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It is estimated that upwards of 80% of Americans will experience the herpes virus in their lifetimes. This includes the cold sores and fever blisters of the mouth and face, genital herpes, chickenpox, shingles and the more rare occurrences of other herpes viruses. Herpes of the mouth (face), called herpes simplex I, and genital herpes, herpes simplex II, seem to only surface when the person who has the dormant virus within their system feels very stressed or the body is extremely exhausted or immune compromised.

During these vulnerable times, small ulcerations will appear on the lips, in the mouth, on the face or chin, or in the genital region. Painful, itchy and/or irritated, these sores do not seem to heal very rapidly for most people, and may become more raw and aggravated with the passing of time, especially if the stress or weary body has not been addressed sufficiently.

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that one in four women and one in five men experience genital herpes outbreaks, and many will have regular recurrences of the sores, commonly as often as four times a year. The statistics are more staggering for the herpes simplex I virus. A full 80% of us will be exposed to, then carry the dormant virus or experience outbreaks of cold sores. Another common form, shingles, is on the rise. Also known as Herpes zoster or simply zoster, shingles is caused by the same virus that causes chicken pox. Anyone who has had chicken pox may also develop herpes zoster at any time thereafter, but most often it will manifest later in life when enduring a deep stress such as the loss of a loved one or moving away from the family home.

Acutely painful, shingles may last just a few weeks, as long as several months or rarely even years. Some continue to experience neuralgia, phantom or real pain long after the outbreak has cleared. This is called post-herpetic neuralgia.

This is an embarrassing and uncomfortable group of viral infections to say the least, and at worst, can rarely be life threatening. There is no known cure for the herpes virus with the use of pharmaceutical medicine. It is believed in western medicine that once contracted, it will always be within the body, active or dormant.

With herbalism, however, there seem to be some excellent long-term solutions to the pattern of breakouts that so many young (and not so young) people experience. Rather than being one chemical (or a small grouping of chemicals) as are the medications, herbs are very complex, often containing hundreds of known constituents. Many of these constituents have been tested and found to be effective against potentially pathogenic microorganisms, such as the herpes viruses. One chemical is easier for the virus to figure out, so to speak, and become immune to. But the complex constituents found in herbs and mushroom extracts have been found to work in a wide variety of ways, supporting immune health as they support the body’s ability to reduce the numbers of the potential ‘bad guys’ such as harmful bacteria, viruses and fungal infections.

Many Chinese, Ayurvedic and western herbs are shown in research to suppress these and other powerful viruses. Several potent medicinal mushroom species have shown great activity against herpes, as well as other potentially dangerous viral infections.

Research has shown that there has been a correlation found in those prone to the herpes virus with having higher levels of mercury and possibly other toxic heavy metals stored in their bodies. Heavy metal toxicity is well documented for reducing the immune system’s ability to protect the body and is linked to higher stress levels. Using regular detoxification programs can help reduce this toxicity and the resulting side effects. Please read: Detoxification Is a Matter of Health, posted to this site very soon.

When someone who experiences or may carry any of the herpes viruses sets out to find relief, the possibilities are extensive. When experiencing an outbreak, one may begin by supporting the body in healing from the pain and discomfort of the sores. Then it is the time reduce the chances of a recurrence while strengthening the immune system defenses to suppress and subdue the virus.

Solutions for people who are infected with this pesky viral infection abound. My favorites for maintaining prevention, as well as supporting a body under attack from the various herpes viruses are included in the list below. I have seen some pretty amazing changes in the patterns of breakouts in a very short period of time that have lasted for years.

The key to any good herbal or nutritional program is attention to quality of the chosen products. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again! It is far less important which program one may choose to go with, and far more important to choose the highest quality product(s) available to you. Please read: Quality is Everything! posted to this sight on August 28, 2006, for more information.

Please note: This information is not intended to replace the advice of a licensed healthcare provider. If you do not feel that you may discuss these types of options with your current healthcare provider, please look into locating and seeking out a new caregiver who is more aligned with your beliefs, so that together you may provide your body (mind and spirit) with the nourishment and tools to maintain optimal health and wellness. There are thousands of excellent holistic health practitioners graduating from accredited programs every year throughout the country and throughout the world.Check the PAGES section of this site for possible resources.

