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Herpes and Vitamin A

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While there is no cure for herpes, there is some clinical evidence showing that Vitamin A may indirectly help with herpes.

There is currently no known cure for either the oral form of herpes (herpes simplex virus- 1) or genital herpes (herpes simplex virus- 2). There are, however, ways herpes can be treated once outbreaks appear.

Medical science suggests that Vitamin A may play a part in healing herpes.

The link between Vitamin A and genital herpes in women

In 2000, the University of Washington’s Department of Epidemiology published a possibly ground-breaking clinical study involving genital herpes in women with the HIV virus.

The conclusion of the study was that women who practiced birth control using either oral birth control pills or the injectible “shot,” and became pregnant, were very high risk for contracting herpes simplex virus- 2.

Among women who did not use any form of hormonal contraceptives and were not pregnant, the clinical study showed that moderate to severe deficiencies in Vitamin A levels in the bloodstream created a significant risk for contracting genital herpes.

While the University of Washington study did not state that healthy levels of Vitamin A prevent herpes, the implication is that Vitamin A plays a role in supporting a healthy immune system.

Recommended daily intakes of Vitamin A

The Office of Dietary Supplements at the National Institutes of Health states that the two forms of Vitamin A, retinol and carotenoids, are critical for healthy bodily function.

Vitamin A levels are measured by taking blood samples, but the results may not be a true picture of the amount of Vitamin A that is available to the body. This is because Vitamin A is stored in the liver and released as needed.

Low blood plasma levels of Vitamin A indicates a severe deficiency of this essential vitamin.

The recommended dietary allowance (RDA) for Vitamin A in adults ages 14 and older is 900 mcg for males (6000 IU in supplement form) and 700 mcg for females (4000 IU in supplement form).

Pregnant women need 770 mcg, and while they are breastfeeding, they require 1300 mcg Vitamin A- nearly twice the recommended allowance for non- pregnant women.

Food sources of Vitamin A

The National Institutes of Health lists the following foods as being the highest food sources of Vitamin A:

Foods Highest in Vitamin A
3 oz. beef liver- 6582 mcg
1 baked sweet potato- 1403 mcg
1.2 cup cooked spinach- 573 mcg
1/2 cup raw carrots- 459 mcg
1 piece pumpkin pie- 488 mcg


Vitamin A deficiency

Vitamin A deficiency is rare in the Unites States, but internationally, people may not eat animal products at all, and may not have access to plant-based forms of Vitamin A due to poverty.

Among these populations, Vitamin A deficiencies are greatest among those who need it most- babies, children, pregnant women, and breastfeeding mothers.

One of the first symptoms of Vitamin A deficiency is night blindness. However, before the vision is affected, a deficiency in Vitamin A is associated with a lowered immune system.

A variety of diseases and infections, including gastrointestinal issues, measles, and herpes, can be linked to Vitamin A deficiency

Toxic amounts of Vitamin A in supplement form

A person can “overdose” on Vitamin A. More than 2800 mcg (9333 IU) is considered toxic for teens, while more than 3000 mcg (10,000 IU) is considered toxic for adults ages 19 and up.

The most common way to develop Vitamin A toxicity is simply to take too many supplements.

Excess Vitamin A is stored in the liver for future use. When a person takes too much Vitamin A, it causes potentially irreversible liver damage. Headaches, nausea, joint pain, coma, and even death can occur. Birth defects can occur in unborn babies.

Food-based beta-carotene is not toxic

Interestingly, beta-carotene found in food is not toxic at all, in any amount.

The only phenomenon associated with eating or drinking copious amounts of beta-carotene rich foods or juices such as fresh carrot juice is that the skin turns a golden- orange pigment.

This condition is harmless and the skin turns back to its normal color once the juice therapy is stopped.

Vitamin A for herpes- induced keratitis

In rare cases, the herpes simplex virus can travel to the eyes. When the cornea of the eye is involved, it gets inflamed in a condition known as keratitis.

In a 1979 study published in the medical journal Archives of Ophthalmology, scientists were able to effectively treat keratitis in rabbits with Vitamin A.

Nutrition and nutritional supplements for healthy skin

Dermatologists are turning to both nutrition and nutritional supplements more and more to support healthy skin and lower the incidence of skin diseases.

The medical journal Dermato- endocrinology published an in- depth paper in 2009 showing how nutrition and nutritional supplements support skin health. The study was able to show how nutritional deficiencies can lead to skin health issues.

Vitamin A was specifically mentioned for its role in reducing wound healing time. This has special importance to anyone suffering from outbreaks of either oral or genital herpes viruses.


Pubmed.gov, “Cervical shedding of herpes simplex virus in human immunodeficiency virus-infected women: effects of hormonal contraception, pregnancy, and vitamin A deficiency,” by S.B. Mostad, et al. Journal of Infectious Diseases. January 2000; 181(1): 58- 63.

Office of Dietary Supplements. National Institutes of Health.gov, “Dietary Supplement Sheet: Vitamin A”

Pubmed.gov, “Herpes simplex keratitis treatment with vitamin A,” by G. Smolin, et al. Archives of Ophthalmology. November 1979; 97(11): 2181- 3.

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