Updated: Aug 23, 2020
If you had chickenpox as a child you may remember the red, painfully itchy blister-like rash, and perhaps the fever and fatigue that came along with it. Shingles is caused by the same virus as chickenpox (varicella-zoster) and is a reactivation of the chickenpox virus. Reactivation occurs in approximately 10 percent of people who previously had chickenpox.
Addressing the shingles virus naturally is ideal because the most common causes are a weakened immune system and increased stress levels. Natural treatments include essential oils, proper nutrition and natural supplements that provide support for your immune system and help to manage stress.
What Is Shingles?
Shingles is a condition that presents with a painful rash or blisters on the skin that is shaped like a band or belt. It can affect people of all ages, but is most common in people over 50 and in individuals with weakened immune systems (such as from cancer treatment, diabetes, or infections that weaken the immune system).
The medical term for the shingles virus is “herpes zoster.” It is the same virus that causes chickenpox. The first time a person is infected with the virus they get chickenpox, not shingles. After you have chickenpox, the virus can hide dormant in the body’s nerves. Years later it can inflame those nerves and show up as shingles.
Up to 20 % of the population will develop shingles in their lifetime, and 1 in 3 people who live to age 80 will develop shingles.
Shingles usually only affects a small area of just one side of the body and pain is the common initial symptom of shingles. A few days later, you may likely see a red rash, but not always since some people have pain without a rash. In addition to pain and itching, having shingles can also result in burning, numbness, sensitivity to touch, and/or tingling in the affected area. Shingles blisters filled with fluid are also common. People with shingles can also experience fever, headaches, fatigue or light sensitivity.
Even though shingles are most common on the left or right side of the torso, it is possible to have shingles on the face. Again, it’s usually around one side of the face or neck or even around one eye.
Shingles duration is most often between three to five weeks. The majority of people will only experience shingles one time, but it is possible to get shingles on multiple occasions. The good news: It’s uncommon to get shingles again within three years, since your immune system is more prepared for the virus. But the reason why shingles can recur is clear: The virus becomes inactive inside your nerves but is able to reactivate in the future.
What are the risk factors for developing Shingles?
Age greater than 50
Weakened immune system (such as from chemo, infection, etc.)
What are the symptoms of Shingles?
An odd sensation or tingling on the skin – also can be itching, burning, redness, or pain.
Some people will get fever, feel fatigue, or have a headache.
A rash with blisters will usually appear within 1-2 days. The blisters will most often band across the chest and back on one side. They can (less commonly) appear on the hands, shoulders and occasionally face. Note: A shingles rash near the eyes is an emergency, as it can affect vision.
Within 3-4 days the rash can become open sores.
Within 7-10 days the rash should scab over – at this point most people are no longer contagious.
The rash will generally disappear after 3-4 weeks. Sometimes it will cause scarring and changes in the skin color.
Some patients can develop complications, including postherpetic neuralgia.
Is Shingles contagious?
While it is not possible to catch shingles from someone with the rash, it is possible to catch the virus itself. If you do have a shingles outbreak, it’s imperative to know that this is contagious. In fact, you can pass the virus to anyone who isn’t immune to chickenpox if that person has direct contact with your shingles sores. Interestingly, if a person becomes infected, he or she will develop chickenpox, not shingles.
Shingles Natural Treatment
Having shingles can be very frustrating, but gratefully it responds well to natural treatments. The most effective natural solutions focus on boosting the immune system, improving your nutrition, adding necessary supplements, applying essential oils, and managing stress.
Foods to Avoid
Supporting your immune system with good nutrition can shorten the duration, prevent reactivation and even prevent shingles from spreading to other parts of your body. Avoid foods that create inflammation, diminish your immune responses and create an acidic environment.
Processed Foods - Processed food includes food that has been cooked, canned, frozen, packaged or changed in nutritional composition. They offer no real nutritional value and the preservatives and chemicals in these foods create inflammation in the gut and decrease immune function.
