silversword(9A)January 23, 2009

Anyone have any herbal remedies for shingles?

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brendan_of_bonsai(4b AK)

a fifth of an ounce of prevention is worth several days-weeks of painful problem.

As it turns out snake oil is a good topical analgesic.

    Bookmark   January 23, 2009 at 6:18PM
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There is an immunization for this costs over $300 and can leave a wide (about 1-1/2 inch pink spot for about a week on some people, and there could be other long-term side effects (ie catching shingles when it wears off, mainly).

I guess any anti-inflammatory herbs, such as the Plaintain in another thread, might help.

I would suggest trying the amino acid Lycine, since that is effective with cold sores, which are also caused by a virus that recurs in a similar fashion. I have not heard of anyone that actually had shingles and tried it yet, although I have been suggesting it to people I know.

    Bookmark   January 23, 2009 at 7:27PM
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HI Eibren,
That's a good suggestion about plaintain! A plaintain poultice would probably feel pretty good too, as heat helps with the pain. I've heard of the immunization, and there are prescription drugs one can take.

Lycine tablets (I just googled it) might be a good place to start, thank you. I haven't heard of that before. I think it's interesting that it's an amino acid that is necessary by the human body but we don't produce it.

    Bookmark   January 24, 2009 at 1:57PM
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brendan_of_bonsai(4b AK)

The price is a real issue it averages $200 per person, and it shows a 51% reduction in the incidents of shingles (not sure about severity) and a 69% reduction in the incidents of post herpetic neuralgial. Redness and soreness are side effects (about 1 millionth the severity of that seen with shingles).

I also don't think catching shingles when it wears off counts as a side effect, just like starving to death after eating a meal is not a side effect of the meal (well some plants will do this to you).

As for Lysine the herpes viruses use the lysince transportation pathway to access the cells, one you have an outbreak lysine does nothing to help, but for prevention l-lysine will go a long way, it both clogs the pathways, and it down regulates expression of the pathways because the cells do not need to work as hard to get the lysine.

    Bookmark   January 24, 2009 at 4:06PM
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Hi Brendan,
I think you have your remedies mixed up. Snake oil, or shòu is used as a remedy for inflammation and pain in rheumatoid arthritis, bursitis, and other similar conditions. While it reduces joint inflammation it's not known for its ability to help nerve pain.

Do you really suggest snake oil or were you being sarcastic and insensitive to the pain of a shingle sufferer?

    Bookmark   January 24, 2009 at 5:54PM
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After reading the post by Brendan stating the "... price is a real issue it averages $200 per person" I was a little concerned.

But then I read that the LA Times says "Many people still prefer the natural remedy over a newer prescription drug because of lysines safety and low cost."

Also, in many other locations the price is around $8.00 for 250 tabs of 500mg of L-Lysine.

I personally don't think this price is prohibative.

    Bookmark   January 24, 2009 at 6:01PM
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brendan_of_bonsai(4b AK)

The price comment was regarding the vaccine.

At $8 per 250 (125 days at two a day) that is about $24 a year, multiply that by the 15 year average coverage of the vaccine and divide by the lower success rate (I couldn't find the rate for shingles prevention, I'll use the rate for oral herpes prevention, 2.1 to 1.7, its not perfect but its all I've got to work with, versus the 2 to 1.05 off of the vaccine) and you get relative price of ~$580 spent for the same relative benefits as the vaccine. This did not include the amount of the time it takes to add those two pills to your daily routine (24 seconds a day for 15 years is 36 hours of labor at minimum wage that's another $240 for the pills and $10 for the vaccine).

I was under the impression that the Eicosapentaenoic acid found in snake oil acted on topical inflammatory responses like those induced by HSV's but I could be wrong, I'll certainly have to look it up once I get back to a computer with access to journals.

    Bookmark   January 24, 2009 at 6:52PM
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Really Brendan? Honestly? You're going to recommend snake oil? Even in China they only use it for joint pain. Where's your documentation on success rate for snake oil?

I can't believe you'd be so uptight about strawberry leaf and nerves (actually, strawberry tea may be even more effective than snake oil) and so blase about snake oil and shingles.

And you are the one who said herbalism should be discussed medicinally?

On another note, $580 for 15 years isn't very expensive at all.Your math cracks me up. I find the option of taking more vitamins far more valid than snake oil.

