Herpes -- Cold Sores, Genital Herpes & Shingles

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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 Types

Almost everyone, estimates are up to 95% of all 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 less than 20% realise that they are infected.

Much fewer people, 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. Viruses are weird organisms that are different to any other kind of life. They are true parasites that cannot reproduce without a host, but many can survive for long periods in states of suspended animation.

We eventually find a way to get rid of most viral infections but the herpes virus is one that manages to get inside the body and stay there, indefinitely. The goal in treating any form of Herpes is to cure it, which means getting to 5 years with no new outbreaks. This is certainly an achievable goal, as a number of cases treated in person have now proven. The common ground for success is getting the immune system strong enough to stop the virus from again getting the upper hand.


Case Histories

I've been in full time practice in Christchurch, New Zealand since 1989. Many people with chronic herpes infections have come in over those years and, whilst each case needs an individualised approach, herbal medicines and other natural methods have been seen to have a high success rate.

There is much common ground between people and some general recommendations are discussed below. Firstly however, from the clinic files, the following cases are shown to demonstrate how different kinds of approaches can be needed to get a good result.


I first met Claire when she was 24 years old. She was working in graphic design and was from the Bear constitution, more about that below. She came in because she was feeling tired all the time and one of her most upsetting symptoms was that she would get frequent and severe outbreaks of cold sores over her lips.

I met her in August and she said she had counted 9 outbreaks since the beginning of the year. She wasn't suffering from an outbreak when she saw me but she showed me some photographs of how bad they could get. which is partly why I pulled her case notes when I was thinking about which cases to share. They were really bad, not just one or two blisters but angry rashes of them and they weren't just unsightly, they were painful. As well as countless tubes of Zovirax, Claire had taken Acylovir internally for over 2 years. She said she wasn't sure it was making a bit of difference but was too nervous to stop it either.

Claire had been having problems with her health since she had a bad case of glandular fever at the age of 17. Her fatigue and her herpes infections had given her bad anxiety and depression and she now isolated herself from most people most of the time, but prior to getting sick she had been an outgoing, positive person with a good circle of friends.

I was sure that Claire was suffering from the post-viral syndrome and that the herpes was just one aspect of this. So, we got started with the following.

The Prescription

Immune Formula

Echinacea 180mls
Astragalus 140mls
St John's wort 140mls
Licorice root 80mls

We make our own tinctures from organic dried herbs, so it might be important that you understand that the optimal dose range will vary with different preparations made by different companies or practitioners,

The above liquid extracts were combined into a formula to make 540mls. This will just fit into a 500ml amber pharm round bottle and is enough to last about 4 weeks if taken at the maximum safe and effective dose of 10mls twice a day, which is what we used.

These 4 herbs are some of the best immune tonics in all of nature. You can learn more about any of them in the A-Z found here

Cold & Flu tea

After using the immune formula for a few days. Claire was to go through the arduous, but very effective, method of activating the immune system known as diaphoresis, or 'sweating therapy'. She was to do this treatment once a week over the month for a total of 3 sessions.

Sweating therapy is a common prescription for people who suffer from the post-viral syndrome. Fevers have become badly misunderstood and feared in the modern world, seen as undesirable side-effects of illnesses which should be squashed as quickly as possible with drugs. However, in many cases, nothing could be further from the truth!

Nature, and evolution, are not stupid, we have developed the ability to mount a fever simply because it is the fastest and most powerful way to activate an immune system to fight against whatever invader it has detected. Each degree your temperature rises the activity of your immune system practically doubles!

For a person who has clear signs of the post-viral syndrome, sweating therapy can be employed as a front-line approach to help get the condition improving as quickly as possible.

It's tough but it's highly effective and almost always worth the trouble. The recipe for the cold and flu tea is shown here and the process of the treatment is described in detail here

The Work

The first step in the healing journey comes from Nature. We come to a point where we are unable to fix ourselves and then these ancient allies, the herbs, can help us to get well.

The next step is the 'work'. It is what the patient does to help themselves. Underlying all the old ways of healing is an understanding that living organisms have the ability to self-repair, unless something is getting in the way. The 'work' is usually doing something to remove the obstacles that are getting in the way of that innate, self-healing intelligence.

