Epsom salt baths for herpes

Contents

Lomaherpan Cream

Description

Lomaherpan cream is made with lemon balm mint – melissa officinalis. Lemon balm helps stop herpes simplex virus causing a sore. You can use the cream on face, genitals, fingers, wherever… Some people use it daily, but most of us just rub a very small amount into the place where we feel an outbreak starting up to prevent a herpes outbreak from developing. LomaHerpan (previously called LomaBrit) is made in Germany from melissa officinalis (lemon balm) in an emollient base. Marian has been counting:

“I have used this 14 times – when I notice the first sensations – and it has prevented every outbreak. During that time, on 4 occasions when I didn’t have the Lomaherpan cream with me, I had the outbreaks.”

Science bit for Lomaherpan treating herpes:

Melissa officinalis (lemon balm min) contains molecules that block the receptor sites on the skin cells. This prevents the herpes virus getting into the cells where it multiplies. If you wish, you can use melissa oil or extract from an aromatherapy supplier (mixed with a carrier oil).

5 gram tube.

There is also lemonbalm salve – a chapstick formulation – might be easier to apply?

Lemon balm was chosen after the makers tested other oils and found that lemon balm did the job best. So they just use lemon balm. Lomaherpan cream is widely used in Europe where lemon balm mint has an assessment report.

It used to be sold in UK chemists. Then this ceased. People who’d used it and loved it asked us to find it – so we added it to our ‘shop’. Each year we sell more, just on word of mouth and repeat orders.

Manuel Faba Ortega/iStock/Getty Images

Lemon balm (Melissa officinalis) is a effective herbal remedy for herpes. The herpes virus belongs to a large family that includes chicken pox, shingles and keratitis as well as oral and genital herpes. All herpes infections display painful blisters and are highly infectious.

Lemon balm contains a host of antiviral constituents including rosmarinic acid, flavonoids and phenolic acid, according to PeaceHealth. This herb also is used to reduce symptoms of stress associated with herpes outbreaks. Lemon balm “reduces time needed to heal cold sores by roughly half,” according to certified nutritional consultant Phyllis Balch in her book “Prescription for Herbal Healing.”

cup image by musk from Fotolia.com

Lemon balm tea is a tasty choice for those seeking the medicinal assistance of this herb. The flavor is both lemony and minty. The Commission E monograph recommends drinking a cup of lemon balm tea several times daily. Allow the tea to steep in a covered teacup for 10 minutes to guarantee maximum effectiveness. You can also apply the tea directly to cold sores with a cotton ball, notes the University of Maryland Medical Center.

Lemon balm tincture, an alcohol-based liquid extract, is one of the best ways to treat a herpes outbreak. The alcohol draws out and preserves the flavonoids and phenolic acids that fight viruses. Take 2 or 3 ml of lemon balm tincture in water three times daily as soon as the herpes symptoms appear. Continue the dosage for a day or two after symptoms disappear to limit recurrence.

If topical treatment is preferred, lemon balm is available in concentrated ointments or creams. The extract can be applied directly to lesions to reduce itching and inflammation. This medicine often strengthened with L-lysine amino acids to increase recovery time.

Warning

Consult with a qualified health care practitioner before using lemon balm in conjunction with thyroid medication.

When Stress Triggers a Herpes Outbreak, These Complementary Therapies May Calm It Down

A healthy lifestyle and the right supplements may offer relief from genital herpes.

Mushrooms and lemon balm are two of the botanical remedies that may reduce herpes breakouts. Anna Ivanova/Alamy; Alamy

A viral infection causes genital herpes, and there is no cure for it. But if you have genital herpes, you can use complementary approaches to reduce how often you have outbreaks. Some alternative therapies can also provide relief from discomfort and pain during outbreaks that do occur.

“This kind of viral outbreak , and other viruses, like a cold, is usually related to stress and your immunity,” says Lucy Gade, MD, MPH, the medical director at the Center for Wellness and Integrative Medicine at Northwell Health, in Oyster Bay, New York. As a result, an alternative medicine approach to herpes treatment involves making smart lifestyle choices to foster your general wellness. In doing so, you bolster your immune system’s ability to fight the two viruses that cause herpes, herpes simplex virus 1 (HSV-1) and herpes simplex virus 2 (HSV-2).

“A healthy diet, appropriate sleep, finding ways to decrease stressors in your life … These alone will make your herpes outbreaks less frequent,” says Dr. Gade. Such healthy habits will also improve your overall well-being, lengthen your life, and boost your happiness.

But first, make sure you have an accurate diagnosis for what’s causing your symptoms.

If You Have Symptoms, Find Out What You’re Dealing With

“With genital herpes, the biggest mistake people make is not seeking medical advice,” says Gade.

People often find the signs or symptoms of a first herpes outbreak confusing, says Gade. You may mistake herpes symptoms for those of a yeast infection and try curing that condition on your own. But if your healthcare provider diagnoses you with herpes, the first line of treatment will be antiviral medications.

