Q: I have genital herpes and have tried a number of natural remedies, changed my diet, and have taken prescription medications and yet I still get painful outbreaks. This really gets in the way of my intimate relationships. Is there anything that can put an end to these outbreaks?
A: There are some promising ways to treat Herpes Simplex Virus (HSV) both genital and oral forms. Anti-herpetics prescription medications such as Acyclovir, Famcyclovir etc. can shut the virus down, though they are expensive, may cause side effects and may not work as you have discovered. Similarly, natural remedies like lysine, oral zinc, mellissa, lemon balm and vitamin C supplementation as well as allergy elimination and sugar restricted diets do help. Though, these treatments may not completely successful in the prevention of herpes outbreaks. This is a sad state of affairs as 50% – 80% of the United States population has some form of HSV. Some women have monthly outbreaks that can take 10 days to heal. Not only is this a physical burden, it disrupts their sex lives. This can have a huge cumulative psychological burden.
A topical zinc sulfate solution has been studied as a way to inactive HSV and in some studies performed outstandingly! This zinc sulfate solution is practical, effective, and economical with infrequent and/or mild side effects. For instance in one study oral herpes sufferers were given a very dilute zinc sulfate solution (0.01-0.025%) to rinse their mouths for 1-3 minutes daily. For outbreaks on or around their lips they soaked gauze pads and applied them daily until the lesions healed. After the outbreak had healed they kept applying the zinc sulfate solution weekly for a month then just twice monthly thereafter. No one in the study had any further outbreaks! What is more exciting some of the study participants remained outbreak free for 23 months; by rising just two times a month! What about genital herpes? A similar study using a zinc sulfate solution of 0.25% (still very dilute) as a vaginal douche reported “excellent results”. This study and previous studies reported that the time of healing was cut in half and that most of the pain from the outbreak resolved within 2-3 hours of starting topical zinc sulfate solution.
Topical zinc preparations of zinc oxide, zinc oxide with glycine, or zinc monoglycerolate performed less well in studies. Oral zinc likewise was less effective at prevention than topical zinc sulfate. One might however take oral zinc 30-50 milligrams per day as a way to boost the effectiveness of the topical.
Zinc works on the HSV in two ways. It binds permanently to the virus so it cannot duplicate itself and it binds to the virus so it cannot attach itself to other cells and infect another. It seems zinc sulfate at these low concentrations provide more effective treatment of the virus than other preparations.
One would think that zinc sulfate is easy to purchase. Not so, we have been able to find one manufacturer, Douglas labs; their solution is too strong at 1.05% zinc sulfate. However it can be diluted with to one fourth of its concentration to get to the 0.25% solution for vaginal use and it can be diluted forty times to get 0.025% for oral use. You can use it as used in the studies: vaginal douche daily during outbreaks, weekly after outbreaks for a month then twice monthly thereafter. I would take oral zinc 30-50mg per day too. Be sure to have a multivitamin that has 1-2 mg of copper in it as aggressive zinc supplementation can cause copper deficiency.
It is still uncertain if this regiment will decrease the likelihood of spreading HSV to your sexual partner. It should not be used instead of known ways to prevent infecting your partner, such as condoms and avoiding sexual contact during the 96 hours (four days) after an outbreak begins. Note: some 2%-5% of herpes sufferers silently shed viruses without an obvious outbreak. It’s essential to communicate with your sexual partner about ways of reducing the risk of contracting the virus. Likewise, share your feelings about how the herpes virus has affected you emotionally and sexually.
Nexus May/June 2013