Unfortunately, both oral and genital herpes cannot be cured, but this doesn't mean that you're subject to this pain for life. There are still ways that you can relieve pain and prevent future symptoms and infections from becoming severe.
It's important to consult a physician if you notice herpes symptoms, so you can get the right course of action for your case. Follow the dosages prescribed by your physician as well to prevent negative side effects.
Common Treatment Protocols for Herpes Patients
These anti-viral medications are usually prescribed to herpes patients by physicians: acyclovir (Zocirax), valacyclovir (Valtrex) or famciclovir (Famvir).1 For genital herpes patients, these three medicines can be used for two types of treatment:2
• Episodic treatment: Medications are taken once the symptoms of herpes are felt to lessen outbreak time or inhibit a full-on outbreak from happening.
• Suppressive treatment: This involves taking the medication daily to prevent further outbreaks from happening.
Your physician can also recommend over-the-counter medications such as acetaminophen (Tylenol), ibuprofen (Advil) or aspirin to treat the fever that may come with herpes.3 However, be warned that these prescription drugs come with a host of unpleasant side effects.
Acetaminophen, usually sold under the name Tylenol, has been associated with thousands of calls to Poison Control Centers and 150 deaths per year. Taking doses higher than the prescribed amounts has also resulted in numerous overdoses. This medicine can even affect your brain, as studies have shown that acetaminophen:
• Decreased error recognition
• Prompted study participants to make more errors
• Lessened response to social rejection in brain regions linked with social and physical pain
• Weakened emotional feedback to situations that are both negative and positive
• Influenced the thinking process that people use to make moral judgments
• Inhibited distress associated with abstract concepts
Meanwhile, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen or aspirin have their harmful effects as well. Research has shown that NSAIDs lead to:
• Stomach upsets
• Cardiovascular problems
• Gastrointestinal bleeding
• Kidney problems
Topical ointments may also be suggested for oral herpes patients. These include penciclovir (Denavir), acyclovir cream (Zovirax) and docosanol cream (Abreva). Do take note that none of these are able to get rid of the herpes virus, but merely reduce symptom duration and healing time. Over-the-counter topical anesthetics may also be recommended by your physician to provide slight pain relief. Some examples include:4
• Anbesol gel
• Blistex lip ointment
Natural and Herbal Treatments Are the Way to Go
Natural herbs and supplements may help alleviate the pain caused by herpes, but without the additional health risks. If you or someone you know has been diagnosed with herpes, these supplements might help them cope with this disease:5,6
• Echinacea:7 It provides relief for pain and inflammation, contains antiviral and antioxidant properties, and effectively treats slow-healing wounds.
• Propolis: a bee-derived resin that's high in antioxidants, it can assist in fighting infections and enhancing immune system function.
Different studies have highlighted its efficiency in preventing the reproduction of the HSV-1 and the HSV-2 viruses, treating lesions or sores faster than other ointments, and lessening the time and pain cold sores stay on patients. However, if you have asthma or are allergic to bee products, do not use this.
• Lysine: taking lysine supplements speeds up recovery and lessens your risk of having future herpes outbreaks. Research has also shown that lysine could decrease the amount of recurring outbreaks of cold sores.
People who have high cholesterol or triglyceride levels and/or heart disease should consult a physician prior to taking lysine. Animal studies have linked lysine to increased cholesterol and triglyceride levels. Moreover, high doses of calcium should also be avoided as lysine is able to raise calcium absorption in your body.
• Zinc: test tube studies have proven that zinc is potent against HSV-1 and HSV-2. Zinc oxide cream applied to cold sores made them heal faster. Just like for lysine, consult a physician on the ideal amount of zinc that you should take, as high amounts of it can lead to an overdose.
If you want to try herbal treatments instead, here are some of the best choices for herpes patients:8
• Lemon balm:9 a member of the mint family, lemon balm treats cold sores when it's added to a topical ointment, although it cannot heal pain and scabbing. Other studies have also found that lemon balm may help prevent future herpes outbreaks and decrease the healing time for sores caused by herpes.
• Aloe vera: its antioxidant properties and inflammation-lowering properties10 can be useful in treating herpes. Male patients who applied aloe vera cream on genital herpes sores reported faster healing time.
• Siberian ginseng: more studies still have to be conducted on the impact of Siberian ginseng, although a six-month study recorded that it help lower frequency, severity and duration of herpes outbreaks.Siberian ginseng is associated with many side effects, however, so consult a physician first. Pregnant and breastfeeding women should not take Siberian ginseng, as well as people who have the following conditions:
◦ High blood pressure levels
◦ Heart conditions
◦ Sleep apnea
◦ Hormone-related cancer like breast, ovarian or uterine cancer
While they're not well-known compared to different over-the-counter medicines or some of the herbs or supplements mentioned, herpes patients can also give homeopathic remedies a try:11
✓ Oral Herpes
• Rhus toxicodendron (rhus tox or poison ivy)12
✓ Genital Herpes
• Graphites (powdered form of pure graphite, a mineral in the form of carbon)13
• Petroleum (purified crude oil)14
✓ Both Oral and Genital Herpes
• Sepia (comes from cuttlefish ink)15
• Natrum muriaticum (sodium chloride or table salt)16
Simple Tips and Tricks to Relieve Pain-Causing Herpes
Certain household items, some of which may already be in your home, may also help in lessening the discomfort:17,18,19
• Ice packs: wrap the ice pack in a flannel and place over the affected area to lessen pain and increase the speed of the healing process. Make sure to repeat this every three to four hours. Avoid applying ice directly onto your skin and do not share ice packs with other people.
• Wet, non-herbal tea bags: if you don't have an ice pack at home, get wet tea bags and apply onto the affected area. Dispose of used tea bags immediately.
• Petroleum jelly, such as Vaseline: apply it to blisters or ulcers to lessen the pain when you urinate.
• Apple cider vinegar: pour or dip apple cider vinegar on a cotton ball and apply to the affected areas three to four times a day for two to three days. This may cause a stinging sensation.
• Baking soda: take some baking soda and apply to itchy areas. You can also use a cotton ball to pat the baking soda on herpes sores to let these dry out and reduce the itching.
There are also habits that you should incorporate into your lifestyle, especially if you or someone you know is diagnosed with herpes:20,21,22
• Drink lots of pure clear water: This will dilute your urine, resulting in less pain experienced when you urinate.
• Avoid wearing tight clothing: This may lead to irritation of blisters and/or ulcers. Try using natural fiber underwear and other loose-fitting clothing.
• Get adequate rest: Refrain from doing stressful activities if you have herpes. Lowering your stress levels not only boosts your immune system, but also helps lower your risk of another herpes outbreak.