A member of the herpes family, shingles is caused by varicella zoster, the same virus that causes chickenpox in children. Shingles, on the other hand, affects mostly those over fifty.

If you have had chicken-pox as a child the virus could return from dormancy, decades later, in the form of shingles. Clumps of blisters erupt on the skin, following the path of the infected nerve. It may circle around the abdomen or chest, and can sometimes affect the neck, lower back, forehead and eyes. During an attack of shingles, you tend to feel pretty lousy all over. The area around the blisters can be excruciating, and for some people this may last for weeks after the blisters have disappeared: when this happens it is called postherpetic neuralgia.

Why Me?

  • You can catch shingles from someone with chickenpox, but not vice-versa.
  • Usually an attack of shingles occurs when you are run down, physically or emotionally.

What To Do


  • The herpes virus thrives on one particular amino acid, arginine, and has a strong dislike for another amino acid, lysine, which inhibits its replication. At the time of an attack it is wise to reduce foods relatively high in arginine including chocolate, peanuts, soya beans and other legumes, nuts, seeds, carob and coconut. Foods with a good lysine:arginine ratio include eggs, fish, chicken, milk, cheese, brewer’s yeast and most fruits and vegetables.
  • Avoid coffee, alcohol and sugar.

Herbs and Supplements

  • See Bright Eyed & Bushy Tailed.
  • Take a vitamin B complex each day to prevent further recurrences.
  • Take at least 500 mg of vitamin C daily, plus a 22 mg zinc tablet, to boost immunity and healing.
  • The herb St John’s wort is excellent for shingles. Take it on its own or in combination with one or more of valerian, passionflower, chamomile, and vervain. If you can obtain some St John’s wort oil, apply it to the blisters.
  • To dry the sores, bathe the affected area with apple cider vinegar diluted with water.
  • Dab aloe vera gel onto the area after bathing to dry out and heal the sores.
  • After the sores have healed and dried, massage in the contents of a vitamin E oil capsule every day to prevent scarring.
  • Take a warm bath each night with several drops of lavender oil, and use an oat sock instead of soap.

Other Steps

  • For the pain, dissolve a soluble aspirin tablet in about a cup of water. Saturate a face cloth in the aspirin solution, then wrap this in plastic and put it in the freezer for a half an hour before applying.
  • The shingles virus emerges from hibernation when you are at your lowest ebb physically and emotionally. Establish some good eating, sleeping and exercise habits to prevent yourself sliding down again.
  • Shingles and stress go together. Learn to meditate and manage your stress.

At a glance

Good food
Eggs, fish, chicken, milk, cheese, brewer’s yeast and most fruits and vegetables.
Food to avoid
Coffee, alcohol and sugar, chocolate, peanuts, soybeans and other legumes, nuts, seeds, carob and coconut.
Remedies to begin
St John’s wort, vitamin B complex, cold aspirin compress, zinc, vitamin C.
Stress management.
You need to be nurtured like a child.
Recommended: Bright Eyed & Bushy Tailed