Herpes -- Cold Sores, Genital Herpes & Shingles

Our Pages

- Herbal Medicine
- The Clinic
- Richard Whelan

- Alphabetically

- By Group
- Alphabetical

- Clinic Hours
Clinic Location

- Ancient wisdom in the modern world


Finding a good herbalist

Much of what's written in this article is entirely suitable for a person to work through themselves but, especially if things are quite bad, or you just know that you need further help, then there may be a great deal of benefit to you to go to whatever lengths necessary to find a good herbalist or truly holistic practitioner to guide you on to a safe and strong treatment program. There's a short write-up to suggest how you might go about finding such a person here

Herpes - what are we up against?

Almost everyone (estimates are up to 95% of people) has the herpes 1 virus in their systems though only some go on to get outbreaks of the cold sores that this causes. Approximately 16% of the population has the herpes 2 virus that causes genital herpes though again less than 20% realise that they are infected. Fewer people (perhaps less than 1% overall) get infected with the herpes zoster virus that causes shingles though the risk and incidence of this increases with age.

All three of these problems share a common cause -- the herpes virus. From considerable practical experience working with many people who have been badly afflicted with this virus in each of these three different ways I want to share several strategies that I have seen to be of much help.

Firstly, we need to understand what we are up against! Viruses are weird organisms that are quite different to any other kind of life. They are true parasites and they cannot reproduce without a host, however many survive for very long periods in states of suspended animation.

We eventually find ways to get rid of most viral infections but the especially wicked nature of the herpes virus is in the way it manages to get inside the body and just stay there -- permanently! As anyone with any of the herpes infections knows all too well -- this is a problem that can, and does, come back...

However, once you get past 5 years with no outbreaks you can start talking about a problem being cured and that is exactly what I have seen in practice but, if we are going to aim for a long-term victory in this battle, then it is absolutely essential to have a healthy immune system. This is a big subject in itself that is discussed in more depth further below but, first of all, what can you do if you have an outbreak of herpes right now?

Hypericum perforatum (St John's wort)


Treating a current infection externally

The first thing anyone with an outbreak of herpes will want to do is to put something on it to make it go away! In this area, like any other, you will see that some people will respond much better to one approach than another and I would encourage anyone who regularly gets herpes outbreaks to be very open minded about trying different approaches to see what works best for them. If you take this approach, then it is highly likely that you will find at least one thing that will help to heal the lesions a great deal faster.

St John's Wort

The herb St John’s wort has a great deal to offer against the herpes virus from both the outside as well as when taken internally. If you ask around or contact a herbalist there is a good chance you will be able to obtain St John's as an infused oil (it should be a rich ruby red if it is of good quality) and many have found this to be excellent at reducing the pain and inflammation of a herpes or shingles attack if regularly rubbed into the affected area.

Essential Oils

Many others have found that the essential oils of, especially Lavender, but also Geranium and Eucalyptus, to be highly relieving to the nerve and tissue pain that comes with any kind of herpes outbreak.
Lavender is the one oil that for nearly anyone may be safely applied directly and without dilution to any kind of lesion. Both Eucalyptus and Geranium oils need to be diluted to be used safely, some people can use them more strongly concentrated but I think a safe level for anyone would be 5 drops of one or both per tsp of a carrier oil rubbed into the affected skin as often as required.

Lemon Balm

A very concentrated extract (70:1) of Lemon balm has been seen to be effective at reducing the severity and increasing the speed of healing of a herpes outbreak. This product has been imported from the US and I have recommended this product in the past and been happy with its results but it has proved difficult to obtain in recent years so you might need to do some checking for its availability wherever you are.


Some of my patients have tried acyclovir in one of its commercial preparations (Zovirax cream being the main one) and found it has not helped them and others have not found it to make a difference or just prefer not to use any kind of chemical drugs in or on their bodies. I do want to mention that, especially whilst a person was trying to deal with the cause of their getting recurrent herpes outbreaks, that I have no philosophical objection to this particular medication on the basis of it doing any kind of internal harm and that I would encourage a person not to feel guilty about using it if it is clearly helping them to prevent an attack or heal faster from an existing one.

Melissa officinalis (Lemon balm)


Treating a current infection internally

These may not be the only medicines I use to help a person with a current infection but if I had to pick what I personally think are the very best herbal allies to reliably help, and quickly too, then the following three herbs would be at the top of the list.

St John's Wort

I already mentioned about using an infused oil of St John's externally but I think that the internal use of this great herb is even better at both treating a current infection and, even more importantly, helping to break the cycle of recurrent infections in the future. St John's is like all herbal medicines in that its effectiveness is utterly dependent on it being of excellent quality and being taken in the right dose. For this reason, in particular, if it is at all possible, I urge you to find a herbalist as described at the beginning or a very reputable supplier to get your herbal medicines as I have to acknowledge that there are a terrible amount of short-cuts and unethical practices in the world of natural medicine. How you might best use this key ally against Herpes is written up in more detail in my article on St John's here.

