The online home of Dr. Philip Fritchey, M.H., N.D., CNHP


A personal journey of discovery.

From Healthkeepers Magazine, Vol. 8, Issue 2 (Spring, 2006)

 "Ask an Herbalist" – Philip Fritchey, M.H., N.D., CNHP



Q:               After three years of struggle with a debilitating condition that caused me to quit my job and virtually all my activities - and caused many of my friends to quit me - I was finally diagnosed with Lyme disease.  So far, after 3 months of IV antibiotics, I am having some limited improvement.  I have been temporarily pulled from that treatment, though, because it caused my liver enzymes to go crazy.  One of my true stand-by-me friends heard about an herb called Teasel, but my local herb shops don't have it, or any information about it.  What can you tell me about this plant and Lyme.  I need some hope tonight!

 A:               Lyme is not a disease for sissies, to be sure, and the symptoms of mental fog, chronic joint and muscle pain, and unrelenting fatigue can be very hard for those around you to appreciate or deal with.  I have personally been struggling with Lyme disease for some time now.  It has been almost six years since my encounter with the tick.  The condition has been a roller-coaster experience that has served to humble my smugness, challenge and re-empower my Faith, and impress me with a sense of precious value for health of body and mind that I never could have imagined - and always took for granted.
               I have tried most every rational protocol that I could find.  In spite of occasional temporary reprieves, the bug took such hold of me through the Spring and Summer of last year, I truly felt that the fatigue and mental "fog" would force me to stop teaching and writing.  I stopped seeing clients personally, and I could barely muster the energy to keep our skin care business going.  The joint and muscle pain was so intense that gardening, field forays, and exercise in general seemed impossible, and, as a result, I put on nearly 30 pounds.  It was not a pretty sight.
               I had discussed the situation with some students from one of my Herbology classes in Tulsa last Spring, and in September, I received a letter from one of them.  He had run across a section in Matthew Wood's really excellent book, "The Book of Herbal Wisdom".  Wood recorded his limited but positive experience with Lyme, using the root of Teasel (Dipsacus spp.), an herb completely unfamiliar to me.  A little internet research showed he was not alone, so I tracked down some of the tincture.  (It is not easy to find. One species of the plant is used in Chinese medicine, but traditional Western herbal history is virtually silent on its use.)  Whether from hope or desperation, Wood's short discourse on it was sufficient to get me to try it.
               At the risk of melodrama, I can only say that, so far at least, the result has been nothing short of miraculous.  Within three days of starting with the very small dosage recommended by Wood (1 - 5 drops, 3 times daily), the fog lifted, the fatigue melted away, and though it took longer, the joint and muscle pain subsided, and has continued to improve since.  I feel like my life has been given back to me. 



                   The only negative experience with my treatment came through an enthusiastically reasoned, but ill-advised short experiment with higher  doses.  That quickly promoted a massive intensification of the symptoms - called the "Herxheimer effect" by Lyme sufferers - that just as quickly went away when the dose was reduced again. (Some long-term sufferers even take a peculiar pleasure from that effect - kind of a "getting even" satisfaction from thinking that the bug is suffering for a change.  I, for one, take greater pleasure from symptom-free days, and from the conviction that I am winning the long-term battle.  For that, I am convinced that only patience and persistence will suffice.)
                  So dramatic were the effects that I felt compelled to use some of my newly recovered energy to find the herb in its natural environs.  With the help of some USDA distribution maps, a couple of Forest Rangers, and the Forest Service's Regional Botanist, I located and harvested a supply from a small stand in the Pisgah National Forest in western North Carolina.  (It is considered a "rank weed" by them, and I was told to "have at it" when I asked about digging it.  Of course, I took care to scatter the seeds well so that small stand will be somewhat larger next year.  One man's weed is another man's medicine.)
               This is a largely undocumented herb, and there is much to learn about it. Subsequent research shows that the herb's range in the U.S. almost exactly parallels the range of the Lyme carrying deer tick - an observation that quite comfortably fits my notion of natural cures.  (God provides the solution to all our trials, and it is always close at hand - if we only learn what to look for.)  I converted my harvest into tincture, and over the winter I have made it available to students and practitioners working with Lyme and related, often mis-diagnosed conditions - chronic fatigue, Epstein Barr, fibromyalgia, ALS, etc.  So far, the feedback has been very positive, often equally dramatic.  It is my sense that the herb may also be well-suited for age-related dementia and memory issues.  Please note that the recommended dosage is low - outside the norm - and while I detect no toxicity from it, I would advise following that recommendation.
               I have not been able to find out much about this plant's chemistry - something that doesn't bother me nearly as much as it does some.  (The active constituent is Teasel...  works for me.)  I'm sure all that will make itself known over time, just as I am certain that the herb and its usable forms will become more generally available as others discover its benefits. With a little diligent searching, it can be found on the Internet - produced by a hand full of individual herbalists around the country.  I have also committed to producing as much as we can until more traditional suppliers catch on and catch up.
               Six months after starting with the herb, I feel better than I have in a very long time, and, despite the anxieties that stem from my previous experiences with treatment, I have no sense of temporality.  I've even gotten to where I forget to take it for a day, sometimes two, and have not experienced any regression.  I'm not sure yet whether I'm confident that it is a "cure", but, at the very least, it makes living with the condition gloriously possible.—



Recommended reading for those dealing with Lyme Disease and related conditions:

The Book of Herbal Wisdom, by Matthew Wood & Healing Lyme, by Stephen H. Buhner


Tincture of Teasel Root may be purchased by directing your Internet browser to:



Philip Fritchey, N.D.  850 Raymond Shedden Ave., Newnan, GA  30265

email: drphil@hisgoodherbs.com


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