Lyme disease has gained a lot of attention in the media over the past few years. Avril Lavigne shared her experience with Lyme disease, telling the public that she believed she was near death, bedridden as she was for months. Reality TV star and former model Yolanda Foster has also publicly shared her battle with Lyme disease on “The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills,” garnering reactions ranging from theories of delusion to an outpouring of support. Fashion designer Tommy Hilfiger’s daughter, Allie, released a book describing her perilous ordeal with the disease, which even included being committed to a mental institution due to complications caused by the disease, prior to her diagnosis.
Yet behind all of the buzz and big names, there are many folks who suffer from Lyme disease, and cannabis could be a helpful component in their journey to better health.
What Is Lyme Disease?
Lyme disease is on the rise in Canada and around the world. In 2015, over 700 cases of Lyme disease were reported to the Public Health Agency of Canada, up from 130 or thereabouts in 2009. Lyme disease has been found in more than 65 countries in the world. This debilitating disease often goes undiagnosed; current mainstream tests miss up to 60% of cases. As well, Lyme disease is often misdiagnosed as multiple sclerosis, chronic fatigue, lupus, fibromyalgia or other similar conditions.
Symptoms of Lyme disease can vary greatly based on the person affected. Early signs typically include fever, rash (sometimes shaped like a bull’s eye), chills, headache, fatigue, joint pain and neurological problems. Many patients also experience gastrointestinal problems, severe fatigue and inflammation throughout the body.
Lyme disease can be tricky to target if the bacteria transmitted by the infected tick has gone unrecognized in the patient for a long time. Some patients end up needing months to years of IV antibiotics and a regime of herbal supplements to rebuild the body’s immune function.
Cannabis Helps Relieve the Symptoms of Lyme Disease
Dr. Ernie Murakami of British Colombia’s Centre for Lyme Research believes that cannabidiol (CBD) could greatly help Lyme disease patients. Dr. Murakami has found success while using CBD against live spirochetes, a corkscrew-shaped bacteria that causes Lyme disease; he believes CBD has the potential to help those afflicted with the disease. After Dr. Murakami presented his findings in October 2014, a university in the United States picked up the research and is further investigating his hypothesis.
A new book released in 2015 provides a wealth of knowledge along with anecdotal evidence on how marijuana could help patients with Lyme disease. Shelley M. White wrote Cannabis for Lyme Disease and Related Conditions following her battle with Lyme disease.
White used cannabis during her treatment process and said, “Cannabis oil greatly reduced the severity of my symptom picture and improved my quality of life while going through Lyme treatment.” The book also includes firsthand accounts of other Lyme disease patients who successfully used cannabis to help them during their treatment.
Cannabis Can Improve Quality of Life for Lyme Disease Patients
Lyme disease sufferers may be able to improve their quality of life during their treatment by using cannabis. Many Lyme disease sufferers experience severe chronic pain throughout their bodies, primarily in the joints. Cannabis is known to reduce pain and it works on the cannabinoid receptors in the body to help reduce inflammation.
In addition, many Lyme disease patients have problems with digestion, either due to the Lyme disease itself or all of the antibiotics needed during the treatment process. Cannabis has long been used to help patients with gastrointestinal problems and can also stimulate appetite in patients who have trouble eating.
It’s believed that Lyme disease patients may also experience problems similar to those that arise with autoimmune diseases, where the body has trouble differentiating between foreign invaders—in this case, the bacteria that causes Lyme disease—and its own healthy cells. The use of CBD can help improve the immune system, allowing the body to better recognize between foreign entities and the body’s own tissues and organs.
Cannabis may be useful in supporting patients getting treatment for Lyme disease. Though studies are few and far between looking at the connection between Lyme disease and medical marijuana, the anecdotal evidence is very positive. Anecdotally, many of the individual symptoms of Lyme disease—from inflammation to pain and fatigue—have improved with cannabis consumption. Medical marijuana may be just the boost that Lyme disease patients need to help them on their road to recovery.