Saturday, November 8, 2008

The Buhner protocol

Warning: I have noticed that this post appears relatively high in google searches for the Buhner Protocol. But this post is only the beginning of my story with Buhner, and it didn't end well. I got a severely inflamed liver within a few weeks, and had to stop. If you do Buhner, I recommend weekly blood tests as you get up to full dose, and then monthly thereafter if all is good. Be careful.
Here's some of my subsequent Buhner data

Over the past month, I've been reading Healing Lyme, by Stephen Buhner. This is really good reading. Some of it was too in-depth for me (he mentions it can be used by both patients and practitioners), but most of it was highly readable, if a bit dense. Books written for lymies ideally have a lot of structure and white space, separating small doses of content. This book falls short in this area, and it challenged my damaged comprehension and concentration skills, but is still well worth the effort.

Mr. Buhner is an herbalist. Using a flat tone, letting the facts speak for themselves, he describes the borrellia organism as one scary bug, and then develops a group of very specific herbal protocols, or regimens, that one can follow to help the body fight the Lyme, and related co-infections. This is very refreshing and useful: no evangelism, no exclamation points, no cure-all promise; and very specific instructions on the herbs, dosing, combining, to combat particular symptoms, how they work, etc.

The book provides a "core protocol" which anyone with Lyme should follow, even as an adjunct to antibiotics. Then there are many other suggestions for those that may not want to take antibiotics, or more likely, those who have reached a plateau - somewhat short of a full cure - in their antibiotic therapy.

Buhner offers preferred suppliers, and stresses the importance of getting some quantity of whole herb, not just a standardized extract. I think whole herb tinctures are fine, too. What he avoids is the trap of "discovering" the "one" active ingredient in a plant, and missing out on the interaction of the various compounds that make up the whole herb. That said, many of his recommendations also contain some standardized portion as well, to ensure a certain base level of potency.

The core protocol consists of Andrographis, Cat's Claw, and Japanese Knotweed. Optional "core" additions are Astragalus and Sarsaparilla. I'll talk about these a bit, but you really need to read the book. Don't just get some herbs and start taking them blindly.

Case in point, Astragalus, while recommended for more recent lyme infections, is harmful for someone like me who has a more advanced case of chronic lyme. I really just remember "don't do this", but I think the reason was that it triggers a rheumatoid arthritic response. Just what I don't need, thank you. Astragalus is strongly recommended for early cases, and in smaller doses, for those who don't have Lyme, but live in an endemic area. (I used to think "Connecticut", now I think "North America", at least).

Andrographis, Cat's Claw, and Knotweed each in their own way support the body's immune system, and have the ability to kill spirochete bacteria. Sarsaparilla is known for its ability to bind neurotoxins, which may lessen the severity of herx symptoms by helping the body flush the toxins more efficiently. Interestingly, sarsaparilla was a popular remedy in the 1800s for syphillis, which is also a spirochete bacteria.

Of the many other recommended herbs, I've chosen to add Eleuthero (Siberian Ginseng) to my four core herbs. It's not Lyme-specific. And it's a completely different plant than ginseng. Buhner describes some very interesting studies using relatively high doses of eleuthero. It boosts the adrenals (mine are completely shot), enhances energy (I have none), and mental clarity (nope, I don't have this either). It was interesting to read that one of the studies showed that factory workers who regularly took eleuthero could perform complex tasks more quickly and accurately, even in a very busy, noisy environment. This is interesting to a person who can't even walk into a grocery store without losing their brain.

Here's my summary take-away of the five herbs I'm starting with. These are only an adjunct to antibiotic therapy (my LLMD actually recommended this book). I may add a few more after a while, we'll see how it goes.

  • Andrographis
    • Anti-spirochetal
    • Immune enhancer
    • Anti-inflammatory
    • Brain: anti-spirochetal, calming agent
    • Enhances liver function, helping to clear infection from the body
    • Easily crosses blood/brain barrier and accumulates in central nervous system.
  • Cat's Claw
    • Immune booster
    • Anti-inflammatory - arthritis and muscle pain
    • Enhances central nervous system and cognitive function
    • Increases CD57 white blood cell count (natural killer cells)
  • Polygonum (Knotweed, Hu Zhang)
    • Anti-spirochetal
    • Immune booster and modulator
    • Reduces Lyme endotoxin damage
    • Easily crosses blood/brain barrier and specifically protects brain from inflammatory damage and Lyme toxins
  • Smilax (Sarsaparilla)
    • Binds toxins, helping to flush them and reduce herx symptoms
    • Anti-spirochetal
    • Immune modulator (lessens autoimmune reactions)
    • Anti-inflammatory for arthritis symptoms
    • Neuro protector, easily crossing blood/brain barrier
    • Enhances cognitive function
    • Lessens fatigue
    • Enhances liver function
  • Eleuthero (Siberian Ginseng)
    • Immune system booster
    • Adrenal tonic
    • Antidepressant, mental clarity stimulant
    • Enhance energy levels
    • Adaptogen: increases nonspecific resistance to adverse influences

Mr. Buhner recommends relatively high doses of these herbs. Without the book, and just a list of herbs, or from talking to someone in a health store, I would never have guessed to take so much. To temper this, as I believe there may be some digestive upset at first, he suggests ramping the dose up over 4-5 weeks. Then, at full strength, continuing for at least two months, and more likely 8-12 months, depending on symptoms. Eventually reverse the process, slowly stepping down the dosage, to either none, or to a maintenance level.

When I was a child I had a copy of John Lust's The Herb Book. I see it's still in print, available at Amazon. Back in the late 60s, my paperback copy had no color pictures, and only the occasional line drawing. I would read with a dictionary nearby, to look up that "glabrous" meant "hairy", for instance. I remember thinking it would be much easier to read if Mr. Lust had just said "a hairy stem".

With these details in mind, I'd look at plants wherever I went, and when possible, and sure of identification, I'd collect plant parts, take them home and dry them. I didn't know about making tinctures - I wish I had. No one in my house wanted to let me know they were sick or injured because I'd want to use them as a guinea pig for my herbal remedies.

Over the years I've gotten away from my early interest in herbs and medicine. I know part of the reason. A couple paragraphs up I wrote about dosing over months. In this so-called modern age, we're too busy to be sick, and if there is, or appears to be, a quick fix, we'll (well, I'll) go for it. While this can work, and is certainly convenient, I realize I've forgotten just how potent certain herbal remedies can be.

One aspect of chronic Lyme is that nothing is convenient or quick anymore. Not life, not medication, and certainly not a cure. With this backdrop, and wondering if I'll ever really get better, a well thought-out herbal protocol is very attractive to me at this point. At the very least, my immune system can use all the help it can get, and the steady gentle influence of these herbs over a long period of time can't help but be beneficial.


Shiloh said...

Hows it going? Have you continued the protocol?
I am just starting.

Joe said...

No, I had to stop the protocol after a month or so. It nearly wrecked my liver. Detailed in the above link.

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry it didn't work for you. I have had Lyme 3-4 years and one month of doxy plus this herbal protocol kicked all 20+ symptoms except hearing loss and tinnitus. The Japanese knotweed by Gaia Herbs kicked my all neurological stuff and vision issues in three days. I plan to remain on it for 3-6 months to improve my chances of not relapsing.

Cindy Dy said...

Thank you for putting an effort to published this article. You've done a great job! Good bless!