My love of nature led me down the path to herbs and herbal healing. I became a medical herbalist in 2002.
Facts About Herpes
There are three major forms of herpes. Herpes is caused by a virus, and once contracted, you will have the virus forever. At this time, there are no cures for herpes, but there are remedial options. The following are some fast facts about herpes:
- 1 out of 4 people have genital herpes (worldwide)
- 80% of Americans have HSV1 cold sores
- 35-40% of Americans have HSV2 genital herpes
- Women are four times as likely to develop genital herpes (HSV2) as men.
- The largest increase of genital herpes is among young white adults (ages 16-23)
- The infection of genital herpes has increased by over 30% since the 1970s.
- The recurrence factor for HSV2 is about 90%. Most occurrences will happen within 6 months to a year of the first breakout.
- Most people who contract herpes are between 17 and 25.
- Performing oral sex with an active cold sore increases the risk of giving your partner genital herpes.
What to Know About Herpes
Here I will discuss the three major types of herpes and several remedial herbs to help with itching and lessen symptoms. In the following order, I present information on:
- What Are Cold Sores?
- What Is Genital Herpes?
- What Is Shingles?
- General Herpes Outbreak Symptoms
- Herbs to Remedy Herpes Symptoms
1. What Are Cold Sores?
Herpes Simplex 1 (HSV 1) is more commonly known as oral herpes or cold sores. Oral herpes causes sores or blisters on your mouth. Most often a herpes cold sore will appear on your lips, but sometimes it can occur near your eyes. Oral herpes is transmitted by kissing someone with a cold sore. Many people have been affected with oral herpes, even if they have never had any symptoms. Oral herpes is the most common form of herpes, with about 80% of adults having herpes 1 virus.
You likely have oral herpes if you:
- Have ever had a fever blister or cold sore.
- If a friend or relative has kissed you with a cold sore.
- Drank from a glass of an infected person with an outbreak.
2. What Is Genital Herpes?
Herpes Simplex 2 (HSV 2), is an STD (sexually transmitted disease), diagnosed genital herpes. Genital herpes is most commonly known as herpes. Herpes is caused by skin to skin contact with an infected person. If a person has an active outbreak, and passes the viral fluid to their partner, commonly that partner will have an outbreak within 3-21 days after exposure. Even if the breakout is not active, they can pass the virus on through what is called the "shedding" of the virus. Genital herpes is the second most common form of herpes. About 35% or more of all American adults over the age of 25 carry the herpes virus. Some are unaware of being carriers.
You are more likely to develop genital herpes if you:
- Are active with multiple partners
- Protection is not used during outbreaks
- Protection is not used during the "shedding" cycle
3. What Is Shingles?
Herpes Varicella Zoster (HSV 3) is the virus that causes shingles. Shingles is a painful rash that can appear anywhere on your body. Shingles is caused by the same virus that causes chickenpox. Once you have had chickenpox as a child, you now carry the shingles virus. The virus will lay dormant, living in your spine for years. A person who has had chickenpox has a 50% chance of getting shingles. Most cases of shingles develop in patients over 50, but it can happen earlier in life too.
You can develop shingles at any age but are more likely to develop the virus if:
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- You are older than 50
- You had the chickenpox virus before as an infant.
- You have a weakened immune system from another disease or medication.
If you come into contact with a shingles rash, and you have not contracted chickenpox earlier in life, you will develop the chickenpox virus, and not shingles (Glynn et al. 1990).
4. Symptoms of Herpes
Either form of herpes starts out with a cluster of blisters. These blisters are highly contagious. The fluid in the blisters is what contains and spreads the virus. The area underneath is red. As the sores become active, this is when the pain, and itch is at it's worst. Once the blisters open, the sore becomes less painful.
In cases of genital herpes, the blisters or rash normally appear vulva, vagina, or anus. Herpes lesions can also occur in or on the cervix, on the buttocks or the thighs. Men generally get sores and herpes lesions on their penis or the shaft of the penis.
All sexual contact should be avoided during an outbreak.
The first outbreak of herpes is usually the worst, and can include these other symptoms as well:
- Muscle pain
5. Herbs to Remedy Herpes Symptoms
Lemon balm is the one specific herb suggested to help alleviate herpes sores quickly and with less pain according to Allahverdiyev et al (2004). When used consistently, it may actually decrease or prevent future herpes outbreaks. It can help to lessen the outbreaks, even if they do occur. Lemon balm is used to help decrease the healing process and normally works for most people within 2 to 3 days.
Lemon balm (Melissa officinalis), which also goes by Melissa, is the best natural, herbal remedy for herpes, herpes cold sores, and shingles according to this review by Reuters et al. (2010). The eugenol and tripetenes act as a natural antiviral that decreases symptoms of viral skin infections.
St. John’s Wort (Hypericum perforatum), has potential powerful antiviral healing properties (Linde 2009). St. John’s Wort flower contains hypericin, which is one of the active natural ingredients that help to heal herpes quickly.
Neem (Melia azaderach) is also a powerful antiviral herb. It helps in the healing of skin tissues, and is known as a powerful anti-herpetic microbicide (Tiwari et al. 2010).
Chickweed (Stellaria media) herb is an anti-itch agent (Yarnell (1999)). When applied to the skin, chickweed will help stop the itch within minutes.