Claire had become terribly depleted, physically and emotionally. She needed a lot of care in the 'nourishment' phase of her healing cycle (more about this below too). She had to start eating a lot better, fresh foods, whole foods, better hydration, the works (the key points are covered in an article found here)

Claire also had to start nourishing her mind. She was only living to work and had long stopped doing something that many Bears are naturally drawn to and get a lot from, i.e. reading good books! I call this a 'medicine for the mind'. Nothing works for everyone, but for the right person it can be of great help. Later, when she was clearly improving, we extended the goals of the healing journey to include joining some groups and becoming socially active again.

I first met Claire nearly 14 years ago at the time of writing. I still know her today because she brings one of her children to see me from time to time. Her notes show that she had two minor cold sore outbreaks in the first two months of treatment but she has not had a single infection since then. She kept taking the immune formula at 10mls, once a day, for over a year and will occasionally come and pick up a repeat if she starts getting run down or gets a cold that takes too long to recover from. She is a well, successful woman and mother of two beautiful girls.



I first met Bjorn when he was 38 years old. He was from the Eagle constitution (again, more on that below) and his work involved extensive travel and long periods out of the country, I mention this because it was the main reason we chose to use encapsulated herbs rather than liquid formulas or teas.

He had been in a brief relationship over 5 years previously which was when he had contracted type 2, genital herpes. If the reader of this article has come to it for this reason, then I do not need to spell out how devastating a problem this can be for anyone, especially if they have not yet found their partner for life. It can feel, and did feel for Bjorn, like a curse that will stop them from ever finding true happiness and he had tried everything he could to get on top of it with heart-sinkingly poor results.

We obviously had to strengthen his immune system but, from a series of open questions, I gathered that there were two things that could have been significantly contributing to the cause of why he was getting the outbreaks so frequently and badly and why his system couldn't get on top of it. More about that in 'the work'.

The Prescription

Echinacea & Astragalus capsules

Hawthorn & Reishi capsules

St John's wort capsules

To be sure of getting the best possible raw materials, and to cut out the company middle-men and keep the costs down, we get bulk supplies of the above herbs in dried form or in concentrates and send them to a local company to encapsulate.

The doses were 4 capsules twice a day of the Echinacea & Astragalus and 2 capsules, twice a day, of the Hawthorn & Reishi and the St John's wort. 3 of these herbs have been met in Claire's case. Hawthorn & Reishi are also very nourishing and supportive to the immune system and Eagles do especially well with Reishi.

As you can see, this meant that Bjorn had to take 8 capsules, twice a day, and as when we first met he was about to leave the country for nearly 6 months we had to both decide if we were going to take the chance to give him a very large package of herbs to ensure he had a continual treatment for that entire time. We have to cover our costs and we add an ethical mark-up on things but I have zero interest in getting money off people, all I care about is getting good results and I usually like to see people in just a month to try to be sure they are on the right track. Anyway, so long as I could be sure that Bjorn would whole-heartedly commit to the work as outlined below, I was willing and he most certainly was too.

The Work

The two areas that I thought might have been contributing to Bjorn's immune system being so often beaten by the herpes virus were firstly, that he had poor sleep habits and frequently stayed up too late with technology. Secondly, he had some early childhood history of mild eczema, which is always a big red flag for the possibility of undiagnosed food intolerances.

We did a blood test with a food detective kit on the same day as his appointment that showed that he had moderate intolerances to gluten and several tree nuts. This method of testing and the important subject of food allergy and intolerance is discussed here

We also had a frank discussion about the imperative need for adequate sleep for the immune system to function well. We made a verbal contract to set a technology shut-off time by a certain time each night and to then do things that naturally bought him to a more restful place that was ready for sleep. Things like listening to music, reading, doing some yoga and breathing exercises etc.

When I met Bjorn nearly half a year later he was all smiles. He had still experienced 3 minor outbreaks, which might sound like a poor result, but was a fraction of how bad things had been because he could see that his body was healing much faster and that the blisters were being quickly contained to one area rather than spreading.

Bjorn continued with everything and kept getting better with fewer and fewer outbreaks. I have contacted him via email prior to writing this history up to receive his permission to share his story (with changing his name and no identifying features) He wrote back saying he was more than happy to and that he was delighted to report that he has not had any kind of outbreak for over 7 years now and that he is now a married man.



