While there is no cure yet for Herpes, there are 3 anti-viral drugs that have been proven to have a high efficacy in suppressing the Herpes Simplex Virus. These drugs also have been proven to significantly reduce the severity, duration, and frequency of occurrences. The 3 drugs are: Acyclovir, manufactured by Glaxo Smith-Kline under the trade name of Zovirax, now also available in generic; Valacyclovir, a “prodrug” of acyclovir under the name of Valtrex; and Famciclovir under the brand of Famvir. Valacyclovir and Famciclovir in clinical trials have proven to be more effective in their “uptake” or absorption by the body than acyclovir.
Acyclovir has been widely available since 1981, has been shown to be very safe and effective, yet has again been denied approval for over the counter sales (OTC) by the US FDA, although it can be obtained in other countries OTC. There is now also a generic version of acyclovir available. All three drugs must be prescribed by a licensed physician. Famvir and Valtrex are now available for both intermittent “acute” and daily “suppressive” therapy.
Acute therapy means taking the drug to reduce or prevent a specific, individual outbreak. It involves taking regular doses of the medication for a period of usually 5 days, starting with the first signs of impending outbreak. Since these medications work on new viruses as they are replicating and coming out of latency, the best results are obtained by starting treatment at the very first indication of symptoms – tingling, itching, or burning, before a lesion shows. If treatment is started after a blister or lesion has formed, it may lessen or prevent any subsequent lesions, but it will not shorten the duration of the current lesion by very much if at all.
Suppressive therapy, which is sometimes called prophylactic therapy, involves a daily regimen of medication to “suppress” the activation of the HSV virus. Suppressive therapy can be very useful for those patients who have a high frequency of recurrence, or who experience severe physically and/or psychologically troublesome outbreaks. Also, some people who want to reduce the risk of transmission to their sexual partners take suppressive doses of antiviral medication to reduce both the rate of outbreaks and asymptomatic shedding. The anti-viral medications can be quite expensive, and buying them in larger quantities can help reduce the long-term costs. Some people may wish to consult with their doctor about a program, and see if she/he can arrange for a renewable refill in conjunction with their insurance company for ease and economy.
There are other drugs for the treatment of HSV in special situations, including Foscarnet (phosphonoformic acid), which is given by injection to severely immunosuppressed patients; idoxuridine, for external use in ocular herpes infections only; and vidarabine also used for eye infections.
There are a variety of topical products on the market labeled for “cold sores,” “fever blisters.” There are no OTC products specifically labeled for genital herpes. Except for the prescription drug Zovirax, which acts on the virus itself, the predominant action of these products is to relieve symptoms by softening the sores or scabs, drying the infection site, and/or reducing pain. The topical ointment form of acyclovir (by prescription in the US, OTC in Australia) has been shown to have some effectiveness during a primary episode, but very limited effectiveness in recurrent episodes, due to the action of the drug on emerging viral DNA, and as it is not well-absorbed into the skin. It does help to reduce viral shedding, and may decrease the length of outbreak by a day or two. There are several new topical products being tested and seeking approval from the FDA for sale in the US.
Many of the available OTC products contain ingredients, such as alcohol, which can cause stinging and further irritation of the infected area. Topical creams and ointments may even slow the healing of HSV outbreaks by over-drying or irritating the site. Many also contain lidocaine or benzocaine as a temporary numbing agent, only partially effective, which can lead to allergic reactions in some people. Some OTC topical medications labeled for treatment of cuts, wounds, or infections also contain corticosteroids, which are not effective against HSV, and can initiate and prolong outbreaks. Experts strongly advise against using any kind of topical cortisone-type cream on herpes, as they suppress the local immunity, and may worsen outbreaks significantly.
Medical experts generally recommend keeping herpes outbreaks clean, dry, and uncovered. Many women, who may experience extreme burning and pain during urination, find covering the lesions with petroleum jelly or an antibiotic ointment prior to urination to be very helpful. Occasional use of antibiotic ointments, while having no effect on the virus or outbreak itself, may also help to prevent secondary bacterial infection in some cases, and may soothe areas subject to friction. Some people have found Aloe to be effective as a soothing agent for areas subject to chafing.
There are a number of natural and alternative treatments that have been anecdotally reported to be effective in treating or suppressing HSV.
L-Lysine is a naturally occurring amino acid that can be found in a number of foods. Lysine supplementation has been anecdotally reported to be effective in ranges of 200 – 1000 mg a day. Scientific studies have shown conflicting results with lysine, but many people with herpes believe that it works well for them. Others have found it to have no discernible effect.
Garlic is reported to have anti-viral properties. Raw garlic cloves or garlic supplements, odorless.
Oil of Oregano is said by many to have anti-viral, anti-fungal, cleansing properties. Extract or capsules.
Numerous herbs and essential oils, inluding melissa, echinacea, ti tree, goldenseal, licorice, and others, have been tried as internal or external treatments, with varying results.
Reduction of foods high in the amino acid arginine, particularly chocolate and nuts, seems to help many, although recent studies have indicated that arginine is an immune-enhancer. Many nuts contain essential fatty acids that are beneficial to the body. And, of course, many people feel better about life when they eat chocolate, and recent studies have shown that chocolate and especially dark chocolate contains compounds that are good for the immune system as well as enhancing the “feel-good” chemistry in the brain… if it makes you feel happy, “go for it!”
Restriction of caffeine, sugar, alcohol, and processed foods have been widely reported as helping to curb outbreaks. These substances are very acidic which irritates the cells of the body. Coffee has been demonstrated to be a nerve stimulant, is highly acidic, and may have the effect of irritating the nerves and increasing outbreaks.
Increasing intake of anti-oxidant vitamins, zinc, and iron seems also to help many.
Anti-oxidants are extremely important in maintaining healthy cells and immune system. There are many foods and supplements available that contain anti-oxidants. Some of our favorites include pomegranate juice, wild blueberries, and goji berries, and the powder anti-oxidant/electrolyte supplement Emergen-C.
There are many other non-traditional “treatments” or “remedies” such as various homeopathic products, algae, colloidal silver, hydrogen peroxide, etc .Many of these products may be beneficial in some ways, many may be ineffective yet harmless, and some may be ineffective and unhealthful or even dangerous to certain people. Please research any treatment, even so-called “natural” ones, very carefully before attempting them. Also please take note whether the people behind the message have a financial agenda for promoting those particular products. Follow the money!
Currently, there is no documented evidence of any treatment or product that can cure Herpes. In their quest for hope and relief, people with Herpes can become vulnerable to false claims, scams, and purported cures for HSV. Be aware that organizations and individuals exist that prey on the emotional hopes or fears of people, and people newly diagnosed are especially vulnerable. There are many radical alternative procedures and concoctions being promoted as a “cure” for Herpes.
Beware of any treatments touted as “cures,” and remember the adage