    Bookmark   January 24, 2009 at 7:45PM
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brendan_of_bonsai(4b AK)

I never commented on the effectiveness of strawberry leaf tea, we never got around to what it was supposed to do effectively. I remember hearing from a medical source that I trust that the Eicosapentaenoic acid in snake oil treats inflamation and pain topically, I am open to the idea that this information is wrong, I was trying to offer up an herbal remedy, something I have been criticized for not doing in the past.

Apparently no matter what I do I am in the wrong.

As for the math $580 is not a lot over 15 years, neither is $200. L-Lysine is not a vitamin however, and Snake oil really does work, the fact that people shilling for things that don't work are called snake oil salesmen should not be allowed to effect our opinion of the effects of snake oil.

Calamine lotion, although not herbal at all, it used effectively topically on shingles.

    Bookmark   January 24, 2009 at 11:10PM
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I'm not certain that herpes and shingles/chickenpox viruses are similar enough to make the Lysine definitely work, though. :o(

According to what Brendan is saying, it would not work after the condition is present...but it does work to make cold (herps) sores go away.

"I also don't think catching shingles when it wears off counts as a side effect, just like starving to death after eating a meal is not a side effect of the meal (well some plants will do this to you)."

It could be with this vaccine, though, because they are using a live virus.

I would not have gotten it if my DH had not decided to do so; I was afraid I might contract it from him (although "they" say you can't).

    Bookmark   January 24, 2009 at 11:16PM
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brendan_of_bonsai(4b AK)

It doesn't make a cold sore go away any faster, what it does do is prevent it from showing up in the first place.

This is a live attenuated virus, however most individuals old enough to be worried about shingles have already been infected with wild type chicken pox, and depending on how they were attenuated they may not be able to cause shingles, if it was a genetic attenuation the incidents of them reverting back to a dangerous form will be incredibly low, on the order of one in a million.

    Bookmark   January 24, 2009 at 11:31PM
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You shouldn't worry about getting shingles from someone who received the vaccine, unless they are at risk by being immunosuppressed, such as having AIDS or getting chemotherapy, in which case they should not be receiving the vaccine anyway.

As Brendan points out, most people at risk for shingles already had chickenpox in their childhood and the virus has been dormant in their bodies for years; the point of the vaccine is to enhance the body's own immune surveillance to prevent shingles outbreaks.

The vaccine has a good safety profile. "In the largest study that was conducted to look at safety, rates of serious adverse events were similar in people who received Zostavax (1.4%) compared to those who received the placebo (1.4%)."

Vaccine cost and limited efficacy (it's about 50% effective in preventing shingles) are problematic. Even so, some protection is better than none. Shingles is often a very nasty, painful, debilitating disease.

    Bookmark   January 25, 2009 at 4:28PM
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Anyone have a source for snake oil?

    Bookmark   January 25, 2009 at 8:27PM
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brendan_of_bonsai(4b AK)

Erasmus, Udo. Fats that heal: Fats that Kill. 1993, ISBN 0-920470-38-6

Says that (according to wikipedia) snake oil is made of
* 75% unidentified carrier material, including camphor
* 25% oil from Chinese water snakes, itself consisting of:
o 20% eicosapentaenic acid (EPA) - an omega 3 derivative
o 48% myristic acid (14:0)
o 10% stearic acid (18:0)
o 14% oleic acid (18:1ω9)
o 7% linoleic acid (18:2ω6) plus arachidonic acid (20:4ω6)

and the NIH Says that EPA lowers inflammation.

    Bookmark   January 25, 2009 at 9:11PM
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I don't know about the vaccine, but I got shingles and got the antiviral medicine - boy, did that work! I went from being miserable to feeling fine with just the first dose.

Shingles - just another reason to get the chicken pox vaccine as a kid!

    Bookmark   January 27, 2009 at 3:52PM
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Hi Esh,
Have you ever gotten them again? Did your doctor recommend any alternate therapy or did you try anything before getting the antiviral medicine?

From what I've read they don't know yet if the vaccine will "nest" in the nerves like the live virus... hopefully the vaccine will prevent shingles!

    Bookmark   January 27, 2009 at 4:04PM
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"Nest"-ing "in the nerves" is what the infectious chickenpox virus does when it goes dormant in your nerve ganglia - re-emerging in some people as they age, because their cell-mediated immunity has declined to the point that the virus can become re-activated. At that point the virus travels down sensory nerves to the skin, causing extremely painful lesions.

The vaccine virus is an attentuated (very weak) strain, which does not travel to nerves but instead works by boosting your cell-mediated immunity so that the dormant wild-type virus cannot get reactivated.

