Stevia and Lyme Disease

Patients often ask me if stevia can treat Lyme disease. The answer is both yes and no.

The question stems from a study published in 2015 in the European Journal of Microbiology and Immunology on stevia and the different forms of Borrelia burgdorferi, the bacterium that causes Lyme disease. The study showed that in a petri dish stevia extract was able to kill the bacterium as effectively as, if not better than, antibiotics.

Stevia comes from the leaves of the South American Stevia rebaudiana plant. The leaf can be up to 150 times sweeter than sugar while having no noticeable effect on blood sugar, and for this reason stevia has become a popular sugar substitute.

But can stevia effectively treat Lyme? To answer this we need to take a closer look at the study and how it was performed–in vitro (in a petri dish), not in vivo (in a live human body).

The study showed that stevia extract (not the powdered form you might be using to sweeten your tea) is effective against B. burgdorferi, persistent forms of B. burgdorferi, and also its biofilm forms. The extract’s rates of effectiveness were similar to or better than the antibiotics. But remember this all happened in a lab.

Here’s the catch: in order for stevia to work in the human body it must be absorbed in its full form through the intestine. Researchers have documented that this does not occur, and this is why the sweet plant doesn’t affect your blood sugar when you use it. Thus, what happens in a petri dish is not what happens in your body.

Except perhaps in one case. It’s possible that any B. burgdorferi biofilms (a group of microorganisms that stick together and form slimy films that adhere to surfaces like the gut lining or a blood vessel lining) in the gut might be effectively treated by liquid stevia extract.

However, until in vivo studies are done, don’t rely on stevia to treat your Lyme disease.  You may, however, continue to sweeten your tea with it.

In health,

Casey Kelley, MD

Posted in Knowledge Base, Lyme Disease & Morgellons, S Tagged with: ,
6 comments on “Stevia and Lyme Disease
  1. JKStretch says:

    If Stevia only works in gut, and similarly to antibiotics, does Stevia kill good bacteria in the gut also?

  2. Dr. Kelley says:

    Good questions JKStretch. It’s certainly possible. There needs to be more studies looking in to this, but there are some studies out that suggest stevia and other non-calorie sweeteners do effect the gut microbiome. Some worse than others. And we know that sugar itself effects the microbiome as well (sugar feeds the bad bugs). If you have a diet low in sugar, high in fiber and pre-biotic foods that feed the good bacteria in your gut, and you take a good quality probiotic, the effects of a small amount of stevia is likely not going to be highly detrimental to the good flora.

    Best to avoid all forms of sugar additives if you can. Stick with fruit – especially berries – to satisfy your sweet tooth.

  3. Marie Fried says:

    What if liquid Stevia is taken sublingually ?

  4. Dr. Kelley says:

    Marie,

    I can find no studies that have tested the absorption of stevia sublingually. Until we know more about what parts of the stevia plant kill the bacteria and what parts are absorbed (and how they absorbed) we won’t know how to effectively use this plant as an anti-microbial. It shows promise in the lab which is great – now we just need to keep studying it!

  5. David Ruppel says:

    So, it doesn’t get to the cellular level, like it did in a petri dish where the parasites are located?

  6. nancybdownes@gmail.com says:

    Thanks for a great article.

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