I first met Gladys when she was 67 years old. I wanted to include a case history for herpes zoster, of shingles here, because I have worked with quite a few people who have been afflicted by it and, whilst each case is different, I have an appreciation for how severe and life-affecting it can be.

Gladys was a Tiger constitution, she had first gotten shingles 3 years earlier after her husband, a man 12 years here senior, had experienced a massive stroke a year previously, and their lives had been utterly turned upside down. She had initially had a successful treatment from pharmaceutical medications but in the last few months before coming in for her appointment she had been in considerable and constant pain from 'post-herpetic neuralgia' and was no longer receiving much benefit or even feeling she was able to tolerate the various drugs that she had been prescribed. She was on a real cocktail of medication by the time we met, including blood pressure drugs, statins, nerve-blocking agents and pain-killers and said she was just feeling miserable all the time.

The Prescription

Cleansing & Nervine Formula

Dandelion root 100mls
Burdock root 100mls
Withania root 100mls
Californian poppy 100mls
Juniper 80mls
Celandine 60mls

Remembering that these are our own tinctures so different products would have difference safe maximum levels, the dosage was 10mls, twice a day. Withania & Californian poppy have pain relieving and nerve tonic actions. The Dandelion, Burdock, Juniper & Celandine are some of the most reliable cleansing herbs in Nature.

Cleansing Tea

To make and drink each day as shown in the page with its recipe and instructions found here

St John's wort capsules

Echinacea & Astragalus capsules

To help her immune system get on top of the virus and the pain it was causing to her nerves; two capsules, twice a day of the St Johns, 3 capsules, twice a day of the Echinacea & Astagalus.

Trauma Salve

To gently and thoroughly rub into the affected areas at least once a day and preferably twice a day. Anyone who is reading this who has neuralgia pain from shingles should consider getting a high quality St John's wort salve to rub into the skin over the affected nerve tissue. Nothing works for everyone, but some people get a great deal of relief from this one treatment alone. The recipe for the Trauma salve is written up here

The Work

Obviously, there had been a great deal of stress leading up to the Shingles but she had adapted and was managing that as well as anyone could now however, like many Tiger constitutions who get into bad health, Gladys badly needed a system-wide process of internal cleansing. The herbs in the formula and the cleansing tea were the catalysts for this but she also needed to follow a cleansing diet for some time. The details on this, as well as more information on the important subject of detoxification, are found here

We went through a full two months of cleansing before we were ready for the next step. Gladys had made considerable progress in terms of her well-being, but she still felt plagued by the nerve pain, albeit she had taken herself off her painkillers and nerve-blockers so at least she wasn't worse off without them.

The next big step for the 'work' that Gladys needed to do was to address the fact that she had the metabolic syndrome and that this was creating a pro-inflammatory state in her body, as well as causing her high blood pressure, high cholesterols and excess weight around her middle. To her great credit, she worked hard on changing her diet and over a period of nearly a year lost over 25 kgs and got off all her drugs, including those for her blood pressure which she no longer needed. When I last saw her, she said she was completely free of the nerve pain and had not had a re-occurrence of the shingles for several years.

The metabolic syndrome is a big subject in itself, it can particularly affect Tigers, though anyone can get it. For anyone wanting to know more about it, there is a detailed article here


Constitutions & the Healing Cycle


I've mentioned constitutional types a few times above. This ancient way of understanding our differences, according to how we are naturally either hotter or cooler, and at the same time dryer or damper, underpins much of the approach to what kinds of foods, herbs etc, will best help a person.

If you, or someone you care for, are having troubles in this area, you can learn more about the general subject of the constitutions starting here, and then work out which constitution you or they are by going here

The Cycle of Healing

After getting a sense of whether a person is naturally cooler or hotter, dryer or damper, the next level of knowledge to take the kind of personal approach that can be essential to a great result is to look into the healing cycle.

This is a fascinating subject in itself and understanding it can give great insight into what needs to be done to treat the cause and help healing happen naturally. There are four stages in the cycle; cleansing, activation, nourishment and rest. To learn more about the cycle of healing read here

This chart can be seen in more detail in a PDF found here


General Recommendations

External treatment for a current infection

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 a try and see 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.