“, you can make matters worse by putting things on the herpes sores that you shouldn’t put on the sores,” she says. People often try using Vaseline, bacitracin, or Aquaphor to soothe the itchy or painful eruptions.

“Honestly, not putting anything on the sores is best,” says Gade. Do keep the area clean and dry, though.

Warm compresses applied to tender or painful areas can help. So can sitting in a warm bath, using Epsom salt.

“Sometimes people have enormous pain with urination,” says Gade. For relief, you can urinate in your bathwater or while taking a shower to dilute the urine stream and lessen the sensation. “You can also use warm water in a spray bottle to dilute the stream while you’re urinating.”

Expect the First Outbreak to Be the Worst

Remember that although herpes lasts a lifetime, the first outbreak typically causes the most pain, while later outbreaks tend to be much milder.

“You will always have herpes, and the sores will come and go, but you can decide not to treat the current outbreak. If it’s not that unpleasant or uncomfortable, some patients will do that,” says Gade.

Tips for Preventing Future Herpes Outbreaks

Boosting and maintaining your immune system through healthy habits forms the basis for an alternative approach to herpes management.

Get Plenty of Sleep for Better Physical and Mental Health

Americans are notoriously sleep deprived, but if you have genital herpes, buck this unhealthy trend. Getting plenty of quality sleep affects every aspect of your life — your physical and mental health, performance at school or work, and appearance.

To improve your sleep hygiene, follow some quick tips from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Upgrade Your Eating Habits

Are you eating a “standard American diet,” or SAD? That means eating lots of meat, fast foods, and processed foods and few fresh fruits and vegetables. Such habits not only work against living comfortably with herpes, they also raise your risk for many diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, and cancer. Consider upgrading your eating habits through a few, not-so-hard-to-make changes.

“Eat more veggies. Try to prepare home-cooked food more often. Eat until you are satisfied, not stuffed,” says LeeAnn Weintraub, RD, MPH, a registered dietitian based in Los Angeles. She considers these three tips to be the first steps anyone who wants to eat more healthfully should follow.

Practice Stress-Reduction Techniques Such as Mindfulness

“Stress is a huge trigger for herpes outbreaks, so learn and use stress-management techniques. Try modalities like yoga, meditation, acupuncture, and counseling,” says Madeline Mindich, a licensed acupuncturist and practitioner of other traditional Asian healing arts.

Gade encourages using mindfulness to reduce stress. “Decide to be mindful of your surroundings and own your experiences,” she suggests, perhaps through meditation or yoga.

You can also simply remind yourself often to pay attention to the present moment as you go through your day, whether you’re washing dishes, walking the dog, or in the shower. “By being mindful, you may feel better overall, and it will decrease your outbreaks,” says Gade.

Exercise also provides immense benefits as a stress management tool.

Try Taking the Supplement Lysine

In terms of taking supplements to prevent breakouts, “I especially recommend L-lysine. This is the primary supplement for herpes,” Gade says. L-lysine (also called “lysine”) is an amino acid, a building block of protein. “When you have an outbreak, it can be taken orally to shorten the outbreak in conjunction with an antiviral medication.”

Lysine appears to be useful in reducing the number and the severity of outbreaks. The usual daily dose is between 1 and 3 milligrams.

Some studies suggest that taking lysine regularly may help prevent outbreaks of both cold sores and herpes sores. In Gade’s experience, patients have had no side effects using lysine. In some people, though, there have been reports of the supplement causing abdominal pain and diarrhea.

Herbal Remedies May Also Offer Relief

Research supports the use of certain botanical remedies. You may want to try one or more of these:

Long dan xie gan tan This Chinese herbal formula has been used to quell symptoms and reduce herpes outbreaks. Its English name is “clear liver fire pills.” In at least one study, the formula was shown to inhibit the activity of HSV-1 and HSV-2. (1)

“Chinese herbal medicine is always individualized, and there are other formulas that help too, so it is helpful to consult a licensed acupuncturist or herbalist before starting this formula,” says Mindich.

Mushrooms Mushrooms boost the immune system, Mindich says, and thus can help prevent recurrent herpes outbreaks. She recommends mushroom products from the Immune & Protection collection of Host Defense and from Myko San. Eating shiitake mushrooms daily has also been found to have a positive effect on the immune system in a study published in April 2015 in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition. (2)

Lemon balm This herb, which is related to mint, has traditionally been used to improve brain function and also has antiviral properties. Records concerning the medicinal use of lemon balm date back more than 2,000 years. (3)

Lemon balm can be prepared and drunk as a tea. It can also be applied to the skin to both prevent herpes to prevent outbreaks and reduce symptoms. Research has shown that lemon balm oil directly counteracts herpes viruses. (4)

Mindich offers a caution though. “Essential oils are not always safe to use topically, so they should be diluted,” she says. “You should consult a primary care physician or a licensed herbalist about their proper use.”