Calendula (Calendula officinalis) herb is a mild anti-viral, an anti-inflammatory, as well an antibacterial agent. Calendula is a wonderful wound healer and was traditionally used as such throughout history and across the world (Muley et al. 2009).
Comfrey (Symphytum officinale) is an emollient herb. Comfrey helps to form a protective layer on the skin. Comfrey helps to heal skin tissue quickly.
Talk With Your Doctor
It is important to talk with your doctor if you feel you may have been infected with the herpes virus. Testing can be done with an active lesion, or via a blood test. An IgG blood test will test for the antibodies. An IgM test is not accurate, and according to the CDC (Center for Disease Control), it should not be used. It can cause false-positive results.
If you are diagnosed, it is important to talk frankly with your doctor about all your options for yourself and your partner. Protection should be discussed, as this is the only way of preventing the disease from spreading to your partners.
Allahverdiyev, A., Duran, N., Ozguven, M., & Koltas, S. (2004). Antiviral activity of the volatile oils of Melissa officinalis L. against Herpes simplex virus type-2. Phytomedicine, 11(7-8), 657-661.
Glynn, C., Crockford, G., Gavaghan, D., Cardno, P., Price, D., & Miller, J. (1990). Epidemiology of shingles. Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine, 83(10), 617-619.
Linde, K. (2009). St. John’s wort–an overview. Complementary Medicine Research, 16 (3), 146-155.Chicago
Muley, B. P., Khadabadi, S. S., & Banarase, N. B. (2009). Phytochemical constituents and pharmacological activities of Calendula officinalis Linn (Asteraceae): a review. Tropical Journal of Pharmaceutical Research, 8(5).
Reuter, J., Wölfle, U., Weckesser, S., & Schempp, C. (2010). Which plant for which skin disease? Part 1: Atopic dermatitis, psoriasis, acne, condyloma and herpes simplex. JDDG: Journal der Deutschen Dermatologischen Gesellschaft, 8(10), 788-796.
Tiwari, V., Darmani, N. A., Yue, B. Y., & Shukla, D. (2010). In vitro antiviral activity of neem (Azadirachta indica L.) bark extract against herpes simplex virus type‐1 infection. Phytotherapy research, 24(8), 1132-1140
Vital, I. I. Herpes Simplex Virus 1 and 2.
Yarnell, E. (1999). Botanical medicines for dermatologic conditions. Alternative and Complementary Therapies, 5 (2), 106-109.Chicago
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.
© 2012 Healing Herbalist
Shyron E Shenko from Texas on November 11, 2015:
I did not know that shingles and herpes are the same virus. I have had shingles and I had the shot to prevent getting them again.
Very informative article
Healing Herbalist (author) from The Hamlet of Effingham on May 18, 2013:
Yes, lysine is good too. This article was more about herbal healing, than supplements. Thanks for stopping by.
adam on May 18, 2013:
You forgot to mention the amino acid lysine. I take 2 grams a day in pill form and it keeps it at bay. If I haven't been taking it and feel that initial tingling I take 4 grand 3 times a day as soon as I can and a good 75% of the time a sore won't form. Plus if it does it is much smaller than usual, less painful and heals within 2 days. Also important to stay away from arganine rich foods like nuts and chocolate if you feel an outbreak coming on
Healing Herbalist (author) from The Hamlet of Effingham on April 26, 2013:
So many people want to get off the drugs, and there are ways to do it. I am glad you enjoyed reading.
Devika Primić from Dubrovnik, Croatia on April 24, 2013:
Great title and a well informed hub on the symptoms of Herpes. the photo says it all, but you just know how to keep us up to date with such information.
Healing Herbalist (author) from The Hamlet of Effingham on April 05, 2013:
Thelma, thanks for stopping by. I am glad you enjoyed reading, and I hope your dad feels better soon.
Thelma Alberts from Germany on April 03, 2013:
Thanks for this very informative hub. It was the first time I heard about herpes zouster when I went with my father to a dermathologist because of his itchy skin rashes. He got some tablets to take and salve for his skin rashes. Thanks God, he is on his way of being cured. Voted this up and shared;-)
Healing Herbalist (author) from The Hamlet of Effingham on February 27, 2013:
moonlake, thanks for stopping by. I am glad you enjoyed reading, and thanks for the votes.
moonlake from America on February 26, 2013:
Lots of good information. I suffer with cold sores but through the years they have gotten better. Voted up.
Healing Herbalist (author) from The Hamlet of Effingham on August 23, 2012:
Rachael, thanks for stopping by. I am glad you enjoyed reading.
Rachael on August 22, 2012:
Thanks so much for all the great information.
Healing Herbalist (author) from The Hamlet of Effingham on August 17, 2012:
Thanks for reading!
Healing Herbalist (author) from The Hamlet of Effingham on August 17, 2012:
I have never heard of this one. It sounds painful...mint and all. Thanks for stopping by.
cloud9devine from New York on August 17, 2012:
This was very informative. I learned a lot. Thanks for posting this.
Stoill Barzakov from Sofia, Bulgaria on August 17, 2012:
I can add another natural remedy to your list:
Tooth paste. As minty as your lips can endure.
Smear a bit over the herpes and wait for an hour then wash abundantly with warm water.
Clean the place and put good moisturizing topical cream over the blistering herpes area.