Echinacea & Astragalus root

The other two great immune tonics that I feel are the very best at treating a current infection as well as preventing further ones are Echinacea root (a detailed article on it here) and Astragalus (more info here). Because they are such important tools in my own practice I've gone to some lengths to obtain the best possible quality dried herb of each in its raw form which we then we get encapsulated by a local company. On the one hand this means I know exactly where it comes from and can guarantee its quality, on the other it means we cut out all the middle men and can supply herbs to our patients most economically! As you will have already seen if you have looked around my website I do not sell these herbs or anything else online so the only reason I mention any of this is to underline the point made above about getting good St John's wort from a reputable supplier, it makes all the difference!

Echinacea angustifolia


Is Your Immune System Healthy?

If you are getting recurrent outbreaks of herpes, then you may need to consider the possibility that your immune system is too low to keep on top of this particularly nasty virus that will happily take a mile if you give it so much as an inch! The healthier a person’s immune system is the less likely they will get a recurrence of herpes or shingles and the faster they will recover if they do.

Start your enquiry into how likely your immune system needs attention by looking at this check list:

~ when I get a herpes sore (or any other kind of wound) does it take a long time to heal?
~ do I have signs of food intolerance such as a bloated stomach and dark rings under my eyes?
~ do I eat a healthy diet and would score myself at least 7 out of 10 for a good nutrition?
~ do I feel tired, tense or run down or am I relatively well in myself?

Slow Healing Infections/Wounds

We are exposed to literally thousands of different micro-organisms in our bodies and on our bodies every day however we have evolved remarkably powerful defences to these constant threats and if the immune system is not able to rapidly resolve an infection then there is a good likelihood that it is not functioning at its optimal potential.

Slow healing wounds or infections that take a long time to clear are almost certain signs that the immune system needs to be stronger as a whole. The general article on immune health here describes some of the practical tools that can be confidently expected to build better immunity.

Red & White Blood cells


Food Allergy/Intolerance

Food intolerances are really common and can be a key reason why people can keep falling prey to herpes outbreaks even when they may be otherwise looking after themselves well.

What happens with food intolerance is that there is a low grade allergy (wheat, eggs or dairy products being the most common triggers) that can give rise to inflammation and susceptibility to infection.

Food allergy is a complex subject that needs a thoughtful, sensitive and scientific approach. If you have the classic signs of frequent bloating in the abdomen and/or dark rings under the eyes then you should explore this subject further here.

Healthy Diet & Immunity

I analyse the blood and immune systems of pretty much everyone who comes to see me. I also often ask people to give themselves a score out of 10 for their diet. For many people there is an abundantly clear correlation between how healthy their diet is and how balanced and healthy their immune systems are. A good diet is really important for everyone and the older you get the more it matters.

I know that there is a lot of conflicting and crazy advice out in the health world but the simple and practical advice written up in the page called 'Excellent Nutrition' is dependable information and may help to point you in the right direction in this vital matter; you can find it here.


Stress & Immunity

There can be no shadow of a doubt that excess stress and tension can impact adversely on the immune system. Some people I have met with chronic herpes issues straight away volunteer their own belief that their problems are caused by stress or at least made worse by it.

If this is true for you then don't think it is too big a problem to deal with. I have worked successfully with so many people with high levels of stress, tension and anxiety that I know it can get better -- no matter how bad things may have become. The key is not expecting an overnight change but committing to a regular practice of doing those things that make you better.

Stress is such a big subject in itself that people can very quickly feel overwhelmed with how much advice and options they are presented to deal with it (another good reason, by the way, that working with a health advisor you trust can be so much better than going it alone!). If you personally feel that stress is the biggest issue that you need to really deal with in terms of your own herpes outbreaks then try to identify which of the following areas is the one that you most relate to and then focus your attention accordingly.



If you aren't sleeping well then you have to put this at the top of your priorities and be assured that there are very simple and effective herbs and strategies to help - more here.


If you feel that it is an anxiety kind of tension that is affecting your health the most then you should know that this is an area in which I have seen a certain approach work consistently, time and again and without fail. It's not easy, it's not overnight and it requires commitment, but it always works. Read here for a detailed description.


Many people who get very depressed continue to function in the world and they often internalise their process and, at least after a while, stop really talking about it. Just as with anxiety I have found that a certain approach, when taken consistently and patiently, always bears excellent results in the long run. I have written this up in detail here.


Some people will not feel that they are particular anxious or depressed but that they still feel that their stress levels are impacting negatively on their immune health and tendency to outbreaks. If this is the case then you may simply need to take the cure of relaxation! This is actually a lot easier said than done as people who are stressed don't relax well! It's really a matter of intention, if you know you need to do it and you want to do it then you just have to actually do it! I've put up some relaxation commentaries and music here that may be of help to you in this regard.


Constitutional Health Note

Finally, you might benefit from learning about your constitution to know what kind of foods, herbs, exercises etc. will work especially well for your health in general as well as what might potentially help your immune system to get into better balance for you to truly win the battle against herpes. As it happens the majority of the patients I have personally worked with who have bad problems with herpes have been Bears and then in second place there's been Eagles but in any case there is a brief introduction to this great subject here and a more detailed section on working out which constitution you are here.

Please understand that I cannot personally advise you without seeing you in my clinic.
This living 'book' is my labour of love so, wherever you are, I wish you peace & good health!



© 2011 R.J.Whelan Ltd