Ashwagandha Known to botanists as Withania somnifera, this plant plays a big role in traditional Indian medicine as a general health tonic. It goes by many names, including Ayurvedic ginseng, Indian ginseng, and winter cherry. Ashwagandha helps to support general well-being and reduce anxiety, as well as relieving herpes symptoms, says Gade. (5)

Some of the following factors may trigger genital herpes symptoms:

  • Sexual intercourse. Some people find that the friction of sexual intercourse irritates the skin and brings on symptoms. Using a water-based lubricant can help reduce irritation. Don’t use one that contains the spermicide nonoxynol-9, however. Nonoxynol-9 can irritate mucous membranes, such as the lining of the vagina. Oil-based lubricants are a no-no, too. They weaken latex, making condoms more likely to break. Even if the friction of intercourse seems to be a trigger for symptoms, it probably won’t cause a flare-up every time.
  • Colds and sunlight. The common cold and sunlight seem to trigger outbreaks of oral herpes (cold sores), but no proof exists that they trigger genital herpes outbreaks.
  • Hormones. Hormonal changes, like those that occur in the menstrual cycle, can affect genital herpes outbreaks.
  • Surgery, weak immune system. Trauma to the body, such as having surgery, may make herpes symptoms appear. Having a weakened immune system does, too. People whose immune systems are weakened by HIV or chemotherapy, for example, tend to have outbreaks more often than people with normal immune functioning.

Remember that triggers may not be the same for everyone, and doctors are not certain how much lifestyle affects herpes symptoms. If you think one triggers your symptoms, ask your doctor what you should do about it.

For more guidance about relieving emotional stress, see How To Tell Your Partner or What to Do if Your Partner Has Herpes.

You may also find reassurance by clicking on Re-Entering the Dating Scene and Sex and Herpes.

For more information and help understanding words you may hear about genital herpes, see Resources and the Glossary.

Top things to know

  • Genital herpes is the second most common STI in the United States
  • Some people with herpes get recurrent blisters and ulcers on their genital areas
  • Many people with herpes have no symptoms, but still are able to continue spreading the disease
  • There is no cure for herpes, but outbreaks and symptoms can be managed

What is herpes?

Genital herpes is a very common sexually transmitted infection (STI) caused by the herpes simplex virus type 2 (HSV-2) and less commonly, by herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1) (1).

Historically, these two different type of herpes viruses were known for where they caused infection—oral as HSV-1, and genital as HSV-2—but this is no longer true. HSV-1 can cause blisters on your mouth (“cold sores”) and on the genitals through oral sex. This means that both HSV-1 and HSV-2 can cause genital herpes.

What are the symptoms of herpes?

Genital herpes infections are very common, but many people don’t even know they have them. This is because many people don’t have any physical symptoms from the herpes infection—that is, their infections are asymptomatic (2,3).

Symptoms of genital herpes differ for everyone, and many people may not have classic symptoms or any symptoms at all. Some people may suspect that their symptoms are caused by another type of infection (2).

Herpes symptoms, for those who experience them, are often unpleasant. The initial herpes outbreak can be shocking and the most severe outbreak.

The first outbreak (primary infection)

After contracting the herpes simplex virus, symptoms may start to appear around 2 to 10 days later (4). This first infection is known as the primary infection.

The classic symptoms of genital herpes involve the skin: clusters of small raised bumps develop, which progress to fluid or pus-filled blisters (4,5).

Next, these blisters crust over or ulcer (turn into open wounds). They eventually regress, leaving the skin and mucous membrane to heal over (4,5).

These blisters are often painful, itchy, can cause tenderness, and may be accompanied by painful urination (5).

In women and people with female reproductive tracts, herpes lesions can appear on the vulva, perineum, buttocks, anal area, cervix, and inside of the vagina (6), and some people may experience spotting and vaginal discharge (7). This means that people with vaginas may not be able to “see” any herpes blisters because they are inside the vaginal canal. The first outbreak may also be accompanied by full body symptoms, such as fever, body aches, and swollen lymph nodes (3,6).

The first outbreak of genital herpes lesions usually lasts between two to four weeks long (4). While skin symptoms are present, a person is very contagious, as herpes viruses are present in the blister fluid and over the entire infected area (5).

Additional outbreaks (non-primary infections)

People with genital herpes who are infected with HSV-1 can also contract HSV-2 in their genitals (or vice versa). This is called a non-primary infection, and is often not as severe in presentation as the primary infection (5).

After the initial outbreak (recurrent infections)

Herpes outbreaks can keep coming back rather unexpectedly. This is because the herpes virus takes up permanent residence in nerve roots, and can never truly be eliminated (7).

Genital herpes outbreaks that occur after the primary infection are called recurrent infections (1). These can include the same symptoms from the primary infection, but are usually less severe, or can be asymptomatic, so that a person doesn’t even know that they are having a recurrent infection (2,3,5,7).

Fever and general feelings of being unwell are not usually present with recurrent infections (4). The number of recurrent outbreaks decreases over time (4).

