Shingles (Herpes Zoster)

man with shingles pain clutches chest

Shingles, also known as herpes zoster, is a common, unpleasant, and painful affliction caused by a childhood chickenpox virus in those not immunized by infection during childhood. The moderate to severe pain affects the nerve endings in the skin and mid-back thoracic region following the ribs around the chest. In rare cases shingles occurs in the vaginal tissue and/or inside the mucous membranes of the mouth. 

A typical attack of shingles may be preceded by 3 or 4 days of chills, fever, and achiness. There may also be immediate pain to the afflicted area. Small blood vessels are blocked, causing pain and possible organ damage. In a day or so, a rash of small blisters occurs progressing from red bumps to blisters to crusty pox, usually clearing in 3-4 weeks, but in rarer cases the rash and pains ensue for 3-12 months. 

Many adults have already contracted chickenpox, a common childhood disease. However, once the varicella-zoster virus enters the body and has caused chickenpox, it doesn’t go away but may lie dormant for years or decades in the spinal cord and nerve ganglia. There is suspicion that severe and prolonged stress, followed by a low immune system, may preclude shingles infection on an elderly person, although even younger people are not immune. The virus is present at the site of the rash and is contagious for one week after appearance of the lesion (blisters).

Cold packs can be applied to relieve the pain. Applying witch hazel freely may also help. Sometimes even the weight of clothes is extremely painful. 


Shingles occurs in about 20% of the population regardless of race, gender, or time of year. It is more common with advanced age. It is estimated that 90 percent of people who have had chickenpox are at risk of developing shingles (approximately 70 percent of all people over the age of 50). Sometimes people can suffer chronic pain and post-herpetic neuralgia that can last for years. Some patients suffer injury to the eye if shingles occurs in a face nerve. The elderly may be infected from a grandchild with the same smallpox virus. Any person exposed to a person with shingles will not necessarily get shingles, but may develop chickenpox.

The chance of an attack of shingles is increased by various factors. Some of these factors are stress and anxiety, cancer, HIV, spinal cord injuries, the use of chemotherapy, and severe immune deficiencies. Drugs such as cyclosporine and corticosteroids may also exacerbate symptoms.

Secondary infections are always a concern. Infections can result in redness and swelling and often lead to permanent scarring. Shingles is nine times more common in HIV infected patients. It is rarely recurrent, but the possibility exists. Death can occur as a result of secondary bacterial infections or viral pneumonia brought on by shingles.

Excessive tissue copper levels is associated with an impaired immune system and hence the susceptibility to bacterial and viral infections, including the herpes virus. Copper levels can best be checked via the ARL Hair Analysis.


