and relieve pain and inflammation. If you eat it during the day you won’t be able to drive or work.
  4. If you’re lucky enough to live in an area where raw cannabis juice is available, drink it as often as you can afford to buy it.

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Any Side Effects?

Long-term use of CBD or CBD-rich cannabis can cause mental fog or short-term memory problems like forgetting where your keys are. However, patients with Lyme disease often already have cognitive impairments and the benefits of controlling Lyme disease is likely bigger than the negative side effects of cannabis or CBD on memory. CBD can also cause depressed mood, as it lacks the euphoric counterpart of whole-plant cannabis, THC. If you feel highly depressed, anxious, or suicidal after using CBD or cannabis, please discontinue and call your doctor or call 911.

Patients that are on blood thinners such as Coumadin (warfarin) or Lovenox are strongly urged to talk to their doctors before taking any cannabis product, as it may increase your body’s ability to block clots.

References

Testimonials

Lyme disease patients Pamela Baily and Lisa Sikes talk about how cannabis oil has helped them on “High Noon” radio show: listen HERE

Has cannabis helped your Lyme disease? We’d love to feature patients with a picture and quote from you, and perhaps even a full interview. Please contact us at info@impactcannabis.org if you’d like to be featured.