Of course, with our monolaurin, phospholipids and essential oils, we believe we have provided a wonderful 3-Step Treatment Plan that has brought relief to many people. However, there are other nutrient supplements and plant extracts that have made claims of being helpful for shingles and PHN. While our plan has clinical support, we want to make you aware of others. They fall into three categories.
1. The first categories, those with antiviral and/or anti-inflammatory properties and those that enhance the immune system, have the same goal as conventional antiviral drugs: to stop the virus from replicating.
2. Unlike antiviral drugs, however, many supplements have a number of health-optimizing actions and therefore also support recovery; these represent the second category ofnutrient supplements helpful for shingles and PHN.
3. Topical pain relievers comprise the third category.
Antiviral and/or Anti-Inflammatory Supplements
A variety of plants are known for their virus-killing action, including garlic (Weber et al. 1992; Guo et al. 1993), elderberry (Zakay-Rones et al. 1995), and rosemary (Paris et al. 1993; Aruoma et al. 1996), which is also an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory.
Olive leaves have an active ingredient called Oleuropein, which has been shown in studies to be antiviral (Ma et al. 2001). It is also believed to have anti-inflammatory effects and has been used since ancient times to clean wounds. Flaxseed oil and fish oil contain omega-3 fatty acids with anti-inflammatory properties (Raederstorff et al. 1996; James et al. 2000; Thies et al. 2001).
Monolaurin is a fatty acid with antiviral properties that is found in coconut oil. It disrupts the lipid membranes of envelope viruses such as herpes and rhinovirus, and has been proven effective against HSV-1 (herpes symplex virus Type 1) (Kristmundsdottir et al. 1999; Clarke et al. 2000). (We have much more to say about monolaurin in other articles!)
Particularly helpful supplements include the following:
Grapefruit Seed Extract
Grapefruit seed extract contains unstable polyphenolic compounds that are chemically converted into more stable substances that belong to a diverse class called quaternary ammonium compounds. These compounds exhibit broad-spectrum antimicrobial activity–the ability to kill a wide variety of bacteria and viruses–without the toxic side effects of the chemically derived quaternary ammonium compounds such as benzethonium chloride and benzalkonium chloride, which are used industrially as antimicrobials.
In laboratory tests conducted at the Southern Research Institute, William M. Shannon, Ph.D. (head of the Microbiology/Virology Division), reported that grapefruit seed extract “. . .was effective in inactivating HSV-1 after a 10-minute exposure at a 1:256 dilutions.”
Green Tea Extract
Green tea exhibits antiviral, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant powers (Das et al. 2002; Fassina et al. 2002). Research has demonstrated that green tea catechins can inhibit the viral enzymes of reverse transcriptase and polymerases used in replication (Tao 1992). They have been shown to be effective against herpes simplex 1 experimentally. In addition, various polymeric oxidation products of polyphenols contained in green tea have been found to inhibit the herpes simplex virus.
The healing properties of echinacea have long been known among American Indians. Studies have shown that it begins stimulating the immune tissue in the mouth as soon as it is taken. Echinacea enhances the body’s ability to dispose of infected and damaged cells; it has interferon-like activity against viruses; and it stimulates the white blood cells that fight infection (Burger et al. 1997; Thompson 1998).
Another supplement that enhances the immune system is HSOs (homeostatic soil organisms), beneficial bacteria that will survive and grow in the intestine for a variety of health benefits, including stimulating the immune system. Scientific research has demonstrated that HSOs stimulate the body’s production of alpha-interferon, used by the body to protect cells from invaders such as viruses.
Supplements That Support Recovery
Almost all damage to the body occurs via molecules called free radicals, which oxidize molecules within cells. The remarkable health benefits of antioxidants, including vitamins C and E and beta-carotene, are supported by volumes of scientific research. Taking antioxidants in the course of shingles or PHN will support the body’s recovery from the disease. A multinutrient formula like Life Extension Mix contains the key antioxidants in addition to a variety of other nutrients such as the B vitamins important for healing.
Topical Pain Relievers
A review of the actions of Chinese motherwort, Leonurus sibericus, in the American Journal of Chinese Medicine (1976) reported that a bath prepared from the leafy shoot relieves the discomfort and itching of shingles. An article by Hijikata et al. (1998) in the same journal reported the findings of an experiment in which administration of hot water-soluble extracts of Ganoderma lucidum (36-72 grams dry weight a day) in a bath dramatically decreased pain in two patients with PHN unresponsive to standard treatment and two others with severe shingles pain.
Also known as Ling Zhi, or “mushroom of immortality,” this plant is a general tonic that stimulates the immune system with sedative and analgesic properties and is known especially for its benefits to the skin (ganoderma means “smooth skin”). Its active ingredients include polysaccharides, triterpenoids, adenosine and other amino acids, minerals, and organic germanium. Inflacin is the trademark name of a topical pain relief cream that functions by suppressing excess production of arachidonic acid, an proinflammatory precusor.
A double-blind, placebo-controlled study using topically applied 5% ribavirin in ointment base against herpes zoster in cancer patients indicated definite efficacy as reported in the Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences (Zertuche et al. 1977).
Ribavirin is approved in the United States only as a secondary therapy against the hepatitis C virus and as a primary therapy against respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) in infants. This drug has been politically suppressed by the FDA, and no further studies to substantiate the role of ribavirin in treating shingles can be found. Offshore pharmacies might offer topical ribavirin ointment.
Because almost all adults have been infected with the varicella zoster virus that causes chickenpox, almost everyone is at risk of developing shingles, an unpleasant condition characterized by rash and pain. Symptoms are usually localized in a particular area of the body supplied by the sensory nerve root in which the virus has lain dormant.
It is not known why the virus becomes active again, although age and any compromise of the immune system are factors. Normally, with prompt antiviral and pain-relieving therapy, shingles resolves within about 1 month, never to return. However, herpes zoster infection can have serious complications, including secondary infection leading to scarring, paralysis of the affected area, and pain that persists beyond 30 days after rash onset, known as postherpetic neuralgia (PHN).
Most risk factors for PHN–age, pain before rash, and severe pain with rash–cannot be controlled. However, rapid and sufficient therapies that stop virus replication, which damages the nerve root and leads to PHN, and pain, which sensitizes the nerve root, can minimize the risk.
For this reason, complementing conventional drugs with nutrient supplements and plant extracts. These supplements do not have the side effects of conventional treatments, and they offer a variety of actions that optimize health and support recovery from the infection.
Most effective among these possibilities is our 3-Step combination of coconut monolaurin and other coconut monoglycerides. With topical products, we also add a full blend of coconut phospholipids and plant essential oils to our organic base for skin health.