Chickenpox was simply a part of growing up for most of us. It wasn’t that big of a deal and it was never treated like that. Some of us even got over it without the use of medicine. But for too many, recovering from chickenpox wasn’t the end but the beginning of something much worse.
Around 1 in 3 people in the United States will develop the shingles infection(1), a direct result of being infected by the chickenpox as a child. And unlike the chickenpox, it’s much harder to make shingles simply disappear. Learn more about the shingles virus and some natural remedies that can be useful in treating it, including several recommendations for essential oils that mitigate the symptoms and pain.
What Are Shingles?
Herpes zoster, also known as Shingles, is a viral disease causing skin blisters and rashes across different areas of the body. It is very common among older people, though younger people may develop the disease, as well. The varicella zoster virus is what is responsible for causing chickenpox in children, staying dormant inside nerve cells within the body even after the disease passes. Once reactivated later in life, shingles begin to manifest. Despite the similar name, it is not the same strand of herpes virus as the sexually transmitted illness.
Symptoms and Causes
As stated before, Shingles are caused by the dormant varicella zoster virus reactivating inside a person’s body. It is currently unknown how and why shingles exists. The process by which the virus stays dormant within cells is not yet known or why things like old age and poor immune function can trigger reactivation. Coming into contact with the puss and fluids inside a shingles blister can give someone chickenpox if they have not been exposed to it previously but will not immediately cause them to contract shingles. In general, Shingles episodes last between two and four weeks after symptoms first appear.
Before Shingles develop, you may begin to feel a tingling sensation on certain areas of your skin. After that, a red rash and blisters will appear on the body. The most common area for these to appear is the torso, though arms, legs, neck, face, and eyes are also possible. Those with poor immune function have a chance for disseminated Shingles that cover large areas of the body. Shingles around the eyes also have the chance to cause permanent vision damage, as well.
Best Essential Oils for Shingles
Though rarely fatal, shingles can cause a great deal of discomfort and pain to those who have them. Vaccines and other medical treatments are effective in mitigating symptoms during episodes, but there are also several natural remedies you can try to help yourself reduce pain and increase your body’s natural healing ability. One such treatment is through essential oils, with many different oils available that can provide relief.
A good way to apply essential oils for a treatment like this is to mix a few drops with 1/4 of a cup of coconut oil. Many essential oils are super concentrated and may be too intense if used on their own, so cutting it with another oil like this can help. Coconut oil itself has many health benefits that may improve your shingles and skin overall, making it something worth looking into even if you’re not currently suffering from shingles or a similar ailment.
It’s recommended by experts that you try a spot test on an unrelated part of your body before using an essential oil or other natural treatment you’re not familiar with, however. The last thing you want is to cause an allergic reaction in the middle of your shingles episode, as it could significantly worsen the infection and increase the time it takes to heal. Caution is always the best option even if you suspect there won’t be any adverse side effects.
1. Geranium Oil
Geranium oil is derived from the sweet scented geranium plant and is commonly used in aromatherapy. As far back as ancient Egypt, people have been using this essential oil to treat skin conditions like dermatitis and eczema (in addition to mummification). A natural antiseptic, geranium oil has undergone studies related to the post-herpetic neuralgia pain caused after a shingles episode, finding that it can relieve pain as quickly as a few minutes following application(2). This outperforms the more commonly prescribed topical capsaicin solutions that will normally take weeks before any effects are noticed.
2. Peppermint Oil
As its name implies, peppermint oil comes from peppermint leaves, themselves a hybrid between the spearmint and water mint varieties of mint. In addition to making you smell like Christmas, peppermint oil is known for its anti-inflammatory and anti-itch properties to keep you from scratching the blisters and making your condition worse. Not only that, peppermint oil can help your concentration and reduce stress, the latter being a major factor in shingles episodes.
3. Black Cumin Seed Oil
Black cumin seed oil (sometimes found under a variety of other names like black seed oil, fennel seed oil, black caraway seed oil, etc.) is a potent anti-inflammatory and antiviral essential oil known to help reduce the symptoms of shingles. Containing crystalline nigellone and thymoquinone, it comes with a variety of health benefits when ingested or used topically. In addition, it also contains several B vitamins, minerals, and beneficial acids that can treat other conditions like hypertension and digestive problems. Since shingles episodes can often be brought on and made worse by poor immune systems, black cumin seed oil can help to improve your natural defenses and help with flare ups.
4. Lavender Oil
Lavender oil is one of the most popular and most used essential oils in the world. Its sweet scent is good for more than just perfume, though, as lavender is packed with many beneficial medicinal properties. In addition to its usefulness in treating skin conditions and inflammation, lavender oil can help reduce stress and anxiety. It can also stimulate your body’s natural healing abilities and improve the restfulness of sleep, both useful when recovering from a shingles episode.
5. Lemon Oil
Lemon oil is another great choice for treating shingles. In addition to its antiseptic qualities, lemon oil also helps reduce excess oil on the skin and bring down inflammation. It also improves the look of skin, helping to brighten and clear damaged patches. Additionally, it can boost the immune system due to its high vitamin content and its ability to improve circulation. It’s also good for mixing with other oils, letting you combine the benefits of lemon oil and another kind you like (both geranium and lavender from this list work well with lemon).
Other Natural Remedies for Shingles
Besides essential oils, there are many more holistic treatments you can try to help with Shingles. For example, applying baking soda or Cornstarch to the blisters can draw out moisture and dry them, reducing the length of an episode and improve healing. Honey is another great solution as it is packed with natural antibiotics and stimulates the immune system. Green tea can both relieve stress and kill the virus inside of you, helping to reduce the length of episodes and promote faster healing.
Eating a diet rich in certain vitamins and minerals can also improve your condition. The most important nutrients for treating shingles include vitamins A, B-12, C, and E. Anything with Lysine (an amino acid) is good choice, too. Some options include leaf greens, red meet, eggs, whole grains, tomatoes, legumes, and fish. On the other hand, it’s best to avoid foods high in saturated fat, refined carbs, lots of sugar, and high arginine content as they can weaken your immune system and help the virus.
One of the best things you can do for Shingles or any kind of rash or soar is to touch them as little as possible when not applying some form of treatment. Picking or scratching at blisters only makes them worse and hurts your skin. In the end, the most you can do is ease your symptoms and wait for them to pass. A big part of this is to just leave things alone.
Managing Your Shingles
Shingles is a troublesome condition with no permanent cure at this point in time. However, there exist many ways to treat it and mitigate your symptoms, helping you live a full and happy life in spite of your disease. Combined with an FDA-approved vaccine, various essential oils are a great way to help treat your condition, both during an episode and as preventative care.
Geranium oil, Peppermint oil, Black cumin seed oil, Lavender oil, and Lemon oil are all fantastic at helping your skin and lessening the effects of shingles, as are the other natural treatments explored in this article. If you’re struggling with the rashes and blisters caused by shingles, you might try exploring these and other essential oils to find some relief.