If you suffer from shingles or know someone who does, then you’re aware of just how much discomfort the condition can cause. While there are effective conventional treatments, it’s possible that you may find natural remedies for shingles nerve pain very helpful.
What is Shingles?
Also known as herpes zoster, shingles is a viral infection that lies dormant in the body, occasionally waking to cause an outbreak that involves a painful rash. While the rash can affect any part of the body, it normally appears in small areas.
Shingles symptoms begin with localized tingling and pain in the area where the rash will appear. The pain typically begins a couple of days before visible signs of shingles appear in the form of a red rash and blisters filled with fluid. If you’re having a shingles outbreak, it might be accompanied by headaches, chills and/or fever, fatigue, and an increased sensitivity to light.
The shingles virus is not life threatening but it certainly does make life miserable. Shingle symptoms usually last for two to six weeks, and afterward, some people experience nerve damage called postherpetic neuralgia. This occurs when nerve fibers are damaged by the rash and blisters, and its can cause shingles pain to continue for weeks or even months after the rash itself has gone away.
What Causes Shingles?
Shingles is caused by the same virus that causes chicken pox. Known as varicella zoster (VZV), this virus is present in everyone who had chickenpox. It lies dormant in the system and reactivates later in life. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) an average of one in every three people will suffer from shingles at some point.
Shingles outbreaks are most likely to occur when you’re under increased physical, mental, or emotional stress. They are also more likely to happen at times when your immune system is tapped out.
Shingles is so common that a full fifty percent of Americans are likely to develop it by the time they reach age 80. While the average age for the first shingles outbreak is between 60 and 70, people of all ages can potentially suffer from shingles after having chickenpox.
While some people suffer from repeat shingles outbreaks over the course of their lives, many experience just one shingles episode during their entire lifetime. If you have shingles, you’ll be happy to know that despite the pain and itching, the outbreak is temporary. Unfortunately, nerve pain can linger for weeks or even months after the rash and blisters have faded.
Is There a Cure for Shingles?
Unfortunately, researchers have come up empty handed so far when searching for a shingles cure. Luckily, there are plenty of options for reducing symptoms and feeling more comfortable during an outbreak. Besides holistic treatment for shingles, doctors can prescribe antiviral medications that ease pain and potentially shorten the duration of an outbreak.
There are also shingles vaccines available. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends this vaccine for healthy adults age 50 and over, so long as they don’t already have shingles, and so long as they have already had chickenpox. These vaccines don’t cure shingles, but they significantly decrease the odds that you or your loved ones will get it.
There are two vaccines for shingles. The first one is called Zostavax. Introduced in 2006, it uses a weak form of the herpes zoster virus to activate your immune system’s defenses against shingles. This vaccine reduces the odds of getting shingles by about 50 percent, and it lowers the risk of long-term shingles nerve damage by about 67 percent. Zostavax is given in two doses, with the second being administered two to six months after the first.
The second vaccine is called Shingrix. It was approved in 2017, and like its predecessor, it relies on a weak form of the chicken pox virus to activate your immune defenses. This vaccine reduces your chances of shingles by an impressive 90 percent. Shingrix is administered in a single dose.
Is Shingles Contagious?
Luckily, shingles itself is not contagious in the same way chicken pox is. At the same time, affected individuals can spread the varicella zoster virus to people who haven’t had chicken pox. If you are having an outbreak and your blisters haven’t yet formed crusted scabs, be sure to stay away from people who haven’t had chicken pox. You should also try to keep your distance from elderly people and those with weakened immune systems. If you need to go out into public before your shingles blisters have scabbed over, be sure to cover the blisters well to avoid spreading the varicella zoster virus to people who haven’t yet had chicken pox.
- People who have had the chickenpox are already infected with the varicella zoster virus. If they develop shingles, their case will be caused by the virus they are already carrying.
- People who have not had the chickenpox could get it if they’re exposed to you while you have active, non-scabbed shingles blisters. Once they have contracted the chickenpox, they will be carrying the varicella zoster virus and they could develop shingles later.
Natural Treatment for Shingles
There are many effective home remedies for shingles. These won’t cure you, but they will help you feel more comfortable, either while you’re waiting to get a doctor’s appointment, or all by themselves. Here are several shingles natural treatment methods to try for yourself.
