I recently had an excellent (albeit painful) chance to try out a variety of natural treatments for shingles on myself. We had planned a fun, relaxing weekend getaway, a few rejuvenating days on the beach without phones and internet. We had booked this a while back, but it turned out the timing was ideal; the weekend was forecasted to be in the 90s and humid – perfect for the beach (my favorite place to be in any part of the world, anytime).
The day before we were leaving, I discovered that what I had thought were some bug bites on my chest had spread with alarming speed overnight, across the shoulder and on the back as well, and I also had strange stabbing pains in my ear on the same side. Thinking it must be a heat rash and muscle spasms, I went to see my doctor who informed me I had shingles. Great. Awesome timing. She gave me an antiviral medication, which I started taking immediately, but for the next few days, it just kept getting worse and worse, the whole area was burning and aching, and the blisters looked so disgusting I didn’t want to be in the same room as myself. Wearing clothes hurt, even a strand of hair touching the blisters hurt. Needless to say, we had to cancel our little vacation.
Natural Treatments for Shingles – What Worked For Me
I knew the medication would kick in eventually, but in the meantime, I also used a few natural remedies to cope with the pain, help my immune system, and speed up healing. This is what I used:
- Homeopathic Apis mellifica (recommended for shingles with swelling and stinging pains that improve with cold and become worse with heat)
- Elderberry extract for its anti-viral and immune-strengthening properties
- Made up a 50/50 mixture of Tamanu oil (Calophyllum inophyllum) and Ravensara aromatica (Agathophyllum aromatica) essential oil to use topically. Ravensara is another strong anti-viral and nerve tonic, the Tamanu known for skin healing properties, and this particular blend is a much recommended aromatherapy treatment for shingles (although some recommend a weaker dilution, 25/75 or so). Also used Saro essential oil
The Tamanu / Ravensara oil helped tremendously with the burning and aching as soon as I applied it (and also smelled really good!) Ravensara has a bright, minty, and a little bit woodsy scent; mixed with the nutty Tamanu, it becomes rich and fresh at the same time, there was something about it that to me smelled like Christmas. My husband said the whole house smelled even more like a natural health store whenever I used it (a good thing!).
At one point, I ran out of Ravensara and hadn’t received my order for more yet, so I mixed Tamanu and Saro (Cinnamosma fragrans Baillon) essential oil instead, which also smelled wonderful and worked just as well. Saro is anti-viral, anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial and anti-fungal that also helps to strengthen the immune system and can be used in place of Ravensara anytime. Saro also has a bright, minty scent but less woodsy than Ravensara, more “soft”, sweet and floral, I would say. It’s one of my favorite oils.
The licorice extract (which I alternated topical applications with a few times/day) made the blisters at least look less inflamed and it made them smaller quickly too. The Apis really seemed to help with the shooting pains, and the licorice root ice tea and elderberry extract were delicious as always, and I’m sure they did their part internally. I was very happy with the results of this whole combo, and it was a great example of how natural remedies can complement prescription medicine.
As I’m writing this, it has been a week since I was diagnosed with shingles, and they have calmed down considerably. It’s still painful, but the shooting pains have stopped and it really feels like the virus is in the process of losing its grip on my body (knock on wood).
In a way, I think this was a good wakeup call to slow down and allow myself to take a day off every now and then, something that is very hard to do when you have a full time job AND your own business. Maybe I’ll even give meditation another shot. Or try to take more pictures. Photography is one of my favorite ways to relax and tune out the rest of the world. It always makes me feel better.
If you ever have strange tingling, odd shooting pains or your skin becomes tender, like when you have a bruise, but you don’t have one, see your doctor! Looking back, all the signs were there, but I didn’t know what they meant. Live and learn.
Click here for the recipe for my licorice ice tea
Resources / Where to buy
When I need things NOW, I get them at Whole Foods; they carry most of the products mentioned in this post, but for the ones they don’t have (and the others if I can wait a day or two), I buy them from the following places (because it’s a lot less expensive). Each link below goes directly to the products mentioned:
- Apis mellifica: drugstore.com
- Elderberry extract: drugstore.com
- Licorice root: Mountain Rose Herbs
- Licorice extract: Mountain Rose Herbs
- Tamanu Oil: Mountain Rose Herbs
- Ravensara essential oil: Mountain Rose Herbs
- Saro essential oil: Nature’s Gift
For more resources, see the Recommended Food and Health Products page