Shingles. One of the most feared of words amongst the over 40s. Have you ever had it? Or met anyone who has? Did they tell you how horrible an experience it was?
This week, all of a sudden and out of the blue, it seemed to pop up (literally) everywhere I turned. Shingles is one of the most painful 'minor' diseases you can catch in adulthood, and statistics show that it will attack as many as one in four of us over the age of 50.
What is shingles?
Shingles is the grown-up version of chicken pox. It's caused by the same virus, re-activating it in your nerve tissues after years, sometimes decades, of lying dormant in your system. It's extremely uncomfortable, and shows up as an itchy, burning rash: bright red and blistered. It usually arrives on your stomach and chest, but it can also attack the eyes and face, sometimes leaving scarring and damage in its wake.
Last week my cousin phoned to update me on her latest family drama. Her daughter, aged 40, had been diagnosed with shingles eight weeks ago and was still recovering from it. Although she had faithfully taken her doctor's prescription, and he had warned her it might take a couple of months to recover, she was still covered in an itchy rash. On top of everything else she had developed painful headaches. The virus had moved to her spine, causing serious neurological damage and she was shortly to go in for tests to see what could be done. The prognosis was not good, and her doctor feared the damage might be permanent.
Then an old work colleague called, and oddly, he too had just recovered from a nasty bout. His shingles outbreak had lasted nearly five weeks. Despite taking an anti-viral medication, along with lashings of topical cream to ease the almost unbearable itching of his rash, he said it was one of the most painful illnesses he could remember.
Next, a friend's mother got it, and after 3 weeks of her prescription medicine, was still deep in the throes of the disease, unable to go out because of the discomfort, depressed because it just didn't seem to be getting any better. She was worrying that her face would be permanently scarred.
When my daughter rang a few days later in a panic because her boyfriend, Max, had just gone down with it, there seemed to be a message there somewhere for me. The prescription drugs seemed to work slowly. Was it time to try a different approach?
Max had also been given an anti-viral prescription by his doctor in New York. He was told to stay off work and expect a four week minimum recovery period, 'possibly longer'. Max is super healthy, and never touches pharmaceutical products if he can help it. He wanted to know what he could do naturally to speed up his body's recovery. Did I have any suggestions because in New York's super competitive, busy world, he couldn't afford to take four weeks off sick? He wondered if I knew of any natural products that would boost his immunity and help his body to shrug off the virus quicker.
Natural cures for shingles
I have never had shingles myself, but I have, however, been told by many people the things that worked for them when they got it. Max was happy with the idea of a brief and entirely unscientific study for a few days, before resorting to the Valtrex prescribed by his doctor, who told him the drug would take two weeks to kick in, followed by at least another two weeks to clear up the symptoms fully.
5 healing remedies for shingles
1. Colloidal Silver
Max had large painful red welts all over his stomach and sides. He sent me photographs and we measured their expanse and analysed his progress day by day. He was itching unbearably, so the first thing I suggested was spraying his skin with my favourite anti-viral remedy, colloidal silver. It stopped the itching and calmed the redness of the rash.
2. Tea Tree Oil
Second, was regular applications of tea tree oil, diluted in water, to dry out the blistered sores.
3. Apple Cider Vinegar and Cayenne Pepper
Apple cider vinegar works well. Max read an article that recommended adding cayenne pepper to the apple cider vinegar, applying it with a cloth three times a day and only to the areas of skin actually covered by the rash. He said it was uncomfortable, but not as uncomfortable as the shingles itself and two days later reported that the rash had turned purple, looking like it would if he had been badly sunburned.
4. Mushroom Tincture
Max decided he needed to heal himself from inside as well as out and, after further internet research, found David Winston's '7 precious mushrooms', a liquid tincture that boosts immune response and is anti-viral. He began taking 50 drops in water, three times a day.
5. Enzyme rich Fruit
Lastly, in an attempt to finally nail the shingles, I suggested he start eating three daily portions of either pineapple or mango, both of which contain proteolytic enzymes that can strip away the protective outer layers and heads of viruses. A German study found proteolytic enzymes to be as effective as some standard antiviral medications at relieving the pain from shingles and healing the rash.
Shingles healed naturally in 7 days
Hippocrates, that wise philosopher and doctor, stated many centuries ago: 'Let food be your medicine and medicine be your food'. It certainly worked for Max. The symptoms began improving in the first couple of days, and he and I were frankly both amazed when, surpassing all our expectations, a mere 7 days later his shingles was almost completely gone. The pain stopped, the itching calmed, and there was just a residue of scarring from the rash, which over the next few days faded entirely. He was back to work on day 8.
I know a mere one person study, throwing a random lot of remedies at the problem, proves nothing at all. But perhaps, if you do succumb to shingles, it might be worth adding a few natural products to the mix alongside your prescription. None of the remedies used have side effects, and if it saves you a week or two of itching, why not?