Teasel Root Healing Lyme Disease
By Laila Wold
Note: By request this article was submitted to the Journal of the American Herbalists Guild (JAHG) which published a special issue on Herbal Treatment for Lyme Disease in 2013. A summary of the article appears in the AHG Journal with a link to this site. This article was thus written focusing specially on teasel’s properties. It differs somewhat from the Norwegian version (To små flåttbitt / Two Small Tick Bites) where the interaction with the Norwegian health care system is described in more detail, although of course teasel’s wonderful healing qualities are also described.
This article aims to show that teasel (Dipsacus sylvestris) has the ability to restore a life broken down by Lyme disease. The first six years were characterized by undiagnosed neuroborreliosis without the more well known Lyme symptoms of joint and muscle problems. However, after a re-infection six years later, the physical problems also appeared. A treatment with Tincture of Teasel Root lasting for 7 ½ months on a low dosage (altogether two 30 ml bottles) cured all the problems. Two brain scans, one taken during years of illness and another taken after the treatment was completed, provide indisputable evidence of teasel’s effectiveness.
In late summer 2005 I was sitting in my MD’s office with a notepad where all my questions had been written down because I could no longer remember what I had planned to say. Earlier that summer I had been to the emergency room due to intense palpitations of the heart, something that had occurred after many days of persistent headache, a rare occurrence in my life. To this appointment I had also brought with me a Handbook to tell my doctor I had actually been the editor of that book, but that it would now be out of question to take on such a project because something had happened to my brain. I was deeply concerned as I no longer recognized myself. The MD hardly knew this patient, a woman in her early 50’s who had recently relocated to that area. I was not aware of having moved to an endemic area as Lyme disease didn’t figure prominently in the press at the time and the MD didn’t make a connection to the symptoms I was telling him about.
Before I continue to describe the health problems which turned my life upside-down, I would like to say a few words about the work on the Handbook I had completed two years prior to this appointment because it will help to illustrate the dramatic changes Lyme disease can cause in a person’s life. I was employed as an advisor by one of the Norwegian state directorates, being an editor of a Handbook with 90 contributors ranging from governmental ministries to NGOs. As it happens, I have a very good reference from that assignment which moreover states that I contributed importantly to the professional and social environment of the particular department I was working for. I’m saying this, because three years later (2006), it would not have occurred to anybody that I could make an important contribution to anything, because my brain had opted out.
Instead I had embarked on an altogether different journey which took almost 7 years of my life – a true Dark Night of the Soul experience. I’ll have to ask you to be patient as I describe some of these experiences, because it takes some time before teasel root enters the scene. But please bear in mind that teasel eventually healed the problems described. Less than a year after the appointment with my MD I started making the acquaintance of various psychiatric institutions because the brain fog was soon accompanied by depression which became serious indeed. It was in fact so heavy that for a long time I was under considerable pressure to accept ECT, something I fortunately adamantly refused. The pressure to accept even stronger doses of anti-depressants was equally intense despite the fact that I could hardly sit still due to the restlessness the anti-depressants were causing. Insomnia and loss of appetite were other features. It was a nightmare.
In October 2006 I was referred for a brain scan which was not very promising:
“19.10.2006 NUKL Cerebral Spect scan
The patient is under review for depression at the psychiatric department.
Small areas of diminished intake activity can be seen in the right parietal lobe/occipital lobe, plus frontally in the right temporal lobe. Slightly reduced intake activity can be seen in small areas in the left occipital lobe, and the left temporal lobe.
Conclusion: These finds are probably due to cerebrovascular (ischemic/multi-infarct) causes.”
At the time of writing I have access to a copy of my patient journal and it appears that it was being discussed if I was suffering from early dementia, something I was personally convinced of. Many other diagnoses were also suggested, but Lyme was not one of them. At this point I would like to mention that an article by Brian Fallon and J. Nields, Lyme disease: a neuropsychiatric illness, published by American Journal of Psychiatry 1994, clearly shows that one can be infected by Borrelia although there are no signs of physical problems. The article has a long list of psychiatric reactions that have been associated with Lyme disease, including major depression and dementia. Brian Fallon is now Director of Lyme and Tick-Borne Diseases Research Center at Columbia University Medical Center.
To return to the story, in the next few years my life as I knew it simply fell apart – a divorce with subsequent disintegration of the home, friends – except for 2-3 really faithful ones – gradually withdrew, family members no longer knew how to relate to this completely changed person, there was loss of social life, career and loss of ability to read and write. Even a life-long passion for work with textiles and sewing died as my fine motor skills deteriorated. The most challenging loss was, however, a detachment from my core self with a complete disconnection from anything spiritual.
