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Borreliosis is an inflammatory disease caused by a bacterium spread by ticks, which in the worst case may become chronic and restrict movement. This article explains in more detail what borreliosis is, how the functioning of the endocannabinoid system can be seen behind it, and whether CBD could be of help in supporting the treatment of its symptoms.
What is Lyme disease?
Borreliosis, or Lyme disease, is a globally known disease caused by bacteria, which in some cases may also become chronic. Lyme disease is the result of the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi, which lives in small mammals, such as wild rodents, and is carried and spread around by ticks and taiga ticks. Rarely, but sometimes, borreliosis can be contracted from the bite of a tick or tick. (1)
Lyme disease gets its name from the small town called Lyme in North America, where the first cases of borreliosis were detected in the 1970s. Today, borreliosis is found all over the world, and in Finland it is most common in the Åland region, where a third of all domestic borreliosis cases are detected. According to estimates, you get a tick bite every year in Finland. 500,000 people, of which approx. 6,000 get Lyme disease. However, only approx. 50-80% of them get symptoms. (1)
Symptoms of borreliosis or Lyme disease
For borreliosis to be possible, the rule of thumb is that the tick should be attached to the person for at least 24 hours. Another condition for getting infected is that the tick carries the Borrelia burgdorferi bacterium. The probability of borreliosis infection is very small, but still possible.
The most obvious symptom of borreliosis is a large, red rash-like area that develops around the tick or stinger injection site, the center of which often turns white. This red area is not actually painful, swollen or itchy, etc., and its appearance is not always a sign of borreliosis. If the rash continues to spread after several days, it is almost a sure sign of infection. However, in all cases of borreliosis, a red spot does not appear, so you should not just wait for it, but honestly observe your own condition a few weeks after the tick bite.
Chronic borreliosis, or prolonged Lyme disease
In the absence of a red spot or if it quickly heals on its own, borreliosis may go unnoticed, in which case it also goes untreated at that moment. In untreated borreliosis, the bacterium spreads from the tick bite to other parts of the body, causing inflammation, for which antibiotics usually used in treatment may no longer be effective. Untreated borreliosis usually progresses to a more serious infection than the initial symptom of a red ring on the skin. The most common infections caused by chronic Lyme disease are e.g. arthritis, meningitis, nerve root infection or facial nerve palsy, but these are not actually symptoms of Lyme disease, but part of its acute disease picture. (1,2)
The most common symptoms of chronic borreliosis are pain in the joints, flu-like symptoms, and the aforementioned infections. If left untreated, the bacterium that causes borreliosis can even progress to the central nervous system, and this can be avoided by starting treatment early enough. (1,2)
Tick bite and borreliosis prevention
There are actually no preventive measures, but you can try to avoid tick bites. The best ways to do this are to protect the body with clothes, an effective check for ticks after going outside, especially in risk areas, and various herbal preparations that can be used to try to repel ticks and prevent them from getting attached.
Taking care of the body’s resistance is of paramount importance in the prevention of all diseases, and it may also help against diseases and parasites spread by ticks.
It is said that ticks do not like the smell of garlic(3) or St. John’s wort, and one way to prevent ticks from getting infected is to eat garlic or rub fresh St. John’s wort on trouser legs, shoes and ankles. There are also other different natural preparations based on herbs on the market that can be used to repel ticks, either directly on the skin or applied to clothes.
Treatment of borreliosis
A tick bite usually heals itself, but if the borrelia bacterium enters the body and causes symptoms, it is treated with strong antibiotics. Antibiotic treatment in the rash phase can prevent borreliosis from becoming chronic.
Lyme disease is often challenging to diagnose, especially if there is reason to suspect it outside of the typical tick season. Antibodies only develop in the blood within a few weeks, and by then the rash is often already gone.
Prolonged borreliosis, i.e. chronic Lyme disease, is treated either with a strong and long course of antibiotics or intravenously administered antibiotics. Treatment practices in Finland differ slightly from the way other countries treat borreliosis and chronic borreliosis. It is common for people suffering from borreliosis to travel to, for example, Germany, which has its own hospital dedicated to the treatment of borreliosis.
