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Are There Any Natural Alternatives to Prescription Medication?

A plant sitting next to a box of acyclovir on a tabletop represents natural alternatives to acyclovir.


A herpes diagnosis will hit you hard.

Even if you’ve always been careful with romantic partners, you can still be diagnosed with herpes. Some people shed the herpes virus with no symptoms whatsoever, and asymptomatic shedding can spread the virus to unsuspecting partners.

Thankfully, the herpes simplex virus is not life-threatening, and the symptoms are completely manageable. Many people live happy, healthy lives — and enjoy active sex lives — with oral or genital herpes.

Your doctor may have recommended a prescription medication for managing your herpes symptoms. But is there a ​​natural alternative to medication?

Let’s explore some natural options for managing herpes.

The Role of Prescription Medication

Your doctor may prescribe an antiviral medication to treat many different viruses, including both types of the herpes simplex virus (HSV).

The herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1) typically causes oral herpes, and type 2 (HSV-2) typically causes genital herpes. An oral herpes outbreak manifests as sores around the outside of the mouth and lips, and it spreads from person to person through oral contact. Genital herpes causes sores around the genitals and spreads from person to person through sexual contact.

Oral herpes is also capable of causing genital herpes through oral-to-genital contact.

Prescription Medication is not a cure for herpes — unfortunately, as of this writing there is no cure for HSV — but it can help manage your symptoms. However, prescription medication can help minimize herpes symptoms, and people who take prescription medication tend to see less severe, less frequent outbreaks. Outbreaks that do occur often heal faster with less irritation, itchiness, and pain. 


Side Effects of Prescription Medication

Many prescription medications can cause adverse side effects. Not all side effects are cause for alarm, but if any of them interfere with normal functioning or don’t subside after a short period of time, stop taking the medication and contact your doctor. 

The most common side effects of prescription medications are: 

  • Fatigue
  • Queasiness, vomiting, and diarrhea
  • Feeling agitated
  • Feeling dizzy or unsteady
  • Joint pain
  • Vision changes
  • Hair loss
  • Back pain or changes in urine (from kidney problems)

The following rarer side effects require immediate medical attention:

  • Sudden rash
  • Increased heart rate
  • Swelling
  • Inability to breathe or swallow
  • Blood in your urine or feces
  • Aggression
  • Difficulty speaking or moving
  • Sudden confusion
  • Hallucinations
  • Unexplained bleeding
  • Easy bruising
  • Aggression
  • Severe cramping
  • Numbness or tingling in the extremities
  • Uncontrollable shaking
  • Seizure
  • Losing consciousness

If your doctor prescribes medication, it’s because they believe the potential benefits of taking the medicine outweigh the risk of side effects. However, you may prefer a natural alternative to medication to avoid these possible adverse effects altogether.

Infographic: Are There Any Natural Alternatives to Acyclovir?

A Natural Alternative to Prescription Medication

If you’re interested in a natural alternative to medication, you have a wealth of options to choose from. Some may be in your kitchen cabinet! 

Homemade Remedies

For a natural alternative to prescription medication, you can try topically applying certain homemade remedies. Some of these natural remedies must be diluted or mixed with water before being applied to your skin. Here are a few examples:

  • Cornstarch paste — Mix cornstarch and water until the mixture becomes a thick paste. Then apply it directly to the herpes sores.
  • Baking soda — Make a paste just like the cornstarch mixture, or dip a clean cotton ball soaked in water into baking soda to apply to the outbreak.
  • Apple cider vinegar — Remember, never apply undiluted vinegar to your skin; it can burn you rather than help you. Instead, mix three parts water with one part apple cider vinegar. Carefully apply the mixture to your active outbreak.
  • Garlic and olive oil — Crush a clove of fresh garlic and mix it with a small amount of olive oil. Carefully rub this mixture onto the outbreak up to three times per day. Eating garlic may also have antiviral benefits!

A few other homemade remedies don’t require mixing with water or olive oil. Coconut oil, for example, is safe to use directly on irritated skin and herpes sores. You may also dab alcohol onto sores, but only in very small amounts using a clean cotton ball.

For all of these remedies, remember to avoid touching your herpes sores and then contaminating the remedy source — such as a box of baking soda — with the same cotton ball or swab (or your fingers). Instead, use a clean applicator each time you need more product. Also, always be sure to thoroughly wash your hands after tending to your outbreak.

If you experience any additional irritation, pain, or redness, or if you feel a burning sensation after or while using any of these homemade remedies, wash it off right away and discontinue use until you can consult your doctor. 

Quote: Are There Any Natural Alternatives to Acyclovir?

Light Therapy

Not everyone wants to slather open sores and blisters with various foods and household items. If this is the case for you, consider light therapy as a ​​natural alternative to prescription medication.

Light therapy uses specific wavelengths of light to energize cells and increase cell turnover. This reduces inflammation, improves blood flow, and expedites the healing process.  

Clinical research has demonstrated the healing benefits of light therapy on herpes outbreaks. In recent studies, light therapy reduced pain by up to 82%. Plus, this noninvasive treatment can reduce viral load from genital herpes, which could reduce the severity and frequency of future outbreaks.

Devices like the Luminance RED are designed especially for managing genital herpes with light therapy.


Natural Antivirals

Perhaps you prefer dietary changes as a ​​natural alternative to prescription medication. Several herbs used in everyday recipes have antiviral properties. People centuries ago understood the health benefits of these herbs and used them to address many medical issues.

Consider incorporating some of these common herbs into your diet as a ​​natural alternative to prescription medication:

  • Basil
  • Rosemary
  • Sage
  • Fennel
  • Oregano

Other dietary additions that might help include ginger, peppermint, dandelion, chamomile, echinacea, lemon balm, Sambucus, and of course, garlic. A few antiviral herbs popular in Chinese medicine include astragalus, ginseng, and licorice root.

As of this writing, no specific studies have tested the efficacy of oral ingestion of these natural alternatives to prescription medication against the herpes simplex virus, but new research is being conducted all the time. Some, such as lemon balm, have shown promise as topical treatments in research.

Natural Alternatives to Prescription Medications: Final Thoughts

While there is certainly a place for prescription medications in many treatment plans for the herpes simplex virus, a ​​natural alternative to prescription medication is worth incorporating. The natural treatments mentioned here pose few risks, if any, and most are safe to use in combination with conventional treatment options.

However, before taking any dietary supplements or making major changes to your diet, always consult your doctor. That way, you can make sure there are no major risk factors or interactions you might not be aware of.

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