If you’ve been paying attention to posts in the Lyme community, the word “stevia” has been a hot topic for the last year or so. You’ve probably seen comments like… “Stevia can cure Lyme disease!”; “No, stevia causes cancer and infertility!”; “Stevia can’t be absorbed in the human body!”; I’ve been putting it in my coffee for years, so why am I not cured of Lyme?”
In this short and admittedly non-comprehensive guide, we attempt to put some ideas to rest and to offer a small bit of common sense regarding this plant that various cultures have been using as a food additive for more than 400 years.
Does Stevia Cure Lyme Disease?
Since that is a loaded question, let’s unpack it carefully. To be clear, technically the bacteria Borrellia Burgdorferi is known as the Lyme disease bacteria. However, since the discovery of borrelia in 1975 and the fact that ticks were found to be the main carriers of the disease, things have changed. Today, most people are not just infected with borrelia when they get bitten by a tick, flea, horse fly, spider or any other kind of biting insects that are now known to carry other collections of diseases known as co-infections. The term “Lyme disease” is now used loosely to describe tick-borne illnesses in general. Borrelia is just one of the pathogens and now most Lyme patients are infected with a number of bacteria, parasites and viruses that make it very difficult to treat through conventional methods.
In a very popular study in 2015 conducted by Dr. Eva Sapi at the University of New Haven, Sapi showed that whole-leaf stevia extract in alcohol suspension (known as Stevia A in the study and manufactured by Nutramedix) was much more effective at killing all forms of the borrelia bacteria (longform, persisters/cysts and biofilm) than other forms of stevia (Now®, Sweet leaf®, and Truvia®) in vitro. The study also showed Nutramedix’s stevia to be superior to the antibiotics doxycycline, cefoperazone, and daptomycin, including a combination of all three.
So does stevia cure Lyme disease? Nutramedix stevia has been shown to destroy all forms of borrelia, the Lyme bacteria, very effectively. But by itself, it is not known to kill all of the other pathogens, viruses and parasites that have been called Lyme disease. Therefore, other antimicrobials are recommended with stevia for a more effective and comprehensive treatment of Lyme disease.
Since the above study was done in vitro (in a laboratory dish and not in vivo or within a living organism), it doesn’t prove that stevia works on humans in a real-world setting. Technically this is true, but the study did show under laboratory conditions that Stevia A was more effective at killing borrelia than the antibiotics doxycycline, cefoperazone, and daptomycin which many Lyme patients continue to rely on for Lyme treatment. Secondly, I have consulted with several Lyme literate doctors and have witnessed patients I’ve helped with Lyme treatment all react positively to Nutramedix stevia. We have seen the physical evidence that these patients experience Jarrish-Herxheimer reactions and ultimate cognitive and symptom improvements that are expected of effective Lyme treatments.
I have heard respected Lyme doctors say that stevia is not absorbed in the intestines and cannot travel to parts of the body to treat Lyme bacteria. Yes, Dr. Bill Rawls and Dr. Stephen Buhner remain skeptical or unimpressed with stevia as a Lyme treatment, and for all forms of stevia, except Nutramedix stevia, we agree. However, Stevia A or Nutramedix stevia is a whole-leaf extract tincture in alcohol suspension. This means the active ingredients of the entire stevia plant have been concentrated to make it more powerful than simply chewing on the plant or grinding it to a powder. Further, the alcohol suspension, or small amount of ethanol alcohol that is used as a carrier, actually enables the active ingredients to be absorbed in the mucous membranes of the mouth, esophagus and stomach lining before ever making it to the intestines. It also allows the active ingredients to cross the blood-brain barrier and through tissue walls, making it a very effective treatment.
What are the concerns? Does Stevia cause cancer or other problems with frequent use?
A review conducted by toxicologists at UCLA in 2008, raised concerns that stevia could contribute to cancer. The authors noted that in some in vitro and animal studies, stevioside – an isolated extract of the stevia plant — caused genetic mutations, chromosome damage and DNA breakage. These changes presumably could contribute to malignancy, but no one has been able to prove it has a direct bearing on cancer growth.
Any negative studies we have seen regarding stevia have included laboratory tests with stevioside being given to lab animals at extremely high doses… well beyond possible human dosage levels. Stevioside is not the full whole-leaf extract, identified in Dr. Sapi’s study to be effective.
After artificial sweeteners were banned in Japan more than 40 years ago, the Japanese began to sweeten their foods with stevia and have conducted more than 40,000 clinical studies on it and have concluded that it is safe for human use.
Finally, here is what the American Herbal Product Association said in their petition to the FDA to get stevia approved as a “Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS)” product in 1992:
“Stevia leaf is a natural product that has been used for at least 400 years as a food product, principally as a sweetener or other flavoring agent. None of this common usage in foods has indicated any evidence of a safety problem. There are no reports of any government agency in any of the above countries indicating any public health concern whatsoever in connection with the use of stevia in foods.”
Not all stevias are the same. The form of stevia identified to be effective at killing borrelia (Lyme bacteria) in vitro is Stevia A or the whole-leaf stevia extract in alcohol suspension manufactured by Nutramedix, which is a component of the Cowden Support Program (CSP), developed by Dr. Lee Cowden. Other forms of stevia do not appear to be as effective, but we would love to hear any patient stories of positive effects from other forms of stevia.
We would also like to point out that powdered forms of stevia sweeteners like Truvia, Stevia in the Raw and Sweetleaf also contain other ingredients that can be harmful to Lyme patients.
The bottom line is, you can research online all day and find studies to prove or disprove the effectiveness of various Lyme treatments. But Lyme disease is proving to be a custom illness. Not everyone reacts the same way to treatment. The best way to find out if a treatment works for you is to try it for yourself in small, increasing dosages over an extended period of time.
The above material is provided for informational purposes only. The material is not nor should be considered a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.