Herpes simplex is a disease caused by herpes simplex virus, and is categorized on the basis of the site of infection. The major sites of infection are face and mouth, hands and genitals. It is transmitted through direct contact, resulting in the formation of blisters and sores in the infected area. The symptoms experienced are often mild and misdiagnosed as a common skin condition.
Herpes simplex virus is a DNA virus that replicates within the host cells using the host cellular machinery. About eight strains of this virus cause herpes in humans. The most common ones are:
● Herpes Simplex Virus-1 (HSV-1): It causes oral herpes, and the symptoms include cold sores and blisters occurring on the lips, mouth, and even near the eyes.
● Herpes Simplex Virus-2 (HSV-2): It causes genital herpes, which is characterized by watery blisters and sores near the genitals.
● Herpes Varicella Zoster Virus: This type of herpes virus causes shingles and chickenpox. The infection in this case causes blisters that not only occur on the abdomen and buttocks, but also on the face, arms, and legs.
Multiplication of the virus inside the host cell makes it difficult to treat viral diseases including herpes. Although there is no complete cure for this disease, drugs that prohibit the multiplication of the virus are available. Certain herbs have also shown anti-herpes activity and are helpful in the treatment of this disease.
Herbs to the Rescue
› Andrographis paniculata: This plant boosts the immune system as well as exhibits antiviral activity against HSV-1.
› Astragalus membranaceus: This herb improves the immune function disturbance that occurs during HSV-1 infection as also inhibits the cytopathic effect of HSV-1.
› Echinacea purpurea: This traditional herb contains compounds that activates macrophages, leading to the destruction of infected cells. It also helps to repair the infected tissue.
› Eleutherococcus senticosus (Siberian ginseng): It is effective in reducing the intensity and duration of genital herpes owing to specialized compounds called eleutherosides.
› Ganoderma lucidum (Reishi Mushroom): Herbal mixtures comprising reishi mushroom and other herbs reduce the recovery time, and also prevent the relapse of infections.
› Glycyrrhiza glabra (Licorice Root): Licorice extracts, namely DGL (deglycyrrhizinated licorice) and carbenoxolone, have been shown to reduce HSV-1 replication.
› Hypericum hookerianum: Traditionally used to treat anxiety and inflammation, this herb is also effective in suppressing the HSV-1 infection by inactivating the viral particles.
› Melissa officinalis (Lemon Balm): It contains polyphenols that help to heal the cold sores, and reduce the intensity of hot flares associated with oral and genital herpes.
› Olea europaea (Olive): Olive leaves have shown antiviral properties against HSV-1, by inhibiting viral reproduction.
› Rheum officinale: Anthraquinones from the roots of this herb exhibit virucidal activity against HSV-1.
› Santolina insularis: The essential oil of this plant is known to possess antimicrobial and antiviral activities. It inactivates and prevents cell-to-cell transmission of the herpes virus.
› Viola yedoensis: Certain compounds present in this plant activate macrophages, which act against the infected host cells, thereby suppressing the infection with HSV-1.
Other Treatment Options
Incurable as of today, this disease is approached with ways to treat or reduce the symptoms, and prevent the transmission to others. Antiviral drugs like acyclovir and valacyclovir are prescribed to prevent recurrent outbreaks of the symptoms. This is essential because, even though the symptoms alleviate, the virus remains in the body in a dormant state. Apart from the use of these drugs, good personal hygiene, and a healthy lifestyle including a balanced diet and regular exercise are necessary to ensure a strong immune system, in order to prevent episodic relapse of symptoms.
The active components in herbs show antiviral activity through immunomodulation and/or by inhibiting one or more steps of the viral replication. Many times, a combination of synthetic drugs and herbs is used for the treatment of herpes. In spite of the availability of such treatment, it is ideal to take the right preventive measures and keep such infections at bay.
Disclaimer: This article is for informative purposes only, and should not be used as a replacement for professional medical advice.