To most people the word "herpes" means genital herpes, a virus that is transmitted through sexual contact. However herpes is in fact a family of viruses that is extremely widespread.
Herpes simplex virus types 1 and 2 (HSV-1 and HSV-2), varicella-zoster virus, cytomegalovirus, and Epstein-Barr virus and diseases ranging from chicken pox to mononucleosis are all caused by viruses in this family.
It is HSV-2 that most commonly causes genital infections, and HSV-1 that generally causes infections of the lips, however either viruses can be passed from one location to the other.
The diseases caused by the herpes virus may differ from one another, but they share a few common traits:
They are generally very contagious.
The virus can survive in latent form for long periods of time after the initial infection.
As yet they are not curable.
Estimates suggest that nearly 30 million Americans are infected with HSV-1 and despite many studies over many years there has been little success in developing effective treatments.
Many of the viruses in the herpes family do not recur after the initial disease outbreak, chicken pox is an example. However the virus remains in your body, hidden in nerve tissues and escaping detection by the immune system.
It is unsure exactly how and why the latent virus is triggered into an active infection. It is known however that certain stresses to the immune system appear to bring on an outbreak. These include illness, injury, emotional stress, poor diet, over exposure to sunlight, and even menstruation.
A strong immune system seems to lessen recurrence, though outbreaks may continue throughout life. Studies show that HSV-1 has a recurrence rate of 14 percent and HSV-2 has a recurrence rate of 60 percent.
Studies have shown that the women with the herpes virus may have an increased risk of cervical cancer. The herpes sores also provide an entryway for other infections.
Acyclovir (Zovirax), is the most commonly prescribed medication for herpes simplex. The drug eases the pain of the sores and speeds the healing process. It also reduces the frequency of recurrences.
However, you may experience side effects such as stomach upset, nausea and headache as a result of the drug. Additionally, as the drug can be rather expensive and must be taken indefinitely if you experience frequent recurrences, then cost may be a consideration.
There are some natural remedies that have show promise in combating the virus. Others may help ease the painful symptoms of an outbreak.
Lysine/Arginine connection: Probably the best known alternative method to help control herpes outbreaks through diet is by periodically increasing the intake of the amino acid lysine, and at the same time keeping the intake of the amino acid arginine to a minimum. The herpes virus uses arginine for its growth and replication, however Lysine reduces the viral uptake of arginine. Lysine is found in higher proportions in foods such as cheese, potatoes, meat and soy products. Arginine is found in chocolate, nuts and seeds, oatmeal, and whole wheat products.
Foods: Processed foods, sugar, or stimulants including coffee, chocolate and cola drinks all stress the immune system and should be avoided during outbreaks.Highly acidic foods such as vinegar, citrus fruits and tomatoes should be avoided. Foods high in sodium and animal products (meat and dairy products are relatively high in arginine) should be kept at a low level during outbreaks.
Vitamins: Herpes weakens the immune system. A vitamin regimen boosts immune function and can improve the chances of preventing recurrence. Vitamins C, E, and B complex and a zinc chelate supplement are all helpful. However as Vitamin C is acidic it should not be taken in high doses.
Red Marine Algae: Red marine algae has significant antiviral properties and proved effective when tested on the herpes virus. It is thought that the sulfated polysaccharides in red marine algae enhance the immune system's antiviral response which inhibits the virus. One type of red marine algae--dumontiaceae--is now available for sale commercially.
Homeopathic treatment: There are two homeopathic remedies that may relieve inflammation and ease itching during a herpes outbreak.
Calendula tincture, diluted 3:1 with water several times a day.
Rhus toxicodendron pellets taken under the tongue.
Topical remedies: Herpes sores are both itchy and painful. For immediate relief of these unpleasant symptoms the remedies below may help.
Herbs: Aloe Vera gel, Goldenseal ointment or myrrh may soothe the skin during an outbreak.
Baths: To clean herpes sores and help relieve itching a hot tea bath may help. Add six ounces of common black tea leaves to hot bath water, lay back and relax for one hour.
Disclaimer: The information presented is for information purposes only. It is based on scientific studies or traditional usage. Consult a health care professional before using supplements or making any changes in prescribed medications. Information and statements regarding dietary supplements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration and are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease