General Overview | Oral/Facial Herpes | Genital Herpes | Shingles | Outcome

Herpes refers to a group of disorders which manifest with an eruption of red, painful blisters or sores on the skin, genitals, lips or eyes. The causative culprits are the closely related herpes simplex 1, herpes simplex 2 and varicella-zoster viruses, often combined with a weakening of immune function. The most common manifestations are cold sores (herpes 1), genital sores (herpes 2) and shingles (varicella-zoster).

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) treats these infections with a two pronged strategy. Firstly, herbs which have a proven effect on herpes virus are used, and secondly, herbs which address the patient's constitution.

Also known as cold sores, oral herpes usually affects the lip, though it can also erupt closer to the nose, or affect the eye (opthalmic herpes). Generally it is caused by herpes simplex 1, which tends to affect the face, whereas the genitals are more often the domain of herpes simplex 2.

Treatment is divided into short and long term goals. For the short term the obvious aim is to stop or minimize an impending flare up, provided herbs are taken at the first sign of tingling and sensitivity. Pills or boiled herbs with anti herpes effect are taken at high dosage and the cold sore can be entirely prevented or minimized.

If outbreaks occur frequently, then the long term goal is much more important, namely to strengthen immunity so that the virus will not succeed. This is done according to each patients constitutional deficiency as assessed by the TCM diagnosis. Tonic herbs are combined with anti herpes herbs to achieve a lasting result.

Short and long term treatment aims are the same as above. Additionally, genital herpes requires treatment of Liver congestion and heat. The Liver meridian encircles the genitals, and it is there that the Heat and Fire Poison of herpes lodges. In order to reduce or eliminate outbreaks, the Liver must be cleared of this congested heat, through the use of strongly cooling and detoxifying herbs.

Also known as herpes zoster, this is caused by the chicken pox/varicella virus. It is a condition very much associated with declining immunity, whether from chronic stress, other illness or old age. It is more common in people over 50. TCM can treat shingles at every stage, including the troublesome post shingles pain that afflicts some sufferers for weeks after the acute phase has passed.

Herpes in all its forms is a very satisfying condition to treat, as it responds very well to TCM treatment. While TCM cannot eradicate every trace of herpes or varicella virus from the body, it can make it extremely unlikely to flare, so that outbreaks may come only once a year if at all.