12 essential oils that attack Lyme disease bacteria

There’s a clear scientific reason why some people who are infected with the Lyme disease bacteria (Borrelia burgdorferi) get saddled with long-term symptoms….


Persisters are bacterial cells that stay in your body for a long time because they evade your immune system and, in some cases, are resistant to antibiotics.

Scientists believe that persister bacteria become stationary, which means they stop reproducing or do it very slowly. Basically, these bacteria become dormant.

But that doesn’t mean they’re gone. They’re still there, waiting to cause uncomfortable symptoms when the right conditions strike. Sugar, for example, has been known to arouse dormant Borrelia burgdorferi bacteria. Stress can too.

So, how can you prevent persisters from doing what they do best — persisting and making you sick?

Well, there are several common herbs and medicinal plants that may be able to put persisters in their place…

Oils from these herbs attack persisters

A new study from researchers at John Hopkins University’s Bloomberg School of Public Health identified 10 essential oils that have a powerful effect on Borrelia burgdorferi persisters.

In case you don’t know, essential oils are pressed from plants or their fruits and contain the plant’s main fragrance.

Researchers tested 35 essential oils by combining them in lab dishes with the bacteria. Ten of these oils were extremely effective at killing the dormant and slow-growing persister Lyme disease bacterium. They included oils from:

  • Garlic cloves
  • Myrrh trees
  • Thyme leaves
  • Cinnamon bark
  • Allspice berries
  • Cumin seeds
  • Spiked ginger lily blossoms
  • Amyris wood

“We found that these essential oils were even better at killing the ‘persister’ forms of Lyme bacteria than standard Lyme antibiotics,” says study senior author Ying Zhang, MD, Ph.D., professor in the Department of Molecular Microbiology and Immunology at the Bloomberg School.

Zhang performed another study on Lyme persister bacteria and essential oils in 2017. In that study, he found that citronella, wintergreen, clove bud, and oregano oil also had a powerful effect on Lyme persister bacteria.

Essential oils and other options for chronic Lyme treatment

It’s encouraging news for anyone suffering from long-term Lyme disease that common plants kill lurking Lyme bacteria.

But remember, so far tests have only been performed in lab dishes. No one’s tested how these essential oils work in people with Lyme disease. John Hopkins researchers said they plan to eventually. First, they’ll test them in mice, then humans. But that’s going to take a while.

If you’d like to incorporate essential oils into your Lyme disease treatment right now, I recommend partnering with an integrative health practitioner who’s knowledgeable about both Lyme disease and essential oils.

Of course, there are other natural approaches to treating chronic Lyme that you should consider too, like stevia.  Right now, clinical trials on stevia in Lyme disease treatment are underway. And the initial results look promising.

You should also take a look at Easy Health Options Contributor Dr. Isaac Eliaz’s comprehensive approach to defeating Lyme disease. He shares some of the treatments he uses for his patients with chronic Lyme.


  1. Essential Oils From Garlic and Other Herbs and Spices Kill “Persister” Lyme Disease Bacteria — John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health
  2. Identification of Essential Oils with Strong Activity against Stationary Phase Borrelia burgdorferiAntibiotics


Jenny Smiechowski

By Jenny Smiechowski

Jenny Smiechowski is a Chicago-based freelance writer who specializes in health, nutrition and the environment. Her work has appeared in online and print publications like Chicagoland Gardening magazine, Organic Lifestyle Magazine, BetterLife Magazine, TheFix.com, Hybridcars.com and Seedstock.com.