How To Use Essential Oils For Shingles and PHN
UPDATED NOVEMBER 2023 Because of our readers’ intense interest in finding relief from the debilitating and ongoing pain of shingles, we have expanded our article with more tips for the prevention and management of shingles. In addition, we have updated the section on how to use essential oils for shingles.
According to the Mayo Clinic, shingles is a viral infection that causes painful skin rash. It comes from caused by the varicella zoster virus also known as herpes zoster. It’s part of a group of viruses that also causes chicken pox, cold sores and genital herpes (Note: although part of the same group of viruses, the virus that causes cold sores and genital herpes differs from what causes chickenpox/shingles). Once you have the varicella zoster virus it can enter your nervous system and lie dormant; if it reactivates it can produce shingles.
Although it’s unclear what causes the virus to become active again, it’s thought that contributing factors are extreme stress — such as from the death of a loved one, injury, illness — such as cancer, medications or other circumstances that lead to a weakened immune system.
So your first line of defense for prevention of shingles is to keep your immune system healthy by means of wholesome food, restorative sleep, a regular exercise program and learning how to manage stress before you’re confronted with these triggers. If you’re ever tempted to stay home from the gym or not go on that walk, remember it may well be the factor that keeps you from getting this painfully debilitating condition! According to the CDC, there are two vaccines now available for the prevention of shingles and related complications that you may want to discuss with your doctor.
Shingles can affect any portion of the body, including the eyes. However, it most commonly presents as a band of blisters that affects one side of your body, torso, neck or face. Often there is a feeling of pain, burning, numbness or tingling that occurs before a rash is apparent; not all people develop a rash. Symptoms may also include itching, fever, headache, light sensitivity and fatigue.
If you suspect that you have shingles, it is important to contact your healthcare provider immediately, to explore all possible treatment options and ways to prevent long-term complications.
While we don’t claim that essential oils can cure shingles, they can support your comfort, enhance calmness, increase deep breathing and are therefore an important part of a wellness routine.
Essential oils for shingles – to support comfort
Specific application methods are at the end of this post. Always dilute essential oils in a carrier oil before applying to your skin. See our dilution guidelines for suggestions.
Essential oils recommended for herpes zoster virus:
Bergamot Citrus bergamia: Antiseptic properties.
Tea Tree Melaleuca alternifolia: Antiseptic properties.
Ravensara Ravensara aromatic: Antiseptic and antiviral properties.
Melissa Melissa officinalis: Anti-viral, good option at the first sign of shingles.
Essential oils helpful in relieving initial itchy rash:
Chamomile German Matricaria chamomilla: Anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, and antiviral properties.
Chamomile Roman Anthemis nobilis: Anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, and antibacterial properties.
Peppermint Mentha piperita: Cooling and analgesic effect. It may help to numb the area and alleviate some of the discomfort.
Lavender Lavandula angustifolia: Antibacterial and analgesic properties. Can bring relief to inflammation and itching.
Helichrysum Helichrysum italicum: Anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties.
Essential oils for nerve pain:
Geranium Pelargonium graveolens: Analgesic properties.
Oregano Origanum vulgare: Analgesic and antiviral properties.
Nutmeg Myristica fragrant:Antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties.
Lavender Lavandula angustifolia: Analgesic and anti-inflammatory properties.
Eucalyptus Radiata Eucalyptus radiate: Antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties.
Marjoram Sweet Origanum majorana: Analgesic properties.
Helichrysum Helichrysum italicum: Analgesic and anti-inflammatory properties.
Please note: Some of these essential oils aren’t usually recommended for application on your skin. However, if you use a very low dilution of essential oils to carrier oil (such as 1%) these oils can be safely applied to your skin. But first, apply a small amount of the diluted oil to a small area of your skin and wait for 24 hours to see if there is any irritation. If you experience an adverse reaction or if your condition gets worse, discontinue use and seek medical advice.
