Research & Writing

Should you take Western fence lizard tincture for Lyme disease?

Over the past few months I’ve seen this remedy recommended to people who are seeking treatments for these debilitating disorders, due to observation that they are resistant to Borrelia infections and the proposition that their tissues contain a special compound that eradicates the infection. That’s actually not the case at all: they just have really strong innate immune systems.

Note: Many people suffer from Lyme disease, and we don’t have adequate treatments for it. I respect the practitioners who are thinking outside of the box and trying new treatment approaches. I however disagree with this particular remedy, and contacted the practitioners and educators privately prior to drafting this post. 

When I first heard about this, I was naturally curious and looked into the referenced research at UC Berkeley by entomologist Robert Lane. His 1990 and 1998 papers hypothesize a borreliacial factor in Western fence lizards that contributes to their refractoriness in Lyme disease.

Interesting, right? So I went through the studies with a fine-toothed comb.

In the 1990 study, the authors describe 2 very important confounding factors on p.79 that cloud any clear conclusions:

  1. The cultures’ pretreatment with rifampin and contamination made the culturing of spirochetes extremely difficult.
  2. The BSK II medium that was used to culture out B. burgdorferii spirochetes is unsuitable. Since 1990 other media have been developed that are far more supportive of Bb’s growth (i.e. BSK-H). Now, detection of Bb spirochetes by culture and isolation has been totally abandoned in favor of more sensitive analytical techniques like qPCR.

So the researchers were trying to culture out Borrelia spirochetes using unsuitable media that were pre-treated with a broad spectrum antibiotic. It’s no surprise that the spirochetes did not culture out. The authors even acknowledge this as a confounding factor.

But most importantly, the researchers eventually abandoned the hypothesis that Western fence lizards contained a borreliacidal factor. In their final 2006 paper on the subject, they conclude that the alternative complement system in reptilian innate immune systems enables them to be resistant to Bb infection (a process known as zooprophylaxis).

From the 2006 abstract: “These and previous findings suggest that the complement system of S. occidentalis typically destroys B. burgdorferi sensu lato spirochetes present in tissues of attached and feeding I. pacificus nymph.”

This is an exciting finding, as Bb is known to evade complement detection in human immune systems and thwart our innate immune response. This also means that the borreliacidal capacities of these lizards is due to their innate immunity as opposed to an extractable protein in the organism.

In light of this, please do not seek out extracts made from this animal. It’s based on research misinterpretation, and there’s no reason that these reptiles should suffer for it.


About Author

Renée A. Davis MA RH is a designer and educator in botanical and mycological medicine. Her training began at the Pratt Institute of Art and Design in New York City and concluded in biomedical sciences at the University of Washington. She currently directs research and development for a nutraceutical mushroom company in the Pacific Northwest.


  • Julie James
    June 2, 2017 at 1:42 am

    Thanks for addressing this. It’s come up before, but I hadn’t heard anyone discussing it for a while, and I had hoped the idea had died.

  • Danny
    August 1, 2017 at 12:05 am

    Can you provide evidence claiming it isn’t a protein in their blood?

    • Renee Davis
      August 1, 2017 at 12:09 am

      I cannot provide that evidence.

      The research pertaining to W fence lizards and Borrelia is linked in this post.

      I am however NOT claiming this; I am stating that the research in fact does not support taking W fence extracts for Lyme disease.

      Since the evidence is lacking, patients should carefully evaluate their options and not rely on this as a first line of treatment.

  • Meredith
    May 3, 2018 at 7:50 pm

    Eye of newt, ear of dog, nose of bat and tongue of frog. Why eat animals when there are perfectly good herbs that taste just as terrible?


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