During recurrent infections, something called viral shedding occurs, meaning that a person is contagious and can pass on herpes virus to another partner (2,4).

This means that even if you can’t see any herpes lesions on you or your partner’s genitalia, you are not safe during these times. The best way to avoid transmitting herpes if you know you have it is to always use a condom or another barrier method.

Most people who have recurrent infections have less severe lesions for a shorter period of time, compared to the primary infection (5). Some people may even be able to “feel” when a recurrent herpes outbreak will occur—this is called a prodrome—noticing symptoms like tingling, itching, or leg pain anywhere from 30 minutes to five days before the skin symptoms start (3,4).

How is genital herpes transmitted?

Genital herpes is spread through direct sexual contact of mucous membranes (the soft moist skin present at the openings of your genitals and mouth), herpes lesions and fluids, as well as through genital fluids and saliva (1,7).

Viral shedding occurs when someone is contagious and able to pass on the virus.

If herpes blisters are present, viral shedding will occur, making the person very contagious (8). If no blisters are present, this does not not mean that they are not contagious. Viral shedding can still happens in absence of active lesions, which means a person can still pass on the genital herpes virus to an unsuspecting partner (2,8,9,10,11).

How common is genital herpes?

Genital herpes is a very common STI, but since many people are asymptomatic or are in a phase between visible outbreaks, it is perceived as less common than it actually is.

Genital herpes caused by HSV-2 is estimated to the second-most prevalent STI in the United States, affecting almost 24 million people between 15 and 49 years of age (12).

But this estimate only accounts for people with the HSV-2 virus. Since genital herpes is increasingly being caused by HSV-1 (13), the amount of people with genital herpes infections is likely even higher.

Worldwide, a range of 274-678 million people aged 15 to 49 years old are estimated to be living with HSV-2, with a global prevalence of around 1 in 10 people having HSV-2 (14).

More women than men are affected by HSV-2 (14); this is because herpes is more easily transmitted to the female partner during sex (3).

Since genital herpes cannot be cured, the number of infected people in a population can only grow as more and more people become infected. The only way to reduce genital herpes within a population is through prevention.

Oral herpes caused by HSV-1 can also be a source of genital herpes. Across the world, it is estimated that 2 out of 3 people under 50 years of age—around 3.7 billion people—are infected with HSV-1 (3).

How can I prevent contracting or spreading genital herpes?

Always use a condom and/or barriers

Being sexually active puts people at risk for contracting an STI. Practicing safer sex and using condoms can moderately reduce the risk of contracting genital herpes (15).

People who use condoms every time they have sex have are 30% less likely to contract genital herpes (15).

Condoms should be used before any genital or sexual contact begins—not just during ejaculation. Since outbreaks and viral shedding may occur in areas not covered by a condom, total protection—even with perfect and consistent condom use—cannot be guaranteed (15).

Do a visual scan

People with outbreaks (herpes blisters present in the genital area) should abstain from sexual activity until the sores have fully healed.

The risk of transmission of genital herpes is highest during outbreaks, when viral shedding is at its greatest.

If a person with genital herpes feels prodrome symptoms—they sense that a herpes outbreak will happen soon—then sexual intercourse should be avoided until after the outbreak has subsided, and all of the blisters and ulcers have completely healed.

Ask about sexual history

Ask all partners whether they’ve been tested recently for STIs before sexual contact. Limiting the number of sexual partners you are exposed to will also decrease your risk of contracting genital herpes and other STIs.

If you’ve had unprotected sex, or if you experience symptoms of genital herpes, visit your healthcare provider or local STI clinic for an STI screenings.

If you have genital herpes, be open with your partner and talk about the risks of transmission.

Douching should be avoided, as this may actually increase chances of contracting an STI (16).

Researchers are working towards the development of other preventative strategies, such as an HSV vaccine and topical microbicides to help prevent the spread of herpes (3).

How is genital herpes diagnosed?

To diagnose a genital herpes infection, a healthcare provider will inspect the lesions and discuss sexual history and (if applicable) previous herpes outbreaks. The provider may run lab tests of the lesions, or blood tests to detect the virus (17).

How is genital herpes managed?

The herpes simplex virus cannot be cured, but it can be managed using antiviral medications to help control outbreaks. These medications help to prevent the outbreaks from happening as often and to reduce the symptom severity and duration (3).

There are two different treatments for people with genital herpes: suppressive therapy and episodic treatment.

  • In suppressive therapy, antiviral medications are taken daily to reduce the frequency of herpes outbreaks (4). Having less frequent outbreaks means fewer episodes of painful genital lesions and less viral shedding, which will help reduce the risk of giving herpes to a partner.
  • Episodic treatment may be better suited for people with infrequent outbreaks. Antivirals are dosed at the onset of symptoms to help ameliorate symptoms and shorten the duration of the outbreak (17).

If you have genital herpes, talk to your healthcare practitioner to determine which management option is best for you.

