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Treatment and Remedies for Herpes

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  • Although oral and genital herpes can’t be fully cured, there are some remedies you can try to alleviate symptoms and reduce their severity
  • There are natural remedies that may work better than antiviral medications or topical treatments in addressing herpes, minus the side effects
  • Implementing changes to your lifestyle can aid in pain relief and help reduce your risk for future herpes outbreaks

Oral and genital herpes cannot be cured,1 but this doesn’t mean you have to be subject to the pain of the infection for life. There are ways to 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 treatment for your case.

Common Treatment Protocols for People Diagnosed With Herpes

If you’re diagnosed with genital herpes, antiviral medications are often prescribed. These include acyclovir, valacyclovir or famciclovir. However, take note that these drugs may cause side effects like nausea, diarrhea, headaches and vomiting, and can even trigger the following adverse effects if taken excessively:

  • Acyclovir — Dizziness, drowsiness, speaking difficulties, agitation, confusion, hallucinations, severe stomach and abdominal pain, loss of consciousness, seizures or serious allergic reactions characterized by rashes, swelling and breathing troubles2
  • Valacyclovir —Agitation, confusion, hallucinations, speaking difficulties, symptoms of kidney problems, loss of consciousness, seizures or serious allergic reactions characterized by rashes, severe dizziness or breathing troubles3
  • Famciclovir — Stomach pain, gas, tiredness, rashes, itching or painful menstrual cycles4

Over-the-counter medications such as acetaminophen, ibuprofen or aspirin are also often recommended to address herpes symptoms.5 However, be warned that these drugs can also come with unpleasant side effects.

Acetaminophen, usually sold under the name Tylenol, has been linked to multiple emergency room visits, hospitalizations, calls to poison control centers and even deaths, especially if ingested in copious amounts.6 Other ways acetaminophen can cause adverse impacts to your health include:7,8

  • Decreasing error recognition and increasing error frequency among study participants
  • Lessening response to social rejection in brain regions linked with social and physical pain
  • Weakening emotional feedback to negative and positive situations9
  • Influencing the thinking process people use to make moral judgments
  • Inhibiting distress associated with abstract concepts

Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen or aspirin have been linked to harmful side effects too. Increased NSAID intake may trigger:10,11

  • Stomach upsets and ulcers
  • Increased bleeding
  • Allergic reactions like rashes and wheezing
  • Hypertension
  • Liver, kidney or heart problems
  • Headaches and dizziness
  • Dizziness
  • Heart failure, heart attack or stroke (albeit rare)

Topical ointments like penciclovir, acyclovir and docosanol may also be suggested for oral herpes, but take note that none of these can fully eliminate the herpes virus alleviate common herpes symptoms.12,13,14 You may also be recommended some over-the-counter topical ointments and anesthetics to supposedly relieve pain, but they may not be completely effective.15

Natural and Herbal Treatments Are the Way to Go

Some natural remedies may help address some herpes indicators without the additional health risks. If you have herpes, ask your doctor about any of these substances that may help alleviate your condition:16

EchinaceaEight types of echinacea extracts possess potent antiviral capabilities against the HSV-1 virus, according to authors of this 2002 Planta Medica study.17

Propolis — An antioxidant-rich bee-derived resin, propolis may help improve immune system function. Various studies have also highlighted that it helps combat the HSV-1 virus18 and speeds up healing time for cold sores.19 However, if you have asthma or are allergic to bee products, do not use this.20

Lysine — This substance, which can be obtained from lysine-rich foods or high-quality supplements, may decrease the time of herpes outbreaks, and lower incidences of herpes recurrences.21

Refrain from consuming high calcium doses alongside lysine because it may raise calcium absorption in your body. If you have high cholesterol or triglyceride levels or heart disease, talk to your doctor about taking lysine supplements, as some animal studies have linked this nutrient to increased cholesterol and triglyceride levels.

Zinc — Ointments containing zinc were found to be effective in alleviating herpes symptoms.22 Just make sure your doses aren’t excessively high because it may lead to some side effects23 or interactions with a chemotherapy drug called cisplatin, or some antibiotics.24

If you want to try herbal treatments to address herpes, here are ideal options:25

  • Lemon balm — Its extract possesses antiviral abilities against the HSV-2 virus,26 while its essential oil may work as a topical treatment for herpes lesions.27
  • Aloe vera — Two different studies involving aloe vera extracts proved that it has antiviral abilities against the HSV-1 and HSV-2 viruses.28,29
  • Red ginseng extract — A 2013 study published in the Journal of Ginseng Research revealed that this extract helped increase resistance against vaginal infections caused by the herpes virus.30

While they’re not well-known compared to some of the supplements mentioned, under the supervision of your physician or homeopathic doctor you can also give homeopathic remedies a try:31

  • Rhus toxicodendron for oral herpes32 — Please note the common name for this is poison ivy. If you are allergic to poison ivy, do not use this without supervision of your physician.
  • Graphites or petroleum for genital herpes33
  • Sepia34 or Natrum muriaticum35 may work for both oral and genital herpes
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Simple Tips and Tricks to Relieve Pain-Causing Herpes

Certain household items may help lessen herpes-caused discomfort:

  • Ice packs —They may assist with pain relief. You can wrap some pieces of ice in flannel36 and place the pack over the affected area.37
  • Apple cider vinegar and tea tree oil — According to authors of this 2001 Die Pharmazie article, the combination of these two essential oils may be beneficial against herpes recurrences because they offer antiviral capabilities.38 However, be aware that apple cider vinegar may cause a stinging sensation after application.39 If you’re unsure about how to properly apply and use these substances, talk to your doctor. Don’t forget to take an allergen patch test too so you’re sure that you’re not allergic to tea tree oil.

There are certain habits that you should also incorporate into your lifestyle, especially if you have herpes:

  • Drink lots of high-quality, filtered water — Doing so may help dilute your urine and lessen pain  when you urinate.40
  • Avoid wearing tight clothing — They may lead to the appearance of sores41 and cause lesions to heal at a slower pace. Wear cotton underwear42 and loose-fitting clothing.43
  • Get adequate rest44 and try to relax — 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.45


Herpes: Introduction

What Is Herpes?

Herpes Types

Herpes Causes

Herpes Stages

Herpes Symptoms

Herpes Prevention

Herpes Diagnosis

Herpes Treatment

Living With Herpes

Herpes FAQ

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Living With Herpes

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