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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)

Foods that help prevent or heal herpes

There are some foods that have been clinically demonstrated to help prevent herpes outbreaks and reduce the healing time during outbreaks. Foods that help heal herpes include 1) lysine- rich foods, 2) garlic, 3) Vitamin A- rich foods as noted above, 4) Vitamin E- rich foods, and 5) lactoferrin.

Lysine- rich Foods
Lean cuts of meat, such as grass fed beef, chicken, and prok
Dairy products, especially Parmesan cheese
Cold water fish
Cow's milk kefir
Nutritional yeast


LYSINE_MODELLysine, also known as L-lysine, is an essential amino acid. The human body requires L-lysine for health, but it is an amino acid that has to come from either the diet or supplements.

According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, lysine helps the body produce carnitine, which breaks down essential fatty acids. Lysine also helps absorb calcium, provides tissue-building collagen, and lowers cholesterol.

A rather unique property of L-lysine is its ability to help prevent outbreaks of oral herpes simplex, also known as HSV-1.

Oral herpes simplex- 1 virus symptoms

Oral herpes, also called the herpes simplex-1 virus, is caused when someone who has the virus shares personal items such as towels, toothbrushes, drinking straws, or eating utensils with others. The virus is also spread through kissing, or other saliva to saliva contact.

Herpes simplex-1 is different from what are commonly called fever blisters or canker sores. Herpes can occur around or on the lips, and inside the mouth.

Web MD states that the virus starts with a fever and flu-like symptoms. Red and white blisters appear, then form a yellowish crusty scab over the sores as they begin to heal.

Emotional and physical stress seems to trigger new outbreaks of herpes simplex- 1 virus.

Oral herpes is very common in children and young adults. The virus never leaves the body, but over time, outbreaks decrease and finally stop.

L-lysine and the oral herpes simplex-1 virus

Lysine has been clinically proven to help prevent outbreaks of HSV-1. Lysine is virucidal, meaning it kills viruses.

The medical journal Acta Dermato Venereologica published a human clinical trial performed in 1980 to determine the effect of L-lysine monohydrochloride on herpes simplex labialis, the HSV-1 virus.

Patients infected with the virus took 1000mg lysine daily for twelve weeks, then switched to a placebo for twelve weeks.

HERPES_SIMPLEX_1_SYMPTOMIn this study, lysine had no effect on the rate of recurrence of the sores after twelve weeks. However, the scientists discovered that significantly fewer participants experienced an outbreak while taking lysine as opposed to taking the placebo.

In a later clinical study performed at the Indiana University School of Medicine, lysine in the form of L-lysine monohydrochloride tablets were once again given to patients with herpes simplex virus.

This time, herpes patients were given three times the lysine as was given in the previous study. In addition, the study lasted for six months, as opposed to the twelve weeks in the earlier trial.

Patients either took 1000mg L-lysine tablets or a placebo three times a day for six months.

The results showed that the L-lysine group had 2.4 times fewer outbreaks, their symptoms were milder, and their healing time was shorter than the control group.

L-lysine in combination with zinc and botanicals for HSV-1

Knowing the effectiveness of L-lysine for the herpes simplex-1 virus, scientists in 2005 decided to try a topical cream containing L-lysine, zinc, and other botanicals (herbs).

Thirty herpes patients were admitted into the study. Symptoms were measured, before and after photos were taken, and each patient kept a daily journal to describe the experience.

At the end of the study, forty percent of the participants experienced complete healing of all herpes symptoms by the third day of applying the topical ointment. By the seventh day of usage, eighty-six percent of the study participants had experienced full resolution.

By the end of one week, every herpes patient except two was significantly, if not completely, better. In addition, the patients did not experience any adverse effects from using the L-lysine ointment.

Foods rich in L-lysine

Meat eaters should have little difficulty getting enough L-lysine in their diets. The University of Maryland Medical Center suggests the following animal sources of lysine:

Animal Products Containing Lysine
Lean, grass-fed beef
Lean cuts of pork
Chicken and turkey
Parmesan cheese
Dairy products
Cod and other cold water fish

Vegans sometimes have a more difficult time consuming enough lysine on a daily basis. This is easily corrected by making sure these plant foods are consumed regularly:

Plant Sources of Lysine
Raw nuts
Nutritional yeast
Fenugreek seeds

L-lysine in supplement form

Doctors often recommend between 3,000mg and 9,000mg L-lysine per day, divided into three doses, during active outbreaks of oral herpes. To help prevent new outbreaks and to lengthen the time between herpes outbreaks, 1000mg lysine per day is often recommended.

