Shingles is an exceptionally painful condition resulting from reactivation of the varicella-zoster virus(VZV), also known as the chicken pox virus. Once a bout of chicken pox has passed, the virus remains dormant in nerves in the spinal cord.
Later in life, as a result of compromised immunity due to increased stress levels, illness, older age, injury or immune-suppressing drugs, the residual virus can re-emerge and follow nerve pathways to the surface of the skin, where painful blisters with burning and itching occur.
What are some shingles natural treatments and remedies?
Once a flare-up is underway, relief through topical treatments is the goal. These range from doctor-prescribed to basic home remedies.
Here are a few of the latter:
Apple cider vinegar compresses prove to be a useful shingles treatment for many. Mix a 1:1 up to a 1:4 ratio of water to vinegar. Soak a smooth cotton cloth in the solution and apply to the blisters and pain-affected areas several times daily.
Zinc and vitamin E salve is another option. By combining OTC zinc ointment with a capsule or two of natural vitamin E (not synthetic DL-tocopherol) and a tablespoon of high quality aloe vera juice, this effective pain-relieving salve can be applied to the affected areas with good results.
Studies have shown regular use of capsaicin creams help with postherpetic neuralgia, the residual nerve pain many suffer from after a shingles outbreak clears up. These are readily available in health food stores and drug stores and can be purchased online.
What else can be done?
While the above natural shingles treatments help millions, the real key to controlling shingles outbreaks lies within the immune system. Strengthening and modulation of a person's immunity may prevent the reactivation of the virus,and thus prevent the painful episodes of blistering and nerve pain.
Below are some nutritionally-based options to consider:
Shingles is sometimes called herpes-zoster, highlighting its relation to other herpes-based viruses. Studies have shown that taking 1000 mg of l-lysine (an amino acid) three times per day has proven effective in interrupting the replication of the
virus by competing with its need for the amino acid l-arginine. Therefore, it's also important to avoid arginine rich foods such as nuts and seeds, chocolate, red wine, tea, coffee, beer, gelatin, and more. Maintaining a low-arginine diet for an extended
period of time will support other anti-shingles efforts.
Proteolytic enzymes, which mean literally protein-digesting, have a proven history of effective anti-viral and anti-inflammatory usage. Cautions include not taking them with other blood-thinning medications and only using very high-quality products, often available only through natural health practitioners.
Vitamins A, B, C, D, and E
These all have long-standing overall health and immunity-enhancing benefits.
Vitamin A is essential for infection fighting by increasing the body's infection-fighting cells, including natural killer cells and helper T-cells. Up to 20,000 IU daily during outbreaks can be safely tolerated, and a maintanance dosage ranges from 2500 to 5000 IU daily.
B-complex vitamins benefits are so well studied and so numerous that their reputation is beyond question. Daily supplementation
is vital. In the case of shingles, B-12 has been shown to mitigate nerve pain associated with postherpetic neuralgia, and it's available
through sublingual lozenges and shots at a doctor's office.
Vitamin C supports the immune system in several ways. It has known anti-viral action, strengthens white blood cell functioning,
and works to protect vitamin E in the body, making it more effective. Most studies demonstrating vitamin C's benefits use the
ascorbic acid form. Health practitioners regularly suggest using the "bowel tolerance" approach to dosaging. This means the body
releases excess amounts through loosening the bowels, thereby setting an individual's needs at the point just before this happens.
Vitamin D has enjoyed much time in the media limelight lately, and for good reason. Many studies have confirmed its anti-viral properties
and its significant ability to regulate immune system response. While blood tests are available to measure individual need, anyone can
safely take 2000 IU daily. Adequate calcium and magnesium are equally important when supplementing with vitamin D.
Vitamin E also proves an important part of supporting immune health. It helps protects cells from viral attacks; it's a vital anti-oxidant;
and it helps prevent nerve damage, relieves nerve pain, and helps with tissue repair and healing. Natural vitamin E should be used,
and recommedations are set at 400 IU daily.
What about herbs and other available shingles natural treatments?
There is a vast range of other proven and folk remedy options for shingles. Among these are acupunture treatments, homeopathic
remedies, flower essences, and essential oils. Herbs believed to be useful for the condition are licorice root (deglycyrrhized should
be used), St. John's wort, reishi mushroom, garlic, propolis, echinacea, passion flower, and lemon balm. Their effects range from
anti-viral to immune modulating and from to anti-inflammatory to pain and anxiety reducing.
By all means, with shingles outbreaks, a visit to a physician is in order. Additionally, these shingles natural treatments and remedies
have proven helpful to millions of sufferers.
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