I read that tests have found that the natural sweetener stevia kills Lyme bacteria better than antibiotics. I’ve had chronic Lyme for years, and antibiotics haven’t helped. Should I try stevia?
Recent headlines announcing that stevia was more effective than antibiotics at killing Lyme bacteria raised hopes among sufferers. Chronic Lyme is hard to treat, so the idea that something many people already use to sweeten coffee and tea could cure it is understandably appealing. In fact, the research is promising—but it’s important to understand just what stevia can and can’t do. Lyme disease is caused by a bacterium transmitted by the bite of an infected tick. Caught early, treating Lyme with antibiotics usually can clear the disease completely. But an unlucky 10% to 20% of infected people who have been treated with antibiotics develop a persistent form of Lyme called post-treatment Lyme disease syndrome (PTLDS), with debilitating symptoms that can include fatigue, joint and muscle aches, brain fog and psychological problems. A prime reason that PTLDS is hard to treat is that the bacteria are so good at eluding attack by antibiotics. Two ways they do this are by the bacterial spirochetes (the corkscrew form of Lyme bacteria) changing into “persisters” (dormant cells that can reactivate at any time)…and by covering themselves with a protective biofilm (tightly-connected cells that form a physical armor over the bacteria). Certain drugs and supplements can be effective at combatting the various forms of Lyme bacteria, but unless they can penetrate the biofilm they can’t do their work. With these challenges in mind, scientists at the University of New Haven in Connecticut wanted to see what effect stevia would have against Lyme bacteria. They compared the effects of four kinds of commercially available stevia to the effects of the antibiotics doxycycline, cefoperazone and daptomycin on Lyme bacteria in three forms—spirochetes, persisters and biofilm. Results: Whole-leaf liquid stevia extract killed all forms of the bacteria, including those in the biofilm, better than the antibiotics. The whole-leaf extract was more effective than the other kinds of stevia. These results were promising, yes—but as the researchers point out, these are test-tube results. There is no evidence that stevia would work as well, or work at all, when consumed by people.