SAW_PALMETTO_EXTRACTThe Clinical Journal of the American Society of Nephrology does raise some concern about taking L-lysine in supplement form, as noted above, on a long term basis.

A case study involving one woman who took 3000mg L-lysine every day for five years developed a kidney malfunction known as Fanconi syndrome.

Fanconi syndrome can lead to acidosis, a condition where there is too much acid in the blood. This makes the kidneys have to work harder. Fanconi syndrome also causes an electrolyte imbalance and dehydration.

Chronic renal failure, commonly referred to as kidney failure, may possibly follow.

Vitamin E

In 2008, a study published in the Journal of Nutrition stated that Vitamin E was an antioxidant and was effective against free radical damage. Mice fed a diet rich in Vitamin E for four weeks had fewer cases of herpes virus- induced encephalitis.

Foods High in Vitamin E
Wheat germ oil
Olive oil


Lactoferrin is a protein found in dairy products, such as milk, yogurt, and cheese. It is also found in many whey protein powders used in bodybuilding. Lactoferrin helps provide antibodies and probiotics. It also helps deliver iron to cells throughout the body and boosts the immune system.

Foods that may make herpes worse

According to studies from the 1980s and 90s, including one hallmark study published in Chemotherapy in 1981, the amino acid arginine may be responsible for making herpes outbreaks worse. According to the study, arginine is normally a beneficial amino acid that reduces healing time and repairs damaged tissue. However, for some reason, it also tends to make herpes outbreaks worse. This means that individuals with herpes should avoid foods with a high arginine to lysine ratio. 

Foods high in arginine
  • Raw nuts and seeds
  • Chocolate
  • Wheat
  • Corn
  • Bananas 

By avoiding these foods, particualrly around a suspected outbreak, you may be able to reduce your number of outbreaks. 

Healing Herpes from the Inside Out

These studies show that a variety of foods are scientifically proven to help heal and prevent herpes. Try to eat a diet rich in vitamin E, healthy fats, vitamin C, and lysine, as well as foods that are naturally anti-viral, like onions and garlic. By adding these foods to your diet and avoiding the potential herpes trigger arginine, you will reduce the number of outbreaks seen each year. 

Aloe Vera

Aloe, commonly known as aloe vera, is a highly popular cactus-like house plant used to soothe skin irritations and speed healing. Aloe vera gel can be used straight from the plant and applied directly on any skin lesion, wound, or burn. One use for aloe is for herpes.

Does aloe help herpes?

There is both clinical and anecdotal support for the use of aloe for herpes. Aloe vera contains over seven different antioxidants and reduces inflammation. The natural salicylates in aloe help reduce pain in an action similar to aspirin.

According to the Italian Journal of Dermatology and Venereology, aloe does help with herpes, especially genital herpes. Over forty clinical studies involving the medical use of aloe were reviewed.

Researchers at the Department of Dermatology at the Jondishapur University of Medical Sciences in Ahvaz, Iran determined that aloe is effective for genital herpes and other skin conditions.

More clinical evidence supporting aloe for herpes

Bandolier, an independent medical journal about evidence- supported health care published by Oxford University scientists, cites two small placebo-controlled clinical studies involving a topical aloe vera cream and natural aloe gel for genital herpes.

In the first study, 180 men with genital herpes were treated with either a topical aloe vera cream or a placebo three times a day at the beginning of an outbreak for two weeks. Between 67- 70% of the men had recovered within five days of applying aloe vera cream.

With natural aloe vera gel, 45% of the men had recovered in seven days.

By comparison, the participants who were given a placebo only experienced a 7.0-7.5% rate of healing in the two-week trial window.

No adverse effects were reported from aloe for herpes.

