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Herbs for Herpes

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Thirteen herbs have been clinically proven to help with herpes, the HSV-2 virus.

Herpes simplex 2 is commonly known as genital herpes. The disease occurs in both men and women through sexual contact. Most of the time, people with herpes simplex 2 do not experience any symptoms. However, during outbreaks, herpes sufferers experience pain, itching, and open sores on and around the genitals.

Herpes simplex 2 is a virus. Once a person is infected with herpes, the virus stays in the body for life. Outbreaks can occur five or six times a year, but according to the Mayo Clinic, the herpes-infected person is contagious even when the virus is dormant.

Approximately one in six people between the ages of 14 and 49 have HSV-2. More women have genital herpes than men.

Safe sexual practices, including condom use, should always be used to prevent the spread of herpes simplex virus 2 and all other sexually-transmitted diseases.

What does herpes simplex virus 2 look like?

Many people who find out they have been infected with genital herpes are surprised that they have it. Often the virus is so mild that there are no symptoms at all.

Once exposed, a person who has HSV-2 may first experience pain and itching about two weeks after a sexual encounter with an infected partner. Flu-like symptoms may occur.

A few days later, either small, red, rash-like bumps or tiny white blisters appear on and around the genitals. The blisters rupture and ooze or bleed. A crusty scab then forms over each lesion, to be replaced with new, pink skin.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention state that a herpes simplex 2 outbreak may consist of only one small blister around the genitals or rectum. It may be easy to miss or be confused with an insect bite.

Herpes can occur on both the outside and inside of the genitals. Not only can the blisters erupt on the skin, they can also occur inside the urethra of the penis in males, and inside the vagina and on the cervix of the uterus in females.

These symptoms may cause pain during urination, tenderness in the genital area during an outbreak, flu-like symptoms, and swollen lymph glands. Fortunately, outbreaks become less frequent with the passage of time.

A person with genital herpes can infect his or her partner even when there aren't  symptoms present. Unlike HSV-1, oral herpes, which can be transferred through shared towels, drinking straws, and toothbrushes, HSV-2 is only transferred through sexual or skin-to-skin contact.

Using herbs to help relieve herpes simplex virus-2 symptoms

Herbs work best as supplements to a healthy diet and lifestyle. If a person wishes to use herbs to help relieve the symptoms of HSV-2, a holistic approach is recommended.

Clean Up the Diet

First, all “junk” food, fast food, processed (packaged) food, alcohol, and tobacco consumption must be stopped immediately.

A diet composed of 30-35% lean protein, 30-35% healthy fat, and 30-35% high fiber complex carbohydrates, including a lot of fresh fruits and vegetables, is the foundation of a healthy lifestyle. Web MD specifically recommends the following foods for healthy skin:

Foods for Healthy Skin
Yogurt (probiotics and vitamin A)
Carrots (beta-carotene)
Sweet potatoes (Vitamin A)
Berries and plums (antioxidants)
Salmon and other fatty fish (omega-3 fatty acids)
Flax seeds, flax oil, and walnuts (omega-3 fatty acids)
Cold pressed extra virgin olive oil (a healthy fat source that moisturizes the skin from the inside)
Brazil nuts (selenium, a mineral known to prevent skin damage)


Though not technically "food," Web MD also recommends green tea (polyphenols, which have anti-inflammatory properties) and drinking at least a half gallon of pure water daily. These healthy beverages help keep skin soft and smooth, plus help flush out unwanted toxins.

Herbs for Colon Cleansing

The second step in using herbs to relieve the symptoms of genital herpes is to utilize herbs that are clinically proven to help cleanse toxins out of the body.

“Cleansing” herbs promote regular and complete bowel movements, strengthen the peristaltic muscular action of the small and large intestines which push toxins out of the body, and vacuum old waste material from the intestinal walls.

It may not make sense to cleanse the colon when the issue is genital herpes on the skin. However, the body will have a much easier and faster healing time if the colon is cleaned out and moving toxins out regularly.

Why “cleansing” or “detoxifying” is necessary

Nutrients are absorbed in the small and large intestines. They are then delivered to all parts of the body through the circulatory system. If the bowels are clogged with a diet full of white flour, sugar, and refined oils, the body has a harder time absorbing nutrients.

The body also has to fight accumulated environmental toxins such as artificial chemicals in processed foods, household cleaning products, chlorine and other chemicals in drinking water, and fumes while pumping gasoline into cars.

Below is a table listing herbs and foods that the National Institute of Health recognizes as “cleansing” or detoxifying. There is a more detailed description of each item underneath the table.

Cleansing Herbs for HSV-2
Aloe vera (wound healing)
Senna (stimulating laxative)
Cascada Sagara bark (cathartic- pushes toxins out of the body)
Oregon grape root (anti-bacterial, anti-inflammatory, stimulates production of liver bile)
Ginger root (anti-inflammatory)
Garlic (anti-microbial)


Aloe Vera

In 1998, the Journal of Ethnopharmacology published a study using aloe vera leaf gel to promote faster healing in rats with skin wounds.

