Naturopaths and doctors are starting to agree: natural remedies can help shingles pain. But don't let that distract you. The No. 1 goal should be to prevent an outbreak from ever happening.READ MORE
How common is shingles?
You may not have considered natural remedies for shingles but the condition is more common than you might think. About 25% of all American adults get shingles at some point, usually after age 50. And your chances keep increasing with age. In fact, about half of all shingles cases occur in people over 60.
The first sign of shingles is usually a burning pain or itching around one side of the waist. It can also start on one side of the face, usually near the eye and/or the forehead. After several days, a rash of fluid-filled blisters appears but then slowly subsides over the course of a few weeks.
Unfortunately, in about 1 out of 5 people, shingles pain lasts for months after the blisters disappear. Called post-herpetic neuralgia (PHN), it is the result of nerve cell damage inflicted by the shingles outbreak. PHN can range from a mild, continuous aching to severe shooting pain. Luckily, most PHN pain does eventually go away.
Again, the older you are when you develop shingles, the more likely you are to suffer PHN. It rarely happens to people under 50. It develops in about half of all shingles patients over 60. And in almost 3 out of 4 patients over 70.
What causes shingles?
Shingles is caused by the same virus that causes chicken pox. Anyone who’s had this childhood disease carries the virus. Doctors don’t know why but in roughly 1 out every 7 of these people the virus suddenly gets reactivated. And the result is shingles.
Does shingles ever recur?
That’s an interesting questions. At one time doctors thought that recurrences were rare, that having shingles once almost guranateed you wouldn’t get it again.
Today, doctors say that recurrence happens to roughly 1 in 3 shingles sufferers. And the risk of a second bout is higher in people older than 50. It’s also higher for those who live with extreme emotional or physical stress.
What do most doctors recommend?
First of all, doctors recommend the shingles vaccine. It isn’t perfect, though. It only works about half to the time. On the other hand, just like a flu vaccine, doctors say that if you develop shingles despite receiving the vaccine, you are likely to have a milder case.
During an attack, doctors generally treat shingles with drugs to releive the pain and itching of the rash. Over-the-counter medication (like ibuprofen or acetaminophen) can be used. Some physicains prescribe narcotics (or even steroids) for the pain. And antihitomines for the itching. All medications work best when started quickly, within the first 2 days of seeing the rash.
Natural Remedies for Shingles to Prevent a Recurrence
Here are five effective natural remedies for shingles to help prevent a recurrence of an outbreak:
- Keep your immune system strong with a good probiotic. You can take probiotic capsules but a liquid forumla (like BioK) is better. You can also add natural probiotics to your diet — foods such as kefir, kambucha, and even sauerkraut.
- Regular physical workout is also preventative because by increasing your white blood cell count it boosts your immunity.
- Avoid getting overheated because heat can trigger recurrent outbreaks.
- Take a Vitamin C supplement because many naturopaths say it can prevent recurrent attacks.
- Finally, try a natural tranquilizer, because stress definitely adds to your chances of recurrence. A good example is RELAX Pocket Inhaler, aromatherapy to calm frazzled nerves and soothe worry.
Natural Remedies for Shingles to Relieve an Outbreak
Here are eight effective natural remedies for shingles to relieve an outbreak:
- Use calamine lotion, calendula cream, and Aveeno baths to soothe the itch and discomfort of blisters.
- Don’t scratch the blisters because if they break, they can become infected.
- Ease the pain with a cool bath. Soak in the water for several minutes, and then dry your skin completely. Don’t let the water be too cold because that can actually lead to more pain. (Wash any towels that come into contact with your skin in hot water. Open blisters or scratched skin can transmit the virus.)
- Ice packs or cool compresses can work, too. Apply for 20 minutes, then leave off for 20 minutes. Repeat this regimen until the pain subsides.
- Apple cider vinegar can help ease the pain and clear the blisters. Soak cotton balls and gently apply to the affected areas twice a day.
- Especially for PHN pain, consider an herbal remedy, like all-natural Premiere’s Pain Spray Mist or Roll-On. A capsaicin gel, made from hot chili peppers, could also be helpful. So could lidocaine skin patches (though they can be applied no more than 4 times daily).
- Buy or rent a TENS device (transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation). In theory, these portable machines block pain signals from reaching your brain by delivering a mild, painless electrical current through your skin.
- A natural antidepressant like St. Johns Wort might help. Studies suggest that by enhancing serotonin levels in the brain, you can actually reduce pain perception.
Shingles is a serious illness, so contact your doctor if you suspect that you have it.