Herpes is a highly contagious, incurable infection caused by the herpes simplex virus. Once you contract it, the virus is present in your body lifelong and can keep rearing its head.
- Oral herpes is caused by the herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1) through oral contact, like kissing.
- Genital herpes is caused by the herpes simplex virus type 2 (HSV-2) through sexual contact. It can also be caused by HSV-1 if one receives oral sex from an infected person.1”
Herpes is rampant because in many cases, those infected do not have any symptoms and are sometimes not even aware they have it. However, they may still pass the virus. Herpes is most contagious when one shows symptoms like painful blisters in the affected area – the genital and anal areas or around the lips and the mouth.2
As per WHO estimates, globally, about 67% of people below 50 have oral herpes while about 11% of those between 15 and 49 have genital herpes.3
There’s no cure for herpes, but your doctor may prescribe antiviral medication that helps to address the symptoms. Factors like exposure to bright sunlight, stress, fatigue, and even menstruation have been found to trigger oral herpes in some people.4 Avoiding a trigger, where possible, can be useful.
1. Eat Lysine, Avoid Arginine
- Eat: Beef, lamb, fish, chicken, cauliflower, broccoli, beans, Brussel sprouts, beets, potatoes, yogurt, cheese, apples, figs, pears, and apricots
- Avoid: Nuts, seeds, wheat products, lentils, chocolate, and soy foods
The naturally occurring amino acid, lysine has a role to play in treating a herpes infection. It blocks the action of arginine, which is amino acid that promotes HSV growth.5 Increasing the amount of lysine you consume and limiting arginine-rich food can reduce the frequency of recurrences of the infection.6 So, include lots of lysin-rich foods in your diet, but avoid foods that contain lysin.
2. Apply Vitamin E And Zinc
If you have oral herpes, vitamin E can help. Topical application of vitamin E on cold sores has been found to help lesions heal more rapidly as well as give pain relief.7 If you have genital herpes, you can treat it by topically applying zinc sulphate on the affected area. Zinc not only heals the sores but also prolongs the remission of herpes genitalis.8
3. Apply Lemon Balm
Oils found in lemon can inhibit the replication of HSV-2.9 A study among people with a history of recurrent herpes found that a balm containing the extract of lemon leaves shortened the healing time for an episode of herpes. It also prevented the spread of the infection and improved symptoms like itching, burning, tingling, and swelling.10
4. Apply Bee Glue
Bee glue or propolis, a resin that bees make and use for constructing hives, is rich in flavonoids. A study that compared an ointment with propolin to one with the antiviral drug acyclovir found the former to be more effective at healing genital lesions caused by herpes.11
5. Have Licorice
Glycyrrhizin, an antioxidant found in licorice, is capable of inactivating the herpes virus.12 A study on mice with herpetic encephalitis also found that it increased their survival rate by about two and a half times.13
6. Take Oatmeal Baths
Some people with genital herpes may find it soothing to sit in a warm bath up to the hips. Frequent baths can also relieve itching. Adding about two cups of ground oatmeal or half a cup of baking soda to the bath water can be especially helpful.14
7. Apply Essential Oils
Essential oils, such as clove oil, tea tree oil, and myrrh oil are effective in reducing the canker sores caused by herpes. Known for their antimicrobial properties, these essential oils can remove the germs from around the sores and provide relief from itching.15 You could also dilute the oils by using a carrier oil (like coconut or jojoba oil), especially if you have a sensitive skin.
8. Avoid Oral Or Sexual Contact With The Infected
- Steer clear of oral contact with people who have oral herpes. Also, avoid sharing things that might have come in contact with saliva (for example, lipstick).
- Abstain from sexual activity with someone who has genital herpes. Using condoms can reduce the risk of genital herpes, but do keep in mind that an outbreak can still happen in parts that are not covered by the condom.16
Do Remember, Herpes Can Raise The Risk Of HIV Infection
Herpes rarely causes complications in healthy adults. You may, however, have recurrent episodes of herpes and some may be quite painful. People with weakened immunity are at high risk of complications, though.
- HSV-2 and HIV have an unhealthy relationship. HSV-2 can raise the chances of getting an HIV infection, if exposed to it, by about three-fold. HIV also tends to be more infectious in someone with herpes.17
- Very rarely, expectant mothers with genital herpes can pass it on to the baby.18 In women with genital herpes, a C-section is preferred over vaginal birth.
- In some cases, oral herpes can spread to other parts of the body like the brain (encephalitis), hands (whitlow finger), or eyes (herpetic keratoconjunctivitis).19
|↑1||Genital Herpes Fact Sheet, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.|
|↑2, ↑3, ↑16, ↑17||Herpes simplex virus, World Health Organization. 2016.|
|↑4||Cold sore (herpes simplex virus) – Causes, National Health Service.2016.|
|↑5||Gaby, Alan R. “Natural remedies for Herpes simplex.” Alternative medicine review 11, no. 2 (2006): 93.|
|↑6||Griffith, R. S., A. L. Norins, and Ch Kagan. “A multicentered study of lysine therapy in herpes simplex infection.” Dermatology 156, no. 5 (1978): 257-267.|
|↑7||Fink, M., and J. Fink. “TREATMENT OF HERPES-SIMPLEX BY ALPHA-TOCOPHEROL (VITAMIN-E).” BRITISH DENTAL JOURNAL 148, no. 11-1 (1980): 246-246.|
|↑8||Mahajan, B. B., Mohit Dhawan, and Rajwinder Singh. “Herpes genitalis–Topical zinc sulfate: An alternative therapeutic and modality.” Indian journal of sexually transmitted diseases 34, no. 1 (2013): 32.|
|↑9||Allahverdiyev, A., N. Duran, M. Ozguven, and S. Koltas. “Antiviral activity of the volatile oils of Melissa officinalis L. against Herpes simplex virus type-2.” Phytomedicine 11, no. 7 (2004): 657-661.|
|↑10||Koytchev, R., R. G. Alken, and S. Dundarov. “Balm mint extract (Lo-701) for topical treatment of recurring herpes labialis.” Phytomedicine 6, no. 4 (1999): 225-230.|
|↑11||Vynograd, N., I. Vynograd, and Z. Sosnowski. “A comparative multi-centre study of the efficacy of propolis, acyclovir and placebo in the treatment of genital herpes (HSV).” Phytomedicine 7, no. 1 (2000): 1-6.|
|↑12||Pompei, Raffaello, Ornella Flore, Maria Antonietta Marccialis, Alessandra Pani, and Bernardo Loddo. “Glycyrrhizic acid inhibits virus growth and inactivates virus particles.” Nature 28, no. 25 (1979): 689-690.|
|↑13||Sekizawa, T., K. Yanagi, and Y. Itoyama. “Glycyrrhizin increases survival of mice with herpes simplex encephalitis.” Acta virologica 45, no. 1 (2001): 51-54.|
|↑14||Standard, Natural, and Catherine Ulbricht. Natural Standard Medical Conditions Reference: An Integrative Approach. Elsevier Health Sciences, 2009.|
|↑15||Carson, C. F., K. A. Hammer, and T. V. Riley. “Melaleuca alternifolia (tea tree) oil: a review of antimicrobial and other medicinal properties.” Clinical microbiology reviews 19, no. 1 (2006): 50-62.|
|↑18||Genital Herpes Fact Sheet, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.|
|↑19||Cold sore (herpes simplex virus) – Causes, National Health Service.|