Sugar - I know when we feel ill, we often want comfort food and will turn to sugary treats. However, these foods decrease white blood cells that help fight off infection and decrease immune function significantly. Also avoid fruit juices with high amounts of sugar.
Caffeine & Alcohol— Both of these have a detrimental effect on your body's ability to fight against viruses, and therefore should be avoided when you're trying to ward off a round of shingles (or any other virus or illness, for that matter). They also deplete the body of much needed hydration. I know this is a tough one, but should be considered to heal more quickly.
Carbonated beverages & Fried Foods— Sodas, fast food and fried foods promote a more acidic system, so try to avoid them during the acute illness.
Foods To Enjoy
Foods High in B Vitamins: The nervous system is under attack by the shingles virus; therefore, it’s important to include foods high in B-vitamins such as grass-fed beef, cultured dairy, eggs, organic chicken and wild-caught fish.
Foods Rich in Vitamin C: Add orange and yellow fruits and vegetables to increase your vitamin C intake, which will help to boost your immune system and speed healing. Eat more citrus fruits, tomatoes & papaya
Foods Rich in Vitamin A: Enjoy more carrots, sweet potatoes, kale, red peppers, eggs and apricots
Foods Rich in L-Lysine: L-lysine is an amino acid that is shown to have antiviral effects and can shorten the duration and ease the symptoms of shingles. Eat more foods rich in lysine such as eggs, tofu, spirulina, fenugreek seeds (a spice) and brewer's yeast. Your body can't make lysine, so you have to get it from food or supplements.
Foods that Boost Your Immune System: Green leafy vegetables, citrus fruits, garlic, ginger, spinach, broccoli, red peppers, turmeric and green tea — These foods are high in beta-carotene, vitamin C and calcium and boost your immune function.
What Supplements Should I Take?
Even in idyllic conditions, it's hard to get the nutrition we need from just our food. With soil health declining and toxicity on the rise, we need more nutrition than we can consume on a whole foods, organic diet to tip the scales in our favor and heal from viruses such as shingles. So, when you are experiencing a health challenge such as shingles, supplementation is necessary.
Not all supplements are created equally. Be sure you do your research on the quality of supplements you choose. Take a deep dive into the ingredients and manufacturing practices before you start using them. I only recommend high quality, premium supplements to my patients. This is the shingles supplement protocol that I suggest to my patients and we have seen great results.
Vitamin C - helps with immune system function, boosts white blood cells and has antiviral effects.
Vitamin B12 - helps promote faster recovery and reduced pain. It also improves energy and helps eliminate fatigue and exhaustion. B-Replete is a comprehensive supplement of B Vitamins that includes B12 and B6 and helps to improve immune function significantly.
Probiotic - I believe the single most important thing people can do to improve their health is to heal your gut. Probiotics maintain the proper balance of bacteria in your digestive system. It has been shown that 80% of your immune system is housed in your gut, so it's important to keep that space healthy. An unhealthy gut can prevent healing throughout the body and can lead to a compromised immune system and other health concerns. The best way to get probiotics is with fermented foods like kefir, sauerkraut, kombucha, fermented vegetables, and apple cider vinegar. However, if you don't eat fermented foods, a good quality probiotic is the best solution.
Vitamin D3 - Vitamin D is shown to have powerful effects on immunity. It's also important to note that vitamin D deficiency can increase your risk of contracting shingles, so taking Vitamin D regularly can prevent future outbreaks.I recommend staying within the therapeutic range of 3,000-5000 units per day. (approximately 25 units per pound of body weight)
Elderberry - Elderberry has powerful immune-boosting, antiviral properties. Several studies conclude that elderberry may help to shorten the duration of cold symptoms and even viruses. Elderberry is rich in antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compounds. Some of the most popular forms are elderberry syrup, gummies and juice.
Melatonin - Getting adequate amounts of quality sleep is important for relieving stress and healing from any type of illness. Achieving adequate quality sleep may not be the easiest if you’re under stress, which in turn could worsen its severity. Melatonin is a natural hormone that regulates your body’s circadian rhythm, or sleep-wake cycle. Supplementing with melatonin may help you fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer. I recommend melatonin in liquid form. This one is lemon flavored. Yum!