"The preventive effect of the zoster vaccine is thought to be a consequence of its boosting effect on an older person's cell-mediated immunity to VZV, mimicking the immunologic benefits of the exposure of a VZV-immune adult to chickenpox. This pharmacologic boost increases cell-mediated immunity to a new set point above the "immunologic threshold" below which a person is at risk for zoster (shingles)."

As noted previously, the vaccine works, with best effectiveness for people in their 60s, less so as they age. Hopefully an even better vaccine will be available in the future.

    Bookmark   January 27, 2009 at 6:56PM
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"Nest"-ing "in the nerves" is what the infectious chickenpox virus does when it goes dormant in your nerve ganglia - re-emerging in some people as they age, because their cell-mediated immunity has declined to the point that the virus can become re-activated."

Not necessarily. Young people can get shingles too, and there has been no consensus why it reactivates.

Also, we were talking about the chickenpox vaccine, not the shingles vaccine:

Esh: Shingles - just another reason to get the chicken pox vaccine as a kid!

Silversword: From what I've read they don't know yet if the vaccine will "nest" in the nerves like the live virus... hopefully the vaccine will prevent shingles!

The chickenpox vaccine has caused shingles in some people who have received it. Since the vaccine is so new, it is unknown what the long term effect will be, and what will happen when our children are grandparents. It has also not been shown to prevent shingles in children.

Bottom line, it's too new to tell.

    Bookmark   January 28, 2009 at 11:00AM
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I see there was room for confusion about just which vaccine was being discussed (Esh's comments appear to refer to both chickenpox and shingles vaccine).

Shingles is a reactivated form of varicella virus infection that occurs as a late manifestation due to altered immunity - whether (as most commonly seen) in those in late middle age and older, or occurring earlier.

"Bottom line, it's too new to tell."

The bottom line is that both the chickenpox and shingles vaccines have an excellent safety record and complications (the vast majority of which are non-serious) are rare. There are questions about how long-term vaccine protection will be (even exposure to wild-type infections doesn't confer lifetime immunity to the virus) and room for development of more effective vaccines.

    Bookmark   January 28, 2009 at 1:18PM
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Everyone please... your attention... Eric has located the true bottom line!

    Bookmark   January 28, 2009 at 1:29PM
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Ok, I have a 13 year old daughter, who never had chickenpox. She did however have the chickenpox vaccine. She started having sever burning pain in a band starting at her spinal column and wrapping around her right side. She has never gotten the rash. We took her to a neuro specialist who said it wasn't shingles. He tested everything from blood to and MRI and finally after a month threw up his hands and said I don't know what it is. We were sent back to the pediatrician who called the CDC who said it could be shingles without the rash. He started sent us to a new neuro-pain specialist who put her on Lyrica, cymbalta and Valtrex. She did a stint with all of those for a month and no effect at all. We have weened her off the lyrica she is on a maintenance version of valtrex and cymbalta and we are going to the Medical College of Georgia to see a 3rd specialist. We are at our wits end.
Can you tell me if they can give the Shingles vaccine while you are having a flair up of Shingles and would it have a good effect? We are now at 14 weeks of constant level 10 pain with out any relief. A lot of tears are being shead at my house. We would appreciate any help we can get with this, and we thank you in advance for any information you can give.

    Bookmark   January 28, 2009 at 4:08PM
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I'm so sorry Carla. I don't know for sure. The first time I got shingles I was nine, in good health. No one could figure out why I had them, but the rash was from my neck down to my legs, and on one side of my body. It was the worst pain I have ever been in. I had to take prescription pain pills and overlap them, one time I didn't and the pain was so horrible I couldn't do anything but scream. I can understand her pain, and I am so, so sorry for your daughter.

I do know that Zostavax is not a treatment for active shingles or post-herpetic neuralgia. Post-herpetic neuralgia is the persistent nerve pain that occurs in some people after the rash is gone. That could possibly be what is going on with her.

Very occasionally, shingles pain occurs without a rash. This condition is known as zoster sine herpete. In the absence of a rash, pain in the chest or the back may be so severe as to occasionally be mistaken for a heart attack, a lung infection or spinal problem.

Keep looking for answers. Shingles can cause a lot of damage. Because it occurs often in those with depressed immune systems there may be other things going on in her body that is causing this to happen. If you are open to the idea you may want to see an acupuncturist. That has really helped me.