Reduce excess stress- Doing your best to reduce your stress and keep your stress levels in a healthy place is the very best protection from an outbreak. Relax every day in as many ways as you are able. Seek counseling, practice yoga, meditation or another mind-quieting practice, walk the dog, volunteer in your community and whatever else helps you reduce excess stress. Many of the same herbs shown to help the body’s defenses with powerful viruses like the herpes virus are also well known to calm the nervous system and lift the spirits. Read on…

Neem (Azadirachta Indica) is a tree that originated in India and Sri Lanka, and has been planted throughout much of the tropics around the globe. A deciduous evergreen, its leave are pressed for their nutritive, antimicrobial, healing oil. Research indicates that Neem is a powerful tool to fight viral infections, including the herpes virus. Neem may be applied topically to any areas of the body during an outbreak or just prior, when stress is high and we begin to get that ‘feeling’ that often occurs just before an outbreak. To speed relief, one may also take the oral supplements, which include tincture, Supercritical extract capsules or Neem leaf capsules.

Lemon balm (Melissa officinalis), a member of the mint family, has been used for centuries for assisting the body’s ability to fight tough viral infections. Its lemony flavor with just a hint of mint makes it an easy herb for people of all ages to ingest whether in tea, tincture or glycerite form. The glycerite, or alcohol-free tincture, is slightly sweet and very soothing to the mouth and throat. The tea should be steeped for only 5-10 minutes, always with a tight-fitting lid, and is ideal with a touch of organic raw honey added.

Lemon balm has been shown in early research to be effective for decreasing both the herpes I and II simplex viruses. Studies have been conducted using lemon balm extract, essential oil, salve and cream, and all have been shown to have significant activity. Lemon balm’s antiviral activity is believed to be due to its ability to inhibit the protein synthesis of the potentially pathogenic microorganism.

The Greek Dioscorides was known to use lemon balm as a medicinal herb and describes it as being useful to treat any disordered state of the nervous system. Lemon balm is a calming and soothing herb that can also be helpful someone with attention and focus concerns, as well as a nervous stomach. For centuries, lemon balm has been used topically for the treatment for wounds, and orally for influenza, anxiety, depression and sleep concerns.

There are likely dozens of other phytochemicals at work in lemon balm, but some of the ‘stars’ in recent research include the polyphenols, flavonoids, and rosmarinic acid, all powerful antioxidants.

St John’s wort (Hypericum perforatum) has gotten a lot of press over the last fifteen years or so for its effect on people with mild to moderate depression. St John’s wort has been used and written about in medical texts for more than 1,200 years as a potent anti-viral and a specific herbal for nerve damage. This is the perfect combination of properties for herpes, and most predominantly the irritation and neuralgia associated with shingles. Over the years, I have witnessed many folks, marked with the blotches, scratch marks (from scratching the itchy sores) and inflammation of shingles, having found little or no relief over weeks or months, who then try St John’s wort oil topically and find relief in minutes or hours from the immediate pain and discomfort. Within days, they were usually free of the marks and scars. St John’s wort oil, used topically on the affected areas, can be most helpful in the relief of the pain and irritation to the skin and associated nerves. Traditionally, St John’s wort has been used orally for those whose immune systems were weaker and the constitution of the person more frail, to help prevent viral infections from occurring.

Probiotics, the beneficial bacteria that are supposed to inhabit out intestinal tract are being wiped out in many of us these days due to ‘modern living’. Probiotics are now considered to be as much as 70% of the immune system! Without these trillions of ‘good guys’ in our gut, our health is seriously compromised. They fight many pathogens directly, and keep some of the normally neutral microorganisms that live within us at manageable levels to protect our health. Probiotics also help the body to control and regulate the pH balance throughout the intestinal tract, optimizing digestion and minimizing the ability of harmful pathogens to survive. There are hundreds of vitamins, minerals and other well-known nutrients, as well as millions of ‘new’ micro-nutrients produced by our beneficial bacteria in the gut, supporting strong cells, organs and tissues throughout the body.