Most people who suffer from recurrent herpes infections these days will have tried acyclovir in one of its commercial preparations, e.g. Zovirax. For what it is worth, I do not personally see issues of toxicity or dependency with this drug however it can be observed that, whilst some people clearly find it helps, others report that they do not see it making any significant difference despite repeated attempts. In any case, it is good to know that there are other valid options

Essential Oils

Some people have found that essential oils can help relieve the nerve and tissue pain that can come with herpes outbreaks. Especially Lavender, but also Geranium or Eucalyptus oil.

Lavender is the one essential oil that 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 concentrated than this, but a safe level for anyone would be 5 drops of one or both oils per tsp of a carrier oil rubbed into the affected skin as often as required.

Lemon Balm Concentrate

Very concentrated extracts (as high as 70:1) of Lemon balm have been proven to be effective at reducing the severity and increasing the speed of healing of a herpes outbreak. This kind of concentrate can be difficult to obtain and you cannot expect the same results from a much less potent extract, so you might need to do some checking for its availability wherever you are.

St John's Wort

As you can see from the case studies above, I use St John's for everyone who is suffering from any kind of herpes, it surely has a great deal to offer against the herpes virus both internally and externally.

If you can contact a herbalist or a reputable supplier of herbal medicines, then 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 colour if it is of good quality. 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.

We make the St John's-rich 'Trauma salve' in our own clinic, and the link for that again is here

Hypericum perforatum (St John's wort)


Internal treatment for a current infection

As you can see from the case studies above, I am sure that the use of these three herbs has given the most consistently good results in the treatment of herpes and I think that anyone who is being plagued by this awful virus should consider giving them a very thorough trial.

St John's Wort

The internal use of this potent herb is helpful for 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 entirely dependent on it being of excellent quality and being taken in the right dose. How you might best use this key ally against Herpes is written up in more detail in the article on St John's here

Echinacea & Astragalus root

Two other great immune tonics that will help to treat a current infection as well as prevent further ones are Echinacea root, more info here, and Astragalus, more here. Very high doses of these herbs can be safely used over a short period to rapidly activate an enhanced immune response to speed the resolution of a herpes infection.

Echinacea angustifolia


Immune system health

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. If you are getting recurrent herpes infections then you must accept that your immune health is not optimal. You should use immune tonic herbs, such as those mentioned above, but further to that, to get a lasting transformation of immune health you may have to deal with whatever is causing it to be low in the first place and the main culprits here are undiagnosed food allergies, poor diet, and stress.

Food Allergy/Intolerance

Only some people who suffer from herpes infections will have an immune system that is being bought low by food allergies or intolerances but it must be considered as a strong possibility if there is any earlier history of eczema or asthma.

Also note that if you frequently suffer from a bloated, uncomfortable belly or have a lot of allergic 'shiners', i.e. dark rings under your eyes, that you should also consider food allergies or intolerances as being a possible issue because they are much more common than people realise 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.

Food allergy and intolerance is an important subject that needs a careful approach. If you need to explore this area further, start here

Healthy Diet & Immunity

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 matters for everyone and, the older you get, the more it matters.

There is a lot of conflicting advice out on diet but there is also some practical and dependable knowledge about nutrition that will not change with the next fad or fashion. If you need to put some energy into this important subject, the key points are written up here


Stress & Immunity

There can be no shadow of a doubt that excess stress and tension can impact adversely on the immune system and many people who suffer from recurrent herpes infections say that their problems are caused by stress or at least made worse by it.

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. If you 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 must put this at the top of your priorities and you may be assured that there are simple and effective herbal medicines and other strategies to help - more here


If you know you have excess anxiety and that it is affecting your health adversely, then you must know that this is an area in which a certain approach work has been seen to work without fail, time and again. It's not easy, it's not overnight and it requires commitment, but it always works. For more info, read here


Just as with anxiety, a certain approach to depression, when taken consistently and patiently, always bears excellent results in the long run, more here

General Immunity

If none of the above; food allergies, poor diet, or excess stress, feel like they are key issues for you then you simply may need to get further support from Nature to build a level of immune health that stops the herpes from ever getting the upper hand again! Some of the key herbs to make this happen have already been mentioned, but there are further steps that can help, written up in more detail here

Red & White Blood cells

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