Alternative Treatments for Genital Herpes

A number of alternative (also called complementary) therapies can help you deal with outbreaks of genital herpes.

Home Care Measures for Genital Herpes

First, simple self-care may be enough to relieve most discomfort caused by genital herpes. Taking an over-the-counter pain reliever, such as aspirin, acetaminophen, or ibuprofen, can help ease the pain of herpes symptoms. Doctors sometimes recommend soaking the affected area in warm water. But the area should be kept dry most of the time. If toweling off after bathing is uncomfortable, try using a hair dryer. Then put on cotton underwear. Cotton absorbs moisture better than synthetic fabric does.

Herbs, Supplements, and More for Genital Herpes

Scientists have studied herbal extracts and nutritional supplements based on some herpes patients' claims that they help relieve symptoms. Some study results have been promising, others discouraging.

Many people say that an extract of the echinacea plant helps boost the immune system's ability to fight infection. Some say it decreases the frequency and severity of genital herpes outbreaks. Researchers in the U.K. compared the effect of echinacea with that of a placebo. They gave echinacea to 50 people with genital herpes for six months and a placebo for another six months. There was no significant difference in the number of herpes outbreaks during the two periods.

Another study showed that an ointment containing propolis, a waxy substance that honeybees make, may help herpes sores heal. Sores healed faster for people using the propolis ointment than in those using ointments containing the antiviral drug acyclovir or a placebo. The ointment was applied to herpes sores four times a day. After 10 days, 24 of the 30 people using propolis ointment said their sores healed, compared with 14 of the 30 people using acyclovir ointment and 12 of the 30 using a placebo.

Researchers have also found that the herb Prunella vulgaris, and an edible mushroom, Rozites caperata (the "gypsy mushroom"), contain chemicals that fight both HSV-1 and HSV-2.

These treatments have not been approved for treating genital herpes by the FDA. You can buy them in stores, but they are considered nutritional supplements, not drugs, so they are not subjected to the same quality standards that FDA-approved drugs are.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Traci C. Johnson, MD on September 07, 2016

Sources

SOURCES: 
Terri Warren, RN, and Ricks Warren, PhD, The Updated Herpes Handbook, Portland Press, 2002. Vonau, B. "Does the extract of the plant Echinacea purpurea influence the clinical course of recurrent genital herpes?" International Journal of STD and AIDS, March 2001. Vynograd, N. "A comparative multi-centre study of the efficacy of propolis, acyclovir and placebo in the treatment of genital herpes (HSV)," Phytomedicine, March 2000. Chiu, LC. "A polysaccharide fraction from medicinal herb Prunella vulgaris downregulates the expression of herpes simplex virus antigen in Vero cells." Journal of Ethnopharmacology, July 2004. Xu, HX. "Isolation and characterization of an anti-HSV polysaccharide from Prunella vulgaris," Antiviral Research, ov. 1999. Piraino,F. "Isolation and partial characterization of an antiviral, RC-183, from the edible mushroom Rozites caperata, Antiviral Research, Sept. 1999.

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