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Shingles is an extremely painful viral condition that affects the nerves in the skin. It can affect people of any age, however is most common in those over 50.

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  • The initial symptom of shingles is often burning or tingling pain, numbness or itch in one particular location on only one side of the body. It may be accompanied by 3-4 days of slight fever, fatigue and anxiety.
  • This is followed by an inflamed painful rash with reddened skin and fluid-filled blisters (resembling those of chicken pox) in the same place, sometimes in a band or line called a dermatome. (The rash follows the path of the nerve in which the virus is present, and this determines the location of the symptoms on the skin.)
  • Pain can range from mild to severe.
  • Some people continue to experience pain for a long time after the shingles rash resolves. This is referred to as post-herpetic neuralgia, and becomes more common with age. The pain can be severe and debilitating and may be aggravated by stress. It may be intermittent or continuous over a long period, but generally lessens over time. The pain of post-herpetic neuralgia may be described as burning, aching, piercing, or like an electric shock.


The same virus that causes chicken pox (the varicella-zoster virus, a member of the Herpes family of viruses) also causes shingles.

People who have had chicken pox are usually immune from getting it again. However, the virus lies dormant in the spinal cord and nerve tissue, and may be re-activated years later causing shingles. Shingles occurs in approximately 10-20% of people who have had chicken pox, and the risk increases with age.  

The reasons for shingles occuring are not yet fully understood, however it appears that situations that affect the immune system, such as illness, stress or trauma, can cause the virus to be re-activated. The condition is more common in people with weakened immune systems (e.g. due to HIV/AIDS, cancer, chemotherapy, or high/long-term stress).

Natural Therapies

  • Echinacea helps strengthen the immune system and may assist your body in fighting infections; the antioxidant nutrients betacarotene, vitamins C and E and the mineral zinc may also be of assistance.
  • Vitamins, minerals and other micronutrients are important for immune function, especially as we get older. After the age of 50, consider taking a multivitamin and mineral that’s specially formulated to support your immunity as you age, as well as addressing other key concerns, such as healthy cardiovascular and cognitive function, and healthy vision, bones and joints.
  • Passionflower and hops have traditionally been used to treat neuralgia (nerve pain). These herbs are often taken with lemon balm, especially if symptoms such as anxiety, restlessness or disturbed sleep are also present. 
  • Growth of herpes viruses may be encouraged by the amino acid L-arginine and their growth slowed by L-lysine. Consider taking an L-lysine supplement that also contains zinc and vitamin C, and at the same time, reduce your intake of arginine-rich foods such as nuts and chocolate. 
  • Magnesium helps maintain normal nerve function.
  • The herb St. John’s wort has traditionally been used for neuralgia (nerve pain) such as that experienced in shingles. You should consult a healthcare practitioner to check medicine interactions before commencing use of this herb though.

Diet and Lifestyle Suggestions

  • Support your immune system by consuming plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables. Research suggests that people who eat less than one serve of fruit per day are three times more likely to develop shingles than people who eat three pieces of fruit per day, possibly due to their lower consumption of vitamin C and other nutrients.
  • A diet high in L-lysine and low in L-arginine may help to inhibit viruses from the Herpes family. Avoid foods rich in L-arginine (such as nuts, chocolate, and sunflower seeds). At the same time, increase foods high in L-lysine, (such as fish, milk, cheese, beef, and crustaceans). 
  • To prevent infection, avoid scratching the blisters, but be sure to maintain good hygiene practices and wash them gently every day.
  • The topical use of diluted peppermint essential oil (10% in alcohol) may help to ease the pain of post-herpetic neuralgia. Do not apply peppermint oil to the eyes, genitals or mouth, and do not apply it to the faces of babies or small children. 
  • Get plenty of rest and avoid stress, which is weakening to your immune system.

Important Notes

Seek medical assistance urgently if the shingles appear on the face, particularly near the nostrils or eyes.

You should also consult your healthcare professional if your rash persists for longer than 10 days without improvement, or if the blisters become infected (red, swollen or discharging pus).

References available on request


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Jennifer                      Jennifer

Hi Diane, it sounds as though you are eating a healthy balanced diet with lots of fresh fruits, complex carbohydrates, and lean protein. Keep in mind that it's not just a healthy diet that keep shingles at bay. Shingles are particularly vulnerable to stress and a low immune system. The shingles virus lies dormant in the nerve root and can flare up especially when we are run down. All the best, Jennifer (Blackmores naturopath) , posted on 11 February 2014. Report Abuse

As I have had my Thyroid removed I do eat healthy I have been of my vitamin C since and have family in hospital I dont eat a lot of re meat I do eat chicken and fish at times I have for my breakfast spelt flakes with youghurt with LSA on it I dont want to have singles again , posted on 10 February 2014. Report Abuse

Leanne                        Leanne

Hello Juanita,
I'm sorry to hear of your recent bout of shingles. The nutrients you have already mentioned will support the immune system as it deals with shingles, as would zinc, vitamin A and antioxidants. To discuss your particular case further, please feel free to contact the Blackmores Advisory Service on 1800 803 760 or email All the best, Leanne (Blackmores naturopath)
, posted on 10 February 2014. Report Abuse

I have got shingles I have been to the Doctor yesterdaythe medication he gave me is Famciclovir I take everday 1 folic acid 3 fish oil and usually vitaiman C all 1000 micro grams the folic ascid I am not sure the amount I have not taken the vitiaman c I have been forgetting to get could that be the reason I have had the attack of Shingles and could you recommend a supplement for me to take as a child I did have chicken pox twice and one attack of shingles as a young adult I am now 67 years old now and I would like to prevent this happening again , posted on 09 February 2014. Report Abuse

Michelle                      Michelle

Dear Vera,
As your question was not completed I am unable to offer an appropriate response. May I suggest you contact the Naturopathic Advisory Service on 1800 803 760 from Australia or via email on and we can advise in relation to your concerns.
Kind regards Michelle (Blackmores Naturopath)
, posted on 22 January 2014. Report Abuse


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