Having lost everything – or at least so it appeared – I was at one point making firm plans to leave the planet Earth. I burnt and destroyed most of my confidential papers and decided to give away my books, including a large collection of astrology books. In 2003 I had qualified as an astrology Diploma holder after many years of study, but future dreams and plans for a new career associated with this path had obviously dissolved too. I’m not alone in having had those suicidal urges it seems. Katina I. Makris, author of the truly beautiful book Out of the Woods: Healing Lyme Disease – Body, Mind & Spirit, writes posts on her blog which catch the mood of the Lyme communities, and in her post dated 19 September 2012 (Rhode Island, You Rock!) she gives a moving account of a book tour in Rhode Island – described as “tick nirvana” – which touches on this theme. She says “The South Shore Lyme Support Group is holding many lives together, suicidal feelings knocking on too many hearts.”
In my case there was no Lyme Support Group, but a worried friend, who thankfully never gave up on me, and my equally concerned sister alarmed my MD who immediately made sure I went back to psychiatric hospital. According to my patient journal I walked around restlessly and complained about a burning sensation inside the head, saying it felt as if a part of my brain had been scorched. I remember it was very painful as well as terrifying. Along with other symptoms, this earned me the diagnosis “recurrent depressive disorder with psychotic symptoms”.
Much against my wish I had to take up my life again. At least I was granted a decent disability pension in 2009. In the same year I took part in a course in cognitive therapy which may be worth mentioning here. During the course we learnt that the hippocampus is severely affected by depression and we were taught exercises to strengthen the hippocampus. I really wanted to get well and worked hard on those exercises despite my ever present brain fog, but it didn’t make any difference whatsoever – the depression didn’t lift one inch, in fact having completed the course I was even more depressed than I had been before it started as I also felt so defeated. After my recovery I experienced amazing a-ha moments reading Stephen H. Buhner’s excellent book Healing Lyme – Natural Healing and Prevention of Lyme Borreliosis and Its Coinfections because he describes in detail how the hippocampus is severely affected by something else: the Lyme infection. It was like reading about my own journey, but at last there was an explanation of what had happened – depression occurs as a result of the infection. Buhner refers to tests which confirm that changes in hippocampal function cause those with late-stage neuroborreliosis to experience depression, anxiety, sleep problems, memory impairment and problems with verbal fluency, attention and dexterity. (Buhner 2005: 48-49)
In addition to the above course I sought help from many sources during the initial years of illness. This included crystal therapy, Rosen Method Therapy, flower remedies, shamanic healing, integrative medicine, counselling and even channelling. None of these could help me, they were very expensive and the latter was a real rip-off.
In the two years following the course in cognitive therapy, the depression and the mental fog lifted slightly. During those years I took part in a group focusing on creative activities at a centre for people affected by psychiatric illnesses. This was beneficial although dexterity was still limited and with my impaired memory even simple knitting patterns were a challenge. I later learnt from a Swedish report that creative activities that involve the use of hands have proved to be beneficial for people with neurological illnesses, so I was probably on the right track.
Participation in an excellent physical training program for people unemployed and on disability pension, “Active in Daytime”, was beneficial too. Exercising is supposed to be particularly useful for those affected by Lyme; it activates the lymph system and ensures better circulation and detoxification. In fact, according to Dr. Burrascano, recovery from Lyme requires exercising (Burrascano 2008:31). Of course I cannot know if exercising contributed to altering the Borrelia bacterium’s environment in my brain. It was, however, a helpful activity indeed for me.
The slight lifting of the mental fog was fortunate because it meant I was eventually able to find out about teasel on the Internet when I was re-infected by a tick bite in the summer of 2011. This was a more obvious Lyme case which started with a headache and included a rash, muscle pain and migratory joint pain. However, to the world of medicine it was not at all obvious it was Lyme as I had not seen a tick and as the rash was not of the bull’s eye type¹. It was a struggle to be taken seriously, to get antibiotics (20 days of Doxycycline), adequate testing and follow-up.
I didn’t know it was possible to become so ill so fast. The fatigue was frightening and made it difficult to get out of bed in the morning, I couldn’t walk down the corridor to the MD’s office without supporting myself to the wall, my fingers were so stiff I could hardly send a text message, I was rapidly losing weight, what was left of my brain seemed to be deteriorating fast and the depression was like a heavy blanket descending on me although I was still on anti-depressants. Due to these symptoms a number of tests were taken at a consultation with the MD after the course of antibiotics had been completed, but the subsequent results indicated there was nothing wrong with me. Some days later I experienced a similar type of burning sensation inside my head which I did a few years earlier, this time one the right side of the head. Again, it was very painful and terrifying. The MD kept saying that if I had been infected by Borrelia – which he certainly didn’t think – I had in any case been given adequate treatment with 20 days of antibiotics. It is a shocking moment when you realize you are seriously ill, your health is declining rapidly day by day and you finally understand that your doctor simply hasn’t got a clue! At that point I decided to ignore what he was saying and to start looking seriously for a solution myself.
