Alternative Medicines for Herpes

Genital herpes is a disease that brings about a painful rash on the sex organs. It's caused by the herpes simplex virus type 2, which is usually contracted by having sexual contact with an infected person. According to conventional medicine, the virus never leaves the body but lies dormant for periods, probably in the nervous system. The rash and its accompanying symptoms can appear once or several times over a lifetime.

Several alternative therapies offer ways to prevent herpes outbreaks from returning. These treatments should be coupled with:


  • good nutrition
  • regular sleep
  • exercise
  • stress-reduction techniques

Nutritional Therapy for Herpes

Dietary changes and nutritional supplements can significantly lessen the severity and frequency of herpes outbreaks. One important step for people with genital herpes is to decrease the amount of the amino acid arginine in the body, while increasing another amino acid, lysine. Arginine assists the herpes simplex virus in multiplying, and lysine can help break down arginine and decrease its absorption in the body. One group of researchers gave lysine supplements to people infected with the herpes simplex virus who were showing the symptoms of a herpes attack. After a few days, the symptoms of more than 90 percent of the patients went away.

Lysine supplements are available, but whole foods that are high in lysine and low in arginine can be added to the diet as well. Foods high in lysine include:


  • beef
  • brewer's yeast
  • chicken
  • dairy products (including milk and cheese)
  • fish
  • mung bean sprouts
  • potatoes

Avoid those foods rich in arginine, including:

  • almonds
  • carob
  • chocolate
  • cashews
  • peanuts
  • pecans
  • sesame seeds

In general, a sound diet can bolster the immune system, perhaps delaying or blocking future herpes attacks. For example, the guidelines include eliminating most simple carbohydrates (sugars and sweets), avoiding alcohol, and skipping common food allergens, such as wheat and dairy products. In their place, add a lot of fresh vegetables and fruits.

Other supplements that may be helpful include beta-carotene, vitamins C and E, zinc, and the B vitamins (especially vitamin B6). A naturopathic physician may recommend taking lysine supplements each day to prevent future herpes attacks, with higher doses recommended during an outbreak of symptoms.


Herbal Medicine for Herpes

Herbs can perform several functions for people with genital herpes, including overpowering the herpes simplex virus, boosting the body's own defenses by strengthening the immune system, and promoting the healing of sores with topical treatment.

An ingredient of licorice root, glycyrrhizic acid, may slow the multiplication and action of the herpes simplex virus. An ointment of licorice root (glycyrrhizic acid gel), applied daily to the genital area, is commonly prescribed. (Patients who use high doses of licorice for more than one month need to be monitored for the potentially serious side effects of this treatment -- sodium retention and high blood pressure.)


Echinacea (or purple coneflower) is one of the most widely used herbs in America. Its use in cases of herpes is warranted because of its well-established ability to strengthen the immune system. This herb is most often taken orally in either tincture or capsule form. Raw garlic eaten on a regular basis can also help the body's defenses. Calendula (marigold) may fight the virus and encourage healing. Soaking in strong calendula tea is often prescribed.

Oxygen Therapy for Herpes

Oxygen therapy may offer some promise for people with recurring and especially painful cases of genital herpes. Treatment with the oxygen compound ozone can be used to boost the immune system and fight off the herpes simplex virus.

In oxygen therapy, typically, less than one pint of blood is drawn from the patient, mixed with different amounts of ozone and oxygen, and then reintroduced into the veins. Therapy with hydrogen peroxide, another oxygen compound, may also be effective. Oxygen therapy has more acceptance in Europe than in America. Nonetheless, several states permit medical doctors to use it in their practices. Check for the practitioner's experience with treating herpes.


Other Herpes Therapies

  • Homeopathy for Herpes -- Common remedies include dulcamara, natrum muriaticum, petroleum, rhus toxicodendron, and sepia. Prescriptions must be tailored to the individual case and require consultation with a homeopath.
  • Hydrotherapy for Herpes -- Castor oil packs applied to the abdomen, warm or sitz baths with salt added, and ice packs applied to the genital area can be helpful.
  • Mind/Body Medicine for Herpes -- Because emotional tension may trigger an outbreak of symptoms, therapies that alleviate stress, such as meditation and guided imagery, are often recommended. Support groups may also be very useful.
  • Traditional Chinese Medicine for Herpes -- Acupuncture and herbal therapy can be effective at minimizing outbreaks.


For more information on herpes and alternative medicine, see: