Archives for Shingles Natural Treatment Reviews category

Shingles is caused by a virus called Herpes zoster virus (HZV), which also causes chicken pox. Natural shingles treatment begins with the realization that herpes viruses inflict widespread suffering around the world. Nearly everyone will be affected by some type of herpes virus at some time in his or her life. Depending on the individual, some infections will be minimal and some will be drastic, even fatal. And depending on the particular type of herpes virus, the resulting disorder could be oral sores, genital sores, chickenpox, shingles, Kaposi’s sarcoma, and Epstein-Barr syndrome, to name only the most commonly known afflictions caused by this family of viruses.

Herpes viruses can occur without symptoms in nerve ganglia, which are at the bases of nerve cells near the spine or throughout the face. In these locations the viruses are latent and out of reach to the immune system. They remain at this stage until something triggers them to move up the nerve fibers, enter healthy skin cells, and cause sores. Typically, a familiar pain or itching precedes the formation of sores, signifying an oncoming outbreak that will result in the well-known fever blisters. Sores do not always appear, though, especially in shingles infections. Internal blooms of HZV can instead cause unpleasant or even stabbing pains in nerves around the waist or spine.

HZV is trickier than most viruses because it is latent for long periods of time and because it can travel from one cell to another without ever leaving the internal environment of the cell. Both of these properties enable this virus to escape notice by our immune system, at least until they burst out of the cells they have just killed and attract the attention of our antibodies. This is why our immune system is helpful in fighting herpes outbreaks but is incapable of entirely eliminating herpes viruses from our bodies.

Mainstream Medicine

The most common direct treatment for herpes since early 1980s has been the prescription drug Zovirax. Until recently, when you visited most doctors for a problem with herpes, what you got was usually Zovirax and little else. This is somewhat obsolete, because replacements for Zovirax are currently being promoted heavily by the same company that manufactures it (called Glaxo Wellcome at that time). Indeed, the company has taken unprecedented steps in promoting the main replacement, called Valtrex, by advertising on television for viewers to call a toll-free number to qualify for free-trial samples, by taking out full page ads in numerous magazines (also including the free-trial offer), and by arranging for the inclusion of glossy insert ads for college newspapers around the country. In reality, Valtrex is just a modified form of Zovirax that received a new patent when the Zovirax patent ran out.

These drugs are very similar to some of the components of DNA, which is what our genes and the genes of herpes viruses are made of. Because they are similar to, but not identical with such components, they cause normal DNA to become abnormal. The intention is to stop viruses from making new DNA. The side effect is that it also stops our own cells from making DNA. This is how antiviral drugs suppress our immune system, since the demand for new DNA in the rapidly dividing immune-generating cells of our intestinal lining and bone marrow is constant.

The New Shingles Vaccine – Pros and Cons

The shingles vaccine, Zostavax by Merck, has been licensed in the U.S. since May, 2006. Research leading up to its approval showed it to prevent about half of cases of shingles in adults 60 and older. Experiments did not address younger people, even though the incidence of shingles is reaching into earlier age groups more and more.

Zostavax is not approved for people younger than 60, and it is not recommended for those with immune systems weakened by disease or drug treatment, women who are pregnant (after 60?), people who have active untreated tuberculosis, or anyone who has a life-threatening allergic reaction to gelatin or the antiobiotic neomycin.

In addition:

No one yet knows how long the benefits will last.
No one yet knows about delayed side effects.
Most people, and many doctors, don’t know enough about shingles to decide whether the vaccine might be helpful.
Insurance companies are dragging their feet on covering the expense (typically $300).

Natural Alternatives

Many natural approaches have been used over the years, such as lysine, Melissa oil, and creosote bush. You can find a bewildering array of advice on hundreds of websites, even some touting a cure. (That is an illegal medical claim, by the way, even if it were true.)

The best of the best, in my experience, is an herbal preparation that I did the original research on in my laboratory, starting in 1995. The direction for this research was based on a study published that year that showed how certain ingredients extracted from the creosote bush (Larrea tridentata) could inhibit the replication of HIV. This species is a widespread shrub in the three main deserts of the southwestern U.S. and adjacent Mexico. One of my former graduate students, Dr. Robert Sinnott, and I developed a product line for herpes and got a series of U.S. patents on it. A company headquartered in Houston, TX, now licenses the patents and manufactures the product line under the name of LarreaRx.