I had been reading about Lyme on European and American websites for a month. If you are not depressed before you start reading, you’re likely to get depressed after a short time. A lot of the information is discouraging and can make you feel you’ve got a life sentence. Eventually it seemed futile absorbing more of it, and this is when the turning point happened! My adventurous way to healing started by being guided to search for “Lyme disease” at the Blood Type Diet’s discussion forum, a diet I had been interested in prior to my first infection. A mother simply wanted to share the news of the incredible cure which had saved her young daughter’s life, hoping it would help others: Teasel Root Extract. In the same thread someone said to look for a plant called “karde” which helps with Lyme. The two people didn’t know – and I only found out later – they were actually talking about the same herb: “karde” is the German name for teasel!
I immediately went to the recommended herbal supplier to order the Teasel Root Extract, but it unfortunately seemed they would not accept an order from Norway. As they were closed for the weekend, I would have to wait for two days before making inquiries. With my brain becoming increasingly “foggy” hour by hour, I thought it unlikely I would be able to handle Internet payment etc. in two days’ time, so I kept on searching for “Teasel”.
I found another discussion group which recommended an article by Dr. Philip Fritchey, Lyme-Aid, and eventually I managed to track down his site. In the middle of the night I sat there reading his wonderful article which filled me with hope. Dr. Fritchey describes how his own health for many years was seriously afflicted by Lyme disease – fatigue, mental fog, joint and muscle pain and how he recovered thanks to teasel root. He says “At the risk of melodrama, I can only say that, so far at least, the result has been nothing short of miraculous. Within three days of starting with the very small dosage recommended by Wood …, the fog lifted, the fatigue melted away, and though it took longer, the joint and muscle pain subsided, and has continued to improve since. I feel like my life has been given back to me.” He further says the effects were so dramatic that he felt compelled to find out more about the herb and that he actually started making the tincture of Teasel Root. He says “… I have made it available to students and practitioners working with Lyme and related, often mis-diagnosed conditions – chronic fatigue, Epstein Barr, fibromyalgia, ALS, etc. So far, the feedback has been very positive, often equally dramatic.”
Having read his article, I just knew I would receive help and get well. However, when I tried to order the tincture from the recommended ebay address it turned out ebay only ships to the US and Canada. So close – all those bottles with Tincture of Teasel Root in different sizes on display, yet so far away – across the Atlantic! Distressed and with a collapsing brain I picked up my courage and wrote an email to Dr. Fritchey asking if he knew of any other ways of buying the tincture. Having done that it dawned on me I’d better find out if I was about to do something illegal; the Norwegian Medicinal Agency’s regulations for import of herbal remedies are very strict, to say the least. Many herbs helpful for different Lyme symptoms require a MD’s prescription and are therefore in practice illegal as MDs are unlikely to prescribe something they know nothing about, like for instance artemisinin, astragalus, boneset, cat’s claw, celandine, hemp agrimony and mistletoe. I managed to find their List of Herbs which did not include Dipsacus sylvestris, but Dipsacus japonica was listed and it was classified as a “Trading commodity”, hence not illegal. At the time I knew nothing about these herbs, but I hoped it wouldn’t make much difference to the Medicinal Agency if I ordered D. sylvestris.
When I switched on my computer the following afternoon, there was, to my great surprise and relief, already a reply from Dr. Fritchey – he had answered my email within half an hour on a Saturday night (his time). He said he would see what he could do for me. I was elated and from that time onwards I truly entered a world of hope with teasel as a significant ingredient. Within ten days I received the package with the 30 ml bottle, sent with blessings and prayers – hugely relieved it got through customs without a comment. I took it with me to a beautiful nearby island where I was sure I got my second infection, sat down on a bench overlooking the Oslo Fjord feeling immensely grateful and – with a sense of deep reverence – took my first two drops.
At the time I didn’t know that Matthew Wood in his excellent and groundbreaking chapter on Teasel Root in The Book of Herbal Wisdom writes about how his teacher, William LeSassier – though he didn’t use teasel for Lyme – described those who need teasel. However, I later found out that LeSassier said: “It’s for people who had a use, but lost it. … They stepped off the path.” (Wood 1997: 235) Somehow I must have tuned in to exactly that, because on the day of taking my first drops I mentally went through one part of my life and made an important decision. Again, at the time of taking my first drops, I didn’t know that my recovery thanks to teasel would be a life-changing experience for me, but that’s what I told the herbalist when I six months later wrote to him asking for his permission to translate his chapter on Teasel Root as I had plans to set up a website in Norwegian on Lyme and teasel. Teasel contributed to giving me a sense of purpose.
