Using essential oils for lyme disease is more about bite prevention, learning how to prevent tick-borne illnesses and symptom management. It’s important to know that there is little to no research about treating lyme itself with aromatherapy, so please be very careful with what you see online because all “protocols” out there anecdotal.
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What is Lyme Disease?
Lyme disease is increasing in prevalence in the U.S with 300,000 + people getting infected every year making it more common than breast cancer. Caused by the spirochete Borrelia burgdorferi, Lyme disease is traditionally viewed as primarily being a tick-borne illness. After a bite occurs and the tick is safely removed, typically only some swelling and minor itching remain. If the tick was carrying Lyme, however, other symptoms will begin.
The most iconic indication of Lyme is the “bullseye” rash that spreads around the bite like a target. Some individuals never see a rash, though, so don’t let that be your only indication! Other initial symptoms of Lyme include flu like aches and pains.
If it’s not treated right away, Lyme disease can progress into more chronic conditions like arthritis, sore muscles and joints, memory problems, headaches, numbness or weakness, and severe fatigue. (1)
Lyme disease is a rather serious concern, and tick bites should be avoided first and then monitored closely if prevention fails.
5 Essential Oils for Lyme Disease
Prevention is the key with Lyme disease. Even when chronic symptoms can be avoided, the symptoms and treatment of Lyme are challenging. No one wants to deal with that kind of discomfort and hassle, and no one should have to live with the long term consequences if they learn how to treat Lyme disease naturally.
Areas especially prone to Lyme-carrying ticks include northern US coastlines, the Mid-Atlantic, Wisconsin, and Minnesota, though all states are vulnerable. (2) In order to prepare your family for the potential of tick bites and prevention of Lyme, use these oils to counterbalance your typical lemon, eucalyptus and citronella oils, for a varied approach that will keep ticks guessing.
Usually, when we think of bug repellants, citronella is the first that comes to mind. Citronella candles and sprays are the first to come out in summer months when bugs get bad. For ticks, though, citronella may not be the first go-to.
In a 2014 study of the effect two oils – citronella and clove – have on ticks, clove came out on top. While citronella was reasonably effective, clove outperformed it substantially with over 90% efficacy! (3)
Applications: Use clove in outdoor diffusions where ticks may be prominent, direct sprays and ground/surface treatments, and diluted in topical prevention applications.
Again hearkening to that oh so familiar citronella, vetiver is a similar plant with a similar aroma that is used in similar ways. And, again, like clove, vetiver essential oil seems to be more effective against ticks than citronella.
In tests of efficacy against ticks and their larvae, vetiver essential oil was tested for its efficacy. 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. (4)
Application: Ground and surface treatments in tick-infested areas; topical application for bug repelling effects.
The popular kitchen herb oregano 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. Oregano has also tested well against ticks in at least one recent study. (5)
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.
Application: Topical bug repellent treatments. Oregano can be harsh on skin, so be sure to dilute it very well and use it as part of a larger blend.
In 2019, one of the only “under field condition” studies evaluated blankets and trousers treated with one of 5% oregano, rosemary, spearmint or thyme oils, 20% DEET and a control. This is what they uncovered:
- Spearmint oil treatments resulted in significantly fewer ticks than the control for both blankets and trousers.
- Significantly fewer ticks were present on the oregano oil treated blankets.
- For ticks that did attach to the trousers, the rate of drop off within 3 min was significantly higher for trousers treated with spearmint oil or thyme oil than oregano oil and rosemary oil.
- No reduction in repellence was detected over a 24 h period between treatment and testing.
“The results suggest that 5% oregano and spearmint oils exhibit potential as natural clothing repellents, with an effective equivalence to 20% DEET.” (source)
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.
Tick mortality rates upon exposure to garlic essential oil were nearly 100%. (6)
Application: 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!
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Tick Bite Prevention Body Oil
If you’re going to be in areas of high risk and exposure to ticks, you can’t go unprotected. With so many oils appearing more effective than commercial options, it seems essential oil formulations are the smarter choice for learning how to treat Lyme disease naturally.
Keep this simple body oil 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
- 8 drops each of these tick-repelling essential oils (vetiver, clove, oregano, and spearmint)
Blend, pour into a glass spritzer bottle, and spray periodically to ankles, arms, etc.
Lyme Disease Symptom Support
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 worse 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. Some of it is directly connected to Lyme as a bacteria, while a lot of it is related to symptom control.
Lyme should only be treated under the care of a professional to avoid complications with the disease, though you may 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
The list for treating Lyme disease naturally could extend for days, with the vast Lyme symptoms and broad actions of essential oils. Simply remember to begin with prevention, seek help promptly if infection is suspected, and use your skillfully curated essential oil medicine cabinet all along the way in learning how to treat Lyme disease naturally with essential oils.