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Prevention is the best medicine, and essential oils work to both prevent and help control Lyme disease.
Lyme disease's widespread presence is increasing in the U.S with 300,000 + people becoming infected every year. More common than breast cancer, we know that proper prevention is the best medicine. Of all the natural therapies on the market, the scientific literature suggests that essential oils are ideal tools to have on hand. In addition to bug-defeating benefits, some oils may help with the control of Lyme if it is contracted, as well.
Causes and Symptoms of Lyme Disease
Lyme disease is traditionally viewed as mainly being a tick-borne illness caused by the spirochete Borrelia burgdorferi. Although, there is recent research proving that it is also sexually transmitted, most authorities agree that tick bites are responsible for a vast majority of the cases seen in doctors’ offices. Typically only some swelling and minor itching remain after a bite occurs and the tick is safely removed. If the tick is carrying Lyme, however, other symptoms will emerge.
The most recognizable indication of Lyme is the “bulls-eye” rash that spreads around the bite like a target, though many individuals never see a rash so don’t let that be your only indication! Other initial symptoms of Lyme include flu-like aches and pains.
If not treated right away, Lyme disease can advance into more chronic conditions like arthritis, sore muscles and joints, memory problems, headaches, numbness or weakness, and severe fatigue. (1)
Truth be told, Lyme is a rather serious matter so first off, tick bites should be avoided plus monitored closely if prevention fails.
Top Essential Oils for Lyme Disease Prevention
The key to avoiding Lyme disease is prevention. Even if the chronic symptoms of the disease can be avoided, the symptoms and treatment of Lyme can be a challenge. No one wants to deal with the discomfort and hassle, and no one should have to live with the long-term effects because they can be debilitating.
Northern US coastlines, the Mid-Atlantic, Wisconsin, and Minnesota are areas especially prone to Lyme-carrying ticks, though all states are vulnerable. (2) In order to prepare your family for the possibility of tick bites and prevention of Lyme, consider applying a diluted blend of these essential oils in addition to your typical lemon, eucalyptus and citronella oils, for a varied approach that will keep ticks guessing.
Citronella is usually the first that comes to mind when we think of bug repellants, because it is included in most store-bought candles and sprays as the go-to bug repellent. For ticks, though, citronella may not be the first go-to.
Case in point, a 2014 study of the effect that citronella and clove oils have on ticks, clove came out on top. While citronella was reasonably effective, clove outperformed it substantially with over 90% efficacy! (3)
DIY Tip: Clove oil can be used in outdoor diffusions where ticks may be prominent, direct sprays, ground/surface treatments, and diluted in topical prevention applications. Try adding 8 drops of clove essential oil per 1 oz of coconut oil and apply throughout your body before hiking and spending time outdoors.
Oregano is a popular kitchen herb that has a strong essential oil profile. Known as an antibacterial/antibiotic oil with strong effects on the skin that require dilution, oregano essential oil finds its way into bug control and Lyme prevention, as well.
Sharing major compounds carvacrol and eugenol with clove oil, it has also tested well against ticks in at least one recent study. (4)
As a bonus in topical applications, oregano has antibacterial effects to bring to the table – important when Lyme is a bacteria! Topical applications could give you a head start in warding off Lyme before it has a chance to settle in.
DIY Tip: Because oregano can be harsh on skin, be sure to dilute it very well and use it as part of a larger blend.
Vetiver and citronella are comparable plants with a similar aroma that can be used in similar ways. And, again, like clove, vetiver essential oil seems to be more effective against ticks than citronella.
In tests against ticks and their larvae, vetiver essential oil was tested for its effectiveness. Whether it is because of resistance built up against the more commonly used treatments or whether vetiver has always been this good, vetiver was able to keep ticks at bay even better than standard treatments. (5)
DIY Tip: Mix 30 drops of vetiver in a 16 oz spray bottle with tap water. Spray around the openings to your home (windows, doors, etc.); use diluted topically with clove.
If you’ve intentionally eaten garlic to keep the vampires and mosquitoes away, you already know about its potent aromatic effects. Researchers looked into this more closely by extracting the essential oil from garlic bulbs to test against ticks. Upon exposure to garlic essential oil, tick mortality rates were nearly 100%! (6)
DIY Tip: If garlic essential oil is not available, consider including a DIY garlic oil infusion in your ground and surface treatments. And when all else fails, some extra homemade fresh garlic bread is always warranted!
DIY Lyme Prevention Plan
You can't go unprotected if you’re going to be in areas of high risk and exposure to ticks. With so many oils appearing more effective than commercial options, it seems essential oil formulations are the smarter choice.
Effective Strategy For Fighting Ticks and Lyme Disease
Keep this simple “lotion” of diluted oils on hand to apply on exposed skin whenever tick exposure will be high. Hikers, campers, and others enjoying outdoor activity that will take you into the woods should be considered at risk. Remember that these oils are powerful, so you should keep them away from your eyes and mouth.
- 4 oz carrier oil of choice
- 40 drops total of a blend of tick-repelling essential oils (vetiver, clove, oregano, ylang ylang, and some citrus for scent balance are all useful)
- Blend, pour into a glass spritzer bottle, and spray periodically to ankles, arms, etc.
Treating Lyme with Essential Oils
Sometimes, even when we do all we can, the worst happens. Lyme disease can strike at any time, and you should be prepared to find a physician who can work with you in that worst-case scenario. These doctors are referred to as Lyme Literate, and as Dr. Cindee Gardner pointed out in an interview, they still may not be aware of the range of alternative treatments that are available for Lyme.
In Dr. Gardner’s practice, she uses everything from homeopathy to herbs to essential oils. (7) Some of it is directly connected to Lyme as a bacteria, while a lot of it is related to symptom control. You should find these oils beneficial in your plan of attack:
- Chamomile for relaxation and mood
- Vetiver for focus
- Citrus for antimicrobial as well as energizing effects
- Various blends of your favorite oils into massages for pain
With the vast variety of symptoms and broad actions of essential oils, the list of symptoms and useful oils could continue on for days. To defeat Lyme disease, simply remember to begin with prevention, seek help promptly if infection is suspected, and use your carefully selected essential oil medicine cabinet.