The subsequent pace of events could almost match the Borrelia bacterium’s swift movement through our bodies. My health began to improve day by day and I was guided to one valuable piece of teasel related information after another on the Internet. I discovered the website Lady Barbara’s Garden and her amazing recovery from Lyme many years ago thanks to teasel. Her article Allying with Teasel Root was extremely useful referring as it does to Wood’s chapter on Teasel, sharing some of her own experiences with the life-saving herb as well as outlining a system for how to take the tincture (starting with 1 drop on the first day and adding slowly day by day until you reach 9 drops on the ninth day).
Lady Barbara’s beautiful photos of teasel were admired and studied keenly. As teasel doesn’t grow naturally in Norway, I had never seen its lovely flower in real life, but I soon had photos of teasel in several places, including a small Lady Barbara photo gallery in the corner of my kitchen. A friend in England started sending me teasel postcards! As teasel’s colour is one of my favourite colours, this seemed an added bonus. I later learnt that getting to know the actual plant is part of the healing. Wolf D. Storl’s fascinating book Healing Lyme Disease Naturally also mentions this; he refers to a priest who says it will have a healing effect to look at and meditate on the flowering teasel. (Storl 2010:175) Perhaps this is something herbalists could encourage their clients to do?
Then I entered the site Lyme Hope which truly gives you hope! (5 Apr 2015: This site is no longer available.) This site was started by Cheryl Young who, according to her own story, had Lyme for 42 years and who experienced wonderful results thanks to teasel and MMS. Her Teleseminars are helpful indeed. There are interviews with a number of people knowledgeable about Lyme. Naturally I was particularly interested in information on teasel and listened to Lady Barbara, Matthew Wood and Dr. Frank Aieta who also talks about his convincing experience with teasel as well as giving helpful advice about diet and detoxification. In addition to the interviews there are Q & A sessions where people ask questions you may have liked to ask yourself. I listened to the Teleseminars for days on end soaking it all up and in the process I learnt about other approaches to healing Lyme too.
My own recovery was just as astonishing as the US stories I heard about. The Borrelia bacteria’s grand party in my hippocampus and other areas of my brain was promptly brought to an end. Within a few days of taking a few drops of the blessed tincture, the brain fog as well as the depression simply vanished into thin air. Within a fortnight I returned all anti-depressants – which I had been on for more than 5 years – to the pharmacy for destruction. At the time of posting this article this happened approximately two years ago and I’ve never had the need of them again.
Depression and suicidal tendencies are not the same, nevertheless it is a fact that many Lyme sufferers experience both. I therefore find it highly interesting that Storl’s book mentions that teasel root may be linked with overcoming self-destruction. Wood’s pioneering chapter on Teasel Root describes how Lyme disease can be associated with one of the three chronic miasmas – the syphilitic miasma – a concept introduced by the founder of homeopathy, Hahneman. (Wood 1997: 237) This is further expanded on in Storl’s book. A miasma is a kind of disease archetype, the origin of which stems from immaterial sources like alienation of the soul from its divine source, lack of love, resentment and other negative feelings. These can be defined as negative information patterns which eventually manifest on the physical level. Negative information patterns can be carried over from one generation to the next covering long time spans. In addition to the Lyme related disease syphilis, Lyme and other illnesses, the syphilitic miasma is moreover associated with destructive and aggressive behaviour towards others and oneself, including suicidal tendencies. (Storl 2010: 243-244) Teasel brings light into the tunnel here as well. Storl refers to one person who experimented with homeopathic teasel root tincture, although she didn’t have Lyme disease. She observed that after taking teasel she felt happier and more relaxed and that the internal “pins and needles” directed at herself vanished, so much so that her husband commented on it. According to her experience the tincture energized and helped her overcome self-destructive tendencies, and she concluded that teasel curbs psychosomatic auto-aggression. (Storl 2010: 157-158;177; 242-243)
This must be valuable information for Lyme sufferers struggling with suicidal urges. I personally had a similar experience. After all those truly challenging years with massive negative thought patterns a joy of life entered my world shortly after starting the teasel treament – yes, I could even relate to the word “happiness”. To mention such a word when writing about Lyme may even seem offensive to some. It’s certainly not meant to be; the Dalai Lama says that happiness is the purpose of life, something he has often written about and commented on. He says, “I don’t know whether the universe, with its countless galaxies, stars and planets, has a deeper meaning or not, but at the very least, it is clear that we humans who live on this earth face the task of making a happy life for ourselves.” (Compassion and the Individual)
Once I had accessed this sense of joy, a zest for life returned and my long-lost enthusiasm started to enliven my life once again. The root of the word “enthusiasm” comes from “en theo” which means “in God”, quite appropriate as an equally long-lost spiritual connection was forged again. As for those self-destructive tendencies, perhaps they were present due to having inherited a “syphilitic miasma” – I don’t know. But I know they are gone.
