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NOTE: Shingles and cold sores indicate a decline in immune function. Chicken broth helps build immune function, so drink it! All listed homeopathic remedies are inexpensive, virtually free of side-effects, and available from reputable homeopathic pharmacies. Check in the white pages for local suppliers. This site also has a superb section on the biochemical properties of hope and optimism.


Herpes simplex is a virus that causes both cold sores and genital herpes. The main symptom is clusters of infected blisters which most commonly form around the mouth or nose, or on the vulva, vagina and cervix in women and on the penis in men, although other areas of the body can be affected.

The herpes simplex virus can be passed on from person to person through physical contact with the blisters. Once there, the virus remains in the nervous system but does not develop into blisters unless you are ill, undernourished, under stress or suffer extremes of temperature. Localised stress such as sunburn or friction can also trigger an outbreak.

An initial outbreak usually occurs a couple of days to a few weeks after the actual infection. Recurrent infections can occur after the first outbreak without re-exposure to the virus, but these symptoms are usually milder and confined to the same physical area on the body.

Attacks tend to become less severe and less frequent over time. Eventually the virus seems to burn itself out.

Although the first attack is usually the most severe, in other cases it may be so mild that it passes without notice; a second attack may not occur until perhaps years later — this is important to remember if trying to pinpoint the source of the infection.

An outbreak of blisters may be preceded by a tingling or burning sensation in the nerve endings. The blisters themselves can be itchy and painful, especially on the genitals.

The attack may be accompanied by flu-like symptoms.

The virus on the cervix may not cause any noticeable symptoms, thus a woman can be a “silent carrier”.

what you can do

  • Treat the condition as soon as possible, even before blisters appear if you feel the warning signs;
  • Apply ice to blisters to relieve pain and aid healing;
  • Bathe the blisters with salt water or diluted bicarbonate of soda (baking powder) — a small handful in a sitz bath is good for genital herpes;
  • Keep blisters dry between bathing, exposing them to air as much as possible;
  • If not too painful, dab sores with witch hazel, alcohol or equal parts of lemon juice and water to accelerate drying;
  • Apply a cold wet tea bag to the area. The tannin in black tea is an anaesthetic;
  • Do not touch the blisters unnecessarily or they may spread;
  • Wash hands thoroughly after treating them;
  • When blisters are in evidence, avoid direct contact to prevent contagion;
  • Depending on location of blisters, condoms may provide protection;
  • Also avoid sharing towels, pillow cases etc. with which a blister has had recent contact;
  • If you have genital herpes, wear cotton rather than synthetic underwear and clothing and do not use scented talcum powder, soaps, bubble baths or feminine hygiene products;
  • Maintain good general health to avoid outbreaks;
  • Famvir is an excellent maintenance drug for persistent cold-sores and herpetic conditions;
  • Practise relaxation techniques so that stress does not trigger the condition;
  • Get enough sleep!
  • Pregnant women can pass the virus to their child during labour if blisters are present, causing the risk of encephalitis to the child;
  • The condition should be discussed with your doctor.

Do not kiss if you have a cold sore or use your mouth during sex as you can infect the other party!


Essential oils such as eucalyptus, tea tree and bergamot are highly effective when treating herpes blisters, especially if applied early.

Add 2 drops each of tea tree and bergamot to 2 teaspoons of isopropyl alcohol (available from pharmacies) or vodka.

Dab the mixture on the blisters every few hours.

These essential oils are also great mixed with olive oil and massaged into the skin for shingles.

bach flower remedies

Take crab apple for its cleansing effect. [This is available at all health food shops]

chinese herbalism

The Chinese herb Yin Qiao San is particularly effective for dealing with this condition. See a herbalist for details.


The herb bittersweet will help prevent the growth of a blister if it is applied early and used often during the day. It is available in ointment form. If the blister becomes a wet sore, apply bittersweet in oil form instead.

Distilled witch hazel can later be applied to help it dry followed by the oil from a vitamin E capsule. This also applies to shingles.

Infusions or dilute tinctures of the following herbs can be applied directly to the area or added to a sitz bath:

  • Echinacea
  • Golden Seal
  • St John’s wort
  • Comfrey
  • Calendula

Oils that contain these herbs may also be available commercially. Immune-enhancing herbs such as astragalus, echinacea and garlic can also be taken internally, as can burdock, dandelion root and yellow dock to aid elimination of toxins, and calendula and poke root to stimulate the lymphatic system.

