Herpes simplex HSV genital herpes

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, HSV I and HSV II. 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?

The initial herpes infection can elicit the worst symptoms which may include:

  • Fatigue
  • Fever
  • 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 2-3 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 can also be done to see if you have antibodies in your bloodstream to the herpes virus.

Herpes Drug Treatment

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.

Natural 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.

Hormone Balance

Hormones play a role in regulating your 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.

Immune system

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.

Vitamin/Mineral Deficiencies

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.

Herbal Medicine

There are a number of herbs with antiviral activity against HSV including berberine, Agaricus brasiliensis, Ganoderma lucidum and Astragalus.


Foods that are high in carbs and sugar can suppress your immune system.  Food sensitivities can keep your immune system occupied fighting food instead of keeping the virus under control. I have had patients who would experience the prodromal tingling almost immediately after eating a food sensitivity food such as gluten or almonds.  We can also tweak your lysine/arginine balance through your diet.

For help with this or any other health problem, book an appointment here or call the office for more information at 416-481-0222.

by Dr. Pamela Frank, BSc(Hons), ND

Herpes Natural Treatment Research:

Kaushic C, Roth KL, Anipindi V, Xiu F. Increased prevalence of sexually transmitted viral infections in women: the role of female sex hormones in regulating susceptibility and immune responses. J Reprod Immunol. 2011 Mar;88(2):204-9. doi: 10.1016/j.jri.2010.12.004. Epub 2011 Feb 5.

Mahajan BB, Dhawan M, Singh R. Herpes genitalis – Topical zinc sulfate: An alternative therapeutic and modality. Indian J Sex Transm Dis. 2013 Jan;34(1):32-4. doi: 10.4103/0253-7184.112867.

Griffith RS, Walsh DE, Myrmel KH, Thompson RW, Behforooz A. Success of L-lysine therapy in frequently recurrent herpes simplex infection. Treatment and prophylaxis. Dermatologica. 1987;175(4):183-90.

Cardozo FT, Camelini CM, Mascarello A, Rossi MJ, Nunes RJ, Barardi CR, de Mendonça MM, Simões CM.Antiherpetic activity of a sulfated polysaccharide from Agaricus brasiliensis mycelia. Antiviral Res. 2011 Oct;92(1):108-14. doi: 10.1016/j.antiviral.2011.07.009. Epub 2011 Jul 20.

Chin LW, Cheng YW, Lin SS, Lai YY, Lin LY, Chou MY, Chou MC, Yang CC. Anti-herpes simplex virus effects of berberine from Coptidis rhizoma, a major component of a Chinese herbal medicine, Ching-Wei-San. Arch Virol. 2010 Dec;155(12):1933-41. doi: 10.1007/s00705-010-0779-9. Epub 2010 Aug 5.

Sun Y, Yang J. Experimental study of the effect of Astragalus membranaceus against herpes simplex virus type 1. Di Yi Jun Yi Da Xue Xue Bao. 2004 Jan;24(1):57-8.

Li Z, Liu J, Zhao Y. Possible mechanism underlying the antiherpetic activity of a proteoglycan isolated from the mycelia of Ganoderma lucidum in vitro. J Biochem Mol Biol. 2005 Jan 31;38(1):34-40.

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