Barbara Roberts, Homeopath

Homeopathy for Shingles

I recently had a very mild bout of shingles – the fact that this was very mild was likely due to two factors, one is my age, in general people under 50 have a milder experience of shingles, although there are exceptions. The other factor was I noticed the first expression, just 5 little dots like a line with an arrowhead, and recognised it immediately for what it was and started taking a homeopathic remedy. The next day I got one extra dot and continued the remedy, but that was the end of the eruption and after that I could concentrate on healing. 

Most people aren’t that lucky, so let’s talk about shingles and what you can do for it. 

Shingles is a re-activation of the chickenpox virus. When you get chickenpox, after healing the virus sits in your nerve cells and can be triggered and travel to the sensory nerves and the skin. This means, you cannot catch shingles from another person, however, a person with shingles can give chickenpox to someone who has not had it. Fun fact, that’s how my youngest got chickenpox. Sometimes you will see shingles called Herpes Zoster. 

What does shingles look like? It is a rash that appears and follows the line of a nerve. It can be vesicular, little fluid filled blisters like chickenpox, or they may look just like raised red bumps to begin with. 

Because it follows the nerve it will be on one side of the body- often this is on the back, and it also could appear on the face. 

The rash can be tingling, burning or itching. There may also be other symptoms like a fever with or without chills, nausea or a headache. 

Usually pain and general symptoms will gradually decrease over 2-4 weeks, however because shingles affects the nerve, there can be long term complications like pain (aka post-herpetic neuralgia), and on the face it can cause headaches, or a one sided weakness or paralysis like Bells Palsy that take longer to improve. 

Why do we get shingles? 

You may have noticed that shingles is becoming more prevalent in younger people- this is because when New Zealand started vaccinating for chickenpox, this meant there is less circulating chickenpox in the community, which works as a natural booster for people who have had chickenpox. I am not going to discuss vaccination further here, suffice to say this is the reason the United Kingdom chose not to add Varicella vaccine to their schedule. 

Shingles can also be because the immune system is compromised or run down- cancer , immune suppressing drugs or other immune deficiency diseases. Of course another thing that can affect the immune system is stress. 

Metaphysically, Louise Hay states that shingles can be due to oversensitivity, fear and tension, or “waiting for the other shoe to drop”. She has an affirmation for people with active shingles: “I am relaxed and peaceful because I trust the process of life. All is well in my world.”

Treatment of shingles. 

Conventional treatment involves antivirals, and pain relief if needed. 

Naturopathic options: 

Vitamin C is the first thing I recommend with any viral or bacterial illness. Vitamin C has many roles in the body, but most importantly for our immune system  vitamin C is accumulated in white blood cells, which helps them move, engulf microbes (like pacman) and destroy them. If you are taking liposomal C you can do this three or four times daily, or with sodium ascorbate or vitamin C tablets you need to take these hourly to bowel tolerance, as vitamin C is water soluble it clears fast. Reduce but don’t stop. 

Lysine is useful in herpes to slow down the replication of the virus. While it is most common for cold sores (herpes simplex), it may also be useful for shingles (herpes zoster). 

Zinc also has numerous roles in the body and it appears to coat the virus particles, inactivating them and preventing replication, although the exact mechanism needs to be confirmed.

Immune modulating herbs like Echinacea or antivirals like Oregano oil or Garlic may also be useful

For best results with supplements like those named above consult a naturopath, or medical herbalist for herbal support. 

I am a Homeopath, so my advice always comes back to homeopathy. If you cannot see the remedy that sounds like you below, or it is not helping or you have questions, please see a qualified Homeopath for an acute consultation. 

Apis is indicated for shingles on the face, and there will be a lot of puffy red or pink swelling. They have burning or stinging pains which feel better for cold applications. 

Arsenicum Album also has burning pains, but these are better for warmth. They feel worse at night and in the cold, and will be exhausted but also restless.  

Mezereum has severe itching and nerve pains that leave the area numb. After scratching the itching may have a burning pains, and the area is worse from being touched, and they are worse at night and from getting hot. 

Ranunculus Bulbosus has painful, stinging and itching eruptions, and the vesicles may have a dark blue appearance. Shingles is most likely to be on the left sided and can affect the intercostal nerves (ribs) or the supraorbital nerve (eye). 

Rhus Tox, also well known for chickenpox, has very itchy eruptions, and they are usually little fluid filled vesicles. They can also be burning and will feel better for warmth. They are worse at night and will be restless, better for moving. 

There are lots of remedies that can be appropriate- and I have not mentioned them all here. In addition, these remedies are for an acute shingles outbreak, if you are having recurrent outbreaks you need to see a Homeopath for chronic treatment to work on your immunity.

Photo credit: Dermnet NZ, which has further information and pictures about Herpes Zoster.

For more information about homeopathy for Shingles, the therapeutic books Desktop Companion to Physical Pathology by Roger Morrison, and Pointers to the Common Remedies by Margaret Tyler are excellent references. 

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