Mushroom extracts including the Gypsy mushroom, Oyster mushroom, Shiitake, Reishi and Chaga have been found to have significant activity against the herpes simplex I and II viruses, and they are well-known to bolster the immune system in a variety of ways. Much of the earlier research on mushroom extracts was done in Japan and China until recently. Now we are seeing more promising studies in microbiology laboratories and cancer centers throughout the west. Mushroom extracts help strengthen the immune defenses, support the probiotics and fight many potentially pathogenic microorganisms that may threaten our well-being.

Holy basil (Ocimum sanctum) is another powerful herb for the immune system that provides nervine properties, as well. An Ayervedic herb from the southern region of Asia including India and Tibet, Holy basil, or tulsi, translates to the “Incomparable One” and has been referred to as the “Queen of Herbs” and “The Elixir of Life.” Believed to be a rasayana, a tonic herb to support youth, vitality and vigor through the ability to support the body in receiving the pure essence of food and all that is consumed. Holy basil is also considered to be a very potent adaptogen, an herb that supports all organs and systems, helping the body to adapt to stressful situations rather than being burdened by them.

Holy basil is shown to have strong anti-viral properties. As an herb to support relief from excess inflammation and pain, Holy basil is nearly unsurpassed. When we are run down and the herpes virus has gotten a stronghold on us, this may indeed be a very helpful herbal remedy.

Elderberry (Sambucus nigra or canadensis) is a very potent herb for helping the body fight tough viruses. Recent research shows that this is likely due to its ability to smooth the minute spikes found on the outside of viruses, therefore stopping them from entering the cells where they reproduce and then cause the cell to burst, allowing the virus to further invade the body. Elderberry has also been shown to increase the production of four inflammatory cytokines, implying that elder may have a strong immuno-stimulatory effect, meaning that it would be an excellent preventive food, drink or supplement.

Olive leaf (Olea europaea) has been shown in the scientific literature to be very effective against the herpes simplex II virus. Olive leaf is known to support overall immune health and resistance to various viruses and other pathogens. Look for an organic product if you choose to try olive leaf, as much of the olive leaf available in the US is extracted with chemical solvents, such as hexane, acetone and dry-cleaning fluid.

Sage (Salvia officinalis) is a wonderful spice for strengthening the immune health and protecting the body from viral attack. Cook with it often, and be sure to purchase organically grown herbs and spices in small quantities, insuring greater freshness.

Red marine algae (Dunaliella salina) has been shown in research to possess strong antiviral properties and to be suppressive to the herpes simplex virus. Constituents of red marine algae known as sulfated polysaccharides support the immune system’s antiviral response, defending against both herpes and shingles.

Black cherry (Prunus serotina), preferably organic, is an important detoxifying food, juice or concentrate to support immune function. Used with painful inflammatory conditions such as gout and arthritis, black cherry is rich in iron, and powerful antioxidants, including flavonoids and anthocyanins.

Cellfood, one of the original products for providing oxygen therapy, is a powerful super-supplement for detoxification and cellular nutrient support. Consisting of 78 minerals and trace minerals, 34 enzymes (mostly metabolic), 17 amino acids, electrolytes and nascent oxygen, Cellfood is a veritable powerhouse when it comes to alkalizing the body and supporting immune and cellular health.

Food choices are important whenever the system is out of balance. Alkalizing foods, for most of us, help to support a healthy body and mind, providing necessary nutrients and detoxification of toxins. The nourishing alkalizing foods to help provide balance and harmony include vegetables, lots and lots of vegetables! I’m not just referring to the lettuce, tomato, cucumber and sweet corn that comprises the vegetable intake of most Americans. I refer to consuming lots of dark leafy greens, root vegetables, the brassicas, alliums, etc. We need to return to eating dozens and dozens of different vegetables throughout the year, as our ancestors did.