Cool water calms itching and eases the pain of shingles while a daily shower reduces the risk of spreading the rash to other parts of the body. You can take as many cool showers or baths as you like throughout the day. Use a clean towel to pat yourself dry and launder it immediately to prevent the spread of shingles to others.
What if you don’t have time for a shower? A cool compress can comfort your pain and itching when only a small area is affected. Simply soak a soft cloth in cool water, wring out the excess, and lay the cloth over the affected body part. Don’t apply an ice pack for shingles, since it can actually make your pain worse and increase sensitivity. Be sure to use a fresh cloth each time you make a cool compress and put it in the laundry immediately after use.
If you have a little time, consider treating yourself to a comforting bath with colloidal oatmeal. You can purchase a pre-packaged unscented colloidal oatmeal bath if you like, or you can simply use a cup of finely ground oat flour. If you’re in a pinch and you have neither product on hand, you can make oat flour in your blender by milling plain oats for several minutes. Try to get as fine a consistency as you can if you opt to mill oat flour at home. You can also try using a cup of cornstarch mixed into your bath water.
When you draw your bath, ensure that it is lukewarm rather than hot, since hot water can make shingles worse. Mix the colloidal oatmeal or cornstarch into the water with a whisk and then soak for 15 to 20 minutes. When you emerge, don’t rinse off the residual oatmeal or cornstarch. Simply pat yourself dry with a clean towel and launder it right away so you don’t spread the shingles virus to others in your home.
Baking Soda and Cornstarch
If you have ever used a paste made with baking soda for a bee sting, you know just how effective it can be for serious burning and itching. This home shingles remedy calls for the addition of cornstarch, which binds with the baking soda and helps it to stick to the rash a little better. To make it, simply mix one teaspoon of baking soda with one teaspoon of cornstarch and add a teaspoon of water. Mix the ingredients all together and apply it to your rash. Leave it in place for 15 minutes, and then rinse it off. You can repeat this natural shingles remedy as often as you like.
Capsaicin is the active ingredient in hot peppers. While this natural constituent can make your mouth burn, it is highly regarded as one of the best herbal remedies for shingles Capsaicin offers anti-inflammatory effects that reduce pain signals between your skin and your brain. A burning sensation may occur right after application, but this fades, along with pain. Because compounding your own capsaicin cream can be difficult and lead to mixed results at best, it is best to choose a good capsaicin cream. It’s very important to note here that you don’t want to put capsaicin on an active shingles outbreak. Instead, it is typically recommended for reliving the pain associated with postherpetic neuralgia. Be sure to talk with your doctor before using capsaicin for shingles, since this remedy isn’t recommended for everyone.
While there are no clinical colloidal silver shingles studies, there is plenty of anecdotal evidence that makes this natural treatment one worth trying. Colloidal silver is nothing new; in fact, this natural antibiotic has been used for over 100 years, effectively treating a variety of conditions including shingles. In 1917, a researcher named J. Mark Hovell wrote an article for the December 15, 1917 issue of the British Medical Journal, praising colloidal silver for its efficacy. “Colloidal silver has also been used successfully in septic conditions of the mouth (including pyorrhea alveolysis – Rigg’s disease), throat (including tonsillitis and quincies), ear (including Menier’s symptoms and closure to Valsalva’s inflation) and in generalized septicemia, leucorrhea, cystitis, whopping cough, and shingles.”
There are a few different approaches to using colloidal silver for shingles. Some people report success with increasing the length of time between shingles outbreaks by taking a teaspoon to a tablespoon of colloidal silver each day.
Others mention that they start taking colloidal silver at the first sign of a shingles outbreak to lessen it severity and duration. These users typically increase their dosage to a full two to four ounces of colloidal silver, which they consume for up to 10 days. At the same time, they use colloidal silver topically, spraying it onto their rashes and blisters between three and five times daily.
If you try colloidal silver and like it, you may want to look into making your own colloidal silver in a colloidal silver generator. While top-rated colloidal silver generators represent a small investment, regular users find that they save a small fortune over time.
