10 Home Remedies for Genital Herpes

man hiding face
Genital herpes can be caused by herpes simplex virus Type I (HSV-1) and Type II (HSV-2). RUSS ROHDE/Getty Images

Genital herpes is a sexually transmitted disease (STD) caused by the herpes simplex virus Type I (HSV-1) and Type II (HSV-2). The Type I virus is the same one that causes cold sores on the mouth, face and lips, although it can also cause sores on the genitals. The Type II virus, however, most often causes sores on the genitals.

Oral herpes caused by HSV-1 can spread from the mouth to the genitals through oral sex. This is why some cases of genital herpes are caused by HSV-1. And be warned: The virus does not have to be in an active state — that is, blisters do not have to be present — for a partner to become infected [source: CDC].

The virus can also be passed during the preactive state, when there is itching or tingling in the area where the sores generally appear. Sometimes, the virus can be passed along before the infected person is even aware that the virus is present. What's more, saliva also carries the virus [source: CDC].

The first episode usually starts within a couple weeks of exposure, and the initial onset can be pretty bad, including an initial round and then a second round of painful sores, flulike symptoms, fever and swollen glands. Sometimes the symptoms are mild, however, and appear as little more than insect bites or a rash.

Once you have genital herpes, you have it for life [source: CDC]. It does, however, spend most of its life as a dormant virus. But, like cold sores, genital herpes recurs, often up to four or five times a year.

If you think you have genital herpes, first seek medical treatment. Your doctor is the only one that can tell you for sure if you have the virus by giving you a proper test. There are several types available and he or she will know which is best for you based on the types of symptoms you are (or are not) having. Your doctor can also prescribe you antiviral therapy if necessary. When taken daily, it can reduce the severity of your outbreaks and symptoms, and reduce the likelihood that your partner will get herpes, too.

Though your best bet is to first consult with your doctor, there are a few home remedies that can help you through an episode. Head over to the next page to learn more.

This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.

10

Warm Bath

woman starting a bath
Soaking in a warm bath can help relieve the pain caused by sores during an outbreak. Tetra Images/Getty Images

Soaking in a bath of warm water can alleviate the pain associated with the sores brought on by a flareup. A hot bath can help by doing two things: Keeping the sores clean, and simply helping you relax. Adding some Epsom salt to the bath will also help promote healing and could shorten your recovery time by drying out the sores faster [source: Grayson].

Following your bath, make sure to dry the affected areas thoroughly, as excess moisture could prolong symptomatic sores [source: Grayson]. If using a towel is painful, try using a hair dryer or fan. And wear only cotton underwear, as cotton absorbs moisture better than synthetic fabrics [source: WebMD].

9

Soap and Warm Water

Another key to helping an outbreak of genital herpes healing fast is to keep the infected area clean. Though herpes outbreaks are different for each person infected and involve a number of factors, cleaning with mild disinfectants like soap is the best way to keep the areas clean. You should definitely clean the areas with soap every time you shower or bathe, or after you exercise.

Just like after taking a warm bath, remember to thoroughly dry off after washing down.

8

Baking Soda/Cornstarch

baking soda
Applying baking soda to sores can help dry them out, which may promote faster healing. Like_the_Grand_Canyon/Used Under Creative Commons CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 License

As we've mentioned, keeping the infected areas dry is important to promoting healing. And powders have long been used for their drying properties. Two such powders — baking soda and cornstarch — serve a variety of around-the-house purposes, from brushing teeth to drying out oily hair. The powders can also help dry out genital herpes sores [source: Grayson].

You can apply either powder — both of which are common, inexpensive and available at your local supermarket — to the sores with a cotton ball or cotton swab to help dry them out and reduce itching. Just be careful not to double dip: You don't want to contaminate the unused baking soda/cornstarch [source: Grayson].

7

Lysine

The next home remedy on our list is actually better at preventing outbreaks than treating them once they've occurred. It's a natural supplement found at vitamin and health food stores called lysine, or L-lysine.

Lysine is an essential amino acid, meaning you need to get it from food because your body doesn't produce it naturally [source: Winchester Hospital]. Most people get enough lysine through meat or legumes, but over-the-counter supplements are also widely available for those who need supplements.

Though studies differ on its efficacy, some have shown that people who take 1 g of lysine, three times daily, have less occurrences, severity and healing time of herpes flareups [source: NCBI].

Note: Before taking lysine or any other dietary supplement, consult your physician. Lysine has been known to interact with some medications, and it's generally not recommended in higher doses for people with kidney or liver disease.

6

Tea Bags

tea bag
The tannins in black tea may have antiviral properties, which are good for promoting healing. Jose A. Bernat Bacete/Getty Images

There's nothing like a hot cup of tea on a cold winter day or an ice-cold glass of tea in summer's heat. But there's also a little-known use for these tea bags that can help you when you're suffering from an outbreak of genital herpes. But not just any tea will do. It must be black tea. Black tea contains tannic acid, which may have antiviral properties.

