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Natural remedies for shingles

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CoolingCreams and lotionsEssential oilsMedical treatment
Shingles is a viral disease that can affect people who have had chickenpox, often many years after the initial infection. There is currently no cure, but natural remedies can relieve symptoms.
Medically reviewed by Angelica Balingit, MD
Written by D. M. Pollock
Updated on

Shingles is a disease that can occur years after having chickenpox.

When you have chickenpox as a child, the virus lays dormant in your body. It can reactivate later, causing a painful rash.

The virus that causes this infection is varicella zoster (VZV), which is part of the herpes virus family. Another name for shingles is herpes zoster.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends the Shingrix vaccine for anyone over the age of 50 to reduce the risk of developing shingles.

Antiviral medications can help limit the effect of shingles, but home remedies can also help relieve symptoms.

Below are five natural treatments that may help provide some relief. However, it’s important to note that these are not medical treatments.

Herbal remedies

Close up of an older adult rubbing lotion into their ski which could be one of many natural remedies for shingles
Sergey Narevskih/Stocksy United

Some herbal remedies may help manage shingles.

They include:

  • capsaicin, which comes from cayenne pepper and may help reduce the pain of shingles
  • licorice root, which has anti-inflammatory and antiviral properties and may be useful in treating herpes zoster
  • lemon balm, or Melissa officinalis, which contains polyphenols and may help fight herpes viruses

If you choose to use lemon balm, apply warm water with 3 teaspoons of the herb directly to the shingles rash four to five times per day.


Eating nutrient-rich foods when you have shingles can help your body fight the virus. Avoiding foods that increase inflammation is also a good idea.

Highly processed, sugary foods can trigger high inflammation and weaken your immune system by putting stress on your body.

Examples of these foods include:

  • white bread or rice
  • alcohol
  • candies
  • cakes and pastries
  • sugary cereals
  • sugary sodas

Some foods that can help support your immune system tend to be high in antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals.

Examples of foods to eat while you have shingles include:

  • kale (vitamin C)
  • avocado (vitamin E)
  • red meat (zinc)
  • sardines (vitamin B12)
  • eggs (zinc)
  • sweet potato (vitamin A)
  • sunflower seeds (vitamin E)

Cooling the rash

Shingles rashes can be itchy, but scratching a shingles rash can cause permanent scarring.

Try applying a cool compress or taking a cool bath to soothe the itch.

Bathing can also help keep a shingles rash clean.

Creams and lotions

Creams and lotions will not heal the rash, but they can make it more comfortable and help prevent you from scratching.

Coconut oil and olive oil may also be good options. Try rubbing the body with the oil and allowing it to soak in for a few hours before washing away the excess.

Oat baths

Adding oatmeal to a bath can provide the skin with antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds that work to improve skin dryness and scaling and reduce inflammation. 

Add colloidal oatmeal to a lukewarm bath and soak for 10–15 minutes.

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Essential oils

Certain essential oils can help soothe irritation and promote the natural process of healing.

Options include:

  • Tea tree oil, which has anti-microbial and anti-inflammatory properties to both soothe irritation and promote skin healing
  • Chamomile oil, which also has anti-microbial properties
  • Eucalyptus oil, which may help reduce inflammation and speed up healing rates in skin wounds

Choose over-the-counter creams and lotions that contain these oils, or use them diluted in a carrier oil. Never apply a concentrated oil directly to the skin.

Medical treatment

There is currently no cure for shingles, but some medications may help the rash heal faster.

Shingles treatments that a healthcare professional may recommend include:

antiviral medications, such as valacyclovir and acyclovirspeed recovery and reduce painoral
anti-inflammatory medication, such as ibuprofenreduce swelling and relieve painoral
numbing creams, such as lidocainehelp manage pain and itchingtopical

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Some people develop long-term nerve pain after having shingles, known as post-herpetic neuralgia (PHN). PHN occurs when the shingles virus damages your nerves.

In this case, you may need long-term prescription pain medication.


There is currently no cure for shingles, but resting, eating well, and taking any medications that a healthcare professional prescribes will help you recover.

Natural treatments, such as cool compresses, an oatmeal bath, and essential oils can help soothe the skin and stop you scratching.

The best way to avoid shingles symptoms is to get the vaccination. If you’re 50 years old and above or at risk of developing shingles, speak with a doctor about receiving a vaccination.

Download the free Optum Perks Discount Card to save up to 80% on some prescription medications.

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