Suggested carrier oil:
Tamanu Calophyllum inophyllum– Tamanu has anti-inflammatory properties and promotes the formation of new tissue due to its neutral lipids, glycolipids, and phospholipids, calophyllic acid (a fatty acid), and calophyllolide (an anti-bacterial and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory).
Suggested carrier oils to blend with Tamanu:
Unrefined Tamanu is viscous and has a spicy aroma, blending with other carrier oils creates a synergistic effect, combining beneficial properties of all carrier oils used. It is also necessary to blend carrier oils when making a spritzer, as the Tamanu is thick and will clog the atomizer.
Rose Hip Rosa mosqueta is beneficial for skin care due to the fatty acid content of linoleic and linolenic acids as well as the presence of retinoic acid (a vitamin A derivative)
Calendula Calendula officinalis contains flavonol glycosides, triterpene oligoglycosides, oleanane-type triterpene glycosides, saponins, and a sesquiterpene glucoside, it has anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, astringent, antifungal, antiviral, and immune-stimulant properties.
Fractionated Coconut Oil Cocos nucifera has no aroma, is lightweight and easily absorbed; use for easy, no-touch spray-on application. (When making a spritzer use 50-70% Fractionated Coconut Oil as your base carrier oil to prevent clogging of atomizer.)
During acute phase:
Spritzer – No touch application
During the acute stage of an outbreak, it may be most comfortable to mix essential oils for shingles in Fractionated Coconut Oil or a blend of carrier oils with the primary carrier oil being Fractionated Coconut Oil. Use a spritzer bottle as a no-touch application method. Fractionated Coconut Oil is light enough to use with a spritzer and it is easily absorbed. Other carriers that can be used in spritzer form are aloe vera and witch hazel, both have cooling properties to promote comfort.
Essential oils for shingles should be diluted to 10% during this stage. (10% equals 60 drops of essential oil per 1 oz. of carrier. A few essential oils, like Nutmeg, need a lower dilution rate, as reflected in the recipe below. You’ll note specific dilution recommendations on the individual oil’s page if it’s not 10%.) Choose your essential oils from those listed above based on your symptoms.
Cool, colloidal oatmeal baths can help to soothe irritation. A cool bath with colloidal oatmeal (available at most drug stores or make your own by grinding oatmeal to a fine powder in a coffee or spice grinder. The oatmeal needs to be ground to a fine consistency for it to mix with water and not sink to the bottom of the tub.) 5-10 drops of essential oil mixed in a teaspoon of carrier oil. Mix your essential oil with the carrier oil then add to ground oatmeal and stir well. Add the mixture to your cool or tepid bath water, swirl the water and immerse yourself.
Colloidal oatmeal is powdered oatmeal. You can purchase or make it yourself. Grind whole oats in a food processor or coffee grinder, make sure you finely grind the oatmeal; if the oatmeal is too coarse it will not mix thoroughly with water, will sink to the bottom of the tub and will be less effective.
Post Rash Nerve Pain — postherpetic neuralgia (PHN)
After the blisters have gone, gently massage the area with a 1-2% dilution of essential oils in a carrier oil and apply as needed.
This is a suggested recipe from Aromatherapy for Massage Practitioners by Ingrid Martin.
Use only after the skin has healed.
3 drop Geranium (analgesic, balancing)
5 drop Lavender (analgesic, calming)
2 drop German Chamomile (anti-inflammatory, calming)
2 drop Nutmeg (analgesic, antidepressant)
Mix in 2oz Tamanu or other carrier of your choice.
You can follow the proportions of this recipe and substitute other essential oils as desired. This recipe provides a 1% dilution ratio. It is recommended to start with 1% dilution increase to 2% if needed.
Would you like to learn more about essential oils – like where they come from, how they’re made and how to make your own special blends? We invite you to take advantage of our free gift to you — our ebook, Listen to Your Nose – An Introduction to Aromatherapy. You’ll also receive a coupon for 20% off your first order.
Aromatherpy for Massage Practitioners by Ingrid Martin
Aromatherapy for Health Professionals by Shirly and Len Price