    Vitamin C and bioflavonoids are antioxidants that aid in fighting the virus that causes shingles, and are well known to boost the immune system. Supplementation of vitamin C with QUERCETIN or HESPERIDIN may help to defer further exacerbation and pain and inflammation of the disease. Dosage: Vitamin C 1000-6,000 mg a day (or to bowel tolerance); Quercetin 500-1,000 mg daily. 
    An amino acid that is important for healing and fighting the virus that causes shingles. Supplementing with Lysine will decrease the incidence and exacerbation of all herpes viruses. Dosage: 500 mg twice a day on an empty stomach. Lysine may take in combination with vitamin C and vitamin B6. CAUTION: Do not take Lysine for more than 5-6 months at a time. 
    Two antioxidant “fat-soluble” vitamins that can help prevent the formation of scar tissue and improve recovery of the disease. These vitamins are key immune modulators. Vitamin A deficiency has been associated with increased susceptibility to numerous infectious diseases.  Dosage: Vitamin E 400-800 IU daily; Vitamin A 5,000-25,000 IU daily.  
  4. BETA 1, 3 GLUCAN
    Beta Glucan is a complex polysaccharide composed of glucose molecules extracted and purified from the cell wall of common baker’s yeast,
    Saccharomyces cerevisiae.  Animal and human cell culture studies have shown that beta glucan can stimulate several aspects of immune function, useful in treating viral, bacterial and fungal infections. Dosage: As directed on package.
    The properties of the leaves and bark of this herb are similar, and elicit astringent, tonic, and sedative effects on the skin. When applied topically and freely, witch hazel can do a very adequate job of relieving pain and sensitivity. 
  6. ZINC (with GLYCINE)
    This antioxidant mineral enhances immunity and protects against infection. Zinc supplementation may decrease high copper levels, which is commonly associated with an increase in the herpes virus in the body. Dosage: 80 mg daily for one week only, then maintain a dose of 35-50 mg daily. In one study, patients who began treatment with zinc oxide and glycine cream within 24 hours of onset of signs and symptoms experienced reduction in overall severity of soreness, blistering, and itching.
    Organic greens can help to restore the body’s alkaline/acid balance which should promote healing from the inside-out. Dosage: As directed on package. 
    B-vitamins are needed for nerve health and to counteract deficiencies. Higher doses may rejuvenate skin cells at a faster rate. Dosage: 100 mg 2-3 times a day with food. Extra VITAMIN B6 may relieve neuralgia (100-200 mg daily). VITAMIN B12 (1,000-2,000 mcg daily) may be injected IM or taken orally. 
    When applied topically, or in a patch, can target the painful complications of shingles. The prescription cream SILVER NITRATE has also been used. 
    A mixture, or single use, of cayenne (capsicum), calendula, vitamin E oil, zinc oxide, calamine, and/or aloe vera. A unique healing topical product is called
    Jungle Salve (a mixture made by Dr. Dan Wagner from the bark of the gumbolimbo tree from Central America- call 1-877-289-7478). LICORICE and/or PEPPERMINT teas may help relieve neuralgia and painful myalgia. 
    The skin needs ionized calcium lactate to make it resistant to shingles. Digestible calcium is important. Dosage: 4-12 tablets daily as directed.
    Three popular herbs that may enhance immunity, fight infection, and stimulate the body’s natural ability to fight the virus. Do not use astragalus in the presence of a fever. Dosage: As directed by a health practitioner. 
    This Amazonian herb also known as Sangre de grado has anti-viral and wound healing properties. It is especially useful against viral sores caused by herpes. Also Dragon’s blood is used to heal infections that may arise from cuts and abrasions. Dosage: Only under the supervision of a practitioner familiar with this herb. 
    In certain studies, supplementation with enzymes (papain, trypsin, chymotrypsin) significantly reduced the pain and reddening of the skin lesions, especially when used with the drug Acyclovir.  Dosage: 1-2 tablets 3-4 times a day between meals.
  15. GARLIC
    This herb has well-known ability for fighting viral infections and boosting the immune system. Dosage: 2 capsules 3 times a day. 
    Supplementation with “friendly” bacteria helps stimulate the immune function and balance bowel flora. Dosage: 1-2 capsules 3 times a day in an empty stomach for at least 3-4 weeks. 
  17. COENZYME Q10
    CoQ10 is a potent antioxidant that acts as a free-radical scavenger that can boost the immune system and helps to detoxify the body of toxins. Dosage: 60-120 mg daily. 
    This herb helps to protect the liver from the potential toxic effects of the virus. Dosage: As directed. 
    A phytogenic herb with anti-inflammatory and anti-viral activity. May be used in combination with echinacea, goldenseal and myrrh for chronic viral infections.

ARL Research Laboratories,

Balach, PA, Balach, JF. Prescription for Nutritional Healing- Third Edition. Avery Books, New York, NY. 2000.

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Disease Prevention and Treatment. Third Edition. Life Media Extension, 2000. Hollywood, Fl.

Duke, JA. The Green Pharmacy, Rodale Press, Emmaus, PA. 1997.

Godfrey, HR, Godfrey, JC, Riley, D, A Randomized Clinical Trial on the Treatment of Oral Herpes With Topical Zinc Oxide/Glycine. Alternative Therapies, May/June 2001. 7(3): 49-54.

Hair Analysis Report. ARL Research Labs, Inc. Phoenix, AZ.

JAG Group Nutraceutica. Copywrite 1993-1999.

Marion, JB. Anti Aging Manual. Information Pioneers. S. Woodstock, CT., 1996 

Roxas, M. Herpes Zoster and Postherpetic Neuralgia: Diagnosis and Therapeutic Consideration. Alternative Medicine Review, June 2006. 11(2): 102-112.

West, B. To Prevent or Treat Shingles. Health Alert, December 2005. 22(12): 6-7..

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