Shingles, or herpes zoster, is a virus in the chicken pox family. Outbreaks occur in times of stress and when the immune system is compromised. Shingles tends to be most common in those over 50 and people with autoimmune disease. Outbreaks can be extremely painful, forming a patchy, concentrated rash on the body with deep burning pain. Natural treatments can prevent recurrence by avoiding triggers and providing supplementation, supporting the immune system and decreasing pain.
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Shingles is a herpes virus that lies dormant in the nerve cells until it is triggered by stress to emerge in its active viral form. Herpes viruses use the amino acid arginine for viral replication. In times of stress or at onset of an outbreak, avoid all arginine-increasing foods such as nuts, chocolate and dairy products. Arginine and the amino acid lysine have been shown to have an antagonistic relationship, competing for entry into the cells. Lysine supplementation has been shown to decrease herpes outbreaks by inhibiting arginine-induced viral replication. Take 500 to 1,000mg of L-lysine a day to prevent herpes zoster outbreaks and up to 3,000mg a day during acute outbreaks. In addition to using lysine to prevent shingles outbreaks, keep stress to a minimum, moderately exercise three to five times a week, incorporate breathing and relaxation techniques, avoid caffeine and nervous system stimulants, and get proper rest and nutrition.
Strong herbal anti-virals are also important to take for shingles prevention. They can stimulate the immune system and reduce activity of the virus. Lemon balm and licorice are anti-virals that can be taken orally in tincture form or put directly on the lesion. Goldenseal, astragalus and echinacea are anti-virals that can be used together during acute outbreaks. According to David Hoffman in “Medical Herbalism,” astragalus has been shown to strengthen immunity and is a remedy for anyone who is immune compromised.
Shingles can be severely painful. It travels along the nerve root, commonly in the area of the abdomen and rib cage and may feel as if you have broken a rib. It is a deep, burning sensation. The best natural treatment to relieve the pain of shingles capsaicin, a constituent found in cayenne. According to “Prescription for Nutritional Healing,” capsaicin has been noted to decrease “substance P,” a neurotransmitter that regulates the stimulation of pain impulses. Capsaicin can be found in many topical creams. Apply capsaicin cream three to four times a day to reduce pain. Do not use until blisters have healed completely, or burning may result.