As more and more natural and holistic remedies emerge, society is called to question what “natural” really means, and whether these approaches are more effective than traditional prescription medications. While neither nature nor medication can cure herpes, there may be additional practices that those infected can use to ease symptoms and boost the immune system.
Treatments for herpes
There is currently no cure for herpes, but there are medications that can help relieve the pain, duration, and frequency of outbreaks. Both the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO) offer treatment therapy guidelines for those with herpes. Although your doctor should be well versed in these plans, it’s important to prepare yourself for these conversations with your doctor so that you can create a plan that you can sustain and afford, beyond just your sex life. As with all medications, there are side effects, so be sure to read the information packet that comes with your prescription.
The CDC recommends that “all patients with first episodes receive antiviral therapy.” Antiviral therapy may reduce outbreaks by 70-80 percent in those with frequent recurrences. The three antiviral medications clinically proven to treat symptoms of genital herpes are valacyclovir, farmcyclovir, and acyclovir. Though these medications appear to be equally effective methods, some work better than others, depending on your personal recurrence of outbreaks, symptoms, and sexual activity. For example, 500 mg of valacyclovir taken daily decreases the rate of transmitting the virus in heterosexual couples in which one partner has a history of herpes, while farmcyclovir is less effective when it comes to suppressing viral shedding.
What doesn’t work
L-Lysine: Despite its popularity as an alternative treatment, the amino acid L-Lysine yields inconclusive results as a herpes treatment. One study conducted in 2015 suggested that the success of L-lysine therapy was dependent upon individual levels of serum lysine in a person’s body. Until further research is done, there is no guarantee that taking lysine as a supplement will help you manage genital herpes.
What may ease symptoms
There is currently no scientific evidence that alternative remedies are reliable sources for managing herpes. However, research does show that psychological distress can negatively impact your immune system, and alternative methods that encourage relaxation, such as yoga, massage, and meditation, may relieve your body’s response.
Cognitive behavior therapy: Although it may be frightening to tell a stranger about your herpes diagnosis, sharing it with a professional who is trained and specialized in sensitive issues may be a good outlet for internal stress and built-up emotion. Talking about and working through your insecurities and concerns with a professional may relieve stress, and, in theory, improve the immune system, which may also help herpes symptoms.
When I experienced my primary outbreak, I found warm baths to be relaxing and comforting to my pain. Although I am a fan of bubble baths, the chemicals in popular bath products may irritate herpes lesions — but don’t let this deter you from baths completely! You can still add candles and soothing music to help you relax.
Do your research
You know your body best, and as someone living with this condition, you have a responsibility to be your own best health advocate. Educate yourself about your body so that you can better work with your doctor on a treatment plan that is most appropriate for you.
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Emily Depasse is a Philly-based writer, yogi, and aspiring sex therapist who intertwines her creative spark with holistic health, fitness, and sexual wellness. She received her BA in Gender and Sexuality Studies in 2015 and is currently working on her MSW and MEd Human Sexuality. Her research interests include sexually transmitted infections and the role that female body image plays in shaping sexual experiences. Follow Emily on Twitter and Instagram, and subscribe to her personal blog.