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Shingles / Varicella-Zoster Virus

February 13, 2010

Shingles is a viral infection caused by the same virus that causes chickenpox (herpes). You can only develop shingles if you have had a previous infection of chickenpox, usually when you were a child. Shingles is most common in people over 50 years of age, and 20% of all people who have had chickenpox will also get shingles. After recovering from chickenpox, the virus remains in the root of your nerve cells in a state of dormancy. While the exact cause is not known, it is believed that the virus reactivates when the body experiences a weakened immune state, possibly resulting from stress, major illness, surgery, or medications. The word shingles comes from the Latin word for belt, or girdle. Shingles tend to follow nerve paths on just one side of the body, and never cross the midline of the body. Because shingles tend to follow nerve paths, shingle blisters usually occur in a line extending from the back around to the abdomen. A shingles rash may appear on one side of the face and some people may have painful shingles eye inflammations and infections. Shingles is contagious if direct contact (personal or with items such as wash cloths) is made with the blister fluid with a person who has never had the virus, but the disease contracted is chickenpox, not shingles. People with shingles should especially avoid contact with infants, children, and pregnant women. Blisters should be completely dry before risk is removed. Success has been reported in the control of herpes viruses with various essential oils (EO) found to have antiviral properties. Lemon balm is the EO of choice based on research of the most effective anti-viral essential oils. We have received many anecdotal reports regarding the effectiveness of the Abbey’s St. Luke’s Pain Relief for shingles distress. Initially formulated as a synergy of anti-inflammatory oils to target muscular pain and itching, we have added antiviral essential oils of lemon balm and ravensara for the benefit of our friends who suffer from shingles. As with all essential oil treatments, effectiveness varies due to individual physiology. An EO synergy is best applied at the first sign of an attack to prevent the viruses from replicating, prevent blisters, and to damp down pain. Antiviral oils are useful at later stages but effectiveness is less than if used during the first stages. A vaccine for shingles was licensed in 2006. In clinical trials, the vaccine reduced the risk of shingles by 50%. It also reduced pain in people who still get shingles after being vaccinated. The Center for Disease Control recommends a single dose of shingles vaccine for adults 60 years of age and older. You should not take the vaccine under a number of conditions (e.g. history of allergic reactions, low immunity, chemotherapy) which makes a discussion with your doctor an imperative. Vitamin B1: The B vitamins are nerve repair vitamins. When treating shingles, older physicians would routinely recommend taking Vitamin B1 (10 mg) three times a day with great success. Consultation with your health care physician is recommended. References: Price, S. Price, L. 2001. Aromatherapy for Health Professionals. Churchill Livingstone / Harcourt Publishers, Ltd. Edinburgh. Rose, J. 1992. The Aromatherapy Book. North Atlantic Books. Berkeley. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. 2001. NIND Shingles Information. Internet.

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