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Health Protocols

Herpes and Shingles

Herpes and shingles are both caused by members of the herpes family of viruses, which can establish infections that lay dormant and then can reactivate under certain conditions. Herpes simplex virus-1 (HSV-1) and herpes simplex virus-2 (HSV-2) cause oral and genital herpes, and varicella zoster virus causes chickenpox in children and shingles later in life.

Risk Factors

HSV-1 risk factors:

  • Age—85% of Americans in their 60s are infected
  • Receiving oral sex increases risk of HSV-1 genital herpes

HSV-2 risk factors:

  • Engaging in sexual activity with partner who has an active, symptomatic infection
  • Being female (twice the amount of women as men have HSV-2)
  • Having many sexual partners and starting at an early age
  • Having another sexually transmitted infection

Shingles risk factors:

  • Age—about half of all patients are over 60
  • Suppressed immune system
  • Being female and Caucasian

Signs and Symptoms

Oral herpes symptoms:

  • Painful sores in or around the mouth
  • The affected area may itch, tingle, or burn before the sores appear
  • There may be a fever, sore throat, and swollen lymph nodes in the neck

Genital herpes symptoms:

  • Sores on penis, buttocks, anus, and around and inside the vagina which may be painful
  • The affected area may itch, tingle, or burn before the sores appear
  • Fever, malaise, muscle aches, swollen lymph nodes in the groin, pain or burning upon urination, and vaginal discharge

Shingles symptoms:

  • First and most common symptom is burning or throbbing pain
  • There may also be headache, malaise, earache, sensitivity to light, and fever
  • Small, raised, reddish bumps that become fluid-filled blisters then appear, usually on one side of the body and localized to a “strip” of skin

Conventional Medical Treatments

Standard treatment for both herpes and shingles include:

  • Antiviral medication like acyclovir (Zovirax) or valacyclovir (Valtrex)
  • For shingles, topical capsaicin is used to treat postherpetic neuralgia, or pain after the blisters are gone

Emerging Therapeutics

Novel therapies for herpes and shingles include:

  • Cimetidine (Tagamet), commonly used for treating acid reflux, has been shown to reduce the severity and duration of both shingles and herpes outbreaks
  • Topical microbicides that have antiviral properties to prevent the spread of the herpes virus, even during asymptomatic periods

Dietary and Lifestyle Changes

Oral herpes:

  • Minimize sunlight exposure and use sunscreen on lips and skin
  • Minimize stress by getting enough sleep, eating a balanced diet, exercising, and using relaxation techniques like yoga or meditation
  • Keep sores clean and dry and avoid touching or scratching them to keep the virus from spreading to other areas of the body, like the eyes

Genital herpes:

  • Minimize stress by getting enough sleep, eating a balanced diet, exercising, and using relaxation techniques like yoga or meditation
  • Use water-based lubricants to decrease irritation caused by friction during sexual intercourse
  • Wash sores with saline and dry with tissues and warm air


  • Minimize stress and depression
  • Eat plenty of fruit and vegetables
  • Cool baths and cool, wet compresses on the blister can help relieve itching and pain

Integrative Interventions

  • Vitamin C: Helps prevent HSV-1 outbreaks when taken within 48 hours of the onset of tingling or itching at the outbreak site.
  • Reishi mushroom: Is known to combat the normal decline of the immune system that accompanies aging and was able to reduce pain caused by herpes and shingles infections.
  • Vitamin D: Combats herpes and shingles outbreaks, as dialysis patients who received iron and vitamin D were less likely to develop shingles and higher vitamin D levels corresponded with more antibodies to HSV-2.
  • Lysine: Lysine helps suppress HSV replication. A study with participants with genital or oral herpes found that consumption of lysine for 6 months reduced the frequency, duration, and severity of herpes outbreaks.
  • Fucoidans: Fucoidans are naturally occurring sugar polymers found in edible seaweeds. Human studies have shown they can help speed the healing and inhibit the reactivation of lesions in HSV-1 and HSV-2 infections and in shingles.