Genital Herpes

Genital herpes simplex is a virus, spread by direct skin to skin contact.  As with most chronic viral diseases, once you are infected you can experience recurring flare-ups.  Symptoms include blisters on the genital area and anus, and occasionally the buttocks.  After a few days, the blisters break open and leave painful, shallow ulcers that gradually crust over and fade.  These attacks may be triggered by heat-producing factors like emotional stress, fatigue, sunburn, drugs (prescription or recreational), sexual activity or dietary errors. 

In the period prior to an outbreak (called the prodrome), patients may experience itching, irritation and tingling in the genital area.  The herpes virus is highly contagious during the prodrome phase, while blisters are present, and for a short period after the blisters have disappeared.  Herpes is considered incurable, so prevention of recurrence is the best strategy.  Essentially, if the frequency of outbreaks can be reduced to less than one every few years or so, it is functionally little different from a cure.

TAM doctors state that immediate treatment during the initial outbreak is the best way to prevent recurrence, followed by long-term detoxification treatment of both the fatty tissue and the blood.  The first step is application of a topical paste made with neem leaf.  Then the blood and fat are cleansed internally with a compound called guduchiyoga, the main ingredients of which are amla fruit and guduchi stem.  Use the compound continuously for three to six months.  It is also important to watch the diet carefully, especially to avoid excessive intake of fats and oils. Dr. Mana told me that outbreaks in Nepalese patients usually go down in frequency over time, and long-term problems were far more frequent in Western patients. He attributed this to a diet high is low quality fats and oils.

Western herbalists use echinacea, wild indigo root (Baptisia tinctoria), cat’s claw inner bark (Uña de Gato or Uncaria tomentosa) and St.  John’s wort as internal treatments.  A useful external preparation is a tea made from lemon balm (Melissa officinalis).  My personal favorite external treatment, however, is Earl Grey tea bags (see the review of tea leaves in the important herbs section).  In my experience, tea leaves seem to work better in the short-term than the common allopathic internal treatment acyclovir, they cost far less, and they have fewer side effects.  I have prescribed this regimen for many patients, and they all find that the lesions crust over more quickly, then disappear and do not recur for at least several months after treatment.  Apparently the tannins in the tea inactivate the virus (Fukuchi et al., 1989).

Chinese doctors treat herpes with heat-reducing anti-viral herbs, such as gentiana root (long dan cao or G.  scabra), isatis root and leaves, kochia fruit (di fu zi or K.  scoparia), phellodendron bark, scute root, moutan bark (mu dan pi or Paeonia suffruticosa), cnidium fruit (she chuang zi or C.  monnieri)and dictaminus bark (bai xian pi or D.  dasycarpus).  These herbs can be made into a tea, or taken powdered at a dose of about 6-9 grams per day of concentrated 4:1 extracts. This treatment is also very effective.

Research Highlights

• One study examined traditional herbal medicines with activity against acute anti-herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1) in mice.  The various herbal extracts arrested the progression of recurrent HSV-1 disease and shortened the period of severe recurrent lesions compared with controls.  Prophylactic treatment limited the development of recurrent skin lesions (Kurokawa et al., 1997).

•Teng li gen root (Actinidia chinensis) is the basis of a new ophthalmic eye drop used in China for recurrent herpes-caused keratitis (corneal inflammation).  It is non-toxic to the corneal epithelium (Zhang JM et.  al., 1993).  A clinical combined system trial of 22 “obstinate” eyes used herbal eye drops along with internal TCM medicines and, when deemed necessary, irradiation.  The combined treatment decreased or prevented recurrence, maintained visual acuity, and reduced the frequent relapses that often lead to blindness (Bao, 1992).