Lett's Set A Spell

Relieving shingles symptoms through the generations
Mar. 10, 2013 @ 12:00 PM

In last week’s column, I noted that Aunt Gladys’ best treatment for shingles was apple cider vinegar applied topically several times a day for relief. I noted that when experiencing a challenging bout with shingles last year I discovered my own natural remedies.

My encounter with shingles started with a tiny break in the skin on my left side that grew into a rash and then led to escalating pain. After several days of discomfort, it dawned on me that I had shingles. I called a chiropractor in Pittsboro who has studied naturopathic medicine and homeopathic remedies and reported my symptoms.

Later, during a checkup, Dr. Roxanne Hollander verified shingles and gave me a tube of Super Lysine salve designated for cold sores to be applied to the rash. Shingles and cold sores are forms of herpes. Hollander told me to take a high dosage of L-Lysine and vitamin C. Most importantly, I needed to eat very carefully, avoiding sugar and caffeine, drink several glasses of water every day, and get lots of rest.

SHINGLES IS THE common word for herpes zoster, a painful, blistering skin rash caused by the same virus that creates chickenpox. Hollander explained: “After you have chickenpox, the virus that caused it, varicella, remains in your body. It is lying dormant in your nerve cells.” If stress is high and the immune system is weak, the virus can resurface as shingles.

Hollander said that the shingles rash usually occurs in a band on one side of the body. This band is called a dermatome, which is the area where one of the nerves from your spinal cord connects with the skin. Shingles may also break out on a single side of the face, for example, in the area around the eye and the forehead.

As my symptoms decreased, I was curious as to why the L-Lysine was working so well for me, and I researched the web. According to University of Maryland Medical Center research, L-Lysine treats shingles by speeding recovery time, as well as reducing the chance of recurrence.

This Medical Center’s study states: “Lysine, also called l-lysine, is an essential amino acid that must be obtained from the diet; the body doesn’t produce it. Because it is found in so many foods – red meat, poultry, eggs, fish, soy – deficiencies are usually found only among strict vegans. Lysine helps make carnitine, which converts fatty acids to energy, and it helps form collagen needed for bones and connective tissue. Lysine prevents herpes from spreading because it competes with arginine, another amino acid that helps the herpes virus replicate.”

WITH ANY natural remedy or pharmaceutical drug, there can be positive results and negative side effects. Researchers at the University of Maryland warn: “Because lysine can increase the toxicity of certain antibiotics, you must consult with your doctor before taking it.”

According to Dr. Roxanne Hollander, to treat shingles the optimal dose for lysine is 500 to 1,000 milligrams three times a day. For prevention, she suggests 1,000 mgs daily, especially when dealing with a lot of stress that weakens the immune system.

Shingles is a painful disease, and it has a horrible habit of descending on us when life is already very stressful. For me, simple supplements and a salve worked quickly, and the rash and ache faded away within a few days. I believe it was because I focused on building up the immune system, which is turn accelerated healing.

Shingles seems to be growing in frequency among people of all ages, so it’s a good idea to curtail stress and strengthen the immune system to prevent the disease. If symptoms appear, individuals should seek medical help right away. A new shot to prevent shingles is being advertised heavily, but I don’t know about its long-term results or side effects.

Meanwhile, I’ll keep L-Lysine and Vitamin C on hand and remember to focus on eating nutritiously, exercising, and resting to avoid stress and prevent future outbreaks.

AlexSandra Lett is a professional speaker and the author of “Natural Living, From Stress to Rest;” “A Timeless Place, Lett’s Set a Spell at the Country Store;” “Timeless Moons, Seasons of the Fields and Matters of the Heart;” “Timeless Recipes and Remedies, Country Cooking, Customs, and Cures;” and “Coming Home to my Country Heart, Timeless Reflections about Work, Family, Health, and Spirit.” Lett can be reached at (919) 258-9299 or LettsSetaSpell@aol.com.