When we eat fruits, they should ideally be varieties that grow in our region and are either in season or would store easily from harvest to the time when we consume them. Produce harvested in season and naturally ripened has a more alkalizing effect on the body than fruit harvested weeks or even months before it is ripe, then shipped thousands of miles away.

L-lysine, an amino acid associated with immune health, has been used to support relief from a herpes episode and helps to prevent further outbreaks. On the other hand, foods high in L-arginine have been associated with an increase in outbreaks. I have not known of anyone who used lysine supplements and foods (and the avoidance of high arginine foods) to achieve long-term results with herpes, but it is an effective tool for supporting the body prone to herpes outbreaks in maintaining balance. The following is a list of higher lysine (that you may want to consume more of) and higher arginine foods (foods to avoid or reduce consumption of). For a very detailed list of foods, please visit:

Foods High in Lysine:

Vegetables: eat as many different veggies as you can!
Sprouts: a veritable powerhouse in nutritional and detoxification support
Beef: grass-fed and raised without the use of synthetic growth hormones and excessive antibiotics
Nutritional and brewer’s yeast
Legumes: beans preferred over peanuts, slow cooked for increased digestibility of the protein.
Cheese: especially aged cheeses
Chicken: free-runners, not commercially raised
Yogurt and kefir: preferably organic, whole milk and unsweetened
Eggs: from free-running hens
Fish: wild or organically raised, not factory farmed

Foods High in Arginine:

Most tree nuts, nut butters and nut products- unless they are sprouted
Brown rice
Oats and oat foods (granola, granola bars, cookies, etc)
Raisins and several other dried fruits
Seeds, unless they are sprouted
Whole wheat bread
Soy beans: including soy milk, tofu, protein powder, texturized vegetable protein, fake meats and cheeses

Topical Relief- There are some excellent topical products, as I’ve mentioned, that may help provide temporarily relief from herpes and possibly long-term relief from shingles. Organix South makes a powerful lip balm called Neem Stick Lip Therape that I have seen speed relief from cold sores for several people, from children to elders.

Lemon balm in salve, lip balm, oil or cream may support us during an outbreak, and it is believed that it may even support prevention, although further research will need to be done. L-lysine comes in a cream or lip balm, as well.

For shingles, St. John’s wort oil helps the affected area feel better as soon as we apply it. St John’s oil, an olive oil extract, should be bright red, and may be appied as often as desired.

Relief is well at hand. Relief may take a variety of forms and could be found in the garden, on the dinner table or in the herb cupboard. According to the medical texts, it will not be a complete cure, but if you’re like many who have come before you, it could truly be a more relaxed, stronger immune and healthier you. Good luck!

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10 Responses to “Relief for Herpes, Cold Sores and Shingles”

  1. on 15 Nov 2006 at 9:16 pm mind-mart

    Having just got over shingles, I welcome this information. The scariest thing is that you can get it more than once.

  2. on 20 Nov 2006 at 12:20 am Cecil

    So an alkine high ph would also be a deturent,also a coral calcium would kill alot of diseases.?????? This is a question


    Hi Cecil,
    Thanks for asking. Ideally, our goal is to achieve balance, so as to stay healthy. An alkaline diet supports better health, but as with anything, too much of a good thing can become bad, or unhealthy. To keep an optimal immune system, we want to consume lots of vegetables, especially root vegetables and dark leafy greens; preferably 9-14 servings daily.

    Regarding coral calcium- I’m very much against these products for a variety of reasons. They do help to alkalize the body at first, but at what cost? These companies have destroyed much of the fragile coral reefs off the coast of Okinawa, Japan, and after a week or so of use, there is little or no further improvement in health. The calcium is of the very lowest form for our bones and muscles, calcium carbonate. Please read my post: Strong Healthy Bones at Any Age posted on Sept. 20, 2006 for additional information about the pitfalls of coral calcium.

    Take good care,

  3. on 24 Apr 2007 at 9:51 am mitch

    Love the name of this site ‘The Wisdom of Healing’. This is a hidden gem.
    Anyways, I was wondering if you are aware of any studies testing the effectiveness of treating shingles with homeopathic medications for shingles, herpes zoster?

