Anyone who is even slightly familiar with Japanese Knotweed knows that it is tenacious and difficult to eradicate. The plants seem rather intelligent, adapting to the various methods of “warfare” thrown at them. Even small pieces of root can repopulate quickly, taking full advantage of suitable circumstances to run rampant.
Anyone who is even slightly familiar with Lyme disease knows that it is tenacious and extremely difficult to treat. The spirochetes that cause it seem rather intelligent, adapting to the various methods of “warfare” thrown at them. Even small populations can survive for long periods of time in an imperfect environment, just biding their time until conditions improve and will take full advantage of suitable circumstances to run rampant throughout their host.
Oh dear. There seems to be striking similarities between these two entirely different species. I point this out to illustrate that the qualities inherent in Japanese Knotweed are precisely the factors needed to combat the obstinate and frequently debilitating spirochetes that cause Lyme disease. You could refer to the overall personality of Knotweed as a “doctrine of signatures” of sorts; the survival traits natural to this plant are powerful indicators of the benefits that we may utilize in our quest for health, particularly when confronted with a powerful adversary like Lyme disease.
Lyme disease is caused by the Borrelia burgdorferi spirochete, a microorganism carried by ticks and other biting insects such as mosquitoes, biting flies, mites and fleas. A spirochete is a gram-negative bacterium that “screws” itself into tissue -particularly collagen- and can encapsulate quickly under adverse conditions, going dormant until its environment becomes more hospitable. Spirochetes are notably clever, and easily adapt to elude antibiotics; they can then exchange resistance information within their community and to other co-infections, making treatment ever more difficult. A close cousin of this spirochete is one that causes syphilis, and consequently there is strong evidence that Lyme can be transmitted sexually as well as through mother’s milk, saliva and in utero.
Japanese Knotweed is a native of Asia, but was introduced in Britain in the nineteenth century. The clones introduced in Europe reproduce through their rhizomes, not via seeds so all the plants there (and likely here in the US also) are in essence, one giant female. Known as the King of Weeds (Let’s change that to Queen, shall we?), the hardy Japanese Knotweed is the best known source of resveratrol and trans-resveratrol, naturally occurring compounds that are antibacterial, antifungal, antioxidant and anti-spirochetal and have a myriad of other health benefits as well.
Plants like Knotweed produce resveratrol in order to combat disease and to become more tolerant to environmental extremes. Not long ago, red grape skins were the primary source of resveratrol in supplements, and the impetus behind the theory of the “French Paradox” which implied that the generous inclusion of red wine with a high fat diet prevented heart disease. Research has found that Polygonum cuspidatum, abundant and readily available, contains much more concentrated resveratrol and trans-resveratrol than grapes, making Knotweed a much preferred commercial source of this valuable antioxidant. It’s unlikely that the French predilection for pinot noir will be replaced by Knotweed anytime soon, so don’t throw away your wine glasses just yet.
Resveratrol can help lower cholesterol and regulate blood pressure and has shown promise for the treatment of certain cancers, breast cancer in particular; as a complimentary treatment it can raise white blood cell levels during chemotherapy and radiation. During menopause and senior years, resveratrol can help protect bone density levels and increase the mineral content in bone tissue.
Japanese Knotweed is effective against a variety of organisms including the Lyme co-infection bartonella, leptospira, gonorrhea, and meningitis; its strong antifungal qualities make it especially inhibitive toward Candida albicans. It is also a powerful antiviral agent, effective in the treatment of herpes, ECHO viruses and various strains of influenza such as SARS and Asian flu (which in my opinion, is a far more attractive option than vaccinations of questionable origin).
What makes Knotweed so valuable when it comes to treating Lyme disease is that it not only inhibits the spirochetes, it is also markedly anti-inflammatory, reducing joint pain, swelling and fever. The anti-inflammatory effect helps to regulate the immune system and prevents it from being over burdened; its modulating effect makes it useful for many autoimmune ailments. Knotweed supports the central nervous system and protects the heart, making it especially valuable in the treatment of Lyme-related carditis.
Lyme disease affects more than the joints; symptoms can range from pronounced fatigue, fever and aches to foggy thinking, memory lapses, muscular spasms, rashes and vision problems. The spirochetes that cause Lyme make a meal of collagen tissue, and their favorite restaurants include your joints, skin, eyes and brain. Knotweed has a strong ability to protect those tender areas, stimulating microcirculation and directing other herbs to otherwise difficult to treat regions of the body. The constituents in Knotweed are also able to cross the blood brain barrier (BBB), protecting delicate cerebral tissue and harmonizing blood flow. Regular supplementation of Polygonum cuspidatum during or after an active infection will help sharpen mental function and relieve pain throughout the body.
During effective treatment of Lyme disease, patients frequently experience what is known as a Herxheimer reaction. A “Herx” response is a healing crisis of exacerbated overall symptoms; fevers spike, joint pain becomes more pronounced, fatigue may increase –basically the patient feels absolutely awful. The reason for the aggravated symptoms is a massive die-off of the pathogenic spirochetes creating a high volume of toxicity in the blood. Believe it or not, this is a good sign: the treatment is working. It doesn’t seem like good news to anyone experiencing it however, and this is another instance where Japanese Knotweed can come to the rescue by reducing Herx symptoms and aiding in systemic detoxification.
Lyme expert and Master Herbalist Stephen Harrod Buhner recommends a core protocol of four to five herbs in the treatment of Lyme disease: Japanese Knotweed, Andrographis, Cat’s Claw, Smilax and Astragalus. Since the publication of his book, Healing Lyme in 2005, thousands of people have reported significant improvement if not complete relief from their Lyme symptoms using this basic protocol. Treatment works best when an experienced herbalist adjusts their healing strategy according to each individual’s needs and be aware that Knotweed is contraindicated with pregnancy and blood-thinning medications.