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Navigating Prescription & Alternative Medicine Lyme Treatments

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What Works to Treat Lyme Disease Image from Marty Ross MD

Updated: 1/31/23

In both my weekly Lyme Q&A webinars and clinical practice at Marty Ross MD Healing Arts, I answer questions about which treatments work best to recover from chronic Lyme. These questions fall into two major categories.

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

These alternative medicine questions focus on treatments, such as:

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

In 2019 and 2020 LymeDisease.org’s MyLymeData project published two separate studies that help answer these questions. Prior to this, I had to rely only on my experience because clinical research on effective treatment for chronic Lyme disease is limited. For example, the US National Institutes of Health (NIH) stopped funding clinical research on Lyme disease treatments nearly 20 years ago. Those studies only looked at short-term antibiotic use of three months or less. There were no published clinical studies on the usefulness of alternative medicine therapies.

Fortunately, LymeDisease.org’s MyLymeData project is filling the void. As of April 2022, MyLymeData has over 16,000 people enrolled in its database. To enroll, people fill out a detailed initial questionnaire. Periodically MyLymeData performs studies by sending new questionnaires to some of its participants to gather additional information. The data from two of 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

Antibiotic Treatment Response in Chronic Lyme Disease: Why Do Some Patients Improve While Others Do Not? reported1 what worked for people that got well or responded very well with treatment. You can see more details about this study at LymeDisease.org (LymeDisease.org/antibiotics-for-lyme-disease/).

There were three key findings from this study:

  • Prescription antibiotics work better than alternative medicines.
  • Prescription antibiotics take time.
  • Working with a Lyme-literate clinician is best.

Prescriptions Antibiotics Work

The study(1) 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. However, antibiotics do not always work. Note 38 percent of those that did not get well also used antibiotics.

Prescription Antibiotics Take Time (A Year or More)

In the same study,(1) the authors looked at how long it took to get well. Seventy-one percent of well patients reported it took one year or more to achieve a healthy status.

Working with a Lyme-Literate Clinician is Best

Again in the same study,(1) patients did best if they worked with a clinician who specializes in treating Lyme disease. These types of clinicians are known as Lyme-literate. Although family physicians, pediatricians, internists, naturopathic physicians, and other practitioners may treat Lyme without specific training or practice focus, they tend not to help patients as much as Lyme-literate clinicians.

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. To learn more about other antibiotic strategies, see Infection Treatment Plans on this site.

The Alternative Medicine Study

In 2019, MyLymeData published What Alternative Treatment Work for Lyme Disease? What Are Their Side Effects? In this study,(2) people were asked if the alternative treatments they tried worked. 

Lyme Alternative Therapies Study Results

The chart below shows the percentage of people that found a treatment moderate or very effective. Go to an interactive version of the chart below to see a breakdown of the moderate versus very effective outcomes (LymeDisease.org/mylymedata-alternative-lyme-disease-treatment/).

My Clinical Experience

For the most part, the effectiveness rates of alternative treatments match my clinical experience, but with the following clarifications.


For the most part, I find the benefits of hyperthermia treatment 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 kill germs. While lab experiments show they kill bacteria in test tubes, they do not work in people as effective germ killers. In people, antioxidants 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, which are 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 like 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

The finding that 35 percent of those using Rife machines get benefit is what I also see in my practice. 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. However, 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

Two other alternative therapies some patients are currently using for Lyme disease treatment are Supportive Oligonucleotide Therapy (SOT) and Low Dose Immunotherapy (LDI). Generally, I am very skeptical about both 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

The best way to recover from chronic Lyme disease and the coinfections is to use prolonged herbal or prescription antibiotics for a year or more.1,2 (As I mentioned previously, this can include disulfiram.) In fact, the MyLymeData study suggested 68 percent of people found herbal antibiotic protocols helpful.2 Furthermore, it helps to work with a practitioner who focuses their practice on treating chronic Lyme disease, as well.1

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 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

  1. Johnson L, Shapiro M, Stricker RB, Vendrow J, Haddock J, Needell D. Antibiotic treatment response in chronic Lyme disease: Why do some patients improve while others do not? Healthcare. 2020;8(4):383. doi:10.3390/healthcare8040383 (View)
  2. Johnson L. What Alternative Treatments Work For Lyme Disease? What Are Their Side Effects? LymeDisease.org. Published January 6, 2019. Accessed May 7, 2019. https://www.lymedisease.org/mylymedata-alternative-lyme-disease-treatment/. (View)
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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 (License: MD00033296) 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), The Institute for Functional Medicine, and The American Academy of Anti-Aging Medicine (A4M).

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