Dissecting the Cowden Protocol

November 25, 2008

After several months of trying to treat late stage Lyme disease, I sought the wisdom of a naturopath who is experienced in treating Lyme. She recommended to me the Cowden Protocol, for she had found it to be quite helpful for her patients over the years.

I balked when I saw the cost of the full protocol, averaging about $500 a month. I decided I needed to do some research before I took the plunge. Below, you will find the fruits of my labor.

I decided that some products in the protocol may be useful and worth getting from Cowden’s company, Nutramedix. Some other products also seem useful but are easily available elsewhere for less money. And some are products for which I’m having trouble finding a use.

In making these choices, I consulted a licensed pharmacist who runs natural drug store and stocks the Nutramedix products included in Cowden’s protocol.

Many of these products have limited or no scientific research regarding their use or safety, so using them involves some experimentation and risk.

P.S. I know that some readers of this will disagree with my choices. People have a variety of philosophies about using alternative treatments. Some people are really into alternative medicine, and some people are unwilling to try much without substantial scientific evidence of its effectiveness. I personally am pretty open but try to be informed. You may think that I’m being too critical of Cowden’s protocol, or you may think I’m not being critical enough. I ask you to be kind if you choose to respond to this. Lymeland can get pretty nasty sometimes.

So here it goes….

ADRENAL –It is a fairly widespread belief that Lymies have weak adrenals. I don’t know if that is true or not, but there are tons of adrenal support supplements available if you think you need something. The herbs used in Cowden’s adrenal tincture are all pretty common and have a variety of uses. I don’t know nearly enough to know if this combination is especially helpful for adrenal fatigue.

  • Schizandra, Astragalus, and Ginseng are all used in traditional Chinese medicine, which is way over my head. Ginseng and Astragalus are in lots of supplements.
  • Rhododendron caucasicum is being touted online right now for weight loss and as a cure-all drug. It is rich in phytochemicals. It comes from the mountains of Georgia (the country) and is commonly used there as tea. It’s supposedly the reason that so many Georgians live past 100.
  • Wild Yam is a fairly common root and has a variety of traditional uses. (see http://www.altnature.com/gallery/wild_yam.htm)

AMANTILLA –This is just valerian root extract, which is quite popular for calming anxiety and as a sleep aid. The U.S. government has a fact sheet at http://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/valerian.asp I think it would make sense to be cautious about taking this if you’re already taking antidepressants, sleep aids, etc.

BANDEROL – I have found very little information on this, and Nutramedix hasn’t supplied a full species name. My guess is that they are using Otoba novogranatensis. I read here http://cat.inist.fr/?aModele=afficheN&cpsidt=14097602 that it’s shown some usefulness against parasites. I’m not trying it for now.

BURBUR – Cowden includes Burbur leaf extract in his protocol as a gentle detoxifier that is useful during herxes. He uses the leaves Desmodium molliculum. If you google Desmodium molliculum you’ll see that some sites sell it as Manayupa, but I can’t find much information about the species. There is a lot more information available about a sister species, Desmodium adscendens, and its various uses here http://www.rain-tree.com/amorseco.htm. I can’t figure out if there’s a significant difference between the two species. I’m guessing not. D. adscendens is available in bulk at Raintree’s website. Update: I have used this herb in a tea on and off for a while now.  It does seem to provide some soothing when I am having a die-off.  See more about Burbur in Henk’s comments below.

CUMANDA –Cumanda is only available from Nutramedix. It’s traditionally used as an antimalarial, among other things. Read more about it here http://www.rain-tree.com/campsiandra.htm. This site notes that its use for Lyme disease may all be hype. On the other hand, Lyme is often treated by drugs used for malaria like doxycycline or plequenil, so maybe using Cumanda isn’t totally ridiculous. I honestly don’t know. I am trying it.  Update: I tried Cumanda for several months.  I never got the sense that it made any significant difference for me.  See more about Cumanda in Henk’s comments below.

ENULA –Nutramedix markets Enula as an antimicrobial. I haven’t found anything that indicates that this tincture is anything unique. It consists of three ingredients; only the Elecampane seems useful.

