If you’ve been paying attention to posts in the Lyme community, the word “stevia” has been a hot topic for the last few years. 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 (see study).
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 that are in powdered form, 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, and increases its bio-availability (see report) making it a very effective treatment. We recommend patients look for whole-leaf extract stevia tinctures in alcohol suspension as the most effective possibility in treating the various versions of borrelia.
What are the concerns? Does Stevia cause cancer, infertility, or other problems with frequent use?
A review conducted by toxicologists at UCLA in 2008, raised concerns that stevia could contribute to cancer and infertility in animals. The authors noted that in some in vitro and animal studies, stevioside – an isolated extract of the stevia plant — degenerated into another substance — steviol. According to the authors, steviol has also been known to facilitate cancer growth (Pezzuto et al., 1985), and is a possible cause of infertility in male rats. (Melis, 1999). But these effects were only speculated and not proven in this study or any further studies before or after. (see review)
In 1997, Dr. K. Toyoda and colleagues, from the Division of Pathology, National Institute of Health Sciences in Tokyo, Japan, did a more extensive study showing the opposite was true. Toyoda’s research group launched a two-year study using three groups of lab rats, including 50 males and 50 females. One group received stevioside in a concentration that constituted 2.5% of their daily diet; the second group received a concentration that constituted 5% of their diet; and the third group, which served as the control, received no stevoiside. When the organs and tissues of the rats were examined under a microscope, there was almost no difference between those who were given stevia and those who were not. One interesting difference, however, was the fact that the females who took stevioside had a decreased incidence of breast tumors, while the males displayed a lesser incidence of kidney damage. The researchers stated, “It is concluded that stevioside is not carcinogenic in rats under the experimental conditions described.” (see study)
And finally, in 1991, the Primate Research Center of Chulalonhkorn University in Bangkok, Thailand gave high doses of stevia to both male and female hamsters to see if their fertility would be affected. Even though 2,500 mg a day was administered (a human dose is about 2 mg), there was no evidence of decreased fertility (see study).
In fact, the researchers reached this conclusion: “The results of this study are astonishing. Stevioside at a dose as high as 2,500 mg/kg did not do any harm to these animals. We conclude that stevioside at a dose as high as 2.5 grams per kilogram of body weight affects neither the growth nor reproduction in hamsters.”
In conclusion, any studies speculating the negative effects of stevia have included laboratory tests with stevioside being given to lab animals at extremely high doses… well beyond possible human dosage levels. And none of these tests have conclusively proven that stevia itself has actual negative effects. And to make a final point, 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 that are not not whole-leaf extracts in alcohol suspension do not appear to be as effective, but we would love to hear any patient stories of positive effects from other forms of stevia.
- Look for whole leaf stevia extracts in alcohol suspension as the most viable means at killing all forms of the borrelia bacteria (longform, persisters/cysts and biofilm).
- Lyme patients should avoid stevia sweeteners like Truvia, Stevia in the Raw and Sweetleaf because they also contain other ingredients that can be harmful to Lyme patients.
- Lyme patients should understand that stevia alone is one component and not a comprehensive treatment by itself in treating the collection of pathogens, parasites and viruses currently being called “Lyme disease” or tick-borne illnesses.
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.