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Shingles

General characteristics

General characteristics

Shingles (Herpes zoster) is an inflammation of the nerves and surrounding skin caused by the same virus responsible for chickenpox. It is thought that after an initial chicken pox infection the virus lies dormant in the nerves around the spine and is reactivated at some later date, perhaps due to lowered immunity or stress. It is believed possible to infect someone else if they come into direct contact with the burst blisters.

Symptoms are usually only seen on one side of the body and include a red rash visible on the skin with nerve pain that follows the length of the affected nerve/s (common sites include the chest and abdomen), intense burning or itching, muscle pain, fever, feeling unwell, the rash becomes blistered and itchy with subsequent scarring of the skin a possibility. Other symptoms can arise depending on the nerves involved e.g. visual disturbances can result if the visual nerves are affected. Elderly people and those with lowered immunity are more likely to experience more extreme symptoms and complications.

The infection and various symptoms are usually resolved within 2 -4 weeks but some are unlucky to suffer with it for longer periods or in intermittent bouts for years. Nerve pain may also persist for some time after the initial infection.

Healing objectives are to first weaken the virus using appropriate herbs, raise the immunity and vitality through good foods and herbs and treat the painful skin blisters and inflamed nerves with herbs and natural remedies.


Diet and lifestyle

Diet and lifestyle

Foods that are rich in B vitamins will provide nutrition to the nerves and help speed up healing and possibly prevent further outbreaks. Good sources include whole grains (especially oats), yeast tablets, bananas, sprouted seeds, beans and grains, dark leafy vegetables, pomegranates, legumes, lentils, organic dairy and eggs.

The amino acid L-lysine is known to help prevent the occurrence of shingles so this nutrient will be useful if you suffer from regular outbreaks. Foods rich in this amino acid include all the peas, beans and lentils, sprouted beans, cheese, eggs, nuts, mangoes, apricots, pears, apples, figs and spirulina.

A diet rich in a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables lowers the risk of developing shingles, particularly in the elderly.


Useful herbs

Useful herbs

A good healing ointment can be made from liquorice, turmeric, cayenne powder and cold pressed coconut oil. Use a teaspoon of liquorice and turmeric powders and add a pinch of cayenne powder. Add enough coconut oil to make a paste and apply liberally to the affected areas. Cover lightly with a gauze or similar and reapply when the ointment is absorbed or wash off the old and reapply new every few hours or so. Blisters should disappear within days but the pain may be relieved much sooner.

Aloe vera gel or fresh from the plant can soothe the skin when applied direct.

St johns wort, lemon balm, nettle, olive leaf and oatstraw tea will provide both pain relieving and antiviral properties. Use equal parts of the herbs and take 3 cups daily using 1 heaped teaspoon of herbs.

Take up to 5 teaspoons daily of strong echinacea tincture to help improve the immune system.

To reduce the nerve pain and relax the mind use equal parts of the tinctures of passion flower, skullcap, valerian, jamaican dogwood, wild lettuce and hops. Take a teaspoon of the mix 3 times daily for up to several weeks. Damiana can also be added to the above formula or used alone.

Reishi mushroom tincture or powder in capsules can both reduce pain and speed up resolution of the virus as can echinacea root.


Natural healing

Natural healing

Dab some organic unpasteurised cider vinegar over the skin lesions. This will sting initially but will soon relieve the discomfort and pain from the blisters, drying them up and speeding up resolution. Repeat several times daily.

Propolis has good anti-viral action. The tincture can be taken internally or dabbed on the skin.

Many people find effective pain relief from acupuncture treatments.


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