Teasel’s medicinal energies are considered masculine and outgoing by traditional Chinese medicine, also very helpful qualities when dealing with Lyme when the fatigue is overwhelming and you can hardly make your way to the shower. Anthroposophical botanists view thorny plants, when made into medicine, to have a strong stimulating and energizing effect on the human body, so this would apply to teasel as well. (Storl 2010: 160-161) It was only some time into my teasel treatment I became aware of this information. I did, however, experience teasel’s energizing effect. Prior to starting the treatment I had to make a great effort to get out of bed due to the fatigue but this melted away quickly, just as described by Dr. Philip Fritchey in his Lyme-Aid article which had given me such – justified – hope.
There was one incidence in particular where teasel’s effect undoubtedly was making itself felt. Although I knew I was healing thanks to teasel, I wanted proof that I had Lyme. As the joints were still painful and as I had a positive Elisa test, I knew I was entitled to the Western Blot test. This was confirmed by the regional hospital responsible for the overall Borrelia testing in Norway as well as by the Ombudsman for Patients. At an appointment with my MD the WB test was requested but he refused to let me have it – he was going to give me the Elisa test a third time. It had never happened before, but I quarrelled with my MD, who eventually said: “You have evidently pulled out all your barbs in your relationship with me!” Feeling defeated I left his office, no test being taken. Back home I picked up Storl’s book which happened to open on a page where the author gives an account of how he and a friend experienced teasel’s energies having taken it and meditated on it. The description transformed my day into a cheerful one: Storl describes how sharp barbs of energy pushed from the inside of the body and out beyond the skin. They felt the energy of teasel’s barbs and pricks, and this has apparently been experienced by other people as well. (Storl 2010: 170) Those barbs turned out to have served me well too – a couple of days later my MD rang to say he had actually talked to a specialist in infectious diseases and that I would get the WB test after all.
The result of the WB test was received six weeks after the test was taken. According to my MD I had an acute borreliosis infection but had tested negative for long-term infection which could indicate a false-positive. As in his opinion the symptoms didn’t fit either, he said most probably I did not have Lyme. I replied that I knew I had Lyme, and that his conclusion was based on insufficient knowledge about Lyme in Norway. To this can be added that the WB test was done by the hospital in Norway which has the overall responsibility for the Borrelia testing in the country. This hospital does not report the bands that react with one’s blood, something Buhner in his Healing Lyme (2005:63) emphasises is essential.
Meanwhile I had also developed an atrophy of the right shoulder, according to a physiotherapist’s diagnosis. The atrophy turned out to be a blessing in disguise because it persuaded my MD at long last to refer me to a specialist in infectious diseases, saying it was possibly Lyme disease after all.
By the time I got an appointment with the specialist, the pain in the shoulder had been healed by acupuncture (recommended by Dr. Aieta in his Lyme Hope interview), teasel root and vervain. Vervain is suggested by Wood in his foreword to Storl’s book for pain in neck and upper shoulders. (Storl 2010: XIII)
I was not going to the appointment with the specialist for that problem anyway; I wanted to get a referral for a new brain scan, knowing without doubt that my mental powers had returned thanks to teasel. In the months that had passed since my “discovery” of teasel root, I had realized what had happened to me – it was Lyme disease which led to the drastic changes in my life starting more than six years earlier and I was in conflict with my MD due to the incredible ignorance about the illness. Furthermore, having by then become aware of how devastating Lyme disease is to many people worldwide, I was convinced the good news about my brain’s recovery entirely due to the Tincture of Teasel Root could help others as well. But I knew only too well that proof would be required, hence a new brain scan seemed a good idea, specially as it cannot be defined as placebo.
Looking back, I can only say that allying with teasel’s outgoing qualities contributed to giving me plenty of energy, motivation and determination to get what I wanted. I planned carefully how to approach the specialist in infectious diseases, and although he initially said no to my request, he finally turned round and gave me the referral for a new brain scan. He moreover said it ought to be compared to the 2006 scan. Besides, he offered to give me an extended appointment next time as it was obvious I had some knowledge about Lyme and there wasn’t enough time to discuss everything I had on my list, including the fact that I must have been infected by Borrelia since 2005.
This is the brain scan (PET) taken at Oslo University Hospital in April 2012:
“17.04.2012 18F-FDG PET-CT Cerebrum
Clinical presentation of the problem: Possible Lyme Borreliosis since 2005. Cerebrovascular changes via a cerebral spect scan had apparently been documented.
