Cold sore treatment is frequently requested at my clinic. You probably know a few people with cold sores, because it affects twenty percent of the population. Cold sores are another form of the herpes virus, just like shingles (herpes zoster). Studies show that both the oral (type 1 herpes simplex) and genital herpes (type 2 herpes simplex) are very common. In Australia and New Zealand , the statistics say that about one out of five of the total adolescent and adult population are infected with herpes simplex virus. There are several types of herpes, but the most common being herpes simplex type 1 – cold sores, a common infection generally transmitted through oral/saliva (kissing) and herpes simplex type 2 – genital herpes, which is transmitted generally through sexual contact. The herpes family of viruses also include chickenpox and shingles (herpes zoster), and glandular fever.
Cold sores (herpes type 1) are an embarrassment for many people who have them, but what about some patients I see who experience cold sores inside their nose or on the tongue? I can remember years ago when herpes type 2 was viewed to be as bad as contracting syphilis, and today we are much more accepting of those with herpes. Spare a thought for those people with herpes who do not respond well or who experience major side effects from conventional anti-viral medicine treatment, they have exhausted all other means and then they come to see a naturopath. It is from my encounters with such herpes patients over the years that I write this article which I trust will be of benefit to you if you suffer from this common complaint.
Herpes Type 1 and 2
There are two types of herpes simplex viruses
Herpes simples virus Type 1 (HSV-1) is the herpes virus that is responsible for cold sores in and around the mouth and lips. You may get HSV-1 infection by coming into contact with the saliva of an infected person such as kissing. But did you know that genital herpes can also be caused by HSV-1, the virus which usually causes cold sores on the lips and face, through oral/genital contact. It is possible to infect the genital area with the virus via contact with a cold sore (herpes type 1, part of the same family).
Herpes simples virus Type 2 (HSV-2) is the one that causes genital herpes. You can get HSV-2 during sexual contact with someone who has a genital HSV-2 infection. Genital herpes, for most people, is an occasionally recurrent, sometimes painful condition causing painful small blister like sores, and anyone who is sexually active is at risk of catching genital herpes, regardless of their gender, race or social class. What is not commonly known is that HSV type 2 can cause cold sores.
After the acute flare up initially after infection, the virus lays dormant in nervous system tissue. In the case of HSV-2, the virus can lay low in the ganglion (nervous system tissue) of the lumbar or sacral spine (lower back). I have seen patients who complain of pain or a discomfort in this region when the experience flare ups, and I have even associated some cases of a flare up with a chiropractic treatment even. With HSV-1 however, the virus will lay dormant in the nervous tissue of the cervical (neck) spine until the trigger occurs and then the lip starts to tingle.
Symptoms of Herpes Simplex
Herpes symptoms can vary tremendously, and many of those with a herpes infection have few, if any, noticeable symptoms. In people who do have symptoms, the symptoms can begin anywhere from a few days up to three weeks after the person was exposed to someone with HSV-1 or 2 infection.
Initially, the symptoms may last for several weeks, and the first acute episode of herpes is usually worse than outbreaks that come later. The first time a person has a herpes infection, it is common for them to develop a fever for a few days, some may develop night sweats or have swollen lymph nodes in the armpit or groin on the affected side.
Symptoms vaguely similar to those of flu may accompany these outbreaks, including fever, headache, muscle aches and fatigue. The person will experience a generalised feeling of fatigue and discomfort ranging from a few days right up to three weeks.
The predominant symptom of herpes is the outbreak of painful, itching blisters filled with fluid on and around the site of initial infection. For HSV-1 (oral herpes) the blisters can vary from being on the lip to even inside the mouth and on the tongue.
For HSV-2 (genital herpes) females may have a vaginal discharge, there may be painful urination and experience swollen and tender lymph glands in the groin. The skin area affected is seen at the entrance to the vagina as small blisters, and the entrance may be swollen, red and tender. These small blisters can be seen anywhere in a small cluster around the vulva or labia. With men who have HSV-1, symptoms can be a small cluster of blisters anywhere on the penis of foreskin, urination can be painful and the man’s lymph nodes in his groin (corresponding to the side his skin is affected) may be tender and slightly swollen.
Eventually the herpes infection settles down, and the person experiences “flare-ups” ranging from quite regularly to very rarely. The skin in the affected area will become more sensitive and signal an imminent case of herpes. A tingling sensation can be felt and then the blisters may appear which can itch intensely, and may even create a burning sensation if ruptured. It is in the herpes sufferers best interests to discover how to improve their health to the point where they rarely experience these flare-ups.
Many people with genital herpes experience around five to eight flare-ups per year, but not everyone has the same or recurrent symptoms. I have found that as time goes on, the number of outbreaks usually decreases with age. Oral herpes can recur as often as monthly in women before their period or with others it only comes one or two times each year when they experience their biggest stress. Sores typically come back near the site of the first infection. Usually, as the outbreaks recur, there are fewer sores and they heal faster and are less painful.
Usually the blisters will disappear without treatment in two to 10 days, but the virus will remain in the body, lying dormant among clusters of nerve cells until another outbreak is triggered. Factors that can trigger an outbreak include stress, illness such as a cold, fever, fatigue, sunburn, menstruation or sexual intercourse. Many patients in my experience are able to anticipate an outbreak when they notice a warning sign (That tingling sensation, called a “prodrome”) of the approaching flare-up. It is when they feel signs that an outbreak is about to start that they are particularly contagious, even though the skin still appears normal. This is the time to take action and immediately follow my plan below.