There are lots and lots of things that you can and should do if and when you get shingles. When I got my own personal outbreak (lucky me!), I did everything I knew to get rid of it fast and keep it from coming back. If you are in the same boat, start like I did here:

Shingles Cure

Scientist (Me!) Gets Shingles

Shingles Natural Treatment of Dr. Dennis ClarkHow ironic that my university research on herpes in the mid-1990s has come full circle to benefit me personally. Yup, I finally got to that level of ‘maturity’ (i.e., age 61) whereby the incidence of shingles starts going up. And I became one of those lucky ones to have my old chickenpox virus come back in the form of shingles.

That’s me in the photo, specifically my right side 8 days after I started having painful, untouchable skin, and 5 days after the outbreak actually appeared. Although I don’t recommend that anyone experience this outbreak just to lend credibility to their expertise, this is exactly what I did (not on purpose!).

Why Did I Get Shingles?

Of course, my age is a predictive factor. However, I keep my immune system in good order with all kinds of great supplements, lifestyle, and diet. So a shingles outbreak surprised me.

I do have a pretty good idea what I did to make this outbreak happen, though. It has to do with my experimentation with growth hormone secretagogues. Briefly, certain amino acids in high amounts lead to increasing amounts of growth hormone (HGH) to be released from the pituitary gland. These amino acids are therefore called secretagogues.

The key amino acid, and the most abundant one in all of the HGH secretagogues, is L-arginine. This amino acid is widely known among herpes sufferers for making herpes outbreaks worse. I think it even increases the frequency of outbreaks. So, the long and short of it is that I probably attracted a shingles outbreak by taking high levels of L-arginine.

Now What?

Fortunately, another amino acid, called L-lysine, counteracts the herpes-inducing effects of L-arginine. And L-lysine is also a common HGH secretagogue. So all I have to do is keep my arginine to lysine ratio a little more even and shingles will become a thing of the past.

My Shingles Natural Treatment

This episode gave me a chance to experience the benefits of the patented herbal formula that came out of my laboratory research in 1995. You can say that my research on shingles and other forms of herpes outbreaks came home to roost in a very personal way. Thank goodness! Shingles can be miserable, and I didn’t have to find out how bad it could be because I used my own natural shingles treatment. Whew!

By the way, this formula is the main topic of the book that I wrote on the subject of herpes, which appears in the column to the right: “Shingles Natural Treatment Guide.” I love the book and it has helped a lot of people, now including me. I may be biased, though!

All the best in natural health,

Dr. D

Shingles Symptoms – Rate of Occurrence

[tag-tec]Shingles symptoms[/tag-tec] increase in occurrence, with post-herpetic neuralgia, with each decade of life. Symptoms from the herpes zoster virus derive from outbreaks in the two primary tissues for herpes viruses -  nerve tissue and skin tissue. When a latent virus has the opportunity to bloom, even decades after the initial chickenpox outbreak, the primary symptoms show up in the ends of nerves just under the skin, then the skin itself.

Phase 1: The Prodromal Stage

First timers with are often surprised with the diagnosis of shingles. They may start out feeling as though they have the flu – fever, chills, headache, and nausea. These are merely the symptoms that appear before the rash breaks out. Medical people call this pre-rash phase the prodromal stage.

Although these viruses are out of reach from your immune system when they are latent and also when they are traveling through nerve fibers, this is a good time to boost your immunity in preparation for the outbreak that is coming. Herbs that have antiviral and immune-boosting activity would be most helpful at this time (e.g., creosote bush). Antiviral drugs suppress the immune system, which makes them seem like a bad idea right when you want to get your body ready for the battle.

A rash may not appear for another 2 to 5 days after the prodromal stage begins. As the appearance of the rash approaches, several additional symptoms appear. These include numbness, a tingling or burning sensation, burning pain, or itching.

Phase 2: The Eruptive Stage

This is when the blisters and pain that normally characterize a shingles outbreak become apparent. Blisters filled with clear fluid may continue to appear for up to 5 days. They look a lot like chickenpox. Although blisters typically occur on just one side of the torso, they occasionally  encircle the body. They may also appear in other places, including buttocks, arms, legs, and face.

Shingles blisters can be intensely painful or merely mildly itchy or irritating. Many sufferers feel the need to wear loose clothing so as to keep anything from touching the skin. The eruptive stage can continue for two weeks, during which time the blisters become filled with pus and then begin to  scab over. By the time scabs begin to form, the outbreak no longer contains any virus particles. Ideally, the rash disappears within 3-5 weeks.

It is best to apply creams or lotions that contain antiviral herbs as soon as an outbreak begins, or even just before the first blister appears. Creosote bush, soapbark tree, and lemon balm are generally available for such topical applications. Prescription drug creams also work at this stage. You may have to experiment to find which kind of product helps you the most. My choice is for natural products.

