Ticks are vectors for disease; they can transmit pathogenic bacteria to animals and humans through their bites. Diseases caused by tick bites are on the rise and some of them, like Lyme disease, can be difficult to treat and may have lasting effects. Researchers have now found that some herbal compounds could have an antimicrobial impact, and may be useful in treating cases of Bartonella henselae infection, which causes cat scratch fever and is thought to be carried by ticks. The findings have been reported in Infectious Microbes & Diseases.
This work has only tested the efficacy of these herbal compounds in tubes. But, Black walnut (Juglans nigra), Cryptolepis (Cryptolepis sanguinolent), and Japanese knotweed (Polygonum cuspidatum) were all found to disrupt Bartonella henselae microbes in their stationary phase. The research also confirmed that Barbat skullcap (Scutellaria barbata) and Chinese skullcap (Scutellaria baicalensis) are effective against B. henselae.
“With increasing rates of tick-borne diseases and a consistent concern about the overuse of antibiotics, this early research of herbals is extremely exciting,” said Linda Giampa, executive director, Bay Area Lyme Foundation. These herbal medicines were just as effective as prescription drugs that are typically used to treat these infections.
Previous work has indicated that three of these natural compounds: , Cryptolepis, and Japanese knotweed also have an antibacterial effect against the bacteria that causes Lyme disease, Borrelia burgdorferi, and a parasite called Babesia duncani that causes babesiosis. These herbs are just as effective as common antibiotics in treating the B. burgdorferim infection.
“Because so many patients with tick-borne disease do not respond to the standard treatments outlined in medical guidelines, we need research on potential alternatives that can fill this gap and aid in the recovery of patients managing acute and long-term symptoms,” noted study co-author Sunjya K. Schweig, M.D., Founder and Director, California Center for Functional Medicine and Scientific Advisory Board Member, Bay Area Lyme Foundation, an organization that helped fund this work.
Doxycycline and azithromycin are antibiotics that are often used to treat tick-borne infections, but they eliminated persistent forms of the microbe to about the same level as a drug-free control.
More testing will be needed to determine how well these compounds work in a live model of infection, and the appropriate and safe levels that might be needed to treat patients. These herbs are already available, but the researchers added that they should only be taken under the supervision of a physician.