Shingles is a painful skin rash caused by exposure to the herpes-zoster virus. It can also be a reactivation of childhood chickenpox caused by the same virus. Shingles can be a very painful condition and early treatment is essential to reduce long-term discomfort.

Of course antiviral medication can be warranted; however, natural therapies are highly effective at decreasing the severity, length, and long-term side effects of shingles as a primary or adjunct treatment to pharmaceutical medication.

Natural treatments for shingles include anti-viral herbs, topical salves, nutritional supplements, and dietary recommendations. There are a variety of herbs with well known anti-viral properties; the two best herbal remedies for shingles are St. John’s wort and licorice root. Begin dosing these herbs every few hours for a constant supply to reduce viral replication and mitigate symptoms. However, herbal remedies can have side effects, and it is important to thoroughly understand any herb-drug interactions that may occur, as well as physical side effects from the single herb itself. For example, licorice can raise blood pressure or adversely affect certain cortisol-related health conditions like Cushing’s syndrome. St. John’s wort can negatively affect selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor medications, a drug category of primarily anti-depressants. It can also cause sun sensitivity resulting in sunburns. While herbs are highly effective for shingles, it is important to make sure they are taken with the appropriate amount of precaution.

Topical salves can assist with pain caused by shingles, and limit the spread of the rash. The primary herbs used in topical salves for shingles are licorice and lemon balm. Both herbs can reduce symptoms and severity of the shingles when used regularly throughout the day. Cayenne ointment can also reduce pain, but should be used with precaution if there are open vesicles or blisters on the skin. Homeopathic arnica montana in cream form can be used for pain and discomfort, and is gentle on abraded skin. These herbs can be found in pre-made salves or ointments in most health food stores.

Supporting the body with nutritional supplements is essential with a shingles outbreak. Shingles can occur with an imbalance of arginine to lysine in the body. Supplementing with l-lysine can limit the outbreak and enhance healing. Vitamin B12 orally and by injection can limit the spread of the rash, reduce acute pain, and prevent long-term post-shingle neuralgias. In addition, immune boosting supplements such as vitamins A, C, D, B-complex, and zinc will assist the body in a more rapid healing time.

Dietary considerations are always an important component of any healing health plan. With shingles specifically, avoiding foods high in arginine which disrupt the balance of lysine in the body is helpful. Arginine rich foods to avoid are nuts, seeds, soy foods, chocolate, and oats. Lysine rich foods to add to the diet are poultry, organic beef, fish, dairy, fruits, and vegetables. Eliminating white flour products, simple carbs such as white rice, gluten, sugar, and alcohol can also help boost the immune system.

A shingles outbreak should be approached with medical intervention that is appropriate to the individual. Prior to beginning any treatment, a patient should consult a health care provider that can meet their specific needs.

Dr. Shannon Sinsheimer is a state licensed naturopathic doctor with Optimal Health Center in Palm Desert (760) 568.2598.

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Comments (9)

  • I have shingles (Ramsay Hunt Syndrome) and I’ve bought some liquorice root. I also have an underactive thyroid.. Please could you suggest a safe dose of liquorice root?

    • Lynda – So sorry we are just seeing this message. I have reached out to Dr. Sinsheimer and hope to have a reply posted for you soon.
      Be well ~
      Lauren Del Sarto

  • I have Shingles rash under my arm down the side of my breast. Stings terrably and has scabs a little bit. I have been taking A,C, D, Zink and B12 injections. The hurt and burning does not go away. I tried CBD 120mg rubbing oil that helps briefly, not long enough. I read there are some tatoo numbing creams but they don’t seem strong enough. Mostly contain lidocane 5%. One I found list 15.6% lidocane. Some numbing creams say anesthetic cream but do not list the ingrediant. I wonder if 15.5% lidocane better than 120mg of CBD oil.
    Is there something better?

    • Lauren Del Sarto


      Thank you for reading Desert Health. Dr. Sinsheimer mentions several things it doesn’t look like you have tried: licorice, lemon balm, St. John’s wart…. Please read the article once again for additional tips.

      With appreciation ~
      Lauren Del Sarto

      • Recently had a shingles outbreak. Because I had a kidney transplant and take immune suppression medicines
        I cannot take St. John’s wort or licorice due to high blood pressure. Doctors placed me on intravenous anti-viral medicine for quicker recovery. Within the outbreak stopped spreading and is drying. Pain is lingering so I bought Homeopathic arnica montana gel rather than cream by mistake. Both ingredients compare, what is the difference with using the cream for soothing pain? Doesn’t feel like arnica is working. I’m also gonna try capsaicin for lingering pain. Also taking Vitamin C, B-12, D and L-lysine as supplements and eating more high Lysine rich foods. At this point doctors aren’t offering additional post remedy just following plus wait and see. With needing to taje anti-rejection medicines, what other suggestions may help to hopefully reduce both post neuralgia and lingering pain? Thanks in advance!

        • Shannon Sinsheimer, ND

          Hi Toni,

          Thank you for your inquiry. Post-herpetic neuralgia can be very painful, as you know and have experienced. Given your complicated medical history, it is difficult to respond without really doing a thorough intake of your history, medications, etc. I wish there was more I could suggest, but I would need to make this specialized to your needs and medical history.

    • Try Arnica Montana, or a shingles cream by Magnilife called Pain & Itch Relief Gel (it has a purple background on label, and it shows a human body with the dermatomes). I use arnica gel and this shingles gel and it works wonders.. the arnica works the best. it takes the throbbing pain out. I have shingles orally and on my scalp the worst. I have it spread through the body too, but its worse on the scalp. i use these creams on my scalp. the arnica doesn’t leave the hair crusty. I also use lemon balm and will be upping my L-Lysine dose.

      Hope this helps!

      • Lauren Elizabeth Del Sarto

        Thank you for your input, Amanda ~

        And for reading Desert Health.

        Lauren Del Sarto

  • Gloria Monasterios

    I have shingles but not the one that hurt Do after reading all these I feel lucky , it is just uncomfortable the feeling in my left side, my leg the skin the feeling and sensation of burning but don show any thing and just in the left side of the body , I have all king of exam and did not show any thing I was very frustrate until another person show up with the same symptoms and told me it was Shingles so I will try the Herbs Thank you


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