For people with herpes blisters inside the vagina, using tampons or menstrual cups during menstruation may be painful or irritating, making pads or menstrual underwear a better option during outbreaks.

What are the potential complications of genital herpes?

Pregnancy and herpes

It is possible to transmit a genital herpes infection from mother to the baby during birth (4,17).

The rate of transmission depends on whether or not herpes lesions are present at the time of delivery. If no genital herpes lesions or prodromal symptoms are present at the onset of labor, then a mother with a known herpes infection can still deliver a health baby vaginally.

But if a herpes outbreak is present at the time of delivery, or if the mother has recently just acquired genital herpes near the time of delivery, then a caesarian section will be performed to help reduce the risk of herpes transmission to the baby (17).

If you are pregnant and you don’t have genital herpes, avoid sex with anyone who you know or suspect has genital herpes, especially in the third trimester (17).

Neonatal herpes

If a newborn infant is exposed to the herpes virus, the consequences can be severe and even fatal (3,18). Infants can develop infections in their skin, eyes or mouth, in their central nervous system, or even throughout their body, affecting multiple organ systems at once (18).

HIV and genital herpes

Having HIV puts a person at greater risk of contracting genital herpes, and having genital herpes puts a person at greater risk of contracting HIV.

Immunocompromised people (including people with HIV) often experience longer and more severe genital herpes outbreaks, and have increased herpes virus shedding (17). The open sores caused by herpes make transmission of both HIV and the herpes simplex virus more likely (CDC).

It’s estimated that people with genital herpes are three times more likely to contract HIV when exposed (19).

Other impacts of genital herpes

It’s important to also remember that there are mental and social impacts of having an incurable STI. Many people with recurrent genital herpes symptoms may feel stigmatized or fearful of pursuing sexual relationships. But people should remember, while genital herpes is not curable, it is manageable, and the outbreaks often decrease over time.

Most people live healthy happy lives with genital herpes (3).

to track your sex life and herpes symptoms using custom tags.

Genital herpes symptoms & treatment

FAST FACTS

  • Genital herpes is a sexually transmitted infection (STI) that causes infected sores, blisters, ulcers and cuts.
  • It is caused by the herpes simplex virus which can be passed on even if the person doesn’t have symptoms.
  • You can reduce your chances of getting genital herpes by using condoms or dental dams during sex.
  • A healthcare professional can test for genital herpes by taking a swab from a blister.
  • Treatment is available for herpes symptoms, but the virus will remain in the body and normally becomes active again, causing the blisters and ulcers to come back.

If you have had sex without a condom and are worried about STIs, get tested as soon as possible.

Herpes is caused by the herpes simplex virus (HSV). There are two types of the virus: HSV-1 and HSV-2.

HSV-1 normally causes cold sores on your mouth and lips, while HSV-2 normally causes herpes around your genitals, anus or legs. However, this is not always the case. For example, it is possible to get genital herpes from someone who has a cold sore on their mouth.

It is also possible to have herpes outbreaks on other areas of skin such as your hands, face or nipples, but this is less common.

How serious is genital herpes?

Herpes causes blisters and ulcers. These can be painful but normally clear up within 2-3 weeks. However, the virus will remain dormant in your body and it is normal for herpes outbreaks to reoccur.

There is no cure for herpes, but there are things you can do to ease discomfort and avoid outbreaks.

People with suppressed immune systems, for example people living with HIV, might experience longer outbreaks and get more severe blistering.

It’s possible for pregnant women to pass herpes on to their children, causing what’s known as neonatal herpes (herpes in a baby). The virus is much more dangerous for babies and can cause miscarriages during pregnancy, and lead to brain damage, or even death in newborns.

How do you get genital herpes?

Herpes is most infectious during an outbreak (as well as immediately before and after). However, the virus can be passed on even when there are no symptoms.

The virus can enter your body through the moist skin around the genitals, mouth and anus (known as mucous membranes) as well as through small cuts (e.g. on your fingers or hands).

You can get genital herpes from:

  • vaginal or anal sex without a condom or dental dam with someone who has genital herpes – even if they don’t have symptoms
  • oral sex without a condom or dental dam from someone who has cold sores – even if they don’t have symptoms
  • sharing sex toys that aren’t washed or covered with a new condom each time they are used
  • close genital contact – this means you can get herpes from someone even if there is no penetration, orgasm or ejaculation.

Be aware that the condom or dental dam must cover any blisters or you won’t be protected.

If you have genital herpes while pregnant you can pass the virus on to your unborn baby. Speak to your healthcare provider right away if you’re pregnant and worried you might have herpes.

