Essential Oils for Persister Lyme May Help

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Essential Oils for Lyme Persisters Image by Marty Ross MD

Essential Oils for Lyme Persisters

Recent lab experiments by Ying Zhang, MD and his colleagues show that some essential oils may help treat persister Lyme. His research is causing lyme sufferers, me, and many of my colleagues to revisit the use of essential oils to treat Lyme. Around 2015, there was an essential oil treatment craze in the world of Lyme. Many people tried brands like Doterra essential oils for Lyme. Some got help, but the majority did not. 

There are a number of reasons Lyme is hard to treat. One idea getting a lot of current attention is that Lyme, like tuberculosis and leprosy, can develop persister cells. Persisters in Lyme are comprised of the spirochetes, cysts, and biofilm communities that grow very slowly or not at all. These persister forms essentially go into hibernation where they ignore the antibiotics a person takes and the immune system. Read more in How to Treat Persister Lyme. What Works?

While essential oil treatments largely failed for most in the past, their success in the future may involve improved delivery forms so they get into the bloodstream. For instance, liposomal products, where the oils are microscopically wrapped in fat, could get better absorption and work. (See the end of this article for more about this.) 

Marty Ross MD Discusses Essential Oil Lyme Research

This video was recorded during Conversations with Marty Ross MD on 6/20/19.

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The Northeastern University Studies

In 2015, Lewis and colleagues showed Lyme developed persister cells when exposed to ongoing antibiotics. (1) The experiments showed about 20% of Lyme spirochete forms and 20% of Lyme cyst forms turned into persister forms. These persisters ignored the antibiotics used to kill them.

Zhang Studies

Drug Research

Zhang comes to the world of Lyme from the world of tuberculosis research. Like Lyme, tuberculosis develops persister cells too. In tuberculosis, multiple drug regimens work best to target persistence. Zhang is bringing that idea to the world of his Lyme persister research. He has done a number of experiments finding different antibiotic combinations that can treat persister Lyme. The problem with his work is that most of the combinations of antibiotics he has found effective are not accessible to the average person. Either the drug combinations he found to be effective are very costly, certain medications are only available for certain diseases, or the drugs are not available in the USA.

Essential Oil Research

In two different sets of experiments Zhang and colleagues tested a large number of essential oils and herbs to see if they individually could kill persister Lyme in laboratory experiments. (2, 3) The first study published in 2017 showed 

  • oregano oil, 
  • cinnamon bark, and 
  • clove bud 

completely wiped out all Lyme persisters. The second study published at the end of 2018 showed that 

  • garlic, 
  • cinnamon bark, 
  • allspice, 
  • myrrh,
  • hydacheim, and
  • Litsea cubeba 

completely wiped out all Lyme persisters

The 2017 and 2018 studies also showed a number of other oils that significantly lowered viable germs cells to 35% or less. These include:

  • geranium, 
  • patchouli dark, 
  • lavender, 
  • clary sage, 
  • cedarwood, 
  • thieves, 
  • spearmint, 
  • tea tree, 
  • marjoram, 
  • peppermint, 
  • breath, 
  • palmarosa, 
  • eucalyptus, 
  • amyris, 
  • cumin, and 
  • cornmint.

Combinations of Essential Oils

As I noted above, persister Lyme and tuberculosis research shows that combinations of drugs work best. The Zhang studies did not look at any essential oil combinations. But, it is possible that some of the essential oils like lavender and tea tree used in combination could get better kills or even wipe out persisters. I am interested in seeing if Zhang or others will conduct further research looking at this idea. 

Lab Experiments vs Human Experiments

The Zhang experiments look promising. However, what happens on a petri dish in the lab does not always happen in living people. In the case of essential oils, the Doterra craze of the past suggest in regular form, essential oils do not work well for most with Lyme. One problem may be that they are not well absorbed - so the oils do not reach the Lyme germs to kill them.

Liposomal Essential Oils May Be The Answer

In my Seattle practice, I found a liposomal product called Biocidin LSF to help people with Lyme*. As a liposomal product, the various herbs and oils in Biocidin LSF are microscopically wrapped in fat to improve absorption. There are a number of herbs and oils in this product. Four of these are the 

  • garlic, 
  • tea tree oil, 
  • lavender oil, and 
  • oregano oil 

shown to reduce or eliminate persister Lyme in the Zhang research. Perhaps one of the reasons Biocidin LSF helps is that these essential oils are delivered effectively to the bloodstream where they can kill persister Lyme. Biocidin LSF has other ways it works too. Read more about these in Biocidin: A Potent Antimicrobial and Biofilm Breaker.

In my webinars I have been asked if essential oils can be mixed with prescription or herbal antibiotics. In my Seattle practice I did this. I think it is safe to do. But, I suggest before adding Biocidin LSF to your treatment that you discuss it with your physician or healthcare provider.

Additional Herbal and Prescription Antibiotic Ideas

There are many ways to kill Lyme. Essential oils offer one possible way. For additional ideas see A Lyme Disease Antibiotic Guide.


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.

* These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.


View Citations

  1. Sharma B, Brown AV, Matluck NE, Hu LT, Lewis K. Borrelia burgdorferi, the causative agent of Lyme disease, forms drug-tolerant persister cells. Antimicrob Agents Chemother. 2016;59:4616–4624. doi:10.1128/AAC.00864-15. (View)
  2. Feng J, Zhang S, Shi W, Zubcevik N, Miklossy J, Zhang Y. Selective Essential Oils from Spice or Culinary Herbs Have High Activity against Stationary Phase and Biofilm Borrelia burgdorferi. Front Med (Lausanne). 2017;4:169. Published 2017 Oct 11. doi:10.3389/fmed.2017.00169 (View)
  3. Feng J, Shi W, Miklossy J, Tauxe GM, McMeniman CJ, Zhang Y. Identification of Essential Oils with Strong Activity against Stationary Phase Borrelia burgdorferi. Antibiotics (Basel). 2018;7(4):89. Published 2018 Oct 16. doi:10.3390/antibiotics7040089 (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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