    Bookmark   January 28, 2009 at 4:28PM
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Well, you could try the amino acid Lysine, which comes in large white tablets in health food stores. It only costs about $10 for a bottle of about 250 pills.

It helps with the herpes virus (there is more about that earlier in this thread)--if the Chickenpox virus works similarly, maybe it could help.

If you try it and it does help, I would appreciate it if you would let us know. It's probably fairly harmless for short durations, but you should mention it to her doctor.

    Bookmark   January 28, 2009 at 4:48PM
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Carla, from the meds your daughter was put on (including antidepressant and antiseizure medication) are often used to treat post-herpetic neuralgia, pain occurring after a bout of shingles. That it unfortunately isn't working doesn't mean the problem isn't due to shingles (it can be very tough to treat). Obviously none of us here are in a position to diagnose exactly what's going on.

Vaccination at this point will not help with the pain. Hopefully the specialist you're going to see will be able to confirm a diagnosis and recommend effective treatment.

    Bookmark   January 28, 2009 at 4:49PM
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Here are a couple of sources of information on treating shingles, including alternative/herbal treatments that you could discuss with your doctor (including capsaicin cream).

Acupuncture has had some favorable reports for treating post-herpetic pain; the problem is that they are anecdotal and subject to error and bias. A controlled study couldn't find any difference between acupuncture and placebo (see above links).

    Bookmark   January 28, 2009 at 5:01PM
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Berlin study: shingles triggered in 39 of 5,000 sufferers, due to monocloal anti-tumor necrosis factor alpha antibodies, from auto-immune therapy drugs which are used now to treat rheumatoid arthritis. Trigger for shingles is weakened immune system.

    Bookmark   February 18, 2009 at 10:21AM
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brendan_of_bonsai(4b AK)

Gringo, could you link to that study? It looks like they weakened an overacting immune system.

    Bookmark   February 18, 2009 at 10:53AM
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Journal American Medical Association, published TNF (tumor necrosis factor) report by Rheumatism Research Center (Berlin); study's team leader is Dr. Anja Strangfeld - example of TNF drugs are adalimumab (currently advertised on TV) & infliyimab

    Bookmark   February 18, 2009 at 4:25PM
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brendan_of_bonsai(4b AK)

Awesome, this is a subject of great interest to me, thank you for posting it.

    Bookmark   February 18, 2009 at 7:02PM
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St. Johnswort oil infusion works well with any topical nerve pain (including the "ends" of nerves cut during surgeries). Use the flowers only-- pick them midmorning & drop right into olive oil. Put a lid on the jar & set in the sun. As you add the flowers, the oil will turn a beautiful red. I pick the flowers from mid-June until September, leaving plenty on the plants to reseed. Every 2 weeks or so I strain the old flowers out of the oil &/or add more oil &/or start a new batch, depending on how prolific the plants are that season. You want the oil to be a good solid red. This oil can also be used in balms & added to foods (don't heat too much) or taken directly to help with SAD.

    Bookmark   February 18, 2009 at 8:33PM
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I'm writing this post to be of service to others who are suffering from painful post herpetic neuralgia due to shingles. I'd like to share my experience, strength and hope with you, so that hopefully you'll have a better time dealing with the extreme difficulties this pain can present. I;ve been living with this pain for over a year now. Please feel free to contact me if you'd ever like to communicate with a sympathetic person who knows what your going through. You can reach me via email at: pdebenedittis comcast net (I've written my email address this way on purpose so that spam bots don't haunt me. You know you need to use the @ and . symbols to make it a real email address, right? )

In a nutshell, I had a very extreme case. I had 2 dermatones around the right side in the area of my navel get completely covered with sores. The pain I went through was so sever, I felt like I was beaten with baseball bats several times a day for the first few months. After about 5 months it was only once a day or so that the pain was really sever, though it constantly hurt. Now, 13 months later, the deep pain is gone, except for only a twinge every now and again. I do have constant pain on my skin that ranges from annoying to crying out loud painful. I say all this so that you'll know I'm speaking from experience, not just making things up. And despite how bad things were, there are lots of reasons to be hopeful. Here are things I did that worked to help manage the pain.

1) Mediation. This is by far the most important thing I did to get my life back to where I didn't hate being alive. The results were not instant, but I started noticing good effects after only a couple of weeks. I started off using a guided mediation from the Abraham - Hicks book "Into The Vortex." It came along with a CD that had several 15-minute tracks of positive affirmations. All I had to do was just relax and breathe along with the tape, while trying not to think to much about anything. This was something I could manage as I was still pretty loopy from drugs a lot of the time. They had a track specifically on physical health and well-being. It was great!

