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Shingles - What it is and what can Help

Age related illnesses, Immune | April 22, 2020 | Author: Naturopath

Immune, age related

Shingles - What it is and what can Help

Shingles (herpes zoster) and chicken pox (varicella) are both diseases caused by the varicella-zoster virus (human herpesvirus type 3). Chicken pox commonly occurs in childhood and is the acute or primary stage of the disease whilst shingles is a reactivation of the disease from its latent stage. Shingles is also known as Acute Posterior Ganglionitis and Herpes zoster. Why it reactivates in often unknown but occurs more often in older and immune compromised people (due to a decline in cell-mediated immunity).

Herpes virus over-view

Herpes viruses are genetically and structurally similar but despite this fact they generally cause a wide range of different symptoms. Herpes viruses do not survive long outside of the infected person and are usually transmitted by intimate contact.

There are eight types of herpes virus affecting humans which, after initial infection, remain latent within specific cells of the body and can reactivate at any time.

With chicken pox, the virus travels through the blood stream and infects collections of nerve cells (ganglia) of the spinal or cranial nerves where it may remain in its dormant or inactive state forever.

When Herpes reactivates

Symptoms of the reactivated herpes disease can differ clinically from the initial infection. With shingles, the virus reactivates from its latent state where it travels down the nerve fibre to the skin and forms a painful rash of fluid-filled blisters. The rash usually appears on the skin over a nerve fibre (called a dermatome) and only on one side of the body. This is the most obvious sign and symptom and will often be the criteria for diagnosis.

Often before the rash appears there are symptoms of pain, itching and tingling. Blisters will form a scab after about 7 - 10 days and usually clear in 2 - 4 weeks. Other symptoms may include fever, headache and fatigue.

Symptoms of shingles can last between 2-6 weeks and is not life-threatening but for some people post hepatic neuralgia can occur.

Postherpetic neuralgia (PHN) – is nerve pain which continues after the disease has passed. It is a debilitating complication of herpes zoster and often affects older people. It can be excruciating and unrelenting and may lead to depression. Common analgesics such as paracetamol, which do not help with nerve pain, will not help in this situation.

What can Help

Anti-viral mediation, given before blister appear, can help with a quicker recovery time and offer some symptom relief, but often stronger pain-relieving medication is needed.

Topical products for pain relief and healing

Topical products for pain relief and healingCapsaicin, a natural extract from chilli peppers, can offer analgesic support when applied topically. Capsaicin exerts its therapeutic action by desensitization the area it is applied to. It acts on a substance, known as Substance P, which is involved in the transmission of pain impulses. It does this by reducing the amount of Substance P at nerve endings. Capsaicin works best with regular use to reduce pain intensity.

Essential oils 

  • Peppermint oil showed antiviral activities towards some herpes viruses tested
  • Tea tree – offers antiviral, anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial and wound healing properties
  • Thyme oil (Thymus vulgaris) showed antiviral properties towards some herpes viruses tested
  • Ginger (Zingiber officinale)– offers anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and antinociceptive activity
  • German chamomile (Matricaria recutita)– anti-inflammatory, antihyperalgesic (pain relieving), antimicrobial and skin regenerating properties

Check for allergic reactions and use oils diluted or incombination or on their own - as advised by product or healthcare provider.

Antiviral Herbs

St John’s wort (Hypericum perforatum) can help with mild to moderate depression, but also may help to induce anti-nociception, reducing acute and chronic pain. The active ingredients hyperforin and hypericin have been found responsible for its pain-relieving activity. St Johns wort can interact with some medication – medical advice should be sort before taking.

Licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra), offers antiviral, antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory and may include anti-herpetic activities.

Supporting immunity for the prevention of reactivation

Reactivation of herpes viruses often occurs due to decreased cell-mediated immunity which can occur in an aging immune system. Strategies to support immunity can include:

Supporting immunity in the prevention of reactivationA wholesome diet – and nutritional support supplementing with a good quality multivitamin.

Avoiding stress. Stress reduces the ability of the immune system to fight infection and studies conclude stress can trigger herpes simplex viral reactivation. Vitamin B complex and magnesium can help support a well-adjusted response to stress.

Adequate good quality sleep. Sleep deprivation decreases immunity and adequate sleep allows the body to maintain stability and regulate appropriate immune responses.

Herbal help for the immune system

Passionflower (passiflora incarnata) is valuable for aiding sleep and reducing anxiety and also offers anti-inflammatory and antioxidant activity.

Siberian gingseng (eleutheroccocus centicocus) effectively regulates the immune response in times of stress. It is a valuble immune booster, offers antioxidant properties and can help with fatigue.

Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) can help with anxiety, microbial infection, immune function and energy levels.

Echinacea offers supports for immune system throughout the body.

Immune supporting nutrients 

Vitamin D needed for modulation of the innate and adaptive immune responses.

Zinc can be deficient in people who are older or immune compromised.
Click Here for further information on supporting immunity


Immunization is available for adults 50 years and over. Check with your medical practitioner for advice.
Click Here for further reading

www.superpharmacy.com.au  Australia’s best online discount chemist






The Effectiveness and Safety of Topical Capsaicin in Postherpetic Neuralgia: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5222862/

Biological Activities of Red Pepper (Capsicum annuum) and Its Pungent Principle Capsaicin: A Review. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25675368/

Hypericum perforatum (St John's wort) beyond depression: A therapeutic perspective for pain conditions. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28216196

Breadth and Functionality of Varicella-Zoster Virus Glycoprotein-Specific Antibodies Identified after Zostavax Vaccination in Humans. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29743372

Human immune system during sleep https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5768894/

Sleep and immune function https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3256323/

Stress-associated immunomodulation and herpes simplex virus infections. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11359358

Zinc, aging, and immunosenescence: an overview https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4321209/

Vitamin D and 1,25(OH)2D Regulation of T cells https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4425186/

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The antiviral and antimicrobial activities of licorice, a widely-used Chinese herb https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2211383515000799#bib5

Analgesic Potential of Essential Oils https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6273222/#B37-molecules-21-00020

Virucidal effect of peppermint oil on the enveloped viruses herpes simplex virus type 1 and type 2 in  vitro. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/13678235

Unique Medicinal Properties of Withania somnifera: Phytochemical Constituents and Protein Component. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26601969

Comparative study on the antiviral activity of selected monoterpenes derived from essential oils. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19653195

Role Identification of Passiflora Incarnata Linnaeus: A Mini Review https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5770524/

Effects of ginseng on stress-related depression, anxiety, and the hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenal axis https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5628357/



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