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A painful viral condition affecting the nerves of the skin

Also called

Herpes zoster


Initially, shingles is often described as a burning pain, numbness or itchiness in one particular location of the body that's generally accompanied by 3-4 days of fever, fatigue and anxiety.

These initial symptoms are then followed by a rash featuring inflammation, reddened skin and fluid-filled blisters in the same place as the initial pain, sometimes in a line called a dermatome that follows the path of the nerve in which the virus is present. Whilst sometimes mild, the pain from shingles can also be severe and debilitating and may be aggravated by stress.

Some suffer from the pain for a long time after the shingles rash disappears and this is referred to as post-herpetic neuralgia, which becomes more common with age. Described as burning, aching, piercing, or like an electric shock the pain of post-herpetic neuralgia may be intermittent or continuous over a long period, but generally lessens over time.


Shingles is caused by the same virus that is responsible for chicken pox (the varicella-zoster virus, a member of the Herpes family of viruses) and people who have had chicken pox are usually immune from getting it again.

However, the virus never truly leaves the body and can lie dormant in the spinal cord and nerve tissue for years and may reactivate and cause shingles.

Approximately 10-20% of people who have had chicken pox will suffer from Shingles with the risk increasing with age. Shingles most commonly occurs in those over 50.

Whilst not fully understood, it appears that situations affecting the immune system, such as illness, stress or trauma, can be a trigger for the virus to be re-activated. This condition is generally more common in people with weakened immune systems.

Diet and lifestyle

Supporting your immune system is essential and consuming plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables is a great way of doing so.

Research has shown that eating three pieces of fruit per day can greatly reduce your chance of shingles most likely due to a greater intake of vitamin C and other important nutrients.

A diet high in L-lysine and low in L-arginine may help to inhibit viruses from the herpes family and it's best to follow these dietary points:

  • Lower your intake of L-Arginine rich foods such as nuts, chocolate and sunflower seeds
  • Increase you intake of L-Lysine rich foods such as fish, milk, cheese, beef, and crustaceans

Also follow these tips when suffering from shingles that may  minimise the symptoms and severity of the condition:

  • Prevent infection, don't scratch the blisters and make sure to maintain good personal hygiene and wash the rash gently every day
  • Dilute peppermint essential oil (10% in alcohol) and apply topically as this may help to relieve post-herpetic neuralgia pain. It's important to note that you should not apply peppermint oil to your genitals, mouth or eye area. In no circumstances you should you apply this mixture to the faces of babies or small children
  • Try and rest as much as possible and make sure you avoid stress as this may weaken your immune system

If the shingles appear on the face, particularly near the nostrils or eyes, then it is important to seek medical advice immediately. Consult your Doctor if your rash persists for longer than 10 days or if it becomes infected.

Important notes

If symptoms persist, see your healthcare professional.

Get free personalised advice from our team of qualified naturopaths here

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Hello Kay,
I’m sorry to hear of the pain and discomfort you are suffering due to shingles.

The nutrients and therapies mentioned above may assist you in managing some of the symptoms of shingles and i would suggest giving a few a try. Plenty of rest, reducing stress where ever possible and incorporating foods rich in lysine and antioxidants in your diet to name a few.
The mineral Magnesium is especially beneficial to neuromuscular health so increase green leafy vegetables in your diet.
You could also try the topical application of essential oils. Either peppermint or hypericum may help to ease the pain.
Physical water therapy and acupuncture may also assist.
If your require further advice please call our naturopathic advisory service on 1800803760 to speak to one of our naturopaths.
I wish you all the best. Leanne (a Blackmores naturopath)

I have my second bout of shingles in 6 years, I get it down the back of my right leg and under my right foot, my leg has never really healed from the first bout I had, and I have problems walking more than 300 metres, so now I am catching buses instead of my 1 k, walk to the station. Is there anything I can do to build up the muscle in the leg or stop the pain.
Anonymous 05 May 2014
Hi Wendy,
I can empathise with the frustration you must be feeling at your 6th bout of shingles! I’m sorry to hear that. A naturopathic treatment protocol to address your current bout as well boosting your immune system and supporting your quest for optimal health it the best way to minimise the risk of another recurrence. This will be most effective if you consult with a naturopath in private practice who can assess your medical history, diet, lifestyle and all other factors affecting your health. Striving for good health is an ongoing journey and is multi-faceted. If you need assistance to find a naturopath in your area, either the National Herbalist’s Association of Australia ( or the Australian Traditional Medicine Association ( are both good places to start. All the best Wendy, Leanne (a Blackmores naturopath)
I have just been diagnosed with my 6th bout of shingles (I am 60) on my face near my right eye and not very happy. Although extremely lethargic with stabbing ear paid and now the headaches have begun at least I have not been put into hospital as has happened twice before. I am at a loss as to why I have shingles again as my diet is quite healthy, I exercise daily walking the dog and take a good multi vitamin and not on any medications. Previously I put the shingles down to looking after my elderly parents (lots of stress) but they are no longer here. On reading your article I discovered one of the causes was feeling generally unwell and this was the case with me, a low grade virus. However, I do not want to experience bout number 7 of shingles. What can I do to prevent another recurrence? The doctor has put me on Famvir which has dried up the shingles. I experienced a severe reaction to the first anti viral medication I was put on.
Anonymous 02 May 2014
Hi Bill,yes it seems this is a great combination of homoeopathic remedies with Emu Oil. I know emu oil is available in Australia and is traditionally used in inflammatory conditions such as arthritis . I’m not aware of a similar product to EmuAid being available in Pharmacies in Australia. Topical application of good quality essential oils such as hypericum can also be used in the treatment of shingles. Call us directly if you would like more assistance with treating shingles on our 1800 803 760 to speak with one of our naturopaths.
Kind regards Kath (Blackmores Naturopath

There is an apparently excellent product for relief of shingles available online from America called "emuaid" do you have anything similar available in pharmacies in Brisbane Australia ?
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)
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
Anonymous 11 Feb 2014