Natural Health Remedies for You

Natural Home Remedies for Shingles

This page focuses on home remedies for shingles (herpes zoster) - using herbs, nutritional supplements and aromatherapy to treat shingles. Causes and symptoms of shingles will also be covered.

Shingles, also known as herpes zoster, is a very painful condition caused by the varicella-zoster virus, which is part of a group of viruses called herpes viruses, which includes the viruses that cause cold sores and genital herpes.

Varicella-zoster virus is the same virus that causes chicken pox. After chicken pox clears up, the virus remains dormant in nerve cells in the body. For reasons that remain a mystery (although it tends to happen more often to people whose immune systems are compromised), it can re-emerge decades later as shingles, with symptoms that are more severe than chicken pox.

Shingles is not a life-threatening condition, but it can be very painful. It often affects one side of the trunk or face which becomes very sensitive. The sensitive area then becomes acutely painful, and a band of clear, water-filled blisters appears. After two to three weeks, the blisters will turn yellow and scabs will form. Eventually, the scabs fall off, sometimes leaving scars.

In some cases, mostly in people over 50, shingles can lead to a condition called postherpetic neuralgia. This condition causes the skin to remain painful and sensitive to touch for months or even years after the blisters disappear.

Symptoms of Shingles

The signs and symptoms of shingles may show up in various stages:
  • Onset: Tingling, burning, numbness, extreme sensitivity or pain in a certain part of the body (e.g. one side of the chest, the back, or the face)
  • 2-3 Days Later: Small itchy and painful bumps appear on the sensitive area
  • 3-5 Days Later: The bumps become fluid-filled clear blisters that look like chicken pox
  • 2-3 Weeks Later: The blisters turn yellow and fill with pus. They then break open and begin to scab over
  • 4-5 Weeks Later: The scabs fall off, the pain and itching stop. (Except in the case of postherpetic neuralgia, in which the skin remains painful and sensitive to touch for months or even years afterwards)
During the period when blisters appear on the skin, you may also have these symptoms:
  • Fever and chills
  • Headache
  • Upset stomach or abdominal pain


Causes of Shingles

As mentioned above, shingles is caused by the varicella-zoster virus. Anyone who has had chicken pox may develop shingles. Although the exact reason as to why the virus may re-emerge in some people is not known, it is believed that people who are older and those with weakened immune systems are more prone to shingles.


Natural Home Remedies for Shingles

Natural home remedies for shingles include the use of herbs, nutritional supplements, and aromatherapy to alleviate the symptoms and to enhance immune functions. Please also visit our page on Homeopathic Remedies for Shingles.

NOTE: It is advisable to consult with a doctor before you choose to use any home remedies for shingles. Your doctor should monitor your condition to make sure that the virus does not spread to your eyes or your internal organs, where it can do a lot of damage. Sometimes, the virus can also cause pneumonia or other secondary infections which can be deadly for older people or those with compromised immune systems.

Home Remedies for Shingles - Herbs

Herbs are effective home remedies for shingles. The following herbs are particularly effective:
  • Lemon Balm (Melissa): Lemon balm contains compounds that are antiviral. Lemon balm has been found to be effective against the herpes viruses including those that cause cold sores and genital herpes. For shingles, try a mixed-mint tea made with lots of lemon balm plus any other mints that you have on hand, for example, oregano, peppermint, rosemary, sage, or thyme. Put a little licorice in the tea as well. Drink the tea and apply it directly to the rash a few times a day.
  • Cayenne: Cayenne contains capsaicin that can block pain signals from nerves just under the skin. Get a cream with an 0.025 to 0.075 percent capsaicin extract and apply the cream topically to the affected area a few times a day.
  • Aloe Vera: The herb aloe vera has great healing power - it is anti-bacterial, anti-viral, and anti-fungal. The juice of this herb soothes and relieves irritation as it heals. Apply aloe vera gel over the affected area a couple of times daily.
  • Licorice Root: Licorice contains several antiviral and immune-boosting compounds. Take 500 mg of the capsule form or 4 ml of the tincture two to three times a day. You can also get a gel made from licorice root and apply the gel topically to the affected area.

    NOTE: Do not take licorice root if you have high blood pressure.
  • Echinacea: Echinacea is a great immune-booster and has antiviral properties as well. Recommended dosage for shingles is 500 mg for times daily.
  • Lomatium Root: Lomatium root is antiviral and can also enhance the immune system. Recommended dosage is 500 mg four times daily.


Home Remedies for Shingles - Nutritional Supplements

Vitamins and minerals play an important role in the treatment of shingles. In particular:
  • Vitamin C: Vitamin C has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. It can strengthen the immune system and reduce the duration of an infection. Recommended dosage is 1000 mg three to four times a day. Reduce dosage if diarrhea occurs.
  • Vitamin E: One of the worst potential consequences of a shingles attack is persistent pain (postherpetic neuralgia), caused by chronic nerve inflammation. Research suggests that high doses of vitamin E can help resolve this persistent pain. Recommended dosage to prevent postherpetic neuralgia is 400 IU daily. To treat postherpetic neuralgia, a much higher dosage is required and medical supervision is advisable. Vitamin E cream can also be applied topically to ease the pain.
  • Vitamin B12: Vitamin B12 is known to play an important role in nerve function. Studies show that Vitamin B12 helps relieve the pain caused by shingles and it also shortens the course of the illness. However, injections of vitamin B12 are absorbed more efficiently by the body than supplements. If you are interested in B12 injections, consult with your doctor.
  • Zinc: Zinc has been found in studies to reduce the frequency, duration, and severity of outbreaks caused by herpes viruses. Take a zinc supplement 30 mg twice a day with 3 mg of copper.


Home Remedies for Shingles - Aromatherapy

Essential oils make handy and effective home remedies for shingles. Oils that have been recommended for treating shingles include:

  • Bergamot
  • Chamomile
  • Eucalyptus
  • Geranium
  • Lavender
  • Lemon
  • Tea tree
You can add two to three drops of any of the above oils (or a combination of 2 - 3 oils) to a tablespoon of carrier oil and use a cotton swab to apply the oil mixture directly to painful areas. Alternatively, you can add a few drops of any of the above oils to a bath.

NOTE: Tea tree oil causes irritation to some people. If you are using the oil for the first time, start off by using just a little and never use it undiluted.

Related Topics

Homeopathic Remedies for Shingles
Home Remedies for Fever Blisters
Natural Herpes Remedies


Balch and Stengler, Prescription for Natural Cures. (John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 2004)
Duke, J.A., The Green Pharmacy Herbal Handbook. (St. Martin's Paperbacks, 2002)
Editors of Prevention Health Books, Prevention's Healing with Vitamins. (Rodale Books, 1998) (

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