Genital herpes, HIV and sexual health

  • Having genital herpes increases your risk of getting and passing on HIV. The blisters and sores provide an easy transmission route for HIV during sex.
  • For someone living with HIV, being recently infected with herpes or having a herpes outbreak will normally increase their viral load. This makes them more likely to pass on HIV when having sex without a condom, even if they’re taking HIV drugs (antiretrovirals).
  • However, if they have an undetectable viral load (because they are taking antiretrovirals) there is no evidence that herpes makes them more likely to pass on HIV.
  • Genital herpes is one of the most common infections in people living with HIV and can be a more serious condition if you’re HIV positive – meaning that outbreaks may last longer and blisters can be more severe.
  • If you’re having recurrent outbreaks of genital herpes, you should have an HIV test, as this may be a sign of a weakened immune system caused by HIV.
  • If you’re taking antiretrovirals it’s important to discuss with your doctor how treatment for herpes may interact with your HIV drugs.

If you are worried about HIV infection, find out everything you need to know in our HIV Transmission and Prevention section.

How do you avoid getting or passing on genital herpes?

  • Avoid sex if either you or your partner has an outbreak (or if you feel like you might be about to get one). Wait until the symptoms have cleared up before having sex again.
  • Use a new male or female condom or dental dam every time you have vaginal, anal or oral sex.
  • Remember that a condom or dental dam must cover any sores or you will not be protected.
  • Cover sex toys with a new condom and wash them after use.
  • Use a new dental dam or latex gloves for rimming and fingering (exploring your partner’s anus with your fingers, mouth or tongue) or use latex gloves for fisting, especially if you get herpes on your hands.
  • Discuss your sexual health with your partner. Knowing each other’s sexual health status can help you decide together how to have safer sex.
  • Having multiple sexual partners can also increase your risk of getting genital herpes. If you are having sex with multiple partners, it’s even more important to use condoms and have regular STI tests.

Note condoms are the best protection against sexually transmitted infections and pregnancy. Taking PrEP doesn’t prevent herpes or pregnancy.

Ask your doctor or healthcare worker if you want more advice about safer sex.

What do genital herpes symptoms look like?

Most people with genital herpes don’t have any symptoms when first infected, and they can take months or years to develop. If symptoms do occur when first infected, they usually develop in four to seven days. Symptoms are normally more severe the first time than in re-occurring infections.

Symptoms for women and men include:

  • small blisters that burst to leave red, open sores around your genitals, anus (bottom), thighs and buttocks
  • blisters and ulcers on the cervix (lower part of the womb) in women
  • vaginal discharge in women
  • pain when passing urine (peeing)
  • feeling unwell, with aches, pains and flu-like symptoms.

The symptoms normally clear up within 20 days.

Although symptoms of genital herpes can go by themselves, the virus stays dormant (inactive) in the body and symptoms may come back – this is called a recurrent outbreak. Recurrent outbreaks normally become shorter and less severe as your body learns to fight the virus more effectively.

If you’re having frequent herpes outbreaks, you may notice a tingling, burning or itching sensation around your genitals or down your leg before the blisters appear. It’s best to avoid having sex in this stage, as herpes can be more infectious in this period.

Can I get tested for genital herpes?

Yes – the tests normally involve taking a swab from a blister. So if you think you have a blister, it’s best to get it checked out right away.

If you have genital herpes you should be tested for other STIs.

It’s also advised that you tell your recent sexual partner/s so they can also get tested and treated. Many people who have genital herpes do not notice anything wrong, and by telling them you can help to stop the virus being passed on. It can also stop you from getting the infection again.

How is genital herpes treated?

There is no cure for herpes, and outbreaks will normally clear on their own. However, antiviral treatment can relieve the symptoms and reduce the chance of you passing herpes on.

Whether you receive treatment will often depend on whether it’s your first infection or if your symptoms keep coming back. For a first time infection, you would normally take an antiviral tablet. If you are experiencing a recurrent outbreak, you may only be offered antiviral tablets if your symptoms are severe.

You can ease your symptoms by:

  • keeping the affected area clean using plain or salt water to prevent blisters or ulcers from becoming infected and help them heal quicker
  • applying a wrapped up ice pack to the sores to ease the pain and speed up the healing process
  • applying petroleum jelly, such as Vaseline, to any blisters or ulcers to reduce the pain when passing urine
  • asking a healthcare provider to recommend painkilling creams
  • drinking plenty of fluids to dilute your urine – this will make passing urine less painful
  • avoiding tight clothing because it may irritate the blisters and ulcers.

Don’t be tempted to pop the blisters as this can risk spreading the infection to other areas of skin. Avoid touching or rubbing the blister as this can also increase the risk of the infection spreading. If your herpes treatment requires you to apply cream to a sore, just gently pat the cream on, being careful not to rub around the surrounding area.

Don’t have sex until you or your partner have finished your treatment, and the blisters or ulcers have gone. If it’s your first outbreak, it’s sometimes advised that you check back with a healthcare provider before having sex again, to ensure that your symptoms have gone.

Complications of genital herpes

Speak to a healthcare professional if you are worried about complications.

