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Herbs for Shingles (Herpes Zoster)

David L. Hoffmann B.Sc. (Hons), M.N.I.M.H.

An acute CNS infection involving primarily the dorsal root ganglia, characterized by vesicular eruption and neuralgic pain in the areas of the skin supplied by peripheral sensory nerves arising in the affected root ganglia.

Shingles, or herpes zoster, is a viral infection of sensory nerve cells caused by the same virus (Varicella zoster) that causes chicken pox. The virus remains latent in the dorsal root ganglia of the spinal cord after the initial attack of chicken pox. The disease occurs most frequently in people over the age of 50. It may be activated through such factors as trauma to the spinal cord and its roots through surgery or X-ray therapy. Shingles is characterized by pain along an affected nerve and its branches and the eruption of blisters over skin areas supplied by the nerve. An attack will usually be preceded by a few days of intense pain in the affected areas. Then many extremely painful and itchy blisters develop, normally lasting 7 -14 days. These eventually form crusty scabs and fall off. Following such an outbreak, the pain may continue even when the blisters have disappeared, especially in the elderly. This may go on for months and can be more painful than the original infection.

Actions indicated for the processes behind this disease :
Nervine Tonics will `feed' the traumatized nerve tissue.
Nervine Relaxants may ease the associated pain, but will definitely lesson associated anxiety or tension.
Anti-inflammatories will reduce the inflammatory response.
Anti-spasmodics will alleviate muscular tension developed in response to the pain.
Anti-microbials may help deal with the virus infection, but it is very intransigent.

System support :
The nervous system needs as much help as it can get! As shingles often occurs in the elderly, almost any system tonic might be appropriate. Signs and symptoms guide the therapist.

Specific Remedies :
There are no specifics for shingles recorded in the European traditions. Based upon personal observation, however, they may exist. Please refer to pgs. 1-22 thru 1-24.

One possible prescription :
Avena sativa
Hypericum perforatum
Echinacea spp.
Scutellaria laterifolia
equal parts to 5ml of tincture 4 times a day
Mentha piperita oil applied topically may reduce the pain through a mild local numbing effect. Do not attempt this if the skin is extremely sensitive.
Colloidal oatmeal powder may be dusted on the effected skin to act as a dry lubricant, hopefully reducing pain from contact with clothes.

Actions supplied by this combination :
  • Nervines Tonic (Avena sativa, Hypericum perforatum)
  • Nervines Relaxant (Hypericum perforatum, Scutellaria laterifolia, Artemisia vulgaris)
  • Anti-inflammatory (Hypericum perforatum)
  • Anti-spasmodic (Hypericum perforatum, Scutellaria laterifolia)
  • Anti-microbial (Hypericum perforatum, Echinacea spp.)

Broader Context of Treatment :
Good nutrition and support of general health are crucial. Pain relief medication containing acetaminophen, e.g. Tylenol, may prolong the illness. Pharmacological research suggests that capsaic in, from Capsicum minimum, may be helpful as a pain reliever, and thus capsules of cayenne may be helpful. The following supplementation is recommended :
Vitamin B complex 100mg three times a day with food
Vitamin C 2g twice a day
Lysine (an amino acid) 500mg twice daily

Infections in the Genito-Urinary System
A range of anti-microbials are uniquely suited for this part of the body, and are usually herbs rich in an essential oil, examples include :
Achillea millefolium Agropyron repens Arctostaphylosuva-ursi
Barosma betulina
Juniperus communis Petroselinum crispum

For details of appropriate herbal treatments and contra-indications, please refer to the section on the urinary system. Consider an approach to the treatment of prostatitis :

Essiac Herbal Tea

Essiac tea is one of the favorite alternative medicine for cancer. Essiac was discovered by a Canadian nurse, Rene Caisse (1888-1978), who named it after her name spelled backwards. The recipe is said to be based on a traditional Ojibwa (Native American) remedy. Essiac contains greater burdock root (Arctium lappa), slippery elm inner bark (Ulmus rubra), sheep sorrel (Rumex acetosella), and Indian rhubarb root (Rheum officinale). Many users of essiac believe that it does improve the body ability to fight cancer and that is effective at reducing the side effects of chemotherapy and radiation treatments. The most common current use of essiac is as a tea. Some people take essiac tea on occasion for general health purposes or for healing of various ailments, not just cancer. Caution is advised when using essiac herbal tea since one of the ingredients - burdock may either lower or raise blood sugar levels.

Rosemary Medicinal Uses

Rosemary is a stimulant and mild analgesic, and has been used to treat headaches, poor circulation, and many ailments for which stimulants are prescribed. It can be used as a disinfectant, as a mouth wash and to treat fever or rheumatism. Externally it can be used in hair lotions; a few drops of Rosemary oil massaged into the scalp, then rinsed with an infusion of nettles can revitalize the hair. Used in this manner, it is supposed to prevent premature baldness. Rosemary is also reported to reduce or even stop dandruff. Rosemary has a very old reputation for improving memory, and has been used as a symbol for remembrance (during weddings, war commemorations and funerals) in Europe, probably as a result of this reputation. Students in ancient Greece are reported to have worn sprigs of rosemary in their hair while studying for exams to improve their memory and mourners would throw it into graves as a symbol of remembrance for the dead. Rosemary and its constituents carnosol and ursolic acid have been shown to inhibit the growth of skin tumours and to provide a natural anti-oxidant protection against skin cancer and photo damage.

Medical Use of Ginkgo Leaves

The extract of the Ginkgo leaves contains flavonoid glycosides and terpenoids such as ginkgolides and bilobalides. Ginkgo's medical properties has been known for a long time and it has been part of Chinese medicine for more than 2800 years. It is mainly used as memory enhancer and anti-vertigo agent. Many research reports indicate there are three effects of Ginkgo extract on the human body: it improves blood flow (including microcirculation in small capillaries) to most tissues and organs; it protects against oxidative cell damage from free radicals (antioxidant); and it blocks many of the effects of PAF (platelet aggregation, blood clotting) that have been related to the development of a number of cardiovascular, renal, respiratory and CNS (Central Nervous System) disorders. Ginkgo can be used for intermittent claudication (cramping sensation in the legs). Various trials indicate that Ginkgo shows promise in the treatment of Alzheimer's disease, although further study is needed. Ginkgo is commonly added to energy drinks, but the amount is typically so low it does not produce a noticeable effect, except perhaps via a placebo effect from Ginkgo being listed on the label.

Check Newton's dry herbs price list for our Ginkgo extracts.


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