Virus Basics for Shingles Natural Treatment
All living organisms play host to viruses, even including bacteria. It is a certainty that you will be affected by multiple kinds of viruses throughout your lifetime. The most prevalent human viruses will show up as the common cold, flu, cold sores, chickenpox, and shingles. Less common, and more deadly, viruses are blamed for such diseases as ebola, AIDS, bird flu, SARS, and hepatitis.
Scientists are also suspicious of viruses that are associated with multiple sclerosis, chronic fatigue syndrome, neurological diseases, cancer, and many more. Finding the best natural shingles treatment for you depends on knowing about the basic interactions between you and your virus.
One of those interactions comes from your childhood chickenpox virus when it breaks out into a shingles later in life.
Main Factors That Influence Infections
Your body is one of the main determining factors for whether you will suffer from shingles or any other viral disease. You are exposed to viruses on a daily basis, and most of the time your immune system or other defense mechanisms help you resist infections. Otherwise, you would be sick all of the time.
Another main factor for infection is the type of virus and its response to your defenses. Shingles, for example, is caused by the chickenpox virus that has infected millions of people. Out of all of the people who have had chickenpox, only about 1-3 per thousand healthy individuals under 65 years old will get shingles. This number goes up to as high as 12 per thousand for those older than 65. Such survey data just mean that the vast majority of people who have been exposed to the virus do not develop symptoms, due to the combination of their bodies’ defenses and to the response of the virus to them.
Your best strategies for fighting viral infections must be based on whatever you can do to help your own defenses and whatever you can do to address the behavior of the virus itself. Antiviral prescription drugs have side effects resulting from their suppression of the immune system, which undermines your defenses. The new shingles vaccine, Zostavax, is only approved for people over 60 years old, because clinical experiments focused only on this group. Even so, it is only effective for about half of the people who are injected with it.
Even though Zostavax has been approved in Europe as well as in the U.S., it is not widely used in such places as the U.K. even though it is licensed there. This caution is based on the long-term unknowns, the interactions with other drugs and vaccines (esp. the chickenpox vaccine) and worries about affects on those with already weakened immune systems.
Cautions About Zostavax
Follow-up studies are in progress. The long-term effectiveness and potential complications of Zostavax are unknown At this time it is not recommended for women who are pregnant, people with active untreated tuberculosis, or those with weakened immune systems. It is also not recommended for anyone who has had a life-threatening allergic reaction to gelatin or to the antibiotic neomycin, which are components of the vaccine formula.
Focus on Herpes Viruses
The chickenpox and shingles virus is known scientifically as Herpes zoster (or Varicella zoster), which means it shares many characteristics with all of the members of the herpes family of viruses. The same antiviral drugs are prescribed for shingles, cold sores, genital herpes, and Kaposi’s sarcoma because they are all herpes viruses.
Herpes viruses target the same kinds of tissues (skin and nerve), although in different parts of the body. They also have the same basic appearance and genetic composition and respond to drugs and natural treatments the same way. This just means that a successful remedy against one type of herpes infection has a good chance of being successful against other types.
Natural Antivirals for Shingles Treatment
Scientific literature over the past century reveals thousands of plant natural products that have antiviral activity. This is to be expected, since plants have their own viruses to deal with. Nevertheless, plant viruses and human viruses have much in common, so hundreds of the antivirals that plants make in their own defense also inhibit human viruses.
Most of the research-level results are not practical at this time because the majority of antiviral plant compounds are not yet available in herbal formulas. However, a few herbs that show positive clinical results against shingles have been available for several years.
The classic herb against shingles is lemon balm (Melissa officinalis), which produces an oil that has anti-herpes activity for topical use as well as for internal use. It is an ingredient in several formulas, sometimes by itself and often with other oil-producing herbs. Recent research in cell cultures shows that lemon balm can overcome herpes infection in cells that have become resistant to prescription antiviral drugs.
The newest herb, and maybe the best one, against herpes is the creosote bush (Larrea tridentata). It is also available in a lotion for topical application as well as in a capsule for internal use. The active ingredients in the creosote bush have general activity against several types of herpes infections as well as activity against HIV and several other types of viruses. This herb is definitely a rising star in the realm of antivirals from plants.
What About Shingles Pain?
The pain of a rash, which can sometimes last weeks or months after an outbreak has already subsided (i.e., “post-herpetic neuralgia”), responds very well to a paste of red pepper powder or to creams containing its main active ingredient, capsaicin. Capsaicin is well-known for blocking pain signals between nerves just under the skin. The only drawback to applying capsaicin-containing formulas is that it makes the burning sensation worse if the skin has been broken or is still has open blisters.
Medical researchers are finding out a lot about capsaicin vs. shingles pain. More than 70 research articles have appeared on this topic since 2002 in PubMed, the U.S. government’s medical database.