Ashwaghanda - Ashwagandha is an adaptogenic herb native to India, where it has been used in Indian Ayurveda, one of the world’s oldest medicinal systems. According to studies, supplementing with ashwagandha was strongly associated with greater reductions in stress, anxiety, and depression. Ashwagandha was also linked to a 23% reduction in morning levels of cortisol, a stress hormone.
5 Best Essential Oils For Shingles
Essential oils have enhanced lives for thousands of years with their powerful medicinal properties. Essential oils have plant based intelligence that seeks imbalances in the body to support health and have been used successfully with numerous skin conditions. Many essential oils have anti-inflammatory, antioxidant effects, and immune boosting qualities and that is particularly important considering shingles is related to a weakened immune system and oxidative stress.
Lemon Balm Essential Oil - Lemon balm has been studied extensively for it's ability to actually reduce pain following a shingles outbreak. It is known for being helpful in the reduction of the symptoms of nerve damage as well as boosting nerve receptors. It even outperformed other traditional topical remedies that are typically recommended for shingles pain.
Tea tree essential oil - Tea Tree offers strong anti-viral support and can significantly combat skin irritations. It has anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties and can promote wound healing.
Lavender Essential Oil - Lavender is probably the most popular and well know essential oil. It is known for it's relaxation properties and the positive effects it has on anxiety and sleep. It is also useful with pain and preventing the spread of the shingles virus. Lavender has anti-inflammatory as well as analgesic properties. This makes lavender oil ideal for promoting skin health, relieving painful irritation, and even providing soothing and calming effects on the body and mind.
Peppermint essential oil - Peppermint essential oils are also known to put a relaxing effect on muscles. It has anti-inflammatory, analgesic, and anti-spasmodic capabilities that make them among the more popular essential oils for nerve pain. It has a characteristically warming effect upon application, followed by a numbing relief.
Turmeric Essential Oil - Turmeric is well known for it's ability to calm inflammation. Turmeric has very potent anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties, earning it a spot in the top widely used spices throughout history. Not only does turmeric help with nerve pain, but it also helps with joint and muscle pain as well. Turmeric essential oil provides the same benefit when applied to the skin. This makes turmeric essential oil great for nerve pain relief and can even speed up the repair of any damaged or injured nerves.
You can take 2 drops of an essential oil and mix it with 1/4 teaspoon of coconut oil and rub it on areas of shingles pain. You can also combine these oils and make a blend to support shingles. Diffusing oils also has antiviral benefits.
As a wellness physician, I have consulted my patients for years regarding the use of essential oils for skin challenges and immune support. I handcraft proprietary essential oil blends and organic body care products to address such concerns. I use these 5 essential oils in my Shingle-X Butter Stick along with manuka honey, colloidal oatmeal, coconut oil, aloe vera & shea butter. We've taken the guesswork out of combing natural ingredients and essential oils to calm itching, soothe painful skin, and prevent spreading.
Use Natural, Soothing Topical Creams
Scratching a shingles rash can cause scarring and prolong blisters. Using soothing topical creams can calm persistent itching. Avoid lotions that include toxic chemicals such as parabens or synthetic fragrances they can cause further irritation.
The most effective topical creams contain natural ingredients such as coconut oil, aloe vera, shea butter, and healing essential oils. Take a look at this organic, topical butter stick for fast relief.
Other Natural Topical Remedies
Research has shown Manuka honey has a broad spectrum of benefits for the skin. By supporting skin inflammation, it can promote skin health and calm irritated shingles rashes. It also offers outstanding wound support properties and can reduce the appearance of scars. Simply apply the honey directly to problem areas a few times per day.
Colloidal Oatmeal is an all-natural skin soothing solution for shingles, psoriasis, eczema and other dry, itchy, and inflamed skin conditions. When applied topically, colloidal oatmeal works by attracting moisture to the skin and locking it in by forming a protective barrier. It can be applied to the skin or added to a bath of warm water. Make sure the bath is on the cooler side since hot water will only make itching worse.