The patient meets up after a four hour fast period with blood sugar at 5.0 mmol/L. 215 MBq (megabecquerels) 18 F-FDG (Fludeoxglucose ) are injected intravenously. After 49 minutes PET (Positron emission tomography) imaging is carried out on the caput (head) with a low dose CT (computed tomography) without intravenous catheter for attenuation correction and anatomical localizing.
Reconstruction is carried out in transverse, coronal and sagittal cross-sections, together with a side symmetrical analysis, statistical data comparisons with normal data base, and visual evaluation of the images.
The images indicate an even and normal intake of 18F-FDG in all sections. No sign of pathological changes either in the cerebrum or the cerebellum.
R: PET of cerebrum indicates normal conditions.”
At my next appointment the specialist gave me the printout of the scan but there was no comparison between the two scans. It seems that the University Hospital never saw the 2006 scan. The specialist appeared not to be interested; he was not going to do anything to get the comparison done but told me to contact the section for nuclear medicine. He even refused to give me a referral to a neurologist who could have done the comparison. I pointed out that with only two specialists in infectious diseases in a county with 275 000 inhabitants where Lyme is on the increase, they have a heavy responsibility. He agreed about the responsibility, but said he was not involved in Lyme research. He was not particularly interested in discussing if I might have had Lyme since 2005 either. Although I had been given an extended appointment, I decided it was a waste of time, so I just left. There is, however, a limit to everything so I contacted the Ombudsman for Patients. For them too there is a limit to everything – the helpful advisor immediately offered to take over my case to get the comparison done. When the comparison came back from the county hospital it wasn’t very helpful as it gave the impression that the two scans were not comparable. However, my new MD got the answer from the section of nuclear medicine in another county: the scans are comparable; the 2006 scan shows that there was an infection and the 2012 scan confirms the infection is gone.
I would like to mention something entirely different which is associated with teasel. The qualities mentioned so far are those connected with the masculine, outgoing energies, also known as qualities linked with the planet Mars. There is another side to teasel too – according to Culpeper’s Herbal, “The Fuller’s Thistle, or Teazle” is a herb of Venus. This is also mentioned by Storl who defines teasel’s water-gathering basin as feminine, hence linked with beauty. (Storl 2010: 171) This water was used by women to preserve the beauty of their eyes. Teasel is a versatile plant, and it was in another era used in textile production to comb wool and cloth to make it smooth for instance, something that might be associated with feminine qualities. It might be interesting to note though that for astrologers, a combination of the planets Venus and Mars often yields a talent for work with textiles.
Having a passion for work with textiles myself, I was delighted to discover teasel’s textile connection. The stiffness of my hands disappeared quite fast and to my great joy dexterity returned which meant I could take up my favourite hobby again – sewing. While I was still taking the tincture, I was able to join classes for something many women in the US are adept at – quilting, an inspiring activity in an amazingly creative setting – a shop with a name that probably best translates as Sewing and Knitting Madness. It’s pretty certain that one of my future quilted handbags will have a picture of the blessed teasel with the text “I love Teasel – Teasel saved my life”. Perhaps there will be a wall-hanger too – with an appliqué of teasel surrounded by the name of teasel in as many languages as can be found. Already after 6 weeks of treatment I wrote in my journal that I had become more creative than I had been for years, which was also due to the fact that I had stopped taking the anti-depressants. But I think pursuing the textile interest helped me towards my recovery as well. Another attunement to that (Venusian) aspect of teasel was a strong drive to beautify my home – certainly a healing activity as far as I’m concerned, something I would expect other people to benefit from too.
Returning to Tincture of Teasel Root as a remedy, I thought it might be helpful to comment on the following:
Each time I took the tincture, it was with an awareness and certainly not mindlessly “throwing it down”. That sense of gratitude and reverence which accompanied me when I took my very first drops never left me; it was an important ingredient throughout the treatment as I felt I was receiving a gift. An observant friend made the following remark about this: “You were bringing your consciousness to your healing.”
In the course of the 7 ½ months’ treatment I used the small dosage recommended by Wood, altogether two 30 ml bottles. In order to find the right dosage, I found the article Self testing by Lady Barbara very helpful. A summary of the log kept was later made:
- 1 week – increased slowly from 2 drops up to 8 drops daily
- 5 weeks 3 drops, 3x daily
- 2 weeks 3 drops, 2x daily
- 10 weeks 2 drops, 2x daily
- 15 weeks 2 drops, 1x daily
In the 8th week a strong herxing was experienced, appropriately described by Lady Barbara in Allying with Teasel Root as “One is experiencing a herx when the word HORRIBLE becomes the most important one in your vocabulary.” The intake was reduced from 3 drops, 2x daily to 2 drops, 2x daily. I also used Grapefruit Seed Extract (GSE) for 3 months, but then stopped taking it because I began to suspect it wasn’t good for my stomach. I later learnt it may be toxic.
