by Larry Tepper, MS, MAc

The disease (first identified in Lyme, Connecticut) is caused by organisms that are transmitted to humans via an insect bite, usually a tick or mosquito. Typical symptoms include fever, headache, fatigue and a bulls-eye skin rash. In the early stages, Lyme can generally be successfully treated with antibiotics. However, the infection can spread to the joints, the heart, and the nervous system. Once this happens, chronic and debilitating symptoms can set in. These symptoms can be treated using Oriental Medicine (OM).

According to my understanding of OM, the body seeks to prevent pathogens from entering the internal organs by deflecting them to less critical areas of the body.  These areas may include the joints and blood, where they are held latent.  These pathogens may then emerge at a later time when the person’s immune system is stressed by disease or emotional crises.

OM can be beneficial in treating lyme disease. When I see a patient afflicted with lyme disease, I look at the individual’s pattern of imbalances, which can generally be divided into three stages. In the initial stage, there is an acute skin infection. At this stage the immune system responds strongly. There may be musculoskeletal symptoms, low back and knee and joint pain.

In the second stage, the pathogen begins to move away from the surface and deeper into the interior of the body. Therefore, it is important to diagnose this disease as early as possible to prevent further damage to the body’s internal balance.

At the deepest stage, profound deficiencies are noted. Signs and symptoms could include extreme fatigue, loss of strength, low back pain, knee pain and swelling, dry mouth and throat, and decreased physiological activity.

This complicated clinical picture requires the use of a holistic approach such as provided by OM. OM is actually a generic term for a collection of therapies that emphasizes the manipulation of energetic physiology for the purpose of promoting, maintaining and restoring health. The basic premise of Oriental medicine is that all living beings possess a substance called Qi (pronounced chee as in CHEEse ).

There are two types of Qi that flow through the body, True Qi, which produces health and wellness and Pathological Qi, which produces disease. The source of pathological Qi in people affected by lyme disease is the organisms inserted as a result of bite by a tick or other carrier.

The flow of Qi governs all of your physiological and psychological functions. When Qi flows smoothly through the body, a person feels at one with their environment. However, when the Qi is not able to flow freely, energetic imbalances occur, and a person feels separate from their environment, a state known as Dis-ease. Dis-ease can range from vague feelings of illness to tissue damage (a condition referred to by conventional medicine as disease).

The therapies that compose OM are acupuncture, herbs, moxibustion and nutritional and lifestyle counseling.

Acupuncture is the stimulation of the acupuncture points using very fine needles. With these needles, an acupuncturist attempts to balance the flow of energy through the various meridians by increasing the energy in those meridians that are deficient and dispersing energy in those meridians that are excessive.

Moxibustion is the stimulation of the acupuncture points using heat. This is usually done by waving a stick composed of either compressed mugwort or charcoal above the point until it is hot. Moxibustion is often used to treat people who have an aversion to cold.
Herbs have been used to treat illness for as long as there have been people on the Earth. The Chinese, having studied the energetic qualities of many herbs for over 2000 years, know that every herb performs a variety of actions. When an herbalist is treating a particular patient, he/she may combine several herbs together to form a formula. The herbs are chosen in such a way as to reinforce actions of the main herb that the herbalist finds desirable and cancel out those actions that are undesirable. Because practitioners see the same conditions repeatedly, standard formulas have evolved to treat certain conditions. I have found that one particular formula is useful for treating LD. Other formulas may be useful treating specific symptoms.

Nutritional counseling is an extremely important part of OM. In fact, the Chinese character for food and the Chinese character for medicine are the same character. To the ancient Chinese, food was medicine. People were often assigned certain foods to eat based on their symptoms. As a result, educating people in proper nutrition is must if the practitioner hopes to see any long-term progress.

Lifestyle counseling can involve any activity that focuses on improving breathing and reducing stress. This can take the form of activities such as Qi Gong, Tai Qi, meditation or Yoga. Daily deep relaxation for at least 20 minutes is one of the most important things that someone can do to nourish their Qi. Without calming the disturbed mind, the efficacy of OM or any other therapy will be greatly reduced.


Larry Tepper, M.S., M.Ac., is a licensed acupuncturist and graduate of the Traditional Acupuncture Institute in Columbia, MD (1990). He also studied at the College of Traditional Acupuncture in England.  He has studied with renowned healers such as Fritz Smith, M.D., the developer of Zero Balancing, J. R. Worsley, D. Ac., the founder of the College of Traditional Acupuncture, and various masters of Japanese acupuncture. He uses an eclectic blend of acupuncture, acupressure, Chinese herbs and nutritional and lifestyle counseling in his practice. He is also certified in Toyohari. He can be reached at 301-471-4196. More information is available at