I now mediate frequently using longer disciplines where I sit up straight (which was difficult early on). Not only did my pain significantly diminish, I had a much more positive outlook on life. I found myself getting more and more happy for no reason--even though I still hurt a lot. So punt whatever beliefs you have about meditation and dive in. It's the best thing I can recommend to ease your suffering.

Also consider prayer. There's a ton of studies showing it works to improve healing, even when done remotely. Get over your skepticism as there's good science showing it's a powerful aid to healing. Please contact me with your real name and I'd be happy to pray for you at least several times a week. My girlfriend and I host a Blessing circle at our home every week, so you'll get the benefit of a group of people praying for you once a week as well.

2) Drugs. Remember I'm no doctor. Be sure your medical provider is on-board before you listen to anything I say here. But for me, making friends with drugs was important. Neurontin (gabapentin) has worked best for me. The other major drug they use for nerve pain made me suicidal. I'm not kidding, the warning label even said this was a side effect for teens. I'm 54. Be careful if you take it. Start with low doses and make sure you have someone around to monitor your moods before you find yourself in too much despair.

Lidocane cream is pretty good, and can be used with internal drugs. The patches are best, especially since they cover the affected area and keep it from triggering a pain flash when it's touched. One drawback though, is that you may feel good enough to move around while you wear them, which can cause a rebound effect of hurting for a few days afterward. My job is public speaking. So I needed these to get by and earn income. But be prepared with down time of a day or two (sometimes three) in between consecutive days of using patches.

Aspirin. It was really helpful to me to supplement the Neurontin with over the counter pain pills. They all worked, but the ones with big chemical names can be hard on your liver. If you can take it, aspirin is a blessing. Even at extremely high doses, I didn't suffer any ill effects, and felt like I could get through my day without much trouble. Hint, get plain old aspirin. Not buffered or coated. Just chew them up and take a big drink of water. It will be easier on your stomach. Get over the taste. You'll find the nastiness isn't so bad after about a week. It's much better than all the upset the coatings and junk will put in your stomach.

3) Non drugs. Traumeel cream. Arnica cream. Very, very good stuff. Buy them at your health food store. You'll be glad you did. Especially if you wear lido patches. You have to go 12 hours in between applications. And you can't use the lido cream at that time. These homeopathic alternatives made a real difference.

I found that Capsicum cream and other things like geranium oil were a real pain. They didn't give me much relief from the shingles pain and hurt a bunch everywhere else they touched my skin.

4) Devices. Early on, using a TENS unit helped a lot. It gives mild electrical shocks to the affected area. I had deep pain below the surface of my skin, and the TENS eased this quite a bit. Once the deep pain subsided, the TENS didn't do very much. Be sure you play with the amplitude and duration adjustments. Some settings are better than others. Not only will some settings not work, but they can actually make it hurt more, especially the surface skin pain.

I also used a device called an Alpha Stim. It's expensive, unlike the Tens which you can buy for $50 bucks if you shop around. The Alpha Stim uses micro pulse shocks to your ear lobes to break up the patterning of your brain's ability to feel pain. It worked really well when my pain was most intense, during the first 3 months or so of this ordeal. After that, not so much.

5) Compression. This really has been a good thing. I bought a rubber weight loss belt and put it around my stomach (the infected area) before bed. It let me sleep much better as I no longer had the sheets rubbing against me. I don't use it anymore, as the discomfort it causes is now more than the pain it prevents. But for the first 8 months, it was a real blessing. You'll have to wait until all the scabs are gone before you use this.

I also sleep on the side that hurts. This causes a few minutes of pain when I go to bed. But as long as I don't roll over the rest of the night, it's a better alternative that the cascade of pain that the sheets moving on me causes. By doing this I can still sleep with my girlfriend as she spoons me. The physical comfort is very healing when I get depressed.

I also went and bought the softest shirts I could find. Only buy cotton, the static electricity from polyester clothes will set you off and you won't even know why. Those shirts can be really soft, but the non-natural fibers will make you end up feeling worse. I bought my shirts a little tight around the waist. This gives me the trade off of having a little annoying pain constantly, versus huge flashes of pain when the cloth rubs against me. When I'm home, I just don't wear a shirt.

There you have it. I hope there has been something helpful for you in this post.


Peter D.

    Bookmark   August 30, 2011 at 10:15PM
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