Expert Advice

How can I control genital herpes?

Natural remedies can help stop outbreaks.

How can I control genital herpes?
Pin it Catherine Lazure

A naturopathic doctor says: Genital herpes is caused by the herpes simplex virus, which is usually transmitted through sexual contact. Outbreak symptoms include itching, burning or pain in the genital area, as well as pressure in the abdomen, vaginal discharge and open sores.
The treatment: You can’t get rid of the herpes virus, but bolstering your immune system with 1,000 milligrams of vitamin C and 50 milligrams of zinc a day should help keep the virus dormant. The amino acid lysine has also been shown to prevent outbreaks; take 1,000 milligrams three times a day, even if you don’t have symptoms, and eat lysine-rich foods, including most vegetables, legumes, fish, turkey and chicken. Avoid chocolate, nuts and seeds—all contain the amino acid arginine, which can stimulate the herpes virus. — Michael Murray, N.D., Paradise Valley, Ariz.-based naturopath

An herbalist says: The herpes virus usually goes dormant after the initial infection. But it can be reactivated by anything that weakens your body’s immune and nervous systems.
The treatment: Research shows lemon balm can prevent the herpes virus from replicating inside your body and causing outbreaks. At the first sign of an outbreak, apply lemon balm cream anywhere you feel burning, itching or pain. You can also use lukewarm lemon balm tea (1 tablespoon of dried herb per cup of water) as a wash or sitz bath. If you already have an outbreak, a swipe of St. John’s wort oil can relieve pain and help heal sores, and Prunella vulgaris, an herb also known as selfheal, can stop itching. Use selfheal topically in tea form (1 tablespoon of dried herb per cup of water) or in a homemade infused oil (1 ounce of ground herb in 4 to 8 ounces of olive oil). — Maria Noël Groves, a clinical herbalist in Allenstown, N.H.

A homeopath says: Recurring herpes outbreaks can be caused by a variety of factors, ranging from stress in your life to fluctuating barometric pressure in your environment. A homeopath can set up a long-term treatment plan, but there are also some quick fixes for specific symptoms.
The treatment: If you have painful burning and a genital rash, try Arsenicum album; if those symptoms are worse when the air is cold, choose hepar sulphuris instead. Arnica can relieve soreness, and sulphur is good for itching. Or, if you tend to get herpes flare-ups when you’re premenstrual, try sepia. Each of these remedies should be taken one at a time, not in conjunction. Whichever remedy you choose, start with a dilution of 6C, and take the product for three to four days to see if it works before switching to a different homeopathic treatment. — Joe Kellerstein, N.D., D.C., registered homeopath in Ontario, Canada