Spring, Spirochetes, and Monolaurin: A Viral Membrane Destabilizer with anti-Borrelia Activity

Diana Allen
May 25, 2020

As the snow melts and spring arrives throughout North America, opportunities for healthy outdoor activities abound. Unfortunately, these opportunities also increase one’s chances of encountering and being bitten by a tick, many of which may be minute vectors for diseases such as Lyme. Two of the pathogenic species responsible for this particular scourge are the spirochetes Borrelia burgdorferi (prevalent in the United States) and Borrelia garinii (prevalent in Europe).

Currently, the first line of medical defense in response to an infected tick bite is a course of antibiotics, lasting anywhere from three days to one full month. Natural medicine practitioners often prescribe additional support as well, culled from botanical as well as nutraceutical sources. Among these, the antiviral compound monolaurin shows great promise.

Monolaurin (glycerol monolaurate) has been shown to exhibit specific activity against a wide variety of bacteria and other pathogenic organisms, including Borrelia burgdorferi and garinii. But what is monolaurin, and how does it work?

Monolaurin is an ester of lauric acid, a 12-carbon, medium chain fatty acid naturally present in coconut oil, palm kernel oil, human breast milk, cow’s milk and butter. The esterified form of lauric acid, monolaurin, is made by combining coconut oil-source lauric acid with glycerol.

Lauric acid itself provides anti-microbial and viricidal activity, but research suggests that its ester, monolaurin, is even more active than the parent compound against pathogens such as lipid-coated viruses. Specifically, monolaurin has been studied for its ability to solubilize the phospholipid bilayer surrounding RNA- and DNA-enveloped viruses. By directly helping to disintegrate their protective lipid envelopes, monolaurin can help inhibit the ability of viruses to both bind to host cells and to replicate themselves.

In recent research published in the Journal of Applied Microbiology, fifteen natural compounds were tested on the three morphological forms of Borrelia: active motile spirochete, rounded latent form, and biofilm. Of all the natural compounds tested, only four—including monolaurin—exhibited activity against the spirochete and rounded latent forms of Borrelia spp. And only monolaurin (along with one other compound, baicalein, from Chinese Skullcap) exhibited significant activity against the biofilm matrix which houses and shields the Borrelia organism within the body.

Other research has reported on the antimicrobial efficacy of monolaurin in inhibiting biofilm dispersion in a number of gram-positive and gram-negative bacterial species. Its ability to disrupt lipophilic cell membranes might be responsible for the reported ability of monolaurin to destabilize the Borrelia biofilm matrix as well. As flu season subsides and tick season emerges, monolaurin may continue to serve a useful role in the functional medicine practitioner’s toolkit of nutritional support supplements.

Monolaurin is available in high potency 600 mg capsules from Moss Nutrition, where it is sold under the trademarked name Lauric Select®. Information regarding dosing and clinical protocols may be found on the Lauric Select® product page on the company’s website,


The References

  • Shari Lieberman, et al. A Review of Monolaurin and Lauric Acid: Natural Virucidal and Bactericidal Agents. Alternative and Complementary Therapies. Vol. 12, No. 6 . https://doi.org/10.1089/act.2006.12.310
  • Goc A, et al. In vitro evaluation of antibacterial activity of phytochemicals and micronutrients against Borrelia burgdorferi and Borrelia garinii. J Appl Microbiol. 2015 Dec;119(6):1561-72.

About the Author

Diana Allen, MS, CNS is a clinical nutritionist in private practice and is the Product Development Manager at Moss Nutrition.