  • As with most STIs, genital herpes puts you at risk of other STIs, including HIV.
  • In rare cases, blisters can become infected by other bacteria causing a skin infection that spreads to other parts of the body like the lips, hands or fingers.
  • In some cases, herpes can cause bladder problems, meningitis or inflammation of the lining of the anus (bottom), particularly in men who have sex with men.
  • Having herpes while pregnant can be dangerous for the baby. See your healthcare professional if you’re pregnant and think you might have herpes.

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Home Remedies for Herpes

Table of Contents

Home Remedies for Herpes: Reducing Outbreaks

A number of at home remedies exist to prevent the likelihood of a herpes outbreak. Outbreaks can be caused by a number of environmental and physiological factors such as:

  • Physical or emotional stress
  • Fatigue
  • Menstruation
  • Illness
  • Intercourse
  • Weather (UV rays, cold, heat, or wind)

To help reduce the transfer of HSV: minimize the chance of an outbreak by getting good rest, reducing stress, eating healthy foods to help your immune system, and protect yourself from harsh weather (e.g. sun, wind, hot, and cold).

Home Remedies for Herpes: Treating Symptoms

At home treatments and over-the-counter medications can be used to help with symptoms of herpes. Generally it is helpful to keep the affected areas dry to help sores heal over faster. Home remedies for herpes include:

  • Painkillers (e.g. acetaminophin, aspirin, ibuprofen).
  • Icing the area(s) that are affected or applying a cold compress. Do not apply ice directly to skin.
  • Getting sufficient rest.
  • Air circulation (wearing loose fitting clothes to dry sores during genital outbreaks).
  • Rinsing with warm salt water (dry affected area afterwards with a towel or hair dryer).
  • Blistex can help with oral herpes and genital herpes

Home Remedies for Herpes: Natural supplements and medications

Natural remedies are anecdotal and not approved by the FDA, but can be worth a try. These options include:

  • Propolis is a waxy substance produced by bees. Early research on using propolis to treat herpes has promising results and it may be more effective than acyclovir
  • Prunella vulgaris (also called self-heal or heal-all) is an herb that can fight against HSV due to its anti-viral, immune-supportive, and stress-reducing properties that also help maintain skin health
  • Rozites caperata (a mushroom) has been found by a research group from the University of Wisconsin Madison, WI to contain an anti-viral protein that inhibits the herpes virus.
  • Echinacea has anti-viral properties and can give the immune system a boost. Echinacea can be taken as a tea, juice, or pill. According to WebMD this supplement does not perform better than placebo.
  • Baking Soda can help get rid of sores sooner by drying them out, although there are no scientific studies supporting its use. Apply baking soda with a cotton ball.
  • Olive Oil can help soothe sores. It’s active antiviral ingredient is Oleuropein.
  • Epsom Salt Baths help dry the skin and relax the body.
  • Aloe Vera gel can help heal and soothe sores from herpes and has anti-inflammatory and anti-viral properties..
  • Tea Tree Oil is sometimes used to help heal ulcers in your mouth. It can also help heal blisters and sores caused by the herpes virus, but do not take internally or apply undiluted as it can be harmful.
  • Lemon Balm contains acids and flavonoids that might help heal blisters and sores. Teas, ointments and creams can be used to bring relief and help heal.
  • Black Tea has some anti-inflammatory and anti-viral properties via a compound called theaflavin. You can apply the steeped bags (after letting them cool) directly to sores to help them heal. Other tea compresses can be tried as well including: lemon, peppermint, cinnamon, ginger, chamomile, or mint. Green tea in particular has proven anti-viral properties.
  • Black Coffee might help for oral herpes sores and blisters. Topical caffeine has been shown to increase herpes blister healing, but drinking coffee can add to outbreak-inducing stress

Talking to a Doctor

Home remedies for herpes might not accomplish the desired effect, prescription medications also exist that can help heal symptoms, reduce outbreaks, and decrease the severity of symptoms. Talk to a PlushCare doctor today about possible medications for herpes treatment.

Book an appointment with a top US doctor today.

Read More About Home Remedies For Herpes

  • How to Get Rid of Cold Sores Fast
  • How Long Does a Herpes Outbreak Last?
  • What are the Herpes Stages?
  • Here’s What You Need to Know About Herpes

Article Sources

Genital herpes: Diagnosis and treatment

If you have a herpes sore, your dermatologist can often diagnose you by looking at the sore and taking a swab from the sore. A lab test can tell whether the sore contains the herpes simplex virus (HSV), which is what causes genital herpes.

If you don’t have a sore or any symptoms, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) doesn’t recommend testing for most people. You can learn whether you should be tested if you don’t have symptoms at:

Genital herpes screening FAQ (Centers for Disease Control)

There is no cure for genital herpes, but treatment can help. Self-care can relieve symptoms and help sores heal. Medicine can shorten an outbreak and also relieve symptoms.

Self-care for genital herpes

Dermatologists recommend the following self-care tips for their patients who have an outbreak:

  • Keep sores clean and dry.

  • Wear loose-fitting cotton underwear.

  • If an area feels painful, place a cold compress on it.