For genital herpes, herbalists prescribe a mixture of these herbs with the addition of herbs that are specific to the reproductive system.


Homoeopathic remedies can be of help as they will prompt the body to provide a defence against the infection thus promoting rapid healing. If you have a dry cold sore that gives you a burning sensation on your lips, take one 6C potency of Natrum muriaticum four times a day for three days or until the cold sore starts to heal.

Rhus Tox 6C is also extremely effective.

For other treatments, see a homoeopath.

modern medicine

Accurate diagnosis of herpes can only come from a swab of an active sore.

Idoxuridine ointment may be applied directly to the sore. L-lysine is a commonly-used natural antiviral medication, taken in tablet form for both genital herpes and cold sores, as a prevention and treatment. Both of these are available over the counter.

For genital herpes, acyclovar may be prescribed to reduce the frequency and severity of an outbreak.


Naturopaths will examine your diet and lifestyle if you are prone to outbreaks to determine how great an impact these may be having. You may be advised to avoid foods that contain arginine which the virus needs to thrive such as:

  • Chocolate
  • Red wine
  • Peanuts
  • Cola
  • Coffee + tea
  • Sugar
  • Most nuts
  • Gelatine
  • Beer
  • Peas
  • Carob
  • Chick peas
  • Soya beans
  • Wheat
  • Coconut
  • Tomatoes
  • Mushrooms
  • Eggplants
  • Sesame and sunflower seeds
  • Brown rice
  • Oatmeal
  • Popcorn

Avoid these foods if you have a severe recurring problem with herpes, otherwise don’t eat them during an outbreak.

Lysine-containing foods are recommended. These include:

  • Brewer’s yeast
  • Beans
  • Bean sprouts
  • Meat
  • Chicken
  • Fish
  • Prawns
  • Eggs
  • Cheese
  • Milk
  • Yogurt
  • Most fruit + vegetables, particularly potatoes

In addition, naturopaths will prescribe vitamins and minerals to relieve your symptoms and then work on the root cause of the problem.

A practical way of dealing with a cold sore is to take 6000 mg of L-lysine on the first day you feel the cold sore coming on and then 3000 mg per day until it clears up. You can also take vitamin A (5000 iu per day - not to be taken during pregnancy), vitamin C (1000 mg three times a day) and zinc (25 mg elemental per day) to boost your immune system to prevent another attack.


Work the points for all the glands for hormonal balance, and the lymphatic system and spleen to boost the immune system. Try this on both feet or hands for a total of 25 minutes three times a week. If this does not make a difference, consider seeing a professional reflexologist.


Regular shiatsu treatment can help you keep your immune system up and lower your stress level. It will do this by improving the flow of Ki energy around your body, in particular around the areas of the liver, spleen and kidney meridians.

- from The Complete Guide to Health + Well-Being, Complied by Toni Eatts, Medical Consultant Dr Giselle Cooke, published by Lansdowne Publishing


There are many effective homeopathic remedies for the symptoms of shingles, cold sores, and herpetic blisters, including:

rhus toxicodendron (rhus tox) is useful when blisters emerge that are not only painful but very itchy, and warmth brings relief. The pain is worse at night and less noticeable when moving about.

arsenicum album is indicated for shingles with red, burning lesions that are relieved by warmth and are worse at night, causing great restless anxiety.

mezereum is indicated if there is severe pain, if the skin burns and itches and forms brown scabs, or if the is person middle-aged or elderly. Lasting neuralgic pains that shoot along the nerve after the skin has healed are often helped by this remedy.

ranunculus is useful if there are nerve pains and itching, or the slightest touch, movement or eating makes the symptoms worse.

lachesis is prescribed if the left side of the body is affected, plus some swelling, which is aggravated by wan-nth but is relieved by cold.

apis is used when the swelling and stinging pains predominate, improve with cold and become aggravated by heat.

The best homeopathic remedy for shingles is ranunculus bulbosus, especially when the shingles are on the trunk of the body. It is indicated for severe burning and itching, which gets worse from touching the skin, moving about or eating. Take a 6C dose up to four times a day as needed for pain. Improvement may be noticed within a couple of days. If not, see your medical doctor or homeopath.

Other remedies that may be useful:

  • Sepia
  • Natrum mur
  • Hepar sulph.
  • Caladium
  • Acidum nit

Copyright 2006

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