Herpes Simplex (HSV)
What is Herpes?
Genital herpes is a sexually transmitted disease (STD), caused by the herpes simplex virus. There are two strains of the virus, HSVI and HSVII. Although it has been commonly thought that HSV I affects the lips and HSV II affects the genitals, either strain can affect the genitals.
What are the symptoms of a herpes infection?
An initial herpes infection can illicit the worst symptoms which may include:
- Joint or back aches and pains
- A cluster of painful bumps or blisters in the genital area that may have been preceded by tingling or itching in that area (prodrome)
- Swollen lymph nodes in the groin
- The blisters can be followed by an ulcer when they rupture and then a scab
After the initial infection, the virus remains in the body and can resurface as frequently as every 3-4 weeks, or not at all. Herpes genitalis caused by HSV-1 and HSV-2 is recurrent in 55 and 90% of cases respectively. Subsequent outbreaks can vary in intensity and frequency depending on a number of factors, including stress, hormone balance and immune system function. Those who carry the virus can be contagious even when there is no active outbreak. Once contracted, there is no cure for herpes, but keeping your immune system healthy can help prevent outbreaks and condom use can help prevent transmission of the virus to others.
Is there a test for herpes?
Yes, your doctor can take a scraping from a sore and send it for viral culture. A blood test an also be done to see if you have antibodies in your bloodstream to the herpes virus.
Conventional medications include the antivirals Acyclovir, Famciclovir and Valacyclovir. These may be used only as needed when you have an outbreak, or may also be prescribed as a preventative measure.
Naturopathic Treatment for Herpes
The naturopathic approach to herpes involves looking at all aspects of your health: hormone balance, immune system function, stress, exercise, diet, vitamin or mineral deficiencies.
Hormones play a role in regulating immune system function. Women with HSV will often notice that outbreaks coincide with the week before their period is due and perimenopausal women will find that outbreaks can be more frequent. Healthy hormone balance can help restore optimal immune system function.
Several factors affect how well the immune system works: diet, stress, exercise, sleep and vitamin or mineral deficiencies. Improving each of these factors can help ensure better immune system control of the virus.
Stress causes higher levels of cortisol which lowers immune function. Helping the body to manage stress as easily as possible can help the immune system to work better.
Regular, moderate exercise helps to keep the immune system strong and relieves stress.
Sleep, Relaxation and Downtime
Good quality and quantity of rest and sleep support a healthy immune system.
Certain vitamins and minerals are required for normal immune function.
Vitamin A – a study in rats found that immune response to HSV was higher in animals with sufficient vitamin A versus those who were vitamin A deficient.
β-Carotene – A 2012 study found that β-Carotene, a vitamin A precursor, can be considered a potential anti-inflammatory agent for DNA-virus infection such as HSV.
Zinc – Zinc is an important mineral for normal immune activity. Studies have shown that topical application of zinc sulphate can not only help clear up an existing outbreak, but also help prolong the interval between outbreaks.
Vitamin C – Laboratory studies have demonstrated the effectiveness of vitamin C and copper at inactivating HSV.
Amino Acid Therapy
Lysine is an amino acid (a building block for protein) that can help suppress replication of the herpes virus. Altering your diet to increase high lysine foods can help, as can lysine supplementation.
There are a number of herbs with anti-viral activity against HSV including: berberine, Agaricus brasiliensis, Ganoderma lucidum and Astragalus.
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