Treating Genital Herpes with Herbal Medicine

Herpes is a condition that not a lot of people want to talk about. It’s not uncommon for me to see a patient who tells me that they’ve never talked about their genital herpes before or never told anyone that they have it.

For me it can be very upsetting to see how this particular virus can wreak so much havoc – both physically and emotionally – for those who suffer with it. Every new flare can cause bouts of anxiety – and the more anxious people get, the worse the flares become. Some people go into a depression, socialize less, and stop dating. Even oral herpes which hasn’t been sexually contracted can cause feelings of shame and embarrassment for a lot of people. This is where holistic medicine shines. In any condition where the emotions are a trigger for physical symptoms – or when physical symptoms cause emotional pain and trauma, it’s always best to treat the whole person.

Herbal Treatment for Herpes

Not surprisingly, it’s my belief that Chinese herbal medicine offers the best holistic treatment for herpes. Herbal formulas can be made up of anywhere between 12 and 18 herbs – each one chosen to match the individual person it’s being prescribed for. Many herbs have anti-viral properties, but different anti-viral herbs would be used for genital herpes than I’d prescribe for oral herpes. Each persons herpes symptoms may vary – with some people experiencing sharp pain, and others burning or itching. Some people have active blisters, others may have flat, pin-point lesions. I choose different herbs for all these different scenarios.

In addition, I include herbs to address emotional symptoms. For some of my patients who have constant herpes flares, they live in fear of when the next outbreak will come. And when it does come, it sends them into a complete downward spiral emotionally. Herbs can’t make these feelings go away, but they can be very calming and grounding. They also help to prevent flares from happening when there’s an obvious link where stress and anxiety are the cause of the flares.

Another strength of holistic medicine is that herbs will treat other physical symptoms that may seem completely unrelated to herpes. So if there are problems with low energy, digestive complaints, or difficult periods, the herbal formula takes all of that into account to treat the whole person. Some women have painful or irregular periods that are totally unrelated to herpes outbreaks. And for others, outbreaks happen every month with the start of the period and there’s a clear connection. Either way, the herbal formula targets each person’s unique patterns to bring balance and healing.

Herbs vs Pharmaceuticals

For many of my patients, the standard pharmaceutical medicines they’ve been prescribed haven’t worked well at all, or they were effective for a time and then stopped working. Other patients simply prefer natural treatment approaches to being on long term medications. Regardless of why they’ve chosen herbal medicine, it’s very common that they see great results – even when other methods have failed.

This is likely because each formula contains multiple anti-viral herbs, and these herbs change over time. Also – when the herbs are cooked together as a decoction, there’s a synergy that happens in the cooking process that improves the efficacy of the formula. Also, in using whole plants (rather than extracting specific constituents) the effect of each whole herb is greater than the sum of the component parts.

Course of Treatment

Many people are concerned that they will need to be on herbs “forever” since the herpes virus is never completely eliminated from the body. This is absolutely not the case. Most patients will need to take herbal tea daily for around two to four months. This varies based on the severity of the case and their overall constitution an healing. After that, they may take herbs preventively by doing a 3-week round of tea once every 3-4 months. Some of my patients will have a follow-up round of tea once per year. Others are able to stop the teas altogether. Although the herpes virus remains in the body, it is possible to send it into remission where people are no longer experiencing any outbreaks.

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