Shea Butter is an excellent natural moisturizer to help combat dry, itchy shingles skin because of its high oil content and fatty acids that deeply penetrate the skin and cause skin rejuvenation and collagen production making skin more tone and healthier. It contains vitamins A, E and F which also help to promote support for dry, itchy and inflamed skin.
Aloe Vera has strong inflammatory support that makes it particularly effective for supporting shingles hence it helps to soothe the itching and burning sensation. Its provides cleansing properties that help restore skin health. Aloe naturally includes vitamins A, C, B and E, is loaded with minerals and provides deep hydration, accelerated skin health, and improved skin tone.
Coconut oil is rich in lauric acid, a healthful fatty acid. Lauric acid is an ingredient in natural remedies for all kinds of health issues, including shingles, eczema & psoriasis. It can soothe the skin, reduce irritation and itching and speed up healing of blemishes. With daily use, It has also shown to help diminish the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles by strengthening the skin.
Each of these ingredients are included in our Shingle-X Butter Stick
Drink Plenty of Water
Adequate hydration is the key to flushing out shingles or any virus in your system.You should try to consume a ½ ounce of water per pound of body weight. If you weigh 150 lbs., you need at least 75 ounces of water per day.
Manage Stress and Get Good Quality Sleep
The more stress we we experience in our lives, the more health challenges we will have. Make time to practice those things that manage your stress levels. Exercise, mental health walks, meditation, time out with your friends, playing in the dirt, reading...Whatever works for you.
According to Mayo Clinic, reducing stress in your life as much as possible is actually a key shingles natural treatment. This lifestyle change can help to prevent and treat shingles since stress reduction is such an overall immune system and health booster.
We all need 7-8 hours of sleep per night for proper health and immune strength. Try our Sleep Assist Essential Oil Blend or one of our premium melatonin supplements for a more restful, restorative sleep.
There is currently no cure for shingles. Conventional treatment for shingles is typically antiviral drugs like Valacyclovir (Valtrex), Famciclovir (Famvir) or Acyclovir (Zovirax). If a shingles patient is experiencing pain, then a doctor will likely recommend a topical shingles cream or even injections of steroids or local anesthetics.
There is now a shingles vaccine and the CDC recommends that anyone over the age of 60 gets this vaccine. This vaccine is relatively new and is a preventative vaccine not a treatment.
I highly recommend digging deep into research of any type of vaccination.
Final Thoughts & Encouragement
Gratefully, most shingles cases are highly manageable with natural treatments. We can all make a greater effort to boost our immune systems and create a healthy defense against shingles.
Shingles natural treatment involves choosing foods that boost the immune system, avoiding foods that create inflammation and weaken our immune system. Essential oils are extremely healing and helpful and rely on the power of plants to restore health and relieve pain. Managing stress is key, not only for preventing shingles, but for improving your health and well being as a whole.
Wishing you health & happiness!
Dr. Angela's BEST RECOMMENDATIONS
PLEASE NOTE: I ONLY recommend products, supplements & essential oils in my posts that 1) I have personally crafted myself and I know exactly what is in them. 2) I personally use and love and trust the quality 3) I have recommended to my patients and know the efficacy and have seen the therapeutic value.
Vitamin C - improves immune function and boosts white blood cells
Vitamin B Complex - promotes a faster recovery, improves energy levels, and decreases pain
Vitamin D3 - immune support and antiviral effects
Probiotics - promotes a healthy gut and immune response
Elderberry Syrup - powerful immune-boosting, antiviral properties
Melatonin Liquid - Lemon Flavored - a natural hormone that brings balance to sleep cycles
Ashwaghanda - an adaptogenic herb for stress support, immune support and hormone balance
Dr. Angela's Shingles Complete Care Bundle - Vitamin B12, Vitamin C, and topical butter stick
Sleep Assist Essential Oil Blend - a proprietary blend of essential oils to support restorative sleep
Shingle-X Butter Stick - Dr. Angela's topical relief stick