by. Dr. Bill Rawls
You’ve probably heard of stevia. It’s the natural, non-caloric sweetener that’s 40 times sweeter than sugar. Stevia doesn’t contribute to calories because the chemical compounds in stevia, called steviol glycosides, are not absorbed through the intestines in appreciable amounts. This makes stevia an ideal sugar alternative.
Stevia sweetener comes from the plant, Stevia rebaudiana, which grows naturally in South America. People there have been using stevia to sweeten their yerba mate and tea for hundreds of years. You can find stevia extracts at any grocery. You can also find stevia plants at some garden centers and grow it in your garden; the leaves are very sweet if chewed.
Lately, there’s been a lot of talk about stevia being beneficial for treating Lyme disease. This comes from an in vitro study published in the European Journal of Microbiology and Immunology in November of 2015. The study found that whole leaf stevia extract effectively kills Borrelia burgdorferi spirochetes and cyst forms.
Ever since the study came out, there has been widespread talk on the web about using stevia to treat Lyme disease. One company, founded by a Lyme expert, has even been promoting a stevia product specifically for treating Lyme disease.
Unfortunately, the reasoning is highly flawed.
The operative word here is, “in vitro”. In vitro means that the test was conducted in the lab. When placed in a test tube, whole leaf stevia extract inhibits growth of live Borrelia spirochetes and cysts.
This does not mean that it kills Borrelia in living organisms. To treat Lyme disease, the chemical compounds present in stevia must be absorbed through the intestines — but the reason it works so well as a sweetener is because these substances are not absorbed through the intestines. This fact has been well documented by numerous scientific studies.
Therefore stevia extract wouldn’t be expected to provide any significant systemic antimicrobial activity against Borrelia or any other microbes associated with Lyme disease.
The only way it might work is if it was injected intravenously. But this would be a really bad idea, because humans (and other mammals) do not have enzymes to break down stevia compounds. The compounds would build up in tissues with disastrous results.
While stevia isn’t a good option for treating Lyme disease, there are plenty of herbs that do provide systemic antimicrobial properties. In fact, a properly designed regimen of antimicrobial herbs and immune modulating herbs may be the absolute best solution for chronic Lyme disease.
1. Theophilus P, et al. Effectiveness of Stevia Rebaudiana Whole Leaf Extract Against the Various Morphological Forms of Borrelia Burgdorferi in Vitro. Eur J Microbiol Immunol (Bp). 2015 Nov 12;5(4):268-80.
2. Geuns J, et al. Metabolism of stevioside in pigs and intestinal absorption characteristics of stevioside, rebaudioside A and steviol. Food Chem Toxic. 2003 Nov;41(11):1599-607.