Long-Term Pain: Post-Herpetic Neuralgia (PHN)

Some people experience continued severe pain (i.e., PHN) that may last months or even years. PHN can be extremely painful and very difficult to handle. Antiviral drugs are ineffective for PHN because the virus is already gone by the time it sets in. Symptomatic treatment of the pain and inflammation offers the most effective help for PHN.

Anti-inflammatory creams and oils that DO NOT contain warming ingredients (such as capsaicin) will help keep down the pain-causing inflammation. General products that offer help for inflammatory skin disorders can be helpful. A short list of these would include emu oil (YES – not an herb!), vitamin E oil, creosote bush lotion, and lemon balm cream.

What Else Can You Do?

Diet, nutrition, vitamins, amino acids, herbs, and even tai chi have effects on the [tag-tec]symptoms of shingles[/tag-tec]. Sometimes they are positive and sometimes they are not. A few of the best general strategies are outlined in my short report, “Controlling Shingles Naturally.” You can a copy at no charge when you subscribe to my newsletter, Shingles Research Updates, via the form at the top of this page.

All the best in natural health,

Dr. D

Check out this abstract from an article in the Journal of General Virology, January 2007, vol. 88 (Pt. 1): pp. 275-285.

“Antiviral activity obtained from aqueous extracts of the Chilean soapbark tree (Quillaja saponaria Molina).”

Roner MR, Sprayberry J, Spinks M, Dhanji S. Department of Biology, The University of Texas Arlington, Arlington, TX 76019, USA.

Natural, aqueous extracts of Quillaja saponaria, the Chilean soapbark tree, contain several physiologically active triterpenoid saponins that display strong adjuvant activity when used in either human or animal vaccines. In this paper, we describe studies that demonstrate a novel antiviral activity of Quillaja extracts against six viruses: vaccinia virus, herpes simplex virus type 1, varicella zoster virus, human mmunodeficiency viruses 1 and 2 (HIV-1, HIV-2) and reovirus. We demonstrate that microgram amounts of extract, while exhibiting no cell cytotoxicity or direct virucidal activity, prevent each of the six viruses tested from infecting their host cells. In addition, the presence of residual amoutns of extract continue to block virus infection and render cells resistant to infection for at least 16 hours after the removal of the extract from the cell culture medium. We demonstrate that a Quillaja extract possesses strong antiviral activity at concentrations more than 100-fold lower than concentrations that exhibit cell cytotoxicity. Extract concentrations as high as 100 micrograms per milliliter are not cytotoxic, but concentrations as low as 0.1 micrograms per milliliter are able to block HIV-1and HIV-2 virus attachment and infection.

This is nice work. I’ll be digging into it further and coming with recommendations to get soapbark tree preparations. It is common enough to be available in the U.S. already.

Dr. D

Olive Leaf

Olive Leaf

So many products on how to control shingles with natural treatments flood the market that it sometimes seems impossible to sort out which ones are good and which ones are not. What I do is visit product sites, take a look at their claims, then go to PubMed and my various herbal medicine manuals and see what I can find about the activity of the ingredients. One such “miracle” product that I evaluated recently is olive leaf extract.

Folk Medicine

Olive leaf is listed among folk medicines for use as an antihypertensive (i.e., for lowering blood pressure) and diuretic. Very little good research is available regarding these claims. Nevertheless, modern supplement manufacturers have made quite a big deal of this application. The only study that I could find in support of it (Life Sciences 55: 1965-1971, 1994) showed that the active ingredient, oleuropein, decreased blood pressure and dilated arteries surrounding the heart. It was an animal study whereby the treatment was administered by injection.

The most significant reference in my library that evaluates olive leaf is the German Commission E Monographs on herbal medicines. This commission concludes that the effectiveness of olive leaf for the above claimed uses is not sufficient to support the claims.

Antiviral Studies

Oleuropein was also the subject of an antiviral survey of several plant ingredients (Chem. Pharm. Bull. 49: 1471-1473, 2001). The results of this study showed that none of the active ingredients from several plant species, including oleuropein, had any significant activity against HSV-1 (herpes simplex type 1) or Flu-A (influenza type A). Oleuropein, however, showed significant antiviral activities against RSV (respiratory syncytial virus), and Para 3 (parainfluenza type 3), both of which cause infections of the lower respiratory tract.


The good news is that olive leaf and its main active ingredient do, indeed, have an antiviral activity that will benefit you during the flu season. The bad news is that it has no activity against the only herpes virus that has been examined so far. Since all members of the herpes family are so similar in their responses to antivirals, this does not bode well for the use of olive leaf against shingles.

Dr. D