The endocannabinoid system in Lyme disease
The endocannabinoid system , which takes care of the balance of the entire body, makes sure that everything works and happens in the body as it should. The endocannabinoid system is not actually involved in the origin of Lyme disease or its course, but as in almost all diseases, changes have been noticed in the functioning of the endocannabinoid system compared to a healthy system.
CBD oil for Lyme disease?
Hemp contains numerous compounds, most notably cannabidiol (CBD), have been extensively studied and the positive effects on many diseases are undeniable in light of these. The relief of borreliosis symptoms with the help of CBD oil has only been studied a little, if at all, and the observations based on its therapeutic effect are mainly based on user experiences.
CBD or any other compound found in hemp does not cure Lyme disease or remove the bacteria that causes it from the body, but it may help alleviate the symptoms. CBD might relieves inflammation and affects various pains such as muscle pain (4,5). CBD oil is also protective of the nervous system and thus could potentially be good in the treatment of chronic borreliosis as well.
A book has been written about the use of CBD in the treatment of lyme disease, which you can buy for yourself in paper or e-version here Expert Guide on Using CBD Oil to Prevent and Cure LYME Disease. The book is written by American Ph.D Daniel Ross.
There is also a book on the effect of cannabis, i.e. hemp containing THC, on Lyme disease, which can be purchased either in paper or e-version here Amazon.com: Cannabis for Lyme Disease & Related Conditions: Scientific Basis and Anecdotal Evidence for Medicinal Use eBook : White, Shelley, McIntyre, Julie: Kindle Store .
Lyme disease, ticks and CBD in animals
Ticks are a very common problem especially for cats and dogs in the summer, because they walk with their noses stuck in the grass almost all the time. Lyme disease can also be transmitted from ticks to animals, but this is very rare, especially when compared to the fact that animals may have several ticks attached to them after just one run. There are specific preparations for animals to repel ticks, from collars to herbal preparations, and you should check their suitability and functionality for your own animal species from your veterinarian. For example, a homemade peppermint alcohol product intended for dogs is not suitable for cats. The recipe for this preparation find here .
CBD oil is mostly suitable for animals for the same ailments as for humans, and it may therefore be worth trying to use CBD oil also for the treatment of animal borreliosis and to alleviate the symptoms. You should always visit a veterinarian if you suspect that your pet is infected with borreliosis.
Borreliosis is a very unpleasant disease, especially when it develops, which fortunately can be cured with strong antibiotics at the latest. It’s easy to notice a tick attached, but sometimes the tick has time to detach before you notice the bite. A red, rash-like spot often appears at the bite site, but this does not automatically mean Lyme disease. Ticks also infect pets and they can also get borreliosis, although it is much rarer. CBD oil may have positive effects on borreliosis and its symptoms, but there has been very little research into this.
- Lumio J. 2021. Duodecim terveyskirjasto. Borreliosis (Lyme disease). https://www.terveyskirjasto.fi/dlk00063. Referred on 23/01/2023
- Lumio J. 2021. Duodecim terveyskirjasto. Prolonged and chronic Lyme disease. https://www.terveyskirjasto.fi/dlk01188/pitkittynyt-ja-krooninen-lymen-tauti. Referred on 23/01/2023.
- Siippainen A. 2020. Helsinki news. MT: This basic spice in every home repels ticks effectively – don’t give it to the dog
https://www.helsinginuutiset.fi/paikalliset/1315828 . Referred on 5/19/2023
- Lorena C. et al. 2021. The anti-inflammatory effects of cannabidiol and cannabigerol alone, and in combination. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S1094553921000596. Referred on 03/03/2023
- Mlost, J. et al. 2020. Polish Academy of Sciences.. Cannabidiol for Pain Treatment: Focus on Pharmacology and Mechanism of Action https://www.mdpi.com/1422-0067/21/22/8870/html. Referred on 03/03/2023