Updated: Mar 20
So you found a tick – what next? Or you’re preparing for what to do if you do find a tick. Either way, this blog post is for you based on information from the internationally renowned Lyme expert and herbalist Stephen Buhner’s book, Healing Lyme. Let’s get straight to it.
(Please consult with your doctor and/or a Lyme literate professional for medical advice. This is meant to be a summary of the book's topical only treatment for a bite and not medical advice.)
REMOVING THE TICK
· Don’t squeeze, twist or squash the tick.
· Use a fine point tweezers or special tick removing tool. Grab the tick with the tweezers AS CLOSE to the skin as possible. If you don’t have tweezers protect your fingers with a tissue.
· Pull the tick straight out with steady, even pressure. Be patient.
· Disinfect the bite area and wash your hands. Wash the bite with soap and water and APPLY ANDROGRAPHIS AND KNOTWEED TINCTURE to the bite to soak in.
· Save the tick for testing in a small bottle or plastic bag with a damp piece of tissue.
· Label it with your name, date, site of bite and how long tick was attached.
***Infectious materials can be inside the tick. That is why it is so important to not squeeze the tick and to remove it gently.
APPLYING HERBAL TREATMENT TOPICALLY
Clay draws out material from the bite area. It is an important part of bite after care.
Japanese Knotweed Root is highly effective against spirochetes (Lyme bacteria) and in studies has outperformed pharmaceutical antibiotics. It quite literally shuts down the cascade that spirochetes initiate. Many non-spirochete specific antibacterials like Neosporin, iodine, colloidal silver and essential oils have shown virtually no benefit against Lyme in testing. So using the correct herbs recommended as part of the Buhner protocol is important.
The second key tincture is Andrographis. Andrographis is an immune stimulant that allows the body to more quickly recognize an invader and is also effective against borrelia species. It is specifically recommended for tick bites.
· Dry bentonite clay
· Andrographis tincture
· Japanese Knotweed tincture
· Small bowl to mix
Wash the bite area thoroughly and apply Andrographis tincture then Japanese Knotweed directly to the bite to soak in.
In the small bowl or container, take roughly 1/2 teaspoon bentonite clay and mix with 40 drops each of Andrographis and Japanese Knotweed tincture. You want it to be a paste consistency.
Apply liberally to the bite. It may sting mildly due to the high alcohol content of the tinctures. Reapply as needed, keep on for 24 hours. For small children who tend to brush it off or in places where clothes may rub it off, use cotton gauze over the clay.
The book Healing Lyme estimates this topical treatment can reduce transmission 85% or more.
Testing ticks can be controversial since a disease carrying tick can still test negative and a tick that tests positive for diseases may or may not have actually transmitted anything during a bite. For example, the tick that we tested when my son developed a bullseye tested negative for all major pathogens. Keep in mind one limitation of testing is while over 75 types of Lyme bacteria have been identified, many tests only look for a few.
If you do decide to test your tick, a good resource is www.tickreport.com. The basic test is $50/tick or for a more comprehensive look it can range to upward of around $200. Turnaround time is usually 2-3 business days.
When your tick is tested it will also identify the species of tick and there are several misconceptions in the medical community about some ticks “not being able to transmit Lyme” which is simply not true. Which is why there is a section on Common Myths at the end of this post!
ADDITIONAL TREATMENT OPTIONS
I cannot recommend reading the book Healing Lyme enough so that you are knowledgeable on supplement/herbal dosing and what pharmaceutical antibiotic options are best and for what lengths of time.
There are several herbs to use as a protocol for bites, both proactively and in the event symptoms begin. There will be a second blog post on the protocol. However, here are two gentle yet very good options that can be used for virtually any age or person (although this is not intended to be used as medical advice).
One important thing to remember – THE PERSONS IMMUNE SYSTEM CAN REDUCE CHANCES OF TRANSMISSION. Immune health is key!!
Astragalus is a food-herb used similarly to spices like garlic or oregano and is used to flavor rice and other dishes in Asian countries – native to China, Mongolia and Korea. It has many medicinal benefits and has been used in Traditional Chinese Medicine for thousands of years. ASTRAGALUS IS A VERY IMPORTANT HERB DURING WARMER MONTHS AND TICK SEASON.
It can be taken daily as an immune strengthener proactively (Buhner recommends adults take 1000mg/daily preventatively or 3000mg/day for 30 days following a tick bite. I give my kids a fraction of this daily during tick season, contact a medical practitioner or herbalist for proper childrens dosing.
Astragalus strengthens the body against disease. It is called an adaptogen, meaning it helps protect the body against various stresses, including physical, mental, or emotional stress.
It contains antioxidants, which protect cells against damage.
Astragalus is used to protect and support the immune system, preventing colds and upper respiratory infections, lowering blood pressure, treating diabetes, and protecting the liver. It also has antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties and studies have shown that astragalus has antiviral properties and stimulates the immune system.
Elderberry is the second gentle immune supporter I wanted to mention. In the book Herbal Antivirals The Materia Medica elderberry is listed as an important anti viral that can combat tick borne illnesses. In addition to its immune supportive properties, elderberry has high antioxidant levels that can aid the body when fighting disease or potential infection.
“Lone Star Ticks don’t transmit Lyme but a similar disease with no long term effects called STARI.” This is literally on the CDC’s website yall. My son was bit by a laboratory identified lone star tick and developed LYME just like thousands of others. Pubmed has several accounts of lone star transmission of Lyme. Why the CDC and medical community have not caught up is still a mystery but unfortunately all too common with tick borne diseases. His pediatrician was reluctant to prescribe any antibiotics despite Lyme symptoms and a huge bullseye because apparently antibiotics aren’t necessary in “STARI” (*eye rolls).
“A tick needs to be attached at least 24 hours to transmit disease.” This is absolutely insane. This magic number was from a outdated study decades ago that has been disproven over and over…yet still echoes in virtually every doctors office youll take a tick bite to. Ticks can transmit disease within minutes – what can increase or decrease transmission time depends on factors like species, types of pathogens, the persons immune system, and length it is attached. There is no magic number.
“4 days of antibiotics is enough.” While there have been some studies that show there might be benefit to prophylactic treatment with docycycline in the first 48 hours of tick removal with this time length, once symptoms are present the science shows that complete eradication of spirochetes takes an average of 6 – 8 weeks of antibiotics.
“I didn’t get a bullseye but feel ill. So it must not be Lyme or tick related.” There are SO many serious tick borne infections – rocky mountain spotted fever, anaplasmosis, babesia, ehrlichiosis…the list goes on. If you develop flu like symptoms following a bite without the presence of a bullseye do not rule out these infections.
Did you know that Lyme has been found in every continent of the world including Antartica? Yep.
There are so many more misconceptions about tick and insect borne illnesses, but Ill save that for another post. Arming yourself with knowledge when it comes to ticks is so important. There will be additional posts on our personal Lyme story and the Buhner herbal protocol so be sure to subscribe if that is something you would like to read more about! Want to know more? Comment below!