How to use aloe for herpes

Fresh aloe vera gel can be used right from the plant. The leaf can be broken off, then the thorns removed with a knife. The leaf can then be cut into approximately two-inch slices and opened to reveal the clear inner gel.

The gel can be applied directly from the leaf to the affected areas of the skin. It can also be scraped off the leaf with a spoon or butter knife and applied with a sterile gauze, tissue, or a cotton swab.

Aloe should be applied to herpes outbreaks three times a day at the first sign of an outbreak. The gel should be continued for two weeks. 

Where to get real aloe vera gel

It is very easy to grow aloe vera plants. They can be grown outdoors in areas where there is no chance of a frost. They can also be grown indoors in pots during the winter. Aloe needs full sun. The plant does not need a lot of water and does best in fast-draining soil. 

Pure, organic aloe vera gel is available for purchase from reputable herb companies. It should be stored in the refrigerator and lasts for approximately six months.

Never use artificially colored gels sold commercially as aloe vera gel in grocery stores and drug stores. These are not real aloe vera or only contain a small amount of aloe. They are toxic products and will not offer any healing support for herpes or anything else.


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 has been used medicinally for thousands of years. It has been reported to do everything from warding off evil spirits to acting as money. Hippocrates used garlic extensively to heal infections. The antiviral properties in garlic help with herpes.

Herbalists love garlic for its ability to kill parasites and pathogenic microbes. Garlic kills undesirable bacteria, fungus, and viruses, including herpes simplex. The herb is helpful for Candida, colds, and other respiratory infections.

Does garlic help herpes?

Going back to 1985, the medical journal Planta Medica reported favorable results with garlic for herpes simplex. Scientists in the study noted the antiviral properties of garlic and its success in killing the herpes simplex virus in laboratory conditions.

In 1988, researchers studied garlic’s medicinal value, stating that the herb may play an “invaluable role” in preventing and treating the major causes of death. It was considered a broad-spectrum antimicrobial and immune booster, according to the Journal of the National Medical Association.

The anecdotal evidence for the use of garlic in treating a myriad of ailments is staggering. Clinical research continues to grow in support of garlic as a respected treatment option. One use for garlic is for herpes, the JNMA study reported.

Garlic contains thirty- three sulfur compounds, all of the essential amino acids, all of the major minerals and several trace minerals, and Vitamins A, B, and C. The chemical that makes garlic effective against the herpes virus is allicin- ajoene.

Referencing the 1985 Planta Medica study, the Journal of the National Medical Association concurred that raw or refrigerated raw garlic was effective in killing herpes simplex virus- 1.

Allicin and ajoene in garlic helps herpes

Planta Medica published another article studying garlic in 1992. This time, the purpose was to discover which phytochemical in garlic was responsible for its antiviral activity.

Using fresh garlic juice, researchers at Brigham Young University Department of Microbiology isolated a variety of compounds and tested them on herpes simplex virus- 1, herpes simplex virus- 2, and several other viruses.

The researchers watched as garlic destroyed over 90% of a virus within thirty minutes of applying it in a laboratory dish.

Ajoene was the strongest antiviral compound, followed by allicin. Interestingly, ajoene was present in garlic oil, but not in fresh garlic juice extracts. Both garlic oil and fresh garlic juice were virucidal on all of the viruses tested for.

Dr. Tariq Abdullah, M.D. published a scholarly article in the Journal of the National Medical Association in 2000 calling for the use of a combination of the immune-boosting herb echinacea and garlic during cold and flu season each year.

At that time, many were worried about a possible “superbug” outbreak, such as a strain of avian or Spanish flu.

In the paper, Dr. Abdullah mentioned the scientific confirmation that garlic had a broad spectrum antiviral effect on all of the herpes simplex viruses.

How to use garlic for herpes

In Dr. Abdullah’s paper, he suggests that people electing to use garlic for its antiviral benefits eat one teaspoon of fresh minced or food- processed raw garlic mixed with raw honey every day as a preventative treatment.

At the first sign of an infection, Dr. Abdullah recommended eating two teaspoons of raw garlic and honey daily. His directions include holding the garlic in the mouth for as long as possible before swallowing. Garlic is quite hot when chewed raw.

He suggests following the garlic with a cup of organic echinacea tea.


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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