Oral and genital herpes, while not a seriously health-threatening condition, can be painful, frustrating, and embarrassing to the many people affected by it. There are currently no cures for herpes; but there are ways to deal with the pain and itching of the herpes lesions, as well as methods to reduce the number of outbreaks that occur.
Medicinal Topical Treatments For Healing And Soothing
Since herpes is a viral infection, many of the medicines available for topical treatment are antivirals – and most of them are recommended for use only with oral herpes. Topical medicines combine antivirals with barrier ingredients that block the spread of herpes and speed up the healing and duration of the symptoms.
The most easily available topical medicines for oral herpes sores are Docosanol, sold over the counter as Abreva, and Lipactin gel. Both of these may speed the healing process of oral herpes outbreaks. They are not recommended as treatment for genital herpes sores.
Penciclovir cream, marketed as Denavir, is an antiviral available by prescription that provides some relief from the itching and pain of oral herpes lesions, as well as helping them to heal more rapidly. Zilactin is a gel that contains the anesthetic benzocaine, which soothes pain and itching, and creates a barrier that helps prevent spreading of the virus to other sites.
Taking an analgesic like aspirin, ibuprofen, or acetaminophen can also help to ease the discomfort of active herpes sores. This is an especially good way to ease the pain of genital herpes outbreaks.
Natural Remedies To Ease Discomfort And Promote Healing
A recent study seems to prove what herbalists have been telling us for years: black tea is an effective natural antiviral treatment with the additional benefit of being anti-inflammatory. Take advantage of the healing properties of black tea by brewing a cup of tea, then applying the warm (not hot) tea bag directly to a herpes sore. Leaving the tea bag on the sore for a few minutes will soothe pain and itching and promote quick healing. You can repeat this process two or three times a day.
Another effective remedy for active herpes outbreaks is Melissa Officinalis, commonly known as lemon balm. Like black tea, lemon balm is rich in antiviral tannins, and it also contains painkilling terpenes. Available in creams, ointments, and extracts, lemon balm can be applied directly to herpes sores to calm pain and promote healing.
One other natural remedy that shows great promise is propolis. This is a resin that bees make when constructing a hive, and you can find it in lotions and in some organic honeys. Propolis has both antibacterial and antiviral properties, and has been shown to speed up the healing of herpes sores.
To relieve the itching and promote healing of genital herpes, try bathing in a warm, relaxing bath infused with Epsom salts. Two cups of Epsom salts well dissolved in a comfortable water temperature will help to soothe inflammation and promote rapid healing by drying out lesions. Remember to dry yourself thoroughly and gently after bathing, and launder towels to avoid reinfecting other areas of your body.
Finally, studies show that Aloe Vera cream or zinc oxide cream applied to herpes sores will decrease healing time. The soothing effects of these creams also minimize the symptoms of pain and itching.
Recommended Reading: Remedies For Herpes And Cold Sores Relief
Prescription Medication For Managing Herpes
Prescription antiviral medications are probably the most efficient way to stop active herpes outbreaks before they happen. Taken orally, a number of antivirals have been proven to cut down on the frequency of outbreaks, and lower the intensity and duration of outbreaks when they do occur. All the antiviral medications work in essentially the same way: they slow down the virus’ reproductive activities. This gives your body’s immune system a chance to defend against the infection.
The original antiviral used to combat the herpes virus is aciclovir, sold as Zovirax. It is now also available in a less expensive generic formula. Valtrex (valaciclovir) is a relative of aciclovir that appears to be more readily absorbed into the body. Penciclovir was developed as a topical medication, but its cousin Famvir (famciclovir) has shown good results taken orally.
Your doctor may prescribe different dosages of antiviral medications depending on whether you are taking them to treat the first outbreak, or recurring outbreaks, or to suppress outbreaks before they happen. In all situations, however, medication will most often keep symptoms shorter in duration and less severe in intensity. In some cases it will also stop viral shedding where the virus is infectious to others.
If you experience six or more outbreaks in a year, your doctor may recommend suppressive therapy. This usually involves taking antiviral medication on a daily basis. Suppressive therapy not only significantly reduces the number of outbreaks, it also reduces the likelihood of transmitting herpes to your partner.
Reducing And Controlling Outbreaks With Supplements And Vitamins
Probably the most effective and proven dietary supplement, the amino acid Lysine has shown the ability to lessen the frequency and control the intensity of herpes outbreaks. Lysine blocks the effects of argenine in the body – and argenine is an amino acid associated with the replication process of the herpes virus. In other words, taking daily doses (between 500 and 1000 mgs, based on body weight) of lysine supplements can interfere with the growth of the virus in much the same way as antiviral medications.
Zinc, often used as a supplement to prevent and treat the common cold, may also be useful in managing oral herpes flare-ups. As well as optimizing the body’s resistance against viral infections, zinc also assists with the healing of wounds and scars.
Among the vitamins you may find recommended for managing herpes outbreaks, the most effective appears to be Vitamin A and C . Adding these vitamins to your diet is a proven way to enhance your body’s immune function since a weak immune system has been linked with the “reactivation” of herpes symptoms.
Diet And Lifestyle Changes For Herpes Management
In addition to using medications, supplements, and topical treatments, it is possible to limit the frequency of herpes flare-ups with practical diet and lifestyle choices. While none of these options will have dramatic effects on your symptoms, they will help keep your body in balance and eliminate some of the stressors and triggers that precede most herpes outbreaks.
As mentioned earlier, two amino acids – lysine and argenine – have an effect on the herpes virus. Argenine is part of the viral growth and replication process, so it’s wise to limit the amount of argenine present in your diet, especially during an active herpes outbreak. High argenine foods to avoid include chocolate and coffee, nuts, seeds, and raisins, oatmeal, whole wheat bread, lentils, brown rice, and coconut. You might also want to stop eating citrus fruits during a flare-up, as citric acid can be irritating to sores on the lips and mouth.
On the other hand, lysine inhibits the functioning of argenine, thereby reducing viral replication – so it’s a good idea to eat more foods that are high in lysine. To increase the amount of lysine in your diet, eat more cheese and egg yolks, chicken, fish, and beef, milk, yogurt, and cheese, brewer’s yeast, mango, papaya, apricot, avocado, apple, and sprouts. While not especially high in lysine, cruciferous vegetables like cabbage, brussels sprouts, and broccoli all contain large amounts of indole-3-carbinol, which may also be useful in suppressing the herpes virus.
Whenever possible, eat fruits and vegetables raw rather than cooked. Raw vegetables retain all their vitamins and nutrients, while most cooking processes allow nutrients to leach away. As a general rule, avoid overly processed foods. They’re full of unnecessary ingredients and allergens, and are usually lacking in nutritional value.
In addition to monitoring your diet, you can manage herpes by changing or adding a few habits to your daily routine. Keep your immune system strong by exercising regularly. Wear loose, breathable cotton undergarments to promote healing of genital herpes sores. Meditate or practice relaxation techniques to lower your overall stress – too much stress can actually weaken your immune system and increase the frequency and intensity of herpes flare-ups.
Above all, remember to love and value yourself. Contracting herpes sometimes causes people to feel shame and self-loathing – don’t fall into that trap! Manage your symptoms with good diet and lifestyle choices, topical treatments, and medications, and live your life with confidence and abundance.