Japanese knotweed could be more effective than antibiotics at tackling problem of Lyme disease

Japanese knotweed could be more effective than antibiotics at tackling the growing problem of Lyme disease

  • Scientists found that antibiotics over two to four weeks are not always effective
  • Around 10 to 20 per cent of patients still had symptoms after taking antibiotics 
  • Researchers found two plants outperformed antibiotics in fighting off infection
  • Japanese knotweed and Ghanaian quinine were found to be anti-inflammatory

Japanese knotweed may be more effective than antibiotics at tackling Lyme disease, new study has found.

The tick-born infection that can cause meningitis and face paralysis currently sees 365,000 new cases in the USA and Europe alone.

Researchers from the John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health found antibiotics over two to four weeks are not always effective, with around 10 to 20 per cent of patients continuing to experience symptoms after treatment.

Late-stage Lyme patients may include joint pains, memory problems, facial paralysis, heart palpitations and severe headaches.

Looking to nature to tackle the issue, the researchers found two plants that outperformed antibiotics in fighting off the infection: Japanese knotweed and Ghanaian quinine.

Japanese knotweed (pictured) was one of two plants that scientists found outperformed antibiotics in fighting off the infection

A typical rash spot caused by Lyme disease after a person was bitten on the leg by a deer tick

A typical rash spot caused by Lyme disease after a person was bitten on the leg by a deer tick

The latter is a shrub containing a chemical that is used to treat malaria, hepatitis and tuberculosis in West Africa.

Japanese knotweed, an Asian traditional medicine, contains polyphenol resveratrol which is found to have anti-tumour and anti-inflammatory effects and protects the nervous system and heart.

A single seven-day treatment with one per cent Ghanaian quinine could completely eradicate the bacteria, and it did not even regrow under optimal conditions.

Other successful plant extracts included black walnut, cat’s claw, sweet wormwood, Mediterranean rockrose and Chinese skullcap.

Dr Ying Zhang said: ‘This study provides the first convincing evidence that some of the herbs used by patients such as Cryptolepis, black walnut, sweet wormwood, cat’s claw, and Japanese knotweed have potent activity against Lyme disease bacteria, especially the dormant persister forms, which are not killed by the current Lyme antibiotics.

‘These findings are exciting as they offer opportunities for improved treatment of persistent Lyme disease, which is not helped by the current standard treatment.

A warning sign reading 'beware of ticks' in an infested area of a forest. Lyme disease is caused by a bacteria transmitted to humans through the bite of infected ticks

A warning sign reading ‘beware of ticks’ in an infested area of a forest. Lyme disease is caused by a bacteria transmitted to humans through the bite of infected ticks

‘We are interested in further evaluating these potent herbal medicines through animal studies as well as clinical trials.’

The researchers also found some herbs were unsuccessful. Grapefruit seeds, green chiretta, ashwagandha, candy leaf (also known as stevia), fuller’s teasel, and Japanese teasel had little or no effect.

Dr Sunjya K. Schweig, CEO and co-director of the California Centre for Functional Medicine, added: ‘Many thousands of Lyme patients today, especially those with later-stage symptoms who have not been effectively treated, are in great need of efficacious, accessible treatment options.’

The study was published in the journal Frontiers in Medicine.

WHAT IS LYME DISEASE?

Lyme disease is caused by a bacteria that is transmitted to humans through the bite of infected black-legged ticks.

The most common symptoms of the disease are fever, headache, fatigue and a skin rash called erythema migrans.

The disease can typically be treated by several weeks of oral antibiotics.

But if left untreated, the infection can spread to the joints, heart and nervous symptoms and be deadly.  

WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOU ARE INFECTED?

During the first three to 30 days of infection, these symptoms may occur:

  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Headache
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle and joint aches
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Erythema migrans (EM) rash 

The rash occurs in approximately 80 per cent of infected people.

It can expand to up to 12 inches (30 cm), eventually clearing and giving off the appearance of a target or a ‘bull’s-eye’.

Later symptoms of Lyme disease include:

  • Severe headaches and neck stiffness
  • Additional rashes
  • Arthritis with joint pain and swelling
  • Facial or Bell’s palsy
  • Heart palpitations
  • Problems with short-term memory
  • Nerve pain 

Source: CDC