Monday, June 9, 2014

Natural Remedies for Shingles

I wrote this about a month ago and am just finally getting around to posting. I still have slight pain in my shoulder left over from the shingles, but usually only when I get really stressed out. The oils and other remedies mentioned here have majorly decreased recovery time and I am so thankful for those of you who recommended these products!

Last week I came down with shingles, one of the most painful illnesses I have ever experienced. I woke up Saturday morning with severe pain in my right arm like I had strained a muscle or been punched several times in my armpit. It was the first time my oldest had slept through the night so I attributed the soreness to going too long without nursing him. Later that morning when an itchy patch showed up on my chest, I didn’t think anything about it, figuring that I had been bitten or just gotten something irritating on my skin. When the bruised feeling began spreading to my shoulder and back and more spots appeared, I started to wonder what was up.

I went the whole day trying to soothe my sore muscles and refrain from scratching the spots, hoping that it was just a minor allergic reaction to something and would go away soon. But it was getting worse. Much worse. By that night I could barely raise my arm without excruciating pain and the spots had developed blistering bumps all over them. So, after getting the kids ready for bed I called my mentor and best friend, who also happens to be a nurse practitioner (I highly recommend having a best friend in the medical field; Having someone you can bug at all hours of the night for the silliest of medical questions is invaluable ;) ). I described my symptoms and she asked a key question, “Are all of the spots on one side of your body?” Yep, sure ‘nough. Her unofficial diagnosis, “Girl, I can’t say for sure without seeing, but I do believe you’ve got shingles.”

            Shingles? Are you kidding me? At this point I kind of started to freak out. Isn’t shingles really dangerous? And highly contagious? Did I need to go to urgent care right away? After talking with her and doing a little of my own research online I concluded that no, in most cases shingles is not dangerous (although it can rarely cause severe complications), and it is only contagious to those who have not had chickenpox. If spread to an individual who has never had chickenpox, it will manifest itself as such rather than as shingles. The doctor will prescribe an antiviral but it won’t really fight the illness, just treat the symptoms while your body recovers, and the medication prescribed comes with a list of possible negative side effects of its own.

            I did a lot of reading online and talked with some friends who have had shingles and found that an outbreak usually occurs during a time of stress or really low immune system. I hadn’t been sick, but we had been to several doctors’ offices for my son’s leg (he severely bruised it a couple weeks ago and we wanted to make sure it wasn’t broken) and for our general check-ups, so I had been exposed to things that could have weakened my immune system even though I didn’t actually feel sick. And stress? Oh, yeah, there’s been some stress. Between being worried that Little Mister’s leg was broken and trying to care for him (ever tried to keep a two year old who can’t walk entertained for two weeks?), getting a new dog, and dealing with some other outside factors, I was exhausted and frazzled. So, it’s really no surprise that I ended up with these spots that feel like someone pelted me with paintballs, stuck a thousand needles in my skin, and poured lemon juice over the pinpricks.           

I am a no medication kind of gal. I don’t even like taking Tylenol for a migraine. Over the last few years I have been trying to learn more about homeopathy and natural remedies and to rely more on what God put into creation to help heal us. Call me a crazy hippy, but I believe that nature contains the safest, most effective medicine available. You just have to take the time to find what works. I grew up relying heavily on doctors’ advice, so this has been an adjustment for me and something of a journey to learn to trust that God really did create certain things in nature for our health and healing.

Since shingles attacks when you have a low immune system, my first order of business was to load up on vitamins and other nutrients to restore my body’s defenses. B-complex, L-lysine, large doses of Vitamin C, and a powder called Ester-C have become part of my regimen. B-12 is supposed to especially help, but you need it in a B-complex form for your body to absorb it. L-lysine is also found in meat and dairy, so I’ve been eating a lot of foods from those groups. You mix Ester-C with juice or water (it tastes nasty, though). As far as foods to avoid, you really want to stay away from nuts, chocolate, and sugar while fighting shingles.

I’ve also been taking colloidal silver. If you’ve heard any of the news stories about this substance you may be appalled. I was skeptical, too, but after doing a lot of research I am comfortable taking one teaspoon twice daily in addition to occasionally applying it topically to the sores. I believe it helps and have not read any credible side effects from it when taken properly. Do your own research. Don’t use it if you’re uncomfortable doing so.

In the realm of homeopathy, the only remedy I had on hand that was recommended was arsenicum album. I tried a few doses of that the first night, but it didn’t really seem to be the right remedy for me. Some other remedies that may help are rhus tox, iris versicolor, clematis erectus, apis mellifica, and mezereum, but we don’t currently have any of those.

The most helpful remedy I have found for shingles has been pure essential oils! I had wanted to get some oils for a long time because I’ve heard so many people rave about them, but they are so expensive! However, on the third day of unbelievable pain, and after talking with a friend who said oils worked wonders for her case of shingles, Joshua and I decided to give them a try. We couldn’t find anyone in town who sells therapeutic-grade oils, so we took the plunge and signed up with Young Living Essential Oils as a distributor to receive their wholesale prices. We ordered Monday and expedited shipping to receive the oils by Wednesday morning. The oils recommended to me were:

o   Oregano
o   Peppermint
o   Thieves
o   Ravintsara
o   Lavender
o   Frankincense

All but the ravintsara and oregano came with the Young Living Premium Starter Kit. Also included in the kit are lemon, and the blends Joy, Purification, PanAway, Peace & Calm, and Valor. Each comes in a 5 ml glass bottle. But wait, there’s more! With the Premium Starter Kit you also receive a diffuser and a sample box that includes 5 ml of Stress Away (which comes with an optional roller top), two 2 oz packets of Ningxia Red, and two little sample packets each of lavender, lemon, Peace & Calming, peppermint, and Thieves, as well as several pamphlets introducing you to essential oils and helping you get started if you intend to make a business out of it.

Wednesday morning before the oils arrived I was in an incredible amount of pain. Moving any part of my body hurt. I was hardly able to stand nursing the boys. I was only able to nurse from one side because the other side had blisters and I felt mastitis coming on even though I had been pumping. The blisters were spreading like wildfire and the bruised feeling radiated from my waist to my fingertips on the right side of my body. The slightest cold touch, even cool air brushing my skin just from walking, Hurt. So. Bad. I was in tears several times that morning. When the oils arrived at 10:00am I was overjoyed.

Joshua applied the recommended oils to the blisters and to the bottoms of my feet. It felt soooo good and amazingly soothing. At first he just shook a couple drops of each oil onto my skin and rubbed them in, but he had a hard time getting just one drop out so he decided to mix them in a little spray bottle and spray it on me. This works really well. After the first application I was finally able to get comfortable and relaxed into a two hour nap. That was the first deep sleep I’ve had in days (it helped that Joshua was sweet enough to take the boys and the dog outside during this time). When I woke up I noticed there was considerably less redness to the spots and the bruised feeling had almost completely subsided. Another couple of applications throughout the day and I was able to sleep that night like I have not been able to sleep in what feels like forever. I’m sold.

I’m still in pain. It itches, stings, and when it’s been a while since we last applied the oils, the bruised feeling begins to return (but with increasingly less intensity). With each application of the oils, the pain lessens. And the oils smell good, too, which uplifts everyone’s mood. It’ll still be a while before I’m well, and we have yet to see whether or not the kids will come down with chickenpox, but on my second day of using essential oils, I feel so much better than I thought possible. God really did design an amazing creation!

Interested in becoming a Young Living wholesale member and saving 24% off retail price? Email me at for more information.