This spring—or whatever season it is—has been amazing in the tsunami of plants that have sprung into bloom well ahead of the times they normally do. The extreme seasonal shifts bode well for some species and not so well for others. Read: great for pesky insects and certain arachnids and not so well for us. Though the weather has been lovely, we have to wonder whether we’re facing an onslaught of ticks and mosquitoes, both of which carry Borrelia burgdorferi, the spirochete that transmits Lyme to humans. (Lyme can also be spread through sexual contact as well as from mothers to babies.) So, if you spend a lot of time outdoors, be sure to suit up properly and take precautions, including checking for ticks after coming indoors. Many tips are available here, from the International Lyme and Associated Diseases Society (ILADS).
One thing I’ve been using to try to make myself less desirable to such insects is a Lyme prevention tincture developed by Misty Meadows, a farm and herbal center in Lee, N.H. As you may know, medicinal plants often get short shrift in the research dollars game, so there’s no way to prove that the tincture works. I can only report an anecdote: After taking the tincture last summer, I noticed a gradual decrease in the number of mosquitoes that alighted on me, even though we had as many mosquitoes as ever. I didn’t camp enough last year to put the tincture through those kinds of paces. Wendy Snow Fogg, the founder and senior herbalist at Misty Meadows, provides helpful information, including some case studies, about Lyme in this pdf.
Most herbalists condemn the overuse of antibiotics—for humans as well as those used in livestock feed. Still, if we are bitten by a tick, many of us will go for the doxycycline. Borreliosis-related illnesses are not to be messed with. They can take a generally healthy person from 60 to 0 in a matter of days or weeks—and then it’s a long road back, with recurrent, often intermittent-type, symptoms, just like syphilis, which is also caused by a spirochete. Many sufferers who use herbs to help them with Lyme and its coinfections use Stephen Harrod Buhner’s Healing Lyme: Natural Healing and Prevention of Lyme Borreliosis and Its Coinfections. Buhner also offers additional information at his website.
Given that Borrelia is such a difficult organism to deal with, the best thing to do is prevent bites. That’s worth pounds of cures and days of disability, not to mention the money spent on trying to knock out the organism.