Herbal Health Information on Shingles

Three years ago just before we were about to walk 80 miles from Greenwich to Eastbourne along the Wealdway, our first ever long distance walk, I got shingles!

At first I thought I had several bites on my left side which were raised and very itchy. I then started to get pain in the area and stomach pain.

Shingles is caused by the same virus that causes chicken pox and the virus sits on the nerve ending, causing chicken pox like spots in the distribution area of the nerve. Typically this follows the line of a rib or can be down the leg or in the head.

It is very itchy and very painful.

I immediately started to take both Marigold and St. John’s Wort tinctures to get on top of the virus and made myself copious amounts of fresh lemon juice to increase my Vitamin C intake.

Fortunately I had made some St John’s Wort oil from flowers I had picked on the shingle beach (see the video).

St. John’s Wort oil, rubbed into the shingles, relieves the pain and attacks the virus externally.

Although the Shingles had not cleared up completely, I was able to do the walk which took us seven days, staying at bed and breakfasts along the way.

It is important to boost the immune system so that the body can defend itself and fight against the virus.

Shingles are said to be stress related and I was helping out at a care home at the time where one of the residents had shingles.

There is an article about boosting the immune system which you can find by clicking on health conditions but the guidelines are:-



You must eat it!

Porridge/ muesli/ any wholegrain cereal/ fruit/juice. Not all at once!


Salads or baked potato or sandwich some fruit if you didn’t have any at breakfast


Cooked meal with some protein foods such as meat eggs or fish /pulses beans for the vegetarians or just if you like them. Fresh veg although fresh frozen will do if you are busy. Some carbohydrate such as rice potato or pasta.

Always vary it though and make sure you do not eat too much of any one thing. For example don’t eat toast for breakfast, a sandwich for lunch and pasta for dinner. That’s three lots of wheat a day and the gut will not like digesting all that!

Loads of Vitamin C containing foods, which is all fruit and veg but especially citrus fruits and zinc containing foods which is oats, peas, pumpkin seeds, lentils and Oysters if you are feeling rich.

Zinc and Vitamin C help the body fight of viruses. Pumpkin seeds are high in zinc and all fruits and veg contain

Vitamin C.

Drink water and not too much tea and coffee.


Have a look at the article on stress to learn more, but briefly, make relaxation and switching off time for yourself. Dance, sing, read, watch a film, join a meditation or yoga class, anything that helps you to relax.

Exercise I can almost hear you groaning but this is really not an option. It gets the body in good shape to be able to cope with external and internal changes.

Alcohol and cigarettes also affect the immune system, so if you can reduce, it will help.

Echinacea is the herb of choice to boost the immune system which it does by raising the white blood cell count and increases the body’s own powers of resistance. It also has the ability to stimulate Killer cells called Phagocytes, that chomp up any foreign material in the body especially bacteria.

About three weeks of taking Echinacea is enough time to boost the immune system and then let the body take over, but in a case of active shingles it is worth taking Echinacea while the shingles persist.

There are many over the counter preparations of Echinacea but make sure it is a good quality preparation with a licence, meaning it has been through a rigorous testing programme.

St John’s Wort and marigold have directly anti viral properties, St John’s Wort being specific for shingles. Both of these you should be able to buy in tincture or tablet form (follow dosage instructions)

Never forget Garlic. I know some people won’t touch it because of the smell but eat as much garlic as you can in your food. It is the most astounding food for all kinds of conditions in the body one of them being to boost the immune system as well as having antiviral properties. Garlic is excreted through the lungs and skin pores so sterilises everything on the way out.

You are also welcome to visit me in my clinic for help. The clinic details can be seen by clicking here or at the “clinic” tab at the top of the page.

Linda Bostock

Medical Herbalist

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