As far as the dosage is concerned I think it is unfortunate that there are so many different opinions – from 1-3 drops, 1-3x daily – recommended by Wood who after all pioneered the use of Teasel Root (Wood 1997: 240) – to 10-30 drops, 3x daily (Buhner 2005: 158). Storl says the small dosage surely is sufficient for those who have got a delicate, sensitive constitution but recommends a tablespoon 3x daily for those who are more robust (Storl 2010:177-178). This is likely to be confusing for a Borrelia infected person who may even have a brain fog to contend with and who would like to try teasel root. Perhaps the concept “Small is beautiful”, usually employed in the context of appropriate technologies, can serve as a guideline in this context too?
The time it takes to get well depends, as always, on the individual. At one point I learnt that 3 months is quite usual but as I exceeded that time, I was relieved to discover that Wood had a client who needed the tincture for 1 ½ years. (Storl 2010: XIII)
In addition to what has already been mentioned my treatment had the following ingredients:
- Once I discovered teasel I somehow knew I would recover and I hardly wavered in my conviction. It was extremely supportive to have a friend – whose intuition I had learnt to trust – who frequently sent me text messages and phoned me to let me know she thought I would get well. However, I avoided discussing it with people who were ready to share their doubts with me!
- I kept a journal where I recorded the ups and downs. When I learnt that the Borrelia bacterium apparently has a 28-day cycle, in other words a lunar rhythm (see for instance Storl 2010: 56-57; 179; 209-211), and that some people feel better/worse at the New Moon whereas others feel better/worse at the Full Moon, I included the lunations in my journal. I found out I felt worse at the time of the New Moon and took this into consideration when planning my activities, not expecting too much of myself at the low period. (Please see Lyme and Lunar Phases.)
- I found it encouraging to keep a check on my progress by using the systematic overview of 64 symptoms in Dr. Burrascano’s Advanced Topics in Lyme Disease. I qualified for 31 symptoms, though not all at the same time; 6 months after starting the teasel treatment 14 remained and by the time the treatment was completed after 7 ½ months, there were only 3 symptoms left (not necessarily Lyme-related).
- I started having amalgam fillings removed as a part of detoxifying my body – this is for instance recommended by Dr. Aieta in his Lyme Hope Interview. To be on the safe side I made sure the appointment with my dentist didn’t happened around my “down time”, the New Moon, although he assured me it was hardly likely any mercury poisoning would occur as his equipment was excellent and he had years of experience in this.
- My diet underwent radical changes – low in carbohydrates which meant eliminating sugar, except for fruit, almost altogether as well as cutting down on grains. More organic food generally was included and most dairy products excluded.
- As soon as the pain in joints and muscles eased off a bit, exercising was resumed and proved beneficial. On the other hand, swimming in an indoor pool was not a success as the water was much too cold and increased the pain all over the body.
I imagine a few more elements could profitably be included:
According to Storl Lyme disease makes a person more sensitive with a more highly developed intuition and a more sensitive reaction to the environment, with a preference for a natural environment – qualities that are claimed to be part of a post-Lyme syndrome. (Storl 2010: 35) In other contexts such qualities are associated with the emerging New Age, though nobody would probably have expected them to manifest through an illness as challenging as Lyme disease. Storl also asks if Lyme disease will bring about a paradigm shift like the Lyme-related disease syphilis once did which entailed a detachment from the intuitive and mystical as well as from the use of herbal remedies. He speculates if the failings of antibiotics in the treatment of Lyme will lead to a return to the use of the healing plants. (Storl 2010: 274; 288) In one of the book’s forewords, by Andreas Thum, the need to implement healing methods based on natural laws of healing which will ensure spiritual and bodily health, is emphasized. (Storl 2010: XVII)
In order to align with the above observations and suggestions, perhaps Lyme disease sufferers should be encouraged to “go with the flow”, so to speak, and to prepare themselves for a “post-Lyme” stage by opening up to their intuition through the herbal remedies, like teasel. As mentioned before, looking at the plant or a photo of it can be helpful and perhaps an intuitive herbalist can convey to their client the type of energies it may be beneficial to tune in to. Through this process, an inclination to seek a natural environment may be born too. Another way of opening up to one’s intuition is to align with the rhythm of the Moon, particularly appropriate in the context of Lyme due to the bacterium’s lunar rhythm. An intriguing line of thought in this connection is: will those who are “in tune with the Moon” respond better to natural remedies for Lyme? Research on this might disclose valuable information.
