Cryptolepis Sanguinolenta: Treatment of Lyme Disease

Home » Cryptolepis Sanguinolenta: Treatment of Lyme Disease

Written by Michelle McKeon

May 8, 2023

Lyme disease is the most common vector-borne disease in the United States and in Europe.1 Cryptolepis sanguinolenta is one of the more popular herbs for lyme disease treatment. Often times when someone is bit by a tick, not only is Lyme disease transmitted, but co-infection can be transferred as well. Ticks are found almost anywhere in the US and states like Alaska and Hawaii are no exception.

The term co-infection refers to other tick-borne pathogenic infections. Co-infections make it even more complicated, because they often have a synergistic effect, intensifying each other’s effects, symptoms, and duration. Babesia is one of the most common co-infections and is a parasitic type of infection that can infect your red blood cells. There are more than 100 distinct strains of the babesia parasite, but the most common strain that infects humans is known as babesia microti and babesia duncani.2

Conventional medicine, such as antibiotics, don’t always address the infection. This often occurs during the chronic stages of tick-borne infections. Biofilms form around the infection, preventing antibiotics from penetrating through the biofilms and fighting the pathogen. Botanical medicine, otherwise known as herbal medicine, can have powerful therapeutic effects, and breakdown biofilms to target the infection while lowering the pathogenic load.

tincture and vials of medicine

What is Cryptolepis?

Cryptolepis sanguinolenta is a plant indigenous to Africa where it has been used to treat malaria, tuberculosis, hepatitis, and septicemia.3 Extracts from this plant cause morphologic changes in bacterial cells and break down crucial components of pathogens like Borrelia burgdorferi.4 Given its traditional use against malaria; it has been used for treatment of Babesia spp. which is a malaria like organism.5

Cryptolepis sanguinolenta contains a number of bioactive compounds, including:

  • Neocryptolepine
  • Biscryptolepine
  • Cryptoquindoline
  • Phenolic acids
  • Flavonoids
  • Catechins

Neocryptolepine is the key bioactive compound, presenting putative antibacterial properties against a range of Gram-positive bacteria. It has also shown anti-fungal properties.

While multiple secondary metabolites with antimicrobial activity have been recognized, an alkaloid known as cryptolepine has been the most well-researched to date. Cryptolepine’s antimicrobial activity is believed to be secondary to multiple mechanisms of action including both bactericidal and bacteriostatic effects.6 Cryptolepine has been shown to create morphologic changes, cellular breakdown, and antimicrobial activity.

Benefits of Cyprotlepis:

Cryptolepis sanguinolenta has been shown in preclinical studies to be:

  • anti-inflammatory
  • antibacterial
  • anti-fungal
  • anti-amoebic
  • anti-malarial

Cryptolepis sanguinlenta dosages can vary depending on the stage of treatment the person is at in their protocol for Lyme disease. Initially, I recommend beginning at a very low cryptolepis sanguinolenta dosage for lyme disease and slowly titrating up. This way it gives the body time to adjust to the antimicrobial, to try and prevent a herxheimer reaction from occurring. Often times this herbal in administered as a cryptolepsis tincture, and can be pulsed with another antimicrobial herbal, such as neem, to actively fight the different strains of tick-borne infections.

crushing cyrptolepis with pestle and mortar

Studies Showing the Efficacy of Cryptolepis Sanguinolenta:

Due do it being a broad-spectrum herb and having antifungal and antimicrobial properties, it has also been used in treatment of children suffering from Pediatric Acute-onset Neuropsychiatric syndrome (PANS) when strep is present.7

“A 2020 study in Frontiers in Medicine found Cryptolepis to be highly active in vitro against both growing Borrelia burgdorferi and non-growing stationary phase Borrelia burgdorferi.1

According to this laboratory study, carried out by Prof. Ying Zhang’s group at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, there are seven herbal medicines that have the ability to kill B. burgdorferi in test tubes are:

  • Cryptolepis sanguinolenta
  • Juglans nigra (Black walnut)
  • Polygonum cuspidatum (Japanese knotweed)
  • Artemisia annua (Sweet wormwood)
  • Uncaria tomentosa (Cat’s claw)
  • Cistus incanus
  • Scutellaria baicalensis (Chinese skullcap)

“The top two active herbs, Cryptolepis sanguinolenta and Polygonum cuspidatum, showed strong activity against both growing B. burgdorferi (MIC = 0.03–0.06% and 0.25–0.5%, respectively) and non-growing stationary phase B. burgdorferi. In subculture studies, only 1% Cryptolepis sanguinolenta extract caused complete eradication, while doxycycline and cefuroxime and other active herbs could not eradicate B. burgdorferistationary phase cells as many spirochetes were visible after 21-day subculture.”1

Cryptolepis Sanguinolenta Side Effects:

Cryptolepis sanguinolenta is often times well-tolerated and few side effects have been recognized in humans throughout its long-term use in parts of China and India. Rat studies indicate that doses of the extract up to 500 mg/kg are relatively safe.8
Stephan Buhner, who recently passed away, was known as a leading herbalist in the Lyme community, where cryptolepis was a part of some of his go-to protocols. However, it has been stated that out of all the herbals that he uses, cryptolepsis is one of the worst tasting.

Other cryptolepis sanguinolenta side effects could include a herxheimer reaction (past articles link). A herxheimer reaction also known as herxing occurs as bacteria die during antimicrobial treatment. There can be a temporary increase in symptoms, which can last until these toxins (dead pathogens) are expelled out of the system. At The Lyme Specialist we have found that it is key support drainage pathways prior to introducing antimicrobial herbals, to prevent or limit the amount of herxing a person experiences.

Tick-borne infections are stealth pathogens, where often times multiple treatment modalities are used to eradicate or put in remission certain stains. Being that cryptolepis has anti-fungal, anti-inflammatory, and antibacterial properties, it makes it a successful herb to use in the treatment process of Lyme disease and co-infections.


  1. Feng J, Leone J, Schweig S, Zhang Y. Evaluation of Natural and Botanical Medicines for Activity Against Growing and Non-growing Forms of B. burgdorferi. Front Med (Lausanne). 2020 Feb 21;7:6. doi: 10.3389/fmed.2020.00006. PMID: 32154254; PMCID: PMC7050641.
  5. Feng J, Leone J, Schweig S, Zhang Y. Evaluation of Natural and Botanical Medicines for Activity Against Growing and Non-growing Forms of B. burgdorferi. Front Med (Lausanne). 2020 Feb 21;7:6. doi: 10.3389/fmed.2020.00006. PMID: 32154254; PMCID: PMC7050641.

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