Case: Katy was a 29-year-old active cyclist who was bouncing from one cycling event to the next. It was December and she was about to leave on vacation with her boyfriend for Vancouver Canada in order to participate in a cyclocross race. She had recently sustained a mild concussion and some superficial scrapes during another such race the week before. She was also fighting off a cold. In the midst of all this, she had developed a painful rash of red blisters on one side of her low abdomen and groin. She had never had anything like this before and didn’t know what to make of it. She called me for a phone visit and I let her know that this was a case of shingles.
Shingles is a flare of the chicken pox virus in someone who has already had chicken pox in their youth. Chicken pox belongs to the herpes virus family, along with herpes virus 1 and 2 which cause cold sores and genital herpes, Epstein-Barr virus which causes mononucleosis, and more. Like many viruses in this family once you get it, it’s with you for life. During the initial infection, your immune system fights it off and as long as your immune system stays strong, the virus is kept under wraps and causes no further problems. When your immune system takes a hit, usually in the form of stress or injury, that the virus is allowed to re-emerge and cause difficulties. In the case of chicken pox, most people develop robust immunity to the virus and are able to keep it contained for many years, but with a particularly big source of stress, in Katy’s case a concussion and a cold at the same time, the immune system just isn’t able to keep up and the virus produces shingles.
I took Katy’s case over the phone and she told me that the rash was localized to the left side, and the pain was aggravated by the cold wet weather, she was feeling particularly irritable and impatient since this had been going on and she was more restless that usual. These symptoms all point to the homeopathic remedy rhus tox. I recommended that she pick up the remedy in the potency 30c from a nearby health food store and take a dose daily for the next couple of days. I also recommended that she take vitamin C and zinc to support general immune health and lysine for additional anti-viral support, and strongly advised her to skip participating in the cyclocross race in Vancouver to give her body time to recover.
We checked back in later that week and Katy informed me that within a couple of days of starting the remedy and supplements, the rash had almost completely resolved, the pain had disappeared and she was beginning to feel better in general. She had ridden in the race but had taken her time and made sure not to get in any crashes.
It is important to address shingles quickly and thoroughly because if it lingers, postherpetic neuralgia is more likely to occur. This is a type of burning nerve pain that lingers on the skin long after shingles blisters have healed. Anti-viral medication can be used to treat shingles quickly, but homeopathy combined with nutrients for immune support can be an effective and efficient treatment that strengthens the whole system.