Remember the dog in the adventures Of Priscilla, Queen Of The Desert? His name was Herpes. "If he's good he'll heel." (Get it? Heal?)
And you will, too, if you're one of the huge number of folks who have oral or genital herpes and you're careful about your triggers.
The condition, the result of being infected by either of two forms of the herpes virus (HSV1 or HSV2), causes painful, itchy sores that easily transmit the virus to others. Outbreaks vary in severity and frequency.
There's no cure, only control.
What works? Some swear by some holistic treatments, while others deny the science behind them. Zinc is an oft-touted remedy, and the most popular supplement these days is L-lysine, an amino acid found in fish and certain plants.
But arginine, an amino acid found in chocolate and nuts, is said to exacerbate the condition.
I read all the time that peanuts are a cause of outbreaks. No proof, say doctors. Stress is another oft-mentioned provoker, and so is bad behaviour: too much partying, drinking, drugs and smoking, which all weaken the immune system.
What the experts say
"There is no cure, but there are anti-viral plants that are a good adjunct to another program. If a person is taking acyclovir, the herbs I would recommend are calendula, geranium, licorice and thuja in a tincture. This combination will more than double the strength of acyclovir. They're mildly anti-viral. One of the best ingredients in terms of a cream for lesions is capsicum (red pepper). You could also put licorice and L-lysine in the cream. These combined will soothe the pain and help kill the virus. There is actually a capsaicin cream called Zostex for oral herpes."
JOHN REDDEN, herbalist, Toronto
"Lysine is probably the most common naturopathic treatment. It has been studied and