Could Cannabis Be Missing Piece of Deer Tick Borne Lyme Disease Treatment?

Francis Cassidy May 13, 2018 2 comments

Lyme disease from the deer tick has become a significant global health issue.

The bite of a borreliosis-infected deer tick causes this inflammatory condition. While not every deer tick carries Lyme bacteria, the bite of an infected deer tick is very dangerous.

Lyme disease originates in rodents, where deer ticks pick it up. The ticks reside on the white-tailed deer, hence the name. They then lay eggs, and it’s this which leads to further propagation of the disease. For patients afflicted, it’s critical they receive antibiotic treatment in the early stages, ideally within the first few days of exposure. Treatment doesn’t always work in the later stages, and can often lead to long-term and debilitating consequences.

When traditional antibiotic treatments fail to eliminate the underlying infection, there is a chance cannabis can help.

What Are the symptoms of Deer Tick Borne Lyme disease?

According to the Centers for Disease Prevention and Control (CDC), the symptoms of Lyme disease come in waves, and symptoms vary significantly depending on the stage of the infection.

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Three to thirty days after a deer tick bite, symptoms commonly present as fever, chills, headache, fatigue, muscle and joint aches, and swollen lymph nodes. Rashes also frequently appear in seventy to eighty percent of people. They begin at the deer tick bite site and gradually expand, often up to twelve inches or more.

Months after infection, symptoms can become more severe. Facial palsy, arthritis, pain in tendons, inflammation of the brain and spinal cord, and nerve pain are all common.

In its most extreme cases, Lyme disease can affect the mental health of the individual and even develop into encephalitis. Perhaps worst, Lyme disease can cause such severe depression that it puts people at risk of suicide.

Tick Sitting on a Leaf next to Human Finger

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The Science on Cannabis and Lyme Disease

There’s good news and bad news. The bad news is that there are no existing studies that detail the ability of cannabis to cure or treat symptoms of Lyme disease. The good news is that cannabis does possess potent antibiotic properties often overlooked that may help.

Much of the research on the topic comes mainly from anecdotal experiments. In them, those suffering from Lyme disease take matters into their own hands. Many of these accounts attest to the ability of cannabis to treat some of the debilitating symptoms of the disease. The most likely reason for these successes is the anti-inflammatory properties of cannabis. There is also a potential that the anti-bacterial properties of cannabis play a part, but both of these are only conjecture without more research.

A study published in the Journal of Natural Products (2008) [1]Giovanni Appendino, Simon Gibbons, Anna Giana, Alberto Pagani, Gianpaolo Grassi, Michael Stavri, Eileen Smith, and M. Mukhlesur Rahman. Journal of Natural Products. 2008 71 (8), 1427-1430. DOI: … Continue reading examined this in more detail. Researchers noted that the five major cannabinoids: CBD, CBC, CBG, THC, and CBN all demonstrated potent activity against an antibiotic-resistant strain of MRSA. The study also noted the seeming paradox of how chronic use of cannabis could have the potential to reduce immune function, given the nature of how these cannabinoids may work in the body as antimicrobial agents.

So overall, anecdotal claims suggest there could be benefit to treating Lyme disease with cannabis. This could be from the antibacterial potential of the plant, but even the researchers were quick to mention the need for further study on the matter before drawing conclusions.

Cannabis and Lyme Disease: Symptom Management Over Cure?

Dr. Daniel Kinderlehrer is a leading expert on Lyme disease. He is adamant that cannabis does not directly treat Lyme disease. Rather, he says, supplementation of CBD may provide benefits that address some of the symptoms. With his own patients, he found it to be beneficial.

The benefits he cites are the analgesic, anti-inflammatory, and neuroprotective properties. He says they are valuable as an adjunct to the pharmaceutical treatments of tick-borne diseases such as Lyme disease.

The persistent nature of Lyme disease also makes it unique. Reoccurrence is common even after antibiotic treatment. In such cases, the prolonged use of antibiotics presents yet further problems in patients. As a result, Dr Kinderlehrer recommends cannabis to manage symptoms for ongoing chronic cases of Lyme disease.

Woman's calf showing a bulls eye rash from a tick bite

Woman’s calf showing a bulls eye rash from a tick bite – See a doctor if you have this.

Traditional Treatment for Deer Tick Lyme Disease

Lyme disease can be challenging to detect. For those who are unaware of having a tick bite, or when symptoms present in other forms, it’s often difficult for a doctor to make a diagnosis. But early detection is critical with Lyme disease. If caught early, doctors can prescribe antibiotics to rid the disease from the body. Treatment courses for antibiotics in Lyme disease can last for as long as a month. Following this, the relapse rate is as high as forty percent, and the risk of opportunistic antibiotic-resistant bacteria developing is also a strong possibility.

See a Doctor First if You are Bitten by a Deer Tick

It is important to be aware of tick populations in your region. Take immediate action if bitten. Lyme disease is a severe condition that can change the course of someone’s life forever. But while cannabis use may help treat symptoms, it shouldn’t replace the now standard treatment protocol of antibiotics provided by a licensed professional.


Author avatar

Francis Cassidy
Francis Cassidy is a freelance writer who writes on a variety of topics. With a particular focus on the cannabis industry, he aims to help ensure the smooth reintegration of cannabis back into global culture. When not writing, he's to be found exploring his new base in British Columbia, Canada. You can follow his other works including his photography on his blog

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  1. T A Niles

    Would love to know what the 2008 study was.

    • Jennifer Grant

      You can find that link within the article. Right on the “2008.” Look for green text. That indicates the presence of a link that will take you to more information.