Shingles – What Is Shingles?

Shingles - What Is Shingles?

Shingles, also known as herpes zoster, is a disease that comes from the chicken pox, or varicella zoster, virus. When you either contract chicken pox or are vaccinated for chicken pox, your body makes antibodies against the virus. It overcomes the virus in your body and you get well again. The antibodies usually also prevent you from getting sick again with the same virus. The reason for this is that the virus stays in your body, but is kept dormant by the antibodies.

Chicken pox, however, is a little different to shingles.

How Do You Get Shingles?

In order to get shingles, your immune system must first be very weak. The antibodies stop functioning as they have been to prevent the dormant virus from waking up. This often occurs when a person:

  • Has been taking certain medications (for example there is a known link with arthritis medication)
  • Is in poor general health
  • Has been under a lot of stress
  • Has been eating poorly
  • Has allergies
  • Is older
  • Has been consuming a lot of caffeinated foods or drinks without getting enough rest; or
  • They have been pregnant and breastfeeding without a chance to build up their body’s reserves

Can Shingles Endanger An Unborn Baby?

No. Unlike chicken pox, shingles will not cause birth defects in unborn babies. This is because the pregnant woman already has the dormant varicella zoster virus in her body, and she passes her immunity onto the baby.

Is Shingles Contagious?

You can’t give someone else shingles. But if a person has no immunity to chicken pox and they come into contact with fluid from shingles blisters or with shingles scabs, they may get chicken pox.

A Shingles Story

I personally contracted shingles at the age of 24. At the time I had recently given birth to my fourth child. Each child was born within 17 months of the previous one and they were all breastfeed throughout my pregnancies as well. As you can imagine, I didn’t get much sleep, even with a very understanding and helpful hubby.

I had chicken pox when I was a small child and I remembered it clearly, as well as having several scars from where I scratched the pox. When I started feeling unwell I thought, “Uh oh. Flu. I don’t have time for this”. As a young mum with four small children, I barely had time to sit down let alone languish in bed recovering from the flu. But I was really unwell, my strength felt completely sapped and I felt like I was moving through treacle trying to get through the day.

At least I had to take time to breastfeed, which meant I had to sit and rest during those times. I tried to rest, as I had a low grade fever, but it was difficult.

I started to see pustules appearing around my belly, waist, under my breast and on my back, which then clued me in to what was happening, as an older friend of my family had recovered from shingles. So I knew what the pustules looked like, and the general area they appeared in.

Thanks to that friend’s experience, I also knew that if you get to the doctor within 48 hours, you can take an anti-viral medicine which cuts the recovery time in half and prevents a reoccurrence. Without the antiviral medicine, the pustules can cause nerve damage and reoccurrence can be painful.

My symptoms were:

  • General achy feeling
  • Sore throat
  • Swollen glands on my neck and in my arm pits
  • Low grade fever
  • Fluid filled blisters

I went to our local GP, and got the prescription for the anti-viral medicine.

My doctor also happened to be well versed in natural and herbal medicine, and was able to give me some good information on how to build up my body’s immune system. This included taking lysine and foods with lysine in them such as:

  • Meats (red and white)
  • Eggs
  • Fish
  • Liver; and
  • Yoghurt

I took brewers yeast for the B vitamins and zinc for its healing properties. I also took some rosehip capsules (for the vitamin C) and cod liver oil (for the vitamin A and D).

He also advised me to avoid foods that have high levels of arginine in them such as:

  • Peanuts and other nuts
  • Chocolate
  • Soy products; and
  • Refined and heavily processed foods containing additives .

These foods seem to promote the different strains of the herpes virus such as herpes zoster (shingles) and herpes simplex (cold sores).

Natural Treatments For Shingles Blisters

The following can be used directly on your sores to help with healing them:

  • Aloe vera gel, reduces itching, promotes healing
  • Coconut oil, reduces itching, promotes healing
  • Pure zinc cream, reduces itching, promotes healing
  • Pawpaw (papaya) ointment, reduces itching, promotes healing (avoid Lucas Paw Paw ointment, its petrochemical based)
  • Tea tree oil on the blisters once they start to form a crust

Foods And Supplements To Aid The Healing Of Shingles

These foods and supplements are anti-viral and antibacterial and when taken can reduce the severity of shingles:

  • Garlic, about 9 cloves a day,( raw and juiced, minced or bruised to produce the allicin, which is the potent compound) can be added to broth, juices, dips, and into cooked dishes after the cooking is done.
  • Fresh ginger, grated or juiced, can be added raw to juices and foods, about a thumb sized piece, or a tablespoon grated.
  • Grapefruit Seed Extract, 15 drops in citrus juice 3 times a day. 40 drops can be added to 2 cups of water as a wash for the blisters.
  • Raw high factor (25-40 plus) Manuka honey, 1 tsp taken 3 times a day.
  • Colloidal silver (not silver nitrate), 1 tablespoon taken 3- 5 times a day.


  • Herbal Antibiotics by Stephen Harrod Buhner
Last Updated: February 23, 2015


BellyBelly Contributor, Doula, Birth Educator, Breastfeeding Counsellor, Nutritionist, Herbalist, Musician and Mum of Six Beautiful Children.

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