Here's how it works: Steep the tea in hot water for about an hour. Allow the tea bag to cool. Then apply the warm tea bag directly to the infected lesions for several minutes and then pat dry. Repeat as needed. Trash tea bag immediately [source: PinkTent.com].

5

Ice

One of the best ways to relieve pain and itching associated with a genital herpes outbreak is one of nature's most basic miracles: ice. To reduce symptoms, apply ice to the affected area [source: Grayson]. Fill a plastic bag with crushed ice, wrapping the bag in material the thickness of a sheet. Apply for 10 or 15 minutes, and repeat several times a day. Make sure and discard any plastic bags after one use.

As a precaution, be sure you don't apply the ice for too long. Prolonged skin exposure to ice can cause tissue damage, and the genital area is especially sensitive.

4

Aloe Vera

aloe vera plant
Aloe vera is known for its medicinal properties, and applying it directly to sores during an outbreak may help relieve pain. Nenov/Getty Images

People have been using the aloe vera for its medicinal properties for thousands of years, dating back as far as 1750 B.C.E. Egyptian books from 550 B.C.E. mention its specific use to heal the skin [source: Shelton]. And unlike prescription drugs, aloe vera has little to no side effects. That includes herpes: A 1999 study showed that aloe vera cream was effective at stopping genital herpes outbreaks in 70 percent of study participants.

You can either apply an aloe vera cream or gel directly to herpes sores, or use a mature aloe vera plant. If you do purchase a cream, make sure aloe is the main ingredient, with a concentration of 95 percent or higher. Either way, the cooling effect will help with pain and promote healing [source: JH].

3

Rest

If you are sick with any illness, a doctor would recommend you get plenty of rest. The same is true during a genital herpes outbreak. That's because the once-dormant virus has basically kicked back into gear and attacked the spot it first entered your body — for simplex Type II, the genital or buttocks areas.

To help your immune system push the virus into dormancy, take steps to rest throughout the day. While most people can't nap on the job (at least not when the boss is looking), patients can cut out activities that put a strain on the body, like exercise or physical exertion.

2

Stress Management

girl in yoga pose
Stress is known to trigger herpes outbreaks, so managing stress is critical to keeping the virus dormant. SrdjanPav/Getty Images

In college facing a major exam? Is your company relying on you to make the next big sale? If you find your outbreaks seem connected to the big events in life, you may be surprised to find out why. Just like taking it easy and getting plenty of rest is important during an outbreak, those suffering from herpes should avoid stress whenever possible.

Stress has been directly linked to suppression of the immune system, your body's way of keeping the herpes virus dormant and in check [source: APA]. Successful stress management can reduce the frequency of outbreaks [source: ASHA]. Being conscientious of the fact is the first step in reducing stress associated with outbreaks.

1

Breathable Clothing

Remember all our previous talk about keeping sores dry during an outbreak of herpes? Much of that has to do with the kinds of clothing you wear. Breathable clothing goes a long way toward shortening the symptoms of an outbreak [source: ASHA].

When dealing with sores, remember to wear loose-fitting clothing that allows air to circulate and keeps sweat and moisture away from the affected areas. Cotton is the best option when choosing breathable underwear. Avoid synthetic fabrics or silk underwear until the outbreak has passed. Also, don't wear tight-fitting pants, whether made of cotton, polyester or any another fabric.

Last editorial update on Oct 25, 2018 04:45:06 pm.

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Sources

  • American Psychological Association. "Stress Weakens the Immune System." Feb. 23, 2006. (March 5, 2012) http://www.apa.org/research/action/immune.aspx
  • American Social Health Association. "Treatment for genital herpes." Jan. 2012. (March 1, 2012) http://www.ashastd.org/std-sti/Herpes/treatment.html
  • Davis, Robert H., Mark G. Leitner, Joseph M. Russo, and Megan E. Byrne. "Wound Healing, Oral and Topical Activity of Aloe Vera." Journal of the American Podiatric Medical Association. Vol. 79, no. 11. Page 559-562. November 1989. (March 4, 2012) http://fusion-world.com/media/articles/Wound_Healing_Oral_And_Topical_Activity_Of_Aloe_Vera.pdf
  • Grayson, Charlotte. "Managing genital herpes symptoms and outbreaks." HealthCentral. June 18, 2008. (March 2, 2012) http://www.healthcentral.com/genital-herpes/c/86/30107/outbreaks
  • Shelton, Ronald M. "Aloe Vera: Its Chemical and Therapeutic Properties." International Journal of Dermatology. Vol. 30, no. 10. Page 679-683. October 1991. (March 4, 2012). www.desertharvest.com/physicians/documents/142-0.pdf
  • University of Maryland Medical Center. "Lysine." 2011. (March 5, 2012) http://www.umm.edu/altmed/articles/lysine-000312.htm
  • U.S. National Library of Medicine's A.D.A.M. Medical Encyclopedia. "Genital herpes." Sept. 12, 2011. (March 1, 2012) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0001860/

This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.