If you do have herpes, especially if it is severe, I can highly recommend a course of natural medicine treatment for at least six to twelve months, because, unfortunately, doctors view herpes infections as “incurable” disease requiring a lifetime of drugs in order to suppress the symptoms. If you follow my plan seriously for up to six months, I guarantee that you will notice an almost complete cessation of flare-ups.
In conventional medicine, a herpes diagnosis is made by a doctor based on the appearance of your skin in the affected area, and with special swabs sent for analysis to a lab. Antiviral treatment is often recommended, generally in the form of pharmaceutical drugs.
Unlike many infections, herpes cannot be cured because drugs that will attack the virus while it lies dormant in the nerve cells may also damage these nerve cells. However, there is treatment available for acute outbreaks that involves the use of anti-viral drugs such as Acyclovir.
Acyclovir has been found to reduce the reproduction of the virus in initial outbreaks, thus possibly lessening the number of subsequent outbreaks. To be effective, therapy must be started immediately after the first sores appear. Every sexual partner of the infected person needs to be examined, and if necessary, treated.
Long-term drug therapy (‘suppressive treatment’) may be helpful for individuals who suffer frequent recurrent outbreaks. Suppressive treatment will reduce outbreaks by 85 percent and reduces viral shedding by more than 90 percent.
During a Flare-Up
During an outbreak of genital herpes, a number of measures can be taken to make the person more comfortable. It is important to boost your immune system and relax more.
- Wear loose clothing
- Regular relaxation
- Take plenty of vitamin c, lysine and zinc
- Eat foods high in lysine and low in arginine, see diet information
- Try propolis ointment (from the beehive)
- Avoid touching any sores
- Wash hands if you do touch the sores!
- Avoid intimacy if you have lesions. This is how herpes can spread.
Eric’s Herpes Treatment Plan
You can treat herpes simplex conditions naturally, in fact this is one condition we can get fantastic results with many patients. The trick is to take immediate steps when you feel it coming on. As SOON as you feel a tingle or a sensation, you take action! I’d recommend Vitamin C at once, and start taking one level teaspoon twice daily. Immediately start on my Herpes Diet and in addition take a product called Blister Free, and you will need to contact me about this capsule. So, by changing your diet, taking Vitamin C and Blister Free as well as taking it a little easier on yourself (identify stress in your life NOW) you will be able to in most cases avoid the full-blown lesions from developing.
Topical (skin) treatments (during an outbreak)
- Hair Dryer – Treat herpes with a hair dryer – If you suffer from genital herpes it is important to keep the area clean and dry. After soaking in a bath use a blow dryer to dry the area. Keeping the area dry will help relieve the discomfort associated with herpes.
- Epsom salts – Treat herpes with Epsom salt – Half fill a bath with warm water and add some Epsom salt. Soak in the warm bath for about 20 minutes. The Epsom salt will help to clear up a breakout of herpes in no time.
- Baking soda – Treat herpes with baking soda – Use a cotton ball to pat baking soda directly onto the sores caused by herpes. Doing this will dry the sores out and stop the itch. Corn starch can also be used instead of baking soda. It works the same way and dries the sores out. I’ve also heard of good results using potato starch or juice.
- Propolis tincture or ointment – Good feedback here too, get some good quality propolis tincture and apply this to the blisters several times a day. Use a cotton ball and make sure you wash your hands.
- Tea bags – Wet a tea bag with cold water and place the bag into the fridge for half an hour to make the tea bag cold. You could also soak the tea bag in cold fridge water and then place the tea bag directly onto the blisters. Tannic acid also helps soothe genital tissues.
- Ice – Treat herpes with ice – This therapy really works well, according to those with severe herpes – Place some ice cubes into a cotton face cloth or something similar. Place it on the sores for instant relief. Only leave it for 10 to 15 minutes 3 or 4 times each day.
Herpes Dietary Treatment (before & during outbreak)
My herpes diet has been especially formulated for those suffering form herpes type viruses, the foods listed in bold are the key suspects to eat more of or to eliminate before or during a flare-up. It is recommended that you avoid or eliminate the foods which contain the amino acid Arginine, which aid in viral replication, particularly at the time of the outbreak (i.e., when you feel a ‘tingle’) Try to establish which foods in particular trigger your responses. Eat foods high in Lysine, an amino acid which inhibits viral replication of the herpes virus. To get the best possible results, take Vitamin C and a most effective product called Blister Free three times daily at the beginning of an outbreak, to help in quickly reducing the replication. Keep taking Blister Free and Daily-C for up to a week until all signs and symptoms are gone. Confused or want a more personal approach? Then book in for a consultation, which can be in my clinic, on the telephone or Skype.
Prevention of Herpes Simplex
To keep herpes from spreading, intimate contact should be avoided when sores are on the body. Itching, burning or tingling may occur just before the sores develop, so it is important not to kiss somebody (HSV-1) if you can active cold sores and to refrain from sexual intercourse during this time. If you touch the sores, wash your hands with soap and water and do not share towels or clothing. Babies can be infected with the herpes virus. If you are pregnant, you should tell your doctor if you have been exposed to anyone with herpes, even if you have never had any symptoms. Your doctor can take special precautions at the time of delivery to protect the baby from getting infected with herpes.
Herpes Type 1 and 2 is a condition you can live with, I have seen many hundreds of patients with herpes over the years and can honestly tell you that natural medicine is very effective indeed with this complaint. When the patient learns the principles of how to manage this condition naturally, they will never have to rely on antiviral medicines ever again. Herpes zoster can be more difficult to treat however, and well may be the subject of another upcoming article!