What Works?
Navigating Prescription & Alternative Medicine Lyme Treatments

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What Works to Treat Lyme Disease Image from Marty Ross MD

Success of Prescription & Alternative Medicine Lyme Treatments

In my Lyme Q&A webinars and my clinical practice at Marty Ross MD Healing Arts, I answer questions about which treatments work best to recover from chronic Lyme.

Which prescription or herbal antibiotics really work for chronic Lyme disease and how long do they take? What about alternative medicine Lyme disease treatments like:

  • Rife machines,
  • stem cell therapy,
  • ozone,
  • hyperbaric oxygen,
  • hyperthermia,
  • supportive oligonucleotide therapy (SOT),
  • low dose immunotherapy (LDI), or
  • IV hydrogen peroxide?

In the past, I had to rely only on my clinical experience to answer these questions. The US National Institutes for Health (NIH) stopped funding clinical research on Lyme disease treatments over 15 years ago. Those studies only looked at short term antibiotic use of three months or less.

Fortunately, lymedisease.org’s MyLymeData project is filling the void. MyLymeData has nearly 12,000 people enrolled who answered a detailed health questionnaire about their experience with Lyme disease. Using this basic data as a starting point, MyLymeData performed two more extensive studies to see what works to treat Lyme. The data from these studies, which I share below, reflects the experience I see with my own patients. Learn more or sign up to participate in MyLymeData at MyLymeData.org.

The Prescription Antibiotic Study

The latest study is Antibiotic Treatment Response in Chronic Lyme Disease: Why Do Some Patients Improve While Others Do Not? published October 3, 2020. In the study people that got well or responded very well with treatment were studied to see what worked. You can see more details about this study at lymedisease.org here.

Prescriptions Antibiotics Work

The study asked if participants used

  • prescription antibiotics,
  • alternative medicines,
  • prescription antibiotics and alternative medicines, or
  • no antibiotics at all.

Based on the study, those that used antibiotics had the greatest chance of recovering. For instance, 76 percent of those that got well used prescription antibiotics versus 38 percent of those that did not get well.

Prescription Antibiotics Take Time (A Year or More)

In the October 3 study, the study looked at how long it took to get well. Seventy one percent of well patients reported it took one year or more.

Working with a Lyme Literate Medical Doctor is Best

Based on the October 3 study, patients did best if they worked with a physician who specializes in treating Lyme disease. These types of physicians are known as Lyme Literate Medical Doctors (LLMDs). Although family physicians, pediatricians, internist, and naturopathic physicians may try to treat Lyme without specific training or practice focus, they tend not to help patients as much as LLMDs.

About Disulfiram

It is unlikely that any of the people in this study that got well tried disulfiram - the newer Lyme wonder-drug that many are using successfully in their current antibiotic strategies. Disulfiram is used to treat alcoholism and now is repurposed as a Lyme disease antibiotic. To read how to use disulfiram and its specific success in an overall antibiotic strategy see Disulfiram for Lyme Update. To learn more about other antibiotic strategies see the Infection Treatment Plans section on this site.

The Alternative Medicine Study

In 2019, MyLymeData published: What Alternative Treatment Work for Lyme Disease? What Are There Side Effects? In this study, people were asked if the alternative treatments they tried worked.

Lyme Alternative Therapies Study Results

Here is the percent of people that found a treatment moderate or very effective. To see an interactive version of the chart below, where you can see a breakdown of the moderate versus very effective outcomes, go to the MyLymeData article here.

My Clinical Experience

For the most part, the effectiveness rates above match my clinical experience with the following clarifications.


For the most part, I find the benefits to be short-lived - lasting two to three months. Most pursuing this therapy will eventually need to take herbal or prescription antibiotics to recover further. Read my full review of this alternative Lyme treatment in Whole Body Hyperthermia Treatment for Lyme.

Ozone, Hydrogen Peroxide, & Other Oxygen Therapies

Based on my review of the science, I do not think these therapies actually kill germs. While lab experiments show they kill germs, they do not work in people as germ killers. In people, anti-oxidants in the blood likely neutralize the killing ability of these therapies. People may feel better with these therapies because they likely help the function of the cell energy factories called mitochondria. Read more about these points in Ozone, Hydrogen Peroxide, Vit. C, UV Blood Irradiation & Lyme.

