Understanding Herpes Virus Infection
There are a number of herpes viruses which can cause disease. Herpes simplex 1 (HSV-1) generally causes mild outbreaks of cold sores on the mouth or lips. Herpes simplex 2 (HPV-2) is more severe and causes genital herpes, though the mouth can also be affected.
Both herpes infections can cause painful blisters which are highly infectious. Blisters are contagious until completely healed, which can take from 2-4 weeks. There is a slight chance of transmitting the infection after blisters have healed, however the rate of transmission drops drastically at this point. In rare cases there are no symptoms.
What are the symptoms?
Initially, HSV-1 produces burning & tingling around the lip area, followed by small red pimples which turn to blisters. These symptoms may be accompanied by a mild fever and enlarged lymph nodes in the neck area.
Recurrences tend to occur following a sunburn, or when the immune system is weakened by other infections.
First symptoms of HSV-2 are usually noticed between 4-8 days after exposure. These usually appear as burning and/or itching in the genital area, followed by blisters that turn to painful sores. These sores can easily become infected. There may also be flu-like symptoms and sometimes painful urination. On average, symptoms tend to be more severe in women.
For a small minority of women, the initial outbreak is the only one they ever experience. But most women (around 75 percent) experience recurrent episodes within the next few months and years. Many women report that symptoms get milder with each ensuing outbreak, possibly due to herpetic antibodies being produced as a natural line of defense by the system.
Is Herpes Serious?
HSV-2 can cause complications such as liver damage. It can also be passed from an infected mother to her baby during childbirth. This can increase the risk of blindness or brain damage. Genital herpes infections also increase the risk of cervical cancer. It is advised that women with herpes get regular Pap smears.
How is Herpes Treated?
During acute infection, the herpes virus reproduces and settles in adjoining tissue. Afterwards, it implants in the nerve tissue and does not attempt to reproduce. The virus will reactivate into a disease-causing form only when it is ‘threatened’.
The keys to managing this virus is 3-fold:
Boost Immunity * Reduce Stress * Topical Relief
1. You want to build a strong antibody response to keep the virus from entering cells. A properly functioning immune system is vital.
2. The herpes virus resides in the nerve endings located at the base of the spine. Not surprisingly, they are activated by stress and nervous conditions. Reducing stress is therefore crucial to avoiding outbreaks.
3. Providing symptomatic relief from the pain by treating the herpes externally.
Useful Herbal Remedies for Herpes
Fortunately there are many herbal remedies for herpes which are useful in boosting immunity, reducing stress, and providing topical relief from outbreaks.
Echinacea is highly recommended as a preventive measure for those prone to herpes. It is taken daily for a period of three months, and thereafter, whenever there are periods of susceptibility in your life. If you are taking Echinacea tincture, the recommended dosage is one-fourth teaspoon, three times daily. If you are taking it in tea form, the recommended dosage is three to four cups daily. If you are taking Echinacea capsules, the recommended dosage is two capsules, three times daily.
Include pau d’arco every day in the diet for three to six months. It may be used in tincture, tablet or tea form. Use the same dosages as recommended for Echinacea (see above). The following formula contains pau d’arco and is a good preventative tea.
Immune Support Tea
4 parts pau d’arco
2 parts echinacea
1 part burdock root
Prepare an infusion using four to six tablespoons of the herb mixture per quart of water. Strain. Drink three to four cups daily.
Adaptogenic herbs and foods increase the body’s ability to respond to the stresses of the environment while calming and relaxing the nervous system. The following nervine adaptogens strengthen, nourish, and maintain the homeostatic mechanisms of the nervous system, enabling it to deal more effectively with stress.
Less Stress Tea
4 parts nettle
3 parts oat straw
3 parts chamomile
1 part St. John’s wort
1 part skullcap
1 part passionflower
Prepare an infusion using four to six tablespoons of herb mixture per each quart of water. Drink freely throughout the day for several weeks and whenever there are high levels of stress in your life thereafter.
Treating Herpes Outbreaks
Some find that keeping the sores moist prolongs the healing process, others find the comfort of salves and ointments very healing. Try both methods and see which works best for you.
If you find that your particular case responds better to an astringent, drying type medication than to a salve, make a St. Johns’ wort/lemon balm tincture. Apply this topically to the open sores. But be careful; it will sting! Dilute it with water before applying.
Aloe vera gel soothes, dries, and effectively helps to heal herpes sores. Apply the aloe vera gel directly to the sores. You can use the gel pressed fresh from the leaf of a plant, or you can buy aloe gel.
The Anti-Herpes Paste below makes an excellent poultice when applied directly to the sores.
1 part goldenseal powder
1 part black walnut hull powder
1 part echinacea root powder
Mix the powdered herbs together, then moisten the mixture with a bit of St. Johns’ wort/lemon balm tincture.
Warm herbal baths are soothing and healing. You might wish to alternate both types or find the one that works best for you. The first is a soothing, relaxing bath that relieves the itching. The second bath is an astringent cleanser.
After bathing, gently but completely dry the groin area.
Relaxing & Soothing Herbal Bath Blend
3 parts chamomile
1 part instant oatmeal (dry)
1 part hops
1 part comfrey leaf
2 parts calendula
1 part comfrey root
Mix these ingredients together and place a big handful or two in a large handkerchief or cotton bath bag. Tie it onto the nozzle of the tub and let hot water stream through it for several minutes. Adjust the temperature of the water, untie the bag, and let it float with you in the tub.
1 ounce dry chaparral leaves
1-2 drops tea tree oil
4 tablespoons baking soda
Mix dry ingredients thoroughly, then mix in oil. Place mixture in a large cotton handkerchief or bath bag. Tie it onto the nozzle of the tub and let hot water stream through it for several minutes. Adjust the water temperature, untie the bag, and let it float with you in the tub.
Include daily dosages of chlorophyll, wheat grass, and/or blue-green algae in your diet. Each of these substances strengthens the immune system and provides antiviral activity. They are also extremely cleansing and nourishing to the system.
Include B vitamin-rich foods in the diet such as whole grains, nutritional yeast, bee pollen, spirulina, blue green algae, seaweeds.
Add a vitamin B supplement to your daily diet.
Eliminate foods that might be agitating the condition. Sweets, both natural and otherwise, arginine-rich foods such as peanuts, chocolate, and soft drinks (especially those with cola), and stimulants can all activate the outbreak of herpes. Likewise, the lack of certain elements in the diet can exacerbate the situation. People prone to herpes need to include foods high in B vitamins, calcium, iron, Vitamin C, and lysine.
Lemon balm has been shown to reduce the time it takes for blisters and sores to heal by 1/2, and to substantially reduce recurrences.
These oils are extremely potent and should be used only as directed.