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Nervous - Shingles commentary

by Stansbury, Jill

Medical Herbalism 01-31-96 7(4): 7

Shingles is such an uncomfortable, incapacitating illness, it is worthwhile to note how quickly your treatment offered relief in this case. In my years of working as an office assistant in allopathic clinics, I saw people suffer weeks and even months with this painful infection due to a herpes family virus. Just as you described, the pain often begins on the trunk, often near the spine posteriorly, or near the sternum and central chest anteriorly, and radiates around and down the side. The onset of the pain is usually accompanied by tiny fluid-filled blisters at the site of the pain, that turn raw, and finally scab over. The healed skin can stay red and painful for months. Without alternative treatment, it is not uncommon for these lesions to take many agonizing weeks to heal. The pain is often intense, preventing sleep as with your patient, and causing patients to get creative with the clothing they must don for a visit to the doctor. Clothes rubbing against the affected skin is usually very aggravating to someone with shingles or herpes zoster.

I have seen similar results in my practice, with patients reporting the pain subsiding in 24 hours, using lysine, hypericum, immune support, and nerve sedatives just as you describe. Lysine is recommended for all types of infections from herpes viruses such as shingles, cold sores, and chicken pox. Lysine appears to interfere with the virusí ability to reproduce itself. I have used lysine orally rather than topically as you did, and was somewhat surprised to see that you got such rapid results without oral lysine. I had previously considered oral lysine to be absolutely essential in treating shingles, but perhaps this is not the case. I am still attached to the concept and would recommend it. Hypericum is also antiviral and has the specific indication of benefiting pain that is tingling, and lancinating in character, as herpes pain often is. The use of an immune herb - Echinacea, along with a nerve sedative -Passiflora, certainly makes sense here. Echinacea is, as most readers will be familiar, an immune stimulant useful in improving the bodyís ability to seek out and destroy the virus. Passiflora as a nerve sedative makes perfect sense here because the herpes virus travels along nerves in the body, causing tingling, pins and needles, and shooting sensations. Passiflora, Scutellaria, Hypericum, and Melissa may all help this type of nerve pain.

I appreciated that your patient put the topical cream on some of the lesions and not on others, so we could evaluate just how effective the ointment was. This commercial preparation certainly seems to have been of benefit. I have tried using simply Melissa essential oil [Ed: lemon balm] topically on herpes lesions. Strong as it is, it does not seem to burn or sting lesions and does appear to help. Herpetic cold sores anyway, resolve more quickly than what people had experienced previously. Melissa is antiviral botanical, that has been reported to be particularly effective against the herpes virus.

After suffering some serious infection, such as Shingles, I always recommend that patients receive some sort of follow-up therapy for several weeks to several months to help their immune systems recover and build them back up with nourishing supportive therapies. This could take the form of a specific herbal formula, or it could take the form of a special diet or hydrotherapy or nutritional supplement. It is often frustrating and a shame when patientís decline this option and quit therapy too soon. Many patientís simply tire of medicine-taking, as your patient did, once they are feeling well enough to function. I can sympathize with this reluctance, and I am slowly learning to anticipate which patients are going to need a lot of encouragement and motivation to continue through with their therapy. For these individuals I try to stress the importance of not just treating the acute symptoms, but treating an immune problem in the body, and make their follow up as simple and palatable as possible. Sometimes just changing from one type of medicine to another: finishing the tincture and following up with a tea, or finishing off pills and switching to a tincture, etc., will regain patient compliance and some therapeutic momentum.
Copyright 2001 Paul Bergner    300


    Medical Herbalism: Clinical Articles and Case Studies    
Copyright 2001 Paul Bergner    301