There are many natural ways to get relief from the pain of shingles and to prevent the spread of the infection. This article covers simple and effective remedies that you can use to quickly resolve a shingles outbreak. It is recommended to combine a few of the treatments for the best results.
What are Shingles?
Shingles is a painful, blistery rash caused by the herpes varicella-zoster virus, the same virus that causes chickenpox. Anyone who had chickenpox in the past can develop shingles as the virus lies dormant in the nerve roots of the spinal cord. Shingles is a reactivation of the herpes zoster virus at a nerve root. The cause of reactivation is unknown, but shingles most often occur in people with lowered immune function.
Shingles are most common in people over 50 but can occur at any age. Those who are immune compromised due to treatment, medications, or infection are more at risk of developing shingles. I got shingles a few months after a stem cell transplant for treating cancer.
Unlike chickenpox, which won’t recur, once you’ve had shingles you can still get them again. People who have prolonged pain with a shingles outbreak are more likely to have a recurrence.
Are Shingles Contagious?
The herpes zoster virus is contagious, but only to people who have never had chickenpox. In those cases, the virus will cause chicken pox, not shingles. The virus remains contagious until the blisters have crusted over. If you’ve had chicken pox, you have developed an immunity and will not catch shingles from another person.
If you have shingles, stay away from pregnant women, people with newborn babies, and anyone who has lowered immune function.
Where on the Body can You get Shingles?
You can get shingles anywhere on the body, but they occur only on one side and usually only affect a small area. Shingles most commonly appear as a single band around the right or left side or the torso. Around one eye or one side of the face or neck are other common places for shingles outbreaks.
- small fluid-filled blisters
- itchy skin
- skin that is sensitive to touch
- pain, burning, tingling, or numbness in the affected area
- flu-like symptoms
- unexplained fatigue or general malaise
- muscle soreness which is unrelated to exertion
- sensitivity to light (if shingles are around an eye)
- headache (if shingles affect nerves in the cranial region)
Not everyone will have all these symptoms. Some people may experience only pain and not develop the rash. Others may have the rash for a while before the shingles start to be painful. I had a small patch of itchy blisters which I mistook for insect bites until I developed a throbbing pain in the same area one week later.
Many cases of shingles are mild, I was lucky mine was, but I know people who have been bedridden for months because of a shingles outbreak. Treating shingles early will prevent the infection from getting worse and leading to other complications.
If you have shingles be sure to see your doctor especially if you are immunocompromised or over 60 years of age.
To prevent further complications see your doctor immediately if the rash is very painful or if it affects a large area. Possible complications include neuralgia (nerve pain), neurological problems, and skin infections. Shingles around the eye may cause vision loss if left untreated.
Natural Treatment for Shingles
Capsaicin cream – Apply capsaicin cream to the affected area to relieve pain. Capsaicin reduces the pain signals sent to the brain by causing a local depletion of Substance P, a neuropeptide that carries pain signals. The cream must be applied regularly so it will continue to deplete neuropeptides in that area.
Licorice gel – Licorice is antiviral, applying liquorice gel to the infected area will prevent shingles from spreading. The main active component in liquorice is glycyrrhizin which has powerful anti-inflammatory effects. Liquorice gel isn’t always easy to find, but it is worth looking for as it is one of the best natural topical treatments for shingles.
Colloidal Silver – Colloidal Silver is an excellent treatment for any infection because it is antiviral and also boosts immunity. Take one teaspoon of colloidal silver three times or more per day. Hold the liquid in your mouth sublingually for one minute before swallowing. You can also spray colloidal silver on to the rash to soothe and speed healing.
Aloe Vera Gel – Aloe vera gel will help to soothe itching and irritation and speed healing. Apply aloe vera gel two or three times per day. Fresh aloe from the plant is best, if you don’t have a plant at home, find an unscented aloe vera gel with the least amount of additives.
Coconut oil – Coconut oil is antiviral, you can apply it topically to the rash and also take it internally. Take a spoonful three times per day.
Vitamin E – Vitamin E applied to the area will help reduce itching and speed the healing of the shingles rash. You can buy Vitamin E oil, or simply break open a capsule of Vitamin E and apply it to the lesions.
Vitamin B-12 – B-12 strengthens the myelin sheath, the protective coating around the nerves. Taking B-12 will help ease the pain of shingles and speed recovery. Take 1,000 – 2,000 mcg of B-12 per day. Better yet, see your naturopath for B12 injections in the area affected by shingles.
Hypericum – Hypericum perforatum is a homoeopathic remedy that can reduce nerve-related pain, shooting pain or throbbing pain. Try taking Hypericum 30CH twice per day. Take the remedy 30 minutes away from all food and drink except plain water.
Garlic – Garlic is a strong antiviral. Eat several cloves of raw garlic a day. You can also apply a garlic to the affected area. Crush a few cloves of garlic into a paste, apply it over the shingles rash and leave it on for 15-20 minutes. Apply the garlic paste two times a day until the blisters are no longer oozing.
L-Lysine – The amino acid L-lysine will help prevent the spread of the virus. Start taking L-Lysine at the first signs of shingles for best results. Take 1000mg three times per day. L-lysine can also be taken for prevention of shingles. Take 1000mg per day for prevention.
IV Vitamin C – Vitamin C strengthens the immune system and helps fight infection. High dose vitamin C by intravenous injection can reduce the pain and the duration of a shingles infection significantly. Oral vitamin C may also have some benefits in treating shingles if taken in a high enough dose.
Allopathic Treatment for Shingles
Valtrex (valacyclovir) – The standard medical treatment for shingles. It is an antiviral drug which will help the body fight the infection and slow the spread of the virus. Side effects with Valtrex are uncommon and are usually mild. Your doctor will check if it is a suitable treatment for you.
Ibuprofen – An anti-inflammatory medication that will reduce the pain that is associated with inflammation of the nerves. Mild cases of shingles may not require pain medication, but if you have severe pain you can take up to 1800mg of Ibuprofen per day to help ease the pain.
- If the shingles are on your torso wear loose-fitting clothes and avoid tight-waistbands that may rub on the affected area.
- Avoid sunlight and heat on the affected to prevent further irritation.
- Soothe pain with by applying a cool cloth or take a cool bath.
- Have an oatmeal bath to soothe itching.
- Apply baking soda, clay, or Calamine lotion on the rash to help the blisters dry out. Drying out the blisters is important because they can spread easily when they are oozing.
- Drink plenty of water to help flush the virus out of your system
- Avoid sugar, alcohol, and caffeine as they suppress the immune system and it harder for your body to fight the infection.
- Dr. Matt Greenwood
- Mayo Clinic – Shingles
- Vanessa Ferreira – Botanical Treatment of Shingles: A Case Report