Apple Cider Vinegar
Humble apple cider vinegar has a long history of soothing painful rashes, including those associated with shingles. You can either add two to four cups of apple cider vinegar into a tub or lukewarm water and soak for about 20 minutes, or you can apply a compress made with equal parts of apple cider vinegar and water. Be sure to toss any cloths or towels into the laundry after you use ACV for shingles.
If you’ve been searching high and low for the best herb for shingles, your quest might end once you give calendula a try. This soothing herb offers anti-inflammatory properties plus it soothes itching and promotes healing. You can apply a calendula gel, oil, or lotion to affected areas a few times per day.
If you happen to have chamomile tea bags on hand, you can use these to make soothing disposable poultices for your shingles rash. You can also brew a few cups of chamomile tea and pour them into a lukewarm bath to soak your entire body.
While it won’t heal you, there’s plenty of evidence that suggests that you’re likely to experience some relief when you use coconut oil for shingles. Simply apply a dab or organic virgin coconut oil to the affected area and allow the skin to drink it in. If you’re concerned about scars caused by shingles, you may reduce the risk by faithfully applying coconut oil to the affected areas until they’re back to normal.
Honey’s health benefits are well-known. Here’s one more to add to the list: Honey can ease the pain of shingles and help your rash heal faster. Use raw honey and apply it to the affected areas at least twice per day. If needed, you can cover the area with a soft bandage to keep the stickiness away from clothing and furnishings. Any raw honey will work, but many people rely on Manuka honey for skin problems as it contains more nutrients. Some manuka honey products are expressly designed to soothe shingles pain and reduce the duration of outbreaks, so consider giving one of these a try. Manuka honey cream offers the added advantage of no stickiness, so there’s no need to worry about messes.
It’s very important to note that you should not try manuka honey cream or use honey for shingles if you are allergic to bees or honey.
Eucalyptus Essential Oil
While you don’t want to apply straight eucalyptus oil for shingles, you’re likely to notice relief from the pain and itching when you dilute it with coconut oil and apply it to the affected area. Use three drops of coconut oil for every drop of eucalyptus oil, and massage it in.
Tips for Living with Shingles
Try Helpful Herbs
While shingles is not a permanent condition, there’s no denying that the burning itch and pain can be disruptive. For this reason, you might want to consider taking supplements that help boost immunity and help with related issues such as anxiety and wakefulness. Some helpful herbal remedies for shingles include the following.
- Melatonin and/or valerian for restful sleep
- Echinacea and green tea to boost your immune system
- Lemon balm for stress, anxiety, and insomnia
Keep Hygiene in Mind
Any time you touch the area where you have shingles, either to apply a remedy or by accident, be sure to wash your hands with hot, soapy water to get rid of any virus that may have shed, and to help prevent the spread of chickenpox.
Try to Relax
It can be tough to relax when you have shingles, but stress and anxiety can make your symptoms worse. You might find that funny movies, interesting novels, and time spent chatting with friends can help take your mind off the discomfort for a while. You can also spend time on hobbies that you enjoy.
Eat a Healthy Diet for Shingles
Nourish your body with natural foods. Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables, along with healthy proteins. At the same time, be sure to avoid foods that contain a lot of sugar, as well as refined carbohydrates and foods that contain high amounts of saturated fat. You’ll want to stay away from foods that contain high levels of arginine as well, since arginine can encourage the virus to reproduce and worsen your symptoms. Top culprits are chocolate, nuts, and gelatin.
Wear Loose Clothing
Loose clothing made with natural fibers like linen and cotton can provide more comfort than tighter-fitting options and technical fabrics.
Exercise Just a Little Bit
Gentle yoga, stretching, tai chi, and easygoing walks help keep your body healthy and take your mind off the discomfort for a while. If you don’t currently exercise, be sure to ask your doctor if it’s OK to begin during a shingles outbreak.
By combining lifestyle modifications with conventional remedies and natural shingles remedies, you may find that you feel better. Remember that no two people are alike, and natural remedies don’t work the same for everyone. Last but not least, remember that there still isn’t a cure for shingles. Talk to your doctor as you plan your approach. Together, you can come up with a plan to feel more comfortable and perhaps even shorten the duration of shingles symptoms.