Stem Cell Therapy

In general stem cell therapy for Lyme is a great and expensive disappointment. While this therapy should be hopeful, it is not useful due to the limitations on how it is practiced in the United States. At issue is the type of stem cells used. Stem cells that can repair any tissue in the body come from embryos. In the United States, embryonic stem cells are not available. The alternatives used here are fat stem cells and umbilical cord stem cells. These types of stem cells are not programmed to fix every type of tissue or to become any kind of cell the way embryonic cells are. Therefore they do not repair most of the injury seen in chronic Lyme disease. Read more in About Stem Cell Therapy for Lyme.

Rife Machine

I too find those using Rife machines get benefit 35% of the time. However, I have not found anyone to reach a cure with this type of therapy. See my full review of this type of therapy in Rife Machines for Lyme Treatment.

Medical Marijuana

Although petri dish experiments suggest CBD oil from cannabis plants can kill lyme, it does not appear to be a good germ killer in humans. I recommend medical marijuana and CBD to treat various symptoms seen in Lyme. For more information see Medical Marijuana, Cannabis, & CBD for Lyme.

About Other Alternative Therapies

There are two other alternative therapies that some are currently using for Lyme disease treatment. The newest is Supportive Oligonucleotide Therapy (SOT) and the other is Low Dose Immunotherapy (LDI). Generally, I am very skeptical about both of these treatments and do not suggest my patients do them. For more information see SOT Treatment for Lyme Disease and LDI: Bring on The Regulators.

My Final Thoughts: What Works Best

In my experience, the best way to recover from chronic Lyme disease and the coinfections is using prolonged herbal or prescription antibiotics. As I mention above, this can include disulfiram. This usually means using herbal or prescription antibiotics for a year or more. The My Lyme Data study supports this point. The 2020 study did not specifically address if herbal antibiotics give good benefit. But the 2019 study does suggest 68% of people find herbal antibiotic protocols helpful. In addition, it helps to work with a practitioner who focuses their practice on treating chronic Lyme disease.

If you are considering using alternative therapies to heal from chronic Lyme, I suggest you use them as accessory treatments while using herbal or prescription antibiotics. In addition to these alternative therapies, recovery from Lyme may require

As a starting point to determine when and how to address these various issues see the Ross Lyme Support Protocol.

Special Thanks

Thank you to Lorraine Johnson at lymedisease.org and MyLymeData for permission to reprint their images. People with Lyme have answers - but we have to gather that information in meaningful ways to understand this illness better. MyLymeData provides a platform to gather and learn from the real world experience of people living with Lyme. If you are not enrolled in MyLymeData, I encourage you to visit MyLymeData.org to enroll today.


The ideas and recommendations on this website and in this article are for informational purposes only. For more information about this, see the sitewide Terms & Conditions.


View Citations

Johnson, L.; Shapiro, M.; Stricker, R.B.; Vendrow, J.; Haddock, J.; Needell, D. Antibiotic Treatment Response in Chronic Lyme Disease: Why Do Some Patients Improve While Others Do Not? Healthcare (Basel) 20208https://doi.org/10.3390/healthcare8040383 

Johnson, L. What alternative treatments work for Lyme disease? What are their side effects?, MyLymeData Viz. https://www.lymedisease.org/mylymedata-alternative-lyme-disease-treatment/

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About the Author

Marty Ross, MD is a passionate Lyme disease educator and clinical expert. He helps Lyme sufferers and their physicians see what really works based on his review of the science and extensive real-world experience. Dr. Ross is licensed to practice medicine in Washington State where he has treated thousands of Lyme disease patients in his Seattle practice. 

Marty Ross, MD is a graduate of Indiana University School of Medicine and Georgetown University Family Medicine Residency. He is a member of the International Lyme and Associated Disease Society (ILADS) and The Institute for Functional Medicine.

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