The varicella zoster virus is the cause of shingles, a painful skin condition lasting 2-3 weeks or even longer. Shingles causes blisters, inflammation, and pustules that often appear in band-like patterns on the chest, back, abdomen, and occasionally the face. The can create scars and in some cases nerve damage. Shingles is caused by the same virus as chickenpox and cold sores.
There are standard medical treatments for shingles including the oral drug samciclovir. There are also ointments containing capsaicin (an extract of peppers). Both are chemically produced, however, and do have potential side effects. Essential oils can be an effective and more natural alternative to standard treatment. Three lesser-known essential oils that can be used to treat shingles are described below
Niaouli (melaleuca viridiflora) has both anti-bacterial and anti-viral properties. Its natural plant chemical compound is cineole. Often used in the treatment of acne, it has also been applied to the treatment of shingles. It reportedly helps skin to heal itself, by stimulating regeneration.
Ravansera (ravensara aromatica) essential oil is derived from the leaves and twigs of a tree found on the islands of Madagascar. It is a gentle, non-toxic oil that smells a little like medicine or disinfectant. It has been studied for its antiviral properties and its specific ability to treat herpes zoster. Applying it in use against shingles has also been shown to be beneficial.
Bergamot (citrus bergamia) is well-known for its stress-relieving benefits and pleasant citrusy aroma. But what many people do not know is that bergamot has been proven as a successful treatment for cold sores, also caused by the varicella virus. But, as with all citrus essential oils, it is important to use these at night or stay indoors for a time as they increase photosensitivity (sensitivity of the skin to the suns UV rays).
A recent study in hospice patients with shingles outbreaks used bergamot in combination with ravansera and niaouli, with surprising results. Using a few drops in a spritzer bottle with distilled water, patients were spritzed three to six times per day for two days on the affected areas. All six patients showed significant improvements at the end of the 48-hour treatment.