Dear Stephen,
What are your thoughts on the New Haven Group’s study of the antibacterial actions of stevia against Borrelia bacteria?
Stephen’s response:

I have a short response in the second printing (and later) of the second edition of Healing Lyme (I had to squeeze it in). The study, in my opinion, is useless and misleading,. Here are a few of the reasons why (I have similar problems with most of the New Haven group’s studies — though this does seem to be the first one they got a journal to accept):

1) The study is in vitro and hence has nothing to do with how the herb will actually work in a living body. It is not possible to extrapolate from a single in vitro study UNLESS there is corresponding data from centuries of historical use, etc (e.g. clinical use and so on).
2) Stevia is not a very systemic herb. To work in a live body against infection, especially with Borrelia, an herb has to be VERY systemic, that is it has to spread widely in the body, especially in hard-to-reach places. Stevia does not.
3) We have over a decade of clinical experience with stevia in the treatment of lyme disease; we suggest it as a supportive herb for a number of problems (blood glucose, etc). We have not seen ANY antimicrobial effects in clinical practice. NONE. However, the herb, because of effects on the GI tract, does help increase the bioavailability of herbs and pharmaceuticals (as does licorice, for example), as such it can help make antibacterials more effective.
4) The herb is also touted as helping break up biofilms. NOTE: Most herbs contain substances that help break up biofilms; plants figured out how to do that millions of years ago. Plants get sick, just like us, they can’t go to the doctor, they can’t call a medic, they have to treat their own diseases by figuring out what is wrong and crafting substances to deal with the infections they have. Part of the reason they are better than drugs is that they contain multiple substances that they have created to deal with bacteria – they had to deal with bacteria long before our species even existed, so they created antibacterials; they had to deal with bacterial resistance long ago so they create anti-resistance chemicals; they had to deal with biofilms so they created biofilm breaking agents, and so on. There is a list of perhaps 40 herbs that break up biofilms in the second edition of Healing Lyme, this is by no means exhaustive. ALL plants break up biofilms to varying extents. I’ll end it here, but if you want to read more on herbal remedies and how they can help, CFAH is a great resource.
So, in short, this study is not groundbreaking, it is not news, it is not the antibacterial cureall for lyme disease. Further, given the massive data on Borrelia from exhaustive research the past decades, including some of the really good work that has been done by other researchers, the study is not really all that good. (I have read, at a conservative estimate, some 30,000 journal articles on bacteria, viruses, and herbs over the past 5 years, many of them are listed in the bibliographies in my last 5 medical herbals. Some of the bibliographies run rather long, in Healing Lyme alone it is over 50 pages long.).
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