    That is great information about the herbs actually supressing viruses. You really have done a wonderful job here and i will be back to learn more, thank you.

  4. on 23 Jul 2007 at 10:13 am Nicole

    I have been suffering from Cold Sores for about 5 years now. They started on my lips but now I get them just about anywhere on my face, at times my whole face will be covered. I take Valtrex and Lysine everyday and still unfortunately suffer from them almost every month. After reading some of this information I am hoping that I can better prevent these cold sores from coming back. I seem to get them if I have been out in the sun, stressed and even because of hormonal changes. It really is becoming a huge issue for me. I did notice a comment on Black Cherry suplements, it also treats gout? My husband suffers from gout, do the same foods seem to help both cold sores and gout? This would be a great way for us both to work together! One more thing, my daughter currently has the chicken pox, is it possible that could be what caused my outbreak this time?



  5. on 12 Oct 2007 at 12:56 pm Cindy Hebbard

    Dear Nicole,

    I could not believe my eyes when I went to respond to your question today and found that I had neglected to write to you all about the use of Neem for herpes! Please forgive me! I have just updated the article.

    I have found Neem and/or Lemon balm more useful tools for a herpes (or chicken pox) outbreak than medications (with their side effects) and L-lysine. Neem is one of the highest known sources on Earth for naturally occurring, easily utilized L-lysine. Plus, it is a well known herb for helping the body to fight tough viruses.

    I have never personally known of someone to use Black Cherry for herpes, but it is believed to be quite useful for gout. Your husband may also want to explore other blood detoxifying herbs, too, such as New Chapter’s Turmericforce.

    I wish you all the best! Cindy

  6. on 03 Nov 2007 at 3:54 am Jessica

    Hi Cindy. Would you address the best topical remedy for the relief of genital herpes? I see specific information about cold sore relief, and glean that St. John’s Wort oil could provide relief, but would welcome a specific response.

    Thank you!

  7. on 29 Jan 2008 at 3:27 pm Cindy Hebbard

    Dear Jessica,

    I am legally unable to recommend, of course. There is a wonderful product from Organix South that two friends have told me of their successes with genital herpes, though, that I will tell you about. It is the Neem Stick Lip Therape, and according to their website, it’s not just for lips, anymore! It may be used wherever skin may need the healing properties of Neem. They suggest it “… anywhere that needs some loving Neem attention! It’s the Balm, Baby!”

    Research shows Neem may well be helpful for any of the forms of the herpes virus.

  8. on 18 Feb 2009 at 2:43 pm lee

    im confused about tofu !
    some sites say it’s good to combat herpes but then i read here that it’s high in arginine, does anyone know for certain?

  9. on 13 Jul 2009 at 4:17 pm sam

    Hi Cindy. I was wondering if you know anything about Sangre de Drago, or Dragon’s Blood. It is an Amazonian extract that supposedly helps in fighting herpes.
    Also, with all these herbs and mushroom extracts, should I just take them with water or do they need to be steeped for tea?

    Dear Sam,

    I really do not know about most of the Amazonian herbs, including Sangre de Drago, the Dragon’s Blood tree. You bring up a good point; throughout the world, there are dozens, sometimes hundreds of medicinal plants with a rich history of being used for many of the common maladies of our modern era.

    My personal preferences tend to be using the local plants in my region, and secondly to use certified organic Ayurvedic herbs (which ironically come from 1/2 way around the world from me!)

    Herbs may be used in a variety of ways. For a more detailed answer to your latter question, please refer to my 2 excellent articles found here at my site:
    Quality is Everything
    Herbal and Nutritional Products – Good, Better and Best Choices

    Be well,

  10. on 13 Jul 2009 at 5:38 pm cathy

    Wonderful information and I am headed to an eldery friends home as she is suffering from shingles for more than a month. She is taking the usual routine of doctor prescribed meds and need to know of other options. Her son will be happy that I told him about this website. Thank you, Cathy

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