Ever since early humans first discovered the medical benefits of the cannabis plant, it has been used to treat a wide variety of illnesses. The cannabinoids known as THC and CBD have become well known for their ability to help patients with symptoms such as pain, nausea, insomnia, and even anxiety and depression. Recently, medical cannabis researchers have also found that these cannabinoids have healing properties for those suffering from Lyme disease. In this article, we will take a look at Lyme disease, its symptoms and conventional treatments, and how medical cannabis (also known as medical marijuana) can alleviate the debilitating symptoms of this illness and help to begin the healing process.
What is Lyme Disease?
Lyme disease is a vector-borne bacterial illness which is caused specifically by the bite of a deer tick. Once a person is bitten by a deer tick they can begin to experience symptoms such as a rash, body aches, chills, or nausea. These symptoms are the first sign that the person is beginning to suffer from Lyme disease. If noticed soon enough, the patient can receive a prescription for antibiotics. If left unattended, however, the symptoms can become more serious and range from chronic joint paints to meningitis. The odds of contracting Lyme disease become less likely if the deer tick is removed within 36 hours of attaching itself to its host.
Lyme disease can be difficult to detect in the human body and as a result the immune system may have a hard time fighting it off. Once a person has contracted the disease it is not contagious between people. However, the exception to this is during pregnancy when a mother can pass it onto its unborn child. Perhaps the most dangerous feature of Lyme disease it that patients can unknowingly live with the condition for years, at which point any antibiotic treatment can become ineffective.
Symptoms of Lyme Disease
Catching and diagnosing Lyme disease as early as possible is imperative as the sooner the disease can be detected, the better chance of antibacterial treatments taking effect. The early symptoms of Lyme disease to look out for include: a red bump at the location of the initial deer tick bite, fever or chills, body aches, swollen lymph nodes, fatigue, headaches, nausea, vomiting, muscle pain or stiffness, or a circular rash known as erythema-migrans. If left untreated, Lyme disease can lead to the progressive worsening of symptoms and become a chronic disease. At this point, the symptoms become more serious and can be life threatening. Chronic Lyme disease can include symptoms such as heart problems (including heart failure), neurological issues, problems with cognition such as memory loss or difficulty concentrating, meningitis, peripheral neuropathy, impaired muscle movement, and brain inflammation. One of the more dangerous symptoms of Chronic Lyme disease is depression. Depression must be taken seriously as the leading cause of death in those suffering from Lyme disease is suicide caused by depression.
Available Treatments and their Side Effects
With Lyme disease, the best case scenario is to prevent being bitten. For those living near grassy and wooded areas known to have ticks, it’s advised that they wear long pants and sleeves and utilize bug spray if possible. If a tick is found on the body, remove it immediately and cautiously. The longer a deer tick remains attached to the body, the greater the chance is of developing Lyme disease. If a person suspects their tick bite was infected with Lyme disease, it is advised they see a doctor right away.
Once Lyme disease is present, the treatment options available may not always be effective and often come with their own side effects. The most common treatment option is a course of antibiotics. In many cases, antibiotics can be effective at eliminating infections if treatment is begun early. The most common type of antibiotic prescribed for Lyme disease is doxycycline. Unfortunately, overusing antibiotics such as doxycycline can be risky as they can cause damage to the patient’s gastrointestinal system. Additionally, antibiotics carry the added risk of removing the healthy bacteria in the body which can lead to an increase in future fungal and bacterial infections. In addition to the antibiotics, doctors may prescribe NSAIDS (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) or muscle relaxers to address the sore muscles and joint pain associated with Lyme disease. These medications are associated with a wide range of negative and unwanted side effects such as stomach ulcers, digestive problems, and blurred vision. For patients whose pain can not be sufficiently managed with these medications, stronger opioids can be prescribed. Opioids are famous for their addictive properties as well as their massive list of negative side effects which can have a damaging effect on a patient’s digestive system and other vital organs and are not recommended.
How Medical Cannabis can Help
While medical cannabis may not always be the first choice when considering treatments for Lyme disease, it has been shown to have antibacterial properties which can be essential to treating the illness. In addition to its antibacterial properties, cannabis offers relief from many of the negative symptoms associated with Lyme disease. For example, many patients deal with debilitating pain in multiple areas of their body which can have a negative impact on their quality of life. This can include headaches and muscle and joint pain. Medical cannabis is well known for its documented ability to relieve pain without the negative symptoms associated with painkillers and without the addictive and dangerous side effects of opiates. This is due to the ability of medical cannabis to act as a potent anti-inflammatory, allowing it to serve as a relief for both joint pain and muscle aches. The inflammation that patients with Lyme disease experience is due to an elevated immune system response. Both the cannabinoids THC and CBD work in synergy with the body’s own endocannabinoid system to module the body’s immune response and help to restore the body to a state of homeostasis.
If you or someone you know has Lyme disease and is interested in beginning a medical cannabis protocol, it is also important to know that there are various methods of using medical cannabis, each with their own benefits. While smoking medical cannabis may be the most known route of administration, it is not advised. For critical illnesses, a full extract cannabis oil (FECO) is the route of administration preferred by medical cannabis experts. Full extract cannabis oil needs to be taken under the care of a qualified medical cannabis practitioner and with a responsible treatment plan as the dosage must be taken with precision and increased over time (titration). Other acceptable methods of administration include medical cannabis oil tinctures, topical oils and salves for pain, fast-acting vaporizers, and edibles. As each of these methods has its own unique way of working with the body’s chemistry, it is highly recommended that patients speak with their doctor and/or a licensed and experienced medical cannabis practitioner before beginning a medical cannabis protocol.