It’s that time of year when the lush green of the outdoors calls to us to commune with nature for the short window of time we call summer. It might be my favorite season in Vermont, but it comes at a cost: the ever-increasing presence of ticks.
With Lyme disease in mind, my family established care at Sojourns Community Health Clinic in Westminster, Vermont, where there are naturopathic doctors on staff who specialize in tick-borne illnesses. We found attached ticks recently on both my daughter and husband, and after calling a few friends whose advice I often seek when it comes to health issues, I referred to Sojourns handout about tick-borne disease prevention and first aid.
Here’s what they share on their handout. This by no means should replace a visit to your doctor if you have a tick bite, however, this might offer some new wisdom from the naturopathic community that is worth knowing about.
Prevention is ideal when it comes to ticks. Anytime the temperature is about 28 degrees Fahrenheit, deer ticks are out. You should check your body every night after possible tick exposure. You can also put your clothes in the dryer on high for 15 minutes after coming inside after possible exposure.
Sojourns recommend Tick Shield by Cedarcide, a natural repellent spray of cedar oil. It can be applied every 1-2 hours and is safe for humans and dogs over 20 pounds. You can also use Permethrin, which has a 100% tick kill rate but is toxic to our skin when wet. To learn more about permethrin and how to apply to your shoes, socks and gear, visit www.tickencounter.org. You can also identify different types of ticks on this website. Another option is to go to www.insectshield.com to buy permethrin-treated clothing or to send your clothes away to be treated, which will last 70 washes.
Another great tool for prevention is tick tubes (www.ticktubes.com) which work by killing ticks on mice. You can place six tubes per ⅛ acre of mouse habitat, and this will decrease your tick population by as much as 93%. It is possible to make your own to save money.
When you do have an attached tick, you can send it away to the University of Massachusetts to find out which of the most common tick-borne diseases that tick is carrying. This can be helpful, especially if you start to show symptoms and need a more targeted treatment. For the basic DNA test, it is $50, and you receive results via email within one week.
Once you have gotten a deer-tick bite, Sojourns first recommends that you use an O’Tom Twister to remove the tick. These little tools are awesome at removing the whole tick by twisting counterclockwise. Save the tick and mark the date on the calendar, for your records. Identify the tick and test the tick by sending it to the lab. Put andographis (an herb) or their tick-bite formula on the bite.
Then, use homeopathic remedies of Ledum 30C for a tick bite that is not hot and swollen, or Apis 30C for a “bull’s eye” rash or hot, swollen bite. For these remedies, take three pellets under your tongue three times daily for three days, 15 minutes away from food or drink. You can buy these homeopathic remedies at the Rutland Area Food Co-op, and I have many friends who use these as their sole “medicine” following a tick bite.
Sojourns specifies that “Homeopathic first aid does not replace the proper treatment of a tick bite” and has a couple of different herbal protocols that they recommend, which you can buy through their apothecary. The first protocol is their Deer Tick Bite Formula which contains Cat’s Claw (a plant, not an animal claw), Japanese Knotweed, Cryptolepis, and Houttuynia. The second protocol is more kid-friendly since it is not quite so bitter, and includes tinctures of Samento (anti-Lyme), Mora or Enula (anti-Babesia), and Houttuynia (anti-Anaplasma/Bartonella). For both remedies, it is recommended that you also take Serrapeptase, an enzyme that helps to break down the outer biofilm coating of the bacteria, which allows your immune system and herbs to penetrate and kill it. For the specific dosage of these herbs, I recommend working with Sojourns.
Other things you can do are to consider a diet change, eliminating or limiting sugar, yeast and alcohol, because these foods feed pathogens. Also, drink 2-3 liters of water every day and take immune-boosting supplements.
Watch for symptoms over the next month, especially from a deer-tick bite. These symptoms include a “bull’s eye” or other rash around the bite, fever, flu-like symptoms, joint pain or swelling, muscle pain, headaches, facial palsy, lymph node swelling, palpitations, night sweats, air hunger or shortness of breath, chest pain, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, loss of appetite, cough, sore throat, confusion, disorientation, difficulty breathing or speaking, loss of coordination, seizures, lethargy, paralysis, or body rash. If you notice any of these symptoms, you are no longer dealing with an asymptomatic tick bite and it is essential that you see a doctor, go to the emergency room or to urgent care.
If this information overwhelms you, you are not alone. The best thing to do is to work with a practitioner who specializes in tick-borne diseases, like those at Sojourns Community Health Clinic. I hope this will give you some ideas for treatment other than antibiotics. For those of us who work outdoors and get multiple tick bites per season, it is not sustainable to take round after round of antibiotics, nor is it effective or good for the world as a whole, with new superbugs springing up from overuse of antibiotics. But that is another story!
Lindsay Courcelle is a myofascial release therapist, part-time vegetable farmer, and natural-health advocate. Email her at alchemyMFR@gmail.com.