  • To cleanse and sooth painful sores, reduce itchiness, or decrease tenderness, take an Epsom salts bath. You want to soak for 10 to 20 minutes.

Medicine for genital herpes

To treat genital herpes, your dermatologist may prescribe one of these antiviral medicines:

  • Acyclovir

  • Famciclovir

  • Penciclovir

  • Valacyclovir

Taking medicine is recommended for anyone who has a weakened immune system. With a weakened immune system, your body will likely need help to get rid of sores and symptoms. Without medicine, sores may not clear and symptoms can linger. You should continue taking the medicine until all sores have completely healed.

Medicine works best when started within 24 hours of getting a herpes sore.

If one of the medicines listed above fails to bring relief, you may need another medicine. For a severe infection, getting acyclovir through an IV may be necessary. Other antiviral medicines may also be an option.

Antiviral medicine can be taken daily

For some people, taking an antiviral medicine every day works best because they have:

  • Frequent outbreaks

  • A partner who doesn’t have the virus

Frequent outbreaks

Even if you treat an outbreak, you can have new outbreaks. Some people have several outbreaks a year. If you have six or more outbreaks a year, your dermatologist (or other doctor) may recommend taking an antiviral medicine every day.

Taken daily, this medicine can reduce how often you have an outbreak. Studies show it’s safe to take daily and can reduce outbreaks by 70% to 80%.

A partner who doesn’t have the virus

If your partner doesn’t have the virus that causes genital herpes, taking an antiviral medicine every day can decrease the risk of passing the virus to your sexual partner.

Even when taking medicine, you can still give your partner the virus. You can reduce this risk by skipping sex when you have sores and wearing a condom when you don’t.

If you decide to take medicine daily, you’ll likely take it every day for at least one year. At the end of one year, your dermatologist (or other doctor) should re-evaluate you to see if you still need to take an antiviral every day.

What is life like for someone who has genital herpes?

The virus that causes genital herpes stays inside your body forever. While many people carry this virus, some don’t know that they have it because they never have an outbreak.

If you have an outbreak, taking an antiviral medicine can shorten the outbreak and relieve symptoms. Some people have several outbreaks. For most people, the outbreaks become less severe and occur less often with time.

Anyone who has been infected with the virus, however, can spread the virus to others during sex. Even if you never have an outbreak, you can still spread the virus.

Related AAD resources

  • Herpes simplex

  • Genital warts

Image
Getty Images

Centers for Disease Control. “Genital Herpes – CDC Fact Sheet (Detailed).” Last accessed December 19, 2016.

Fatahzadeh M and Schwartz RA. “Human herpes simplex virus infections: Epidemiology, pathogenesis, symptomatology, diagnosis, and management.” J Am Acad Dermatol 2007; 57:737-63.

US Preventive Task Force. “Serologic screening for genital herpes infection: US Preventive Services Task Force recommendation statement.” JAMA. 2016; 316(23):2525-30.

OK, you’re in the middle of an outbreak, and you’re in pain. How do you manage the uncomfortable and painful symptoms?

First, get medical treatment. Antiviral therapy reduces the severity of the symptoms and duration of the symptoms when started early in an outbreak. Beyond that, most people are on their own. Here are some ideas on things you can try at home to minimize the symptoms:

  • Keep your genital herpes sores clean and dry. Take warm baths and, after each bath, dry your sores well.
  • Try an Epsom salt bath. Throw a large handful into a warm (or cool), shallow bath and soak. This will help the sores dry up and heal.
  • Wear loose clothes that don’t rub or irritate your sores. Cotton underwear is best, and don’t wear pantyhose if you don’t have to. Sometimes, wearing no underwear at all is the most comfortable.
  • Apply ice packs to your sores. You may find this relieves some of the swelling and discomfort.
  • Take a pain reliever. Try acetominophin, ibuprofen, aspirin or naproxen. If they don’t work, ask your doctor for a prescription pain killer if the outbreak is very painful.
  • Painful urination can be a problem in some people. Ask your doctor for a medication to reduce this pain, or try urinating while in a cool shower — it sounds odd, but it may make urination less painful. And drink lots of fluids.
  • Some people say that blowing cool air from a hair dryer onto the lesions makes them burn less.
  • Apply cool tea bags every hour. Tea contains tannic acid, a compound that may have antiviral properties.
  • Apply pure aloe vera gel. It helps the itching and redness and is safe in the genital area. You can even grow the plant and just tear the leaf and apply the gel!
  • Put baking soda on the lesions. Wet a cotton ball, and add some baking soda. Dab it gently on the ulcers to coat them. This may help reduce itching and help the sores dry out. Cornstarch can do the same. (note: do NOT put a used cotton ball BACK into the baking soda or cornstarch!)
  • Domeboro powder is available at the drug store. It’s a miracle agent that is often used in hospitals and nursing homes to help heal painful lesions and reduce itching. Just mix part of a packet with some water, and apply it to the sores.

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