Essential Oil Therapy for Shingles

by Jade Shutes

Herpes zoster: Shingles


Essential Oils for Shingles

Herpes zoster, commonly called shingles, is an outbreak of a rash or blisters on the skin that is caused by the same virus that causes chickenpox — the varicella-zoster virus. The first sign of shingles is often burning or tingling pain, or sometimes numbness or itch, in one particular location on only one side of the body. After several days or a week, a rash of fluid-filled blisters, similar to chickenpox, appears. The most common location for shingles is a band, called a dermatome, spanning one side of the trunk around the waistline. Shingles pain can be mild or intense. Some people have mostly itching; some feel pain from the gentlest touch or breeze.

Anyone who has had chickenpox is at risk for shingles. According to the CDC, Almost 1 out of every 3 people in the United States will develop shingles. There are an estimated 1 million cases each year in this country. Anyone who has recovered from chickenpox may develop shingles; even children can get shingles. However the risk of disease increases as a person gets older. About half of all cases occur among men and women 60 years old or older.

Scientists think that in the original battle with the varicella-zoster virus, some of the virus particles leave the skin blisters and move into the nervous system. When the varicella-zoster virus reactivates, the virus moves back down the long nerve fibers that extend from the sensory cell bodies to the skin. The viruses multiply, the tell-tale rash erupts, and the person now has shingles.

AromaTherapeutic goals:

  • Reduce pain
  • Utilize antiviral essential oils
  • Reduce/relieve stress

Aromatherapy applications: Gel based applications, German chamomile, Eucalyptus or Peppermint hydrosol spritzer, Tamanu/Calophyllum oil (for post-herpetic neuralgia), Undiluted application

Example Aromatic Programs for Shingles:
Topical application of Calophyllum inophyllum (Tamanu) and Ravintsara (C. camphora) are applied to lesions 2-5 times a day. Calophyllum inophyllum stimulates phagocytosis, which helps the organism to remove and eliminate pus gathered in the lesions. Ravintsara serves to relieve pain and to act as an antiviral agent. The correct botanical species for Ravintsara in this application is: Cinnamomum camphora. The two should be mixed at a 50/50 concentration. Application can continue until virus is resolved. (K. Schnaubelt)

Case Study:

Client is a 44 year old man, generally in good health.

Monday, January 6th: Client complains of a pain just below his right shoulder blade.

Tuesday, January 7th: Client complains again of pain in the same area, ask for me to look at it to see if there is something there.

Wednesday, January 8th: same as above

Thursday:, January 9th: Client does not feel well but goes to work. That evening, again complains of pain and is not feeling well. Has symptoms of a possible flu.

Later that evening, client takes a shower. Upon coming out of the shower, a very visible red rash has appeared in the area below the right shoulder blade that is also causing pain.  We knew immediately by the way it showed up that it was ‘shingles’.

First essential oil application (I used what I had on hand):

  • 50%  Roman chamomile (Chamaemelum nobile)
  • 25%  Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia)
  • 15%  Thyme ct. linalol (Thymus vulgaris ct. linalol)
  • 10% Thyme ct. thymol (Thymus vulgaris ct. thymol)

Immediately mixed up the above synergy and applied undiluted, using a q-tip, to shingles. That evening, client was up most of the night, vomiting and in much pain. (flu-like symptoms can accompany shingles)


Essential oils for shingles

Friday, January 10th: Client takes day off of work. Rash has now spread to under the right arm and the right side of the chest (almost exactly where it is on the back).  I continue to apply the above remedy.

I email Aromatics International and Stillpoint Aromatics and they both overnight me some Cinnamomum camphora. Thank you!!!!!!!

Saturday, January 11th: One application of the remedy above. Then once the Cinnamomum camphora arrives I blend up a batch of the 50% tamanu and 50% Cinnamomum camphora. Apply with a q-tip throughout the day (at least 4-5 times).

We add the herbal tinctures to help with pain and calm the ‘nerves’ so to speak, into the treatment:

  • St. Johns Wort  (5-6 dropperfuls every 4-5 hours)
  • Blend of Nervines from local herbalist (same as St. Johns wort)

Sunday, January 12th: Same thing as above only client begins to complain that he does not like the oiliness of the preparation and feels he needs something more to relieve the pain. Use tinctures throughout the day.

I combine the following:

  • 40% Eucalyptus globulus
  • 40% Cinnamomum camphor
  • 20% Mentha x piperita

Applied undiluted using q-tip. Client feels almost immediate relief from pain. This lasts for several hours before I reapply. The synergy is applied approximately 5-7x throughout the day and once again before client goes to sleep.

Monday through Wednesday (January 13 – 15): I continue to apply the synergy undiluted to the affected areas, 5-6x a day. Use tinctures throughout the day.

Thursday, January 16th: Client goes back to work 1/2 day.  Synergy is applied 3x that day.  Use tinctures 2x day.

Friday January 17th: Shingles have dried up and now the skin is becoming a bit itchy so we move back to the 50% tamanu and 50% C. camphora.
Saturday January 18th: Apply blend 3x throughout the day.  The pain is almost gone and the skin is almost healed.

Sunday January 19th: Continue to apply tamanu to areas that are now healed.

By Wednesday January 22nd: all pain is gone and skin has almost cleared.

Synopsis and Additional Information:

One thing that came from this experience were several discussions about the trigger of shingles. Shingles is often triggered in otherwise healthy individuals by stress. So we discussed the stressors in the clients life and ways in which the client could better deal with these stressors. I believe this was as important as the actual treatment. There is a renewed awareness of factors which stress the client (going to sleep too late, being stressed about work, etc.) He is now devoted to insuring that he goes to sleep earlier, deals with work better, and also insuring he makes time simply to relax in the evenings after work.

The undiluted application of the blend seemed most effective for this client and I believe it shortened the time frame for healing as well as reduced the potential for lingering pain after the shingles had cleared. All in all, it was a great success.