The study showed that aloe vera helped lay down the groundwork for healing, which was quickly followed by collagen and elastin to form new skin.

Aloe vera can be taken orally, and the gel can be applied topically directly to the skin during herpes outbreaks for faster wound healing.


Senna is the classic laxative herb. It stimulates the colon to increase peristaltic action. Senna is sometimes used before surgery to empty the bowels. Senna is taken orally the evening before a bowel movement is desired.

Women with herpes simplex 2 virus who are pregnant should seek the advice of a qualified health professional before using senna. This is because senna can trigger uterine contractions.

Cascara Sagrada Bark

Cascara sagrada bark is another classic colon cleansing herb, often used in tandem with senna. While senna stimulates the intestines to move, cascara sagrada bark helps push the unwanted waste out of the body.

In 1982, scientists wanted to know how effective cascara sagrada was as a colon cleanser.

A study involving 1200 patients, published in Gastrointestinal Radiology, proved that the herb was very effective, especially if the participants performed a water enema along with taking cascara sagrada.

Oregon Grape Root

Oregon grape root has both anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory agents, which makes it an effective healing herb.

Dermatologists are beginning to use Oregon grape root for difficult to treat skin conditions, according to dermatologist A.M. Dattner, M.D., in a 2003 issue of Dermatologic Therapy.

Ginger Root

Ginger root is commonly used to curb nausea, but the herb has also been scientifically proven to reduce inflammation in the colon and even prevent colorectal cancer.
Cancer Prevention Research published a 2011 study showing that thirty healthy volunteers took two grams of either ginger or a placebo for twenty-eight days. Colon biopsies were taken at the beginning and end of the study.

The results of the study suggested that ginger was able to reduce the levels of inflammatory eicosanoids, molecules which signal inflammation from omega-6 essential fatty acids. High levels of n-6 eicosanoids have been associated with diseases such as arthritis, depression, and cancer.

Omega-6 fatty acids are found primarily in polyunsaturated fats, including almost all food containing refined vegetable oils (corn oil, vegetable oil, canola oil, peanut oil, etc.) margarine, and imitation butter spreads.


Garlic may be the strongest natural anti-microbial there is. Garlic’s primary function is to kill toxic bacteria, viruses, and parasites, including the herpes simplex 2 virus.

In 1992, scientists in the Department of Microbiology at Brigham Young University determined the anti-viral effects of fresh garlic extract in vitro (in test tubes). Several common viruses were tested, including herpes simplex 2.

The scientists determined that allicin was the plant chemical in garlic which was able to kill the viruses.

Herbs Specifically for Genital Herpes

In addition to the above herbs and foods, these herbs have been clinically proven to specifically target the herpes simplex 2 virus:

Scientifically Proven Herbs for Genital Herpes
Balm mint (Prostanthera melissifolia, lemon balm, bee balm)


Balm Mint, aka Lemon Balm, Bee Balm, and Melissa Officinalis

The medical journal Phytomedicine reports that balm mint oil, also known as lemon balm oil, bee balm oil, and Melissa officinalis oil effectively kills the virus in genital herpes.

Pretreating the affected areas before the blisters appear with Melissa officinalis oil kills 97.2% of the herpes simplex 2 virus.

Peppermint, Prunella, Sage, Rosemary, and Thyme

In a separate study, biology at the University of Heidelberg in Heidelberg, Germany discovered not only that lemon balm (Melissa officinalis), but peppermint (Mentha x Piperita), Prunella (Prunella vulgaris), rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis), and thyme (Thymus vulgaris) are all strong botanical anti-virals.

Greater than 90% of both the herpes simplex 1 and herpes simplex 2 viruses were neutralized by treating the affected areas of the skin with these herbs before eruptions occurred.

The biologists involved in the study believed that applying any of these herbs in the form of a strong tea before a herpes outbreak would be therapeutic.


In a 2003 laboratory study conducted in the Department of Virology at Shandong University in Jinan, China, mice with herpes received an alcohol extract of rhubarb, also known as rhubarb tincture.

The positive results from treating the mice with a low dose of rhubarb tincture were the same as the results from the leading pharmaceutical drug for herpes simplex-2, acyclovir.

The herpes virus was destroyed more rapidly when stronger concentrations of rhubarb tincture were used on the infected mice. The scientists documented that medium-to strong solutions of rhubarb tincture worked significantly better and faster than acyclovir.



Mayo Clinic.com, “Genital Herpes”

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.com, “Genital Herpes- CDC Fact Sheet”

Web MD.com, “The ABCs of a Healthy Skin Diet,” by Colette Bouchez

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