Shingles is a painful illness that affects some 500,000 people every year. It is a condition that results from reactivation of the Varicella-Zoster virus (VZV), the same virus that causes chickenpox. People of any age can get shingles. The only stipulation is that you have to have had chickenpox. No, seriously.
Shingles: The Adult-Version of Chickenpox
When you get chickenpox, your immune system performs its usual search-and-destroy routine to rid the body of the Varicella virus. Unfortunately, VZV isn't your average virus. It's actually capable of hiding out sometimes over your entire life in your nerves. Your body will never detect it because the immune system doesn't patrol the nervous system. When the virus becomes reactivated, (usually in response to immunodeficiency caused by stress, aging, medications, etc) it causes shingles: a strange burning sensation followed by a blistery rash that oozes, crusts over, and eventually heals.
Because shingles is caused by a virus, it cannot be cured with our current understanding of medicine. While there are many medical treatments used to soothe pain and burning, they can be expensive and wrought with side-effects. Fortunately, there are a number of natural remedies that can also help soothe the symptoms of shingles. These remedies are all-natural (as most of them are food-based) and much less expensive than prescription drugs.
Help from a Quaker
Oatmeal isn't only good for maintaining regularity and lowering cholesterol. It can also soothe the burning and itching of shingles blisters. You can create a simple oatmeal paste by cooking plain oatmeal with water at a 1 to 2 mixture. Spread this mixture over blisters and rashes.
Spice it up
Cayenne pepper adds that final kick to a bowl of chili. It does this through one of its chemical components called capsaicin. Capsaicin can also function to relieve pain when applied topically. Research has determined that capsaicin works by depleting a neurotransmitter called substance P, which is responsible for transmitting pain sensation to the brain. You can buy capsaicin creams or simply make one yourself by mixing a bit of cayenne pepper with lotion. Stay away from colored or fragranced lotions as these additives can cause skin irritation.
Apple Cider Vinegar
When dabbed on blisters or rashes, apple cider vinegar can also relieve painful burning and irritating itching. Although not as fast-acting, you can also drink it to naturally treat shingles. Two tablespoons of apple cider vinegar in 8 ounces of water (and maybe a little honey to sweeten) consumed twice daily can help sooth shingles symptoms.
Since stress depresses immune function, which can cause shingles outbreaks, learning how to prevent stressful situations or effectively deal with those which can't be avoided is also important for keeping shingles outbreaks at a minimum. Meditation, yoga, and deep-breathing exercises are all great natural ways to keep your stress under control. Recurrent shingles outbreaks can be frustrating and painful, especially as we grow into our more delicate elderly bodies. Use these natural methods to help soothe your shingles symptoms and prevent future outbreaks.