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Shingles (herpes zoster), is an acute, painful viral infection of one or more nerves resulting in inflammation of the dorsal root ganglia. The ganglia commonly affected are those of the chest, back and neck. Facial nerves are also frequently involved. Shingles produce vascular skin lesions which are confined to a dermatome, and severe neurologic pain in peripheral areas innervated by the nerves arising from the inflamed root ganglia.

Most cases of shingles are not exceptionally serious. Complications will arise should the infection spread to the brain. Scarring and corneal damage, causing visual problems, can occur.

Shingles rarely occur in person under 15 years of age; more commonly occur in adults, especially those over age 50.

Treatments for shingles are symptomatic and may involve relief of itching with calamine lotion or another antipyretic, and of neurologic pain with aspirin, codeine, or other analgesics. Antibiotics may be required if secondary infection has developed, and corticosteroids may be required for inflammation. It is often helpful to provide distractions to take the individual's mind off the pain.


Primary Factors

The primary cause of herpes zoster is the herpes virus varicella zoster which also causes chickenpox. There are two major theories as to the onset of herpes zoster.

One theory states after chickenpox is contracted, the herpes virus lies dormant in part of the central nervous system. Reactivation follows physical trauma, malignancy, local radiation (which promotes ganglionitis) or emotional upset.

The other theory states that the number and strength of the immune system's antibodies to fight the viruses are diminished after recovery from chickenpox. This diminished state predisposes some individuals to another attack.

Predisposing Factors

Aging and Previous infection with the virus.

Signs & Symptoms

Prodrome (may also continue through onset):
Gastrointestinal disturbances

Other symptoms include:
Deep pain
Enlarged lymph nodes

Shingles can be identified when the characteristic unilateral skin lesions develop. This rash will appear identical to that of chickenpox. The rash spots will eventually fill with pus, burst and then crust. The rash will follow the course of the affected nerve or nerves, persisting for two or three weeks. If the rash spreads over the entire body, cancer of the lymphatic system or leukemia is the underlying cause.

If cranial nerves are involved symptoms include:

Vesicle formation in the external auditory canal
Ipsilateral facial palsy
Hearing loss
Loss of taste
Eye pain
Damage to the cornea and sclera
Extraocular weakness
Paralytic mydriasis

Other symptoms may include:

Central nervous system infection
Muscle atrophy
Acute transverse myelitis
Ascending myelitis
Acute urine retention
Unilateral diaphragm paralysis

Nutritional Supplements

Structure & Function:
        Immune System Support &
        Hair, Skin and Nail Support

General Supplements

Lysine 500 - 1,000 mg200 - 800 mg
Vitamin C1,000 - 6,000 mg500 - 2,000 mg
Vitamin E 200 - 600 IU100 - 300 IU

Note: All amounts are in addition to those supplements having a Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA). Due to individual needs, one must always be aware of a possible undetermined effect when taking nutritional supplements. If any disturbances from the use of a particular supplement should occur, stop its use immediately and seek the care of a qualified health care professional.

Dietary Considerations

No diet is specifically prescribed for herpes zoster by the American Dietetics Association. Barring any underlying health condition, a Low Arginine Diet should be followed to provide all the nutrients necessary for building a sound and disease-resistant body. Care should by taken to avoid consumption of arginine-rich foods such as seeds, nuts or chocolate, as they are thought to antagonize the therapeutic effect lysine might have.

Recurrent herpes zoster follows the same pattern as herpes simplex: the virus remains dormant in the nerve cell until it is triggered to multiply and cause skin eruptions. Dietary management is similar to that of herpes simplex; it is based on the possible efficacy of lysine hydrochloride therapy.

Growth of the herpes virus is dependent on the availability of arginine which is needed as a building block for the viral protein capsule. In the laboratory, herpes virus grew extremely well if extra arginine was provided in the culture medium. In contrast, when the antagonistic amino acid lysine was added in abundance to the medium, viral growth was inhibited, no viral multiplication occurred and the infection did not spread from cell to cell.

Lysine therapy for the suppression of chronic recurrent herpes lesions and accelerated healing of sores was proposed by Kagan in 1974. The rationale for this was that some individuals showed relief with therapeutic doses of lysine hydrochloride and there was no toxic effect from taking the drug. There is continuing controversy as to its efficacy. In a double-blind placebo controlled trial of oral lysine hydrochloride therapy (400 milligrams, three times per day) it was concluded it is unlikely treatment improves recurrent herpes simplex infection.

In another study funded by a national vitamin/health food corporation, 88% of the 1,543 individuals who responded to a survey felt lysine was effective in reducing the symptoms, frequency of occurrence, or duration of their herpes attacks. However, 2,457 people (two-thirds of the total 4,000 asked to respond) did not return the mail-in questionnaire. It is conceivable these individuals failed to reply because lysine proved ineffective against their infections.

In both papers, a dosage of 1,000 to 1,200 micrograms of lysine hydrochloride per day was ingested.

Herbal Approaches


Aloe vera gel
(Calendula) Marigold
Cayenne (Capsicum annuum)
Garlic (Allium sativuum)
Valerian Root (Valeriana officinalis)
Yellow dock

Note: The misdirected use of an herb can produce severely adverse effects, especially in combination with prescription drugs. This Herbal information is for educational purposes and is not intended as a replacement for medical advice.


Aloe vera gel or Marigold may be soothing, while another topical, Capsicum may be effective by depleting substance P, thereby providing pain control.

Echinacea and Garlic (Allium sativuum) with Licorice as another option, offer to stimulate the immune system as well as being antiviral.

Skullcap is noted as a nervine, or nerve tonic, while a sedative may also be required, e.g. Valerian Root.

Yellow dock is reputed to help relive the itching.


Rains C & Bryson HM: Topical capsaicin. A review of its pharmacological properties and therapeutic potential in post-herpetic neuralgia, diabetic neuropathy and osteoarthritis. Drugs Aging, 1995 Oct, 7:4, 317-28.

Homeopathic Remedy

Herpes Zoster - Shingles

1.* Rhus Toxicodendron - 30C
2.* Capsicum annuum - 30C
3.* Mentha piperita - 15C
4.* Dulcamara - 30C
5.* Urtica urens- 30C
6. Antimonium tartaricum - 30C

Treatment Schedule

Doses cited are to be administered on a 3X daily schedule, unless otherwise indicated. Dose usually continued for 2 weeks. Liquid preparations usually use 8-10 drops per dose. Solid preps are usually 3 pellets per dose. Children use 1/2 dose.


X = 1 to 10 dilution - weak (triturition)
C = 1 to 100 dilution - weak (potency)
M = 1 to 1 million dilution (very strong)
X or C underlined means it is most useful potency

Asterisk (*) = Primary remedy. Means most necessary remedy. There may be more than one remedy - if so, use all of them.


Boericke, D.E., 1988. Homeopathic Materia Medica.

Coulter, C.R., 1986. Portraits of Homeopathic Medicines.

Kent, J.T., 1989. Repertory of the Homeopathic Materia Medica.

Koehler, G., 1989. Handbook of Homeopathy.

Shingale, J.N., 1992. Bedside Prescriber.

Smith, Trevor, 1989. Homeopathic Medicine.

Ullman, Dana, 1991. The One Minute (or so) Healer.

Aromatherapy - Essential Oils

Coriander Essence,Geranium Essence,
Lavender Essence,Myrtle Essence,
Rosemary Essence.

Related Health Conditions

AgingChicken pox
Facial palsyFever



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