Other useful tools may be guided imagery and affirmations associated with the herb and with overcoming Lyme disease. Such tools (CDs) have been developed for other illnesses etc. by the psychotherapist Belleruth Naparstek, Health Journeys, and they are known to be splendid and efficient.
Another post-Lyme factor mentioned by Storl is an increased sensitivity to invisible electromagnetic radiation (EMR) resulting from e.g. wireless technology like cellphones as well as from computers, television and electrical outlets. (Storl 2010:35) This is a health hazard affecting an increasing number of people generally and some countries, like for instance Canada and Sweden, recognise it as a disability. As a precautionary measure it may be wise for Lyme sufferers to adhere to recommendations given in relation to EMR by limiting the use of cellphones, to use a landline instead of a cordless phone and to avoid using WiFi. (www.es-uk.info / www.powerwatch.org.uk)
On another practical level, with the use of the versatile teasel (traditionally employed in the textile industry), it would not be entirely unrelated to link the healing to creative activities with textiles where the hands are used as in sewing, knitting, weaving … I’m not aware of any US statistics, but I have the impression that the majority of Lyme disease sufferers are women (please see the footnote for Swedish research on infection of women), so at least for them such activities may be familiar anyway. The use of the hands is helpful to maintain activity in the brain. When dexterity is reduced and the hands are too stiff, such activities may not be possible though.
If at all possible it could be extremely useful to have descriptions of what to expect when you are taking Tincture of Teasel Root. Although no two persons will be affected by Lyme in exactly the same way (Dr. Burrascano’s list of 64 symptoms certainly makes that clear!), there may still be some common denominators in the healing process. Can particular stages be expected, for instance?
It would moreover be equally useful to know why some Lyme sufferers have such positive and sometimes immediate reactions to teasel whereas others don’t. Are there any conditions that need “fulfilling”? This needs to be researched. As teasel has such unquestionable and wonderful healing properties, it ought to be given the chance of restoring the life of as many Lyme disease sufferers as possible.
On the note of “restoring” this once again brings us back to Matthew Wood’s The Book of Herbal Wisdom and his chapter on Teasel Root. Through his research he learnt that the Chinese word for teasel means “Restore What is Broken” and this indeed seems to be an accurate description of teasel root. I, for one, have been able to reclaim my life and I sincerely hope that distributing information about teasel’s restoring and healing properties in Norway – where Lyme disease seems to be spreading fast – will help others to restore their lives fully too.
¹Note on the bull’s eye rash and on infection/re-infection:
In a Swedish Ph.D. thesis by Louise Bennet, Lund University 2005, Erythema Migrans in Primary Health Care, based on research from southern Sweden, it is documented that the bull’s eye rash (annular rash) is not so common as is usually assumed. According to the thesis 45 % of the rashes were annular, 46 % non-annular and 9 % were atypical. The thesis moreover brought to light another phenomena: “An interaction between gender and genospecies was found that had not been described before. Men to a higher extent than women develop annular EM while women more often developed non-annular EM, if infected with B. afzelii.” (Abstract, p. 3) As Buhner describes in Healing Lyme, although it is generally assumed that the genospecies B. afzelii and B. garinii are more common to Europe and Asia whereas B.b. sensu stricto usually causes Lyme in the US, all three types can be found in the US, Europe and Asia and that “they are not limited to specific continents”. (Buhner 2005:11) In other words, the thesis’ conclusions about EM may be applicable elsewhere too.
According to the thesis, another important discovery was that “The incidence rate of EM was significantly higher in women than in men … and especially women over 50 were affected. Additionally, significantly more women than men were reinfected, 6 % and 1 %, respectively.” (Abstract, p. 3)
Buhner, Stephen Harrod, Healing Lyme, 2005
Culpeper, Nicholas, Culpeper’s Complete Herbal, 1985
Storl, Wolf D., Healing Lyme Disease Naturally, 2010
Wood, Matthew, The Book of Herbal Wisdom, 1997
Aieta, Frank, Interview and Q & A (mp3), Lyme Hope
Bennet, Louise, Erythema Migrans in Primary Health Care, 2005
Burrascano Jr., Joseph J., Advanced Topics in Lyme Disease
Fallon, Brian A. and Jenifer A. Nields, Lyme disease: a neuropsychiatric illness, American Journal of Psychiatry 1994; 151 (11): 1571-83
Fritchey, Philip, His Good Herbs, Lyme-Aid
Gyatso, Tenzin; The Fourteenth Dalai Lama, Compassion and the Individual
Makris, Katina I., Rhode Island, You Rock!
Photo teasel: wolfpix / CC BY-ND
Title: American lady
Teasel Fairy: Rosie Lauren Smith – Art & Illustration
For suppliers of Tincture of Teasel Root, please see Resources for English-speaking visitors.