  • Elecampane- This is very common and easy to find. It is a traditional cough medicine and is a good expectorant. It does have anti-microbial properties. Read more about it here http://www.mountainroseherbs.com/learn/elecampane.php
  • Vitis tiliafolia- It seems that this is known in Jamaica as Blood Wiss. I can’t find any information about its use.
  • Ipomoea jalapa -This mainly has been used traditionally to loosen stools.

MAGNESlUM MALATE – Magnesium can be gotten very cheaply, though supposedly some forms are less effective than others. I don’t know enough to know if the Nutramedix version is a good choice in terms of quality and cost. My pharmacist told me that magnesium aspertate is a good choice.

MORA– Mora seems to have been designed primarily as an antifungal agent. It has three ingredients.

PARSLEY– Parsley is believed to be good for detoxifying because it has lots of chlorophyll (see here http://www.mountainroseherbs.com/learn/parsley.php) Personally, I’m not sure why it’s worth spending $25.00 for it. You can get it fresh in the supermarket or even grow it yourself.

PINELLA – Nutramedix says that it uses the bark of Pimpinella anisum. It claims that it’s great for reducing inflammation and for detoxifying the brain and nervous system, which helps with brain fog (see http://www.bionatus.com/nutramedix/pdfs/Pinella_flyer.pdf). Pimpenella anisum is more commonly known as Anise. The anise seed is a common spice that has been used for millennia. I cannot find any other source that discusses using the bark of the plant, so it’s possible that the bark has some special properties different from the seed. No description that I’ve seen of the herb’s usage includes much about detoxification. The plant, however, has been used traditionally in some parts of the world as a mild stimulant. Perhaps this is why users feel more clearheaded when using Pinella.

QUINA- The main active ingredient in Quina is Quinine, which was an early antimalarial. The FDA put out a warning in 2006 about Quinine (see http://www.medicinenet.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=78097) Apparently, misuse of quinine can cause some nasty side effects, including death, so please only use this product under your doctor’s supervision.

SAMENTO- This is more commonly known as Cat’s Claw, and research has shown that it’s effective for Lyme disease. Cheaper varieties are easy to find, but my pharmacist said that Nutramedix is a good source.  Update: I’ve learned a lot more about Cat’s Claw since I originally wrote this.  Nutramedix sells a form of the herb that is supposedly superior because it is “TOA free.”  Apparently the claims of superiority of TOA free Cat’s Claw are based upon two rather poorly designed research studies that were done by the company that has a patent on TOA-free Clat’s Claw.  Buhner, the author of Healing Lyme says that it is best to use the whole herb.  He recommends using Cat’s Claw from Rain Tree.  You can read more about the TOA controversy here http://www.rain-tree.com/toa-poa-article.htm

SERRAPEPTASE- It seems that some research has shown that this is good at breaking down dead tissue, and it’s included in the Cowden protocol because of a theory that it can break down the cyst form of Lyme. I get the impression that this is all pretty hypothetical, but perhaps not totally farfetched. I’m giving it a try using the Nutramedix version.  Update: I tried it.  I can’t tell if it did anything.  I’m really rather dubious about this product.  Wikipedia currently says that there’s no evidence that this product does anything.

SPARGA- This is asparagus root. I have not found anything that says that asparagus has any medicinal use beyond making your urine smell kind of interesting. Update: With more research I found the following.  Here is some information on medicinal uses for asparagus http://earthnotes.tripod.com/asparagus.htm Nutramedix claims that asparagus is good for detoxing sulfur.   Some people <i>do</i> smell sulfur in their urine after consuming asparagus, but the smell is coming from compounds in the asparagus.  (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Asparagus#Urine)  There may be a variety of benefits to asparagus, but it might make more sense to just eat the whole vegetable.

TRACE MINERALS- The trace mineral blend from Nutramedix is a proprietary blend of 70 minerals and has been infused with calming energies (see http://www.bionatus.com/nutramedix/pdfs/tracemin_flyer_Bs.pdf) Nutramedix claims that the minerals are in a form that is more easily absorbed by the body. Personally, I’m not sure it’s worth the $60 a month that it will cost if used as directed by the Cowden protocol. Most good multivitamins include trace minerals.

ZEOLITE– This is used for heavy metal chelation. I don’t know enough to comment on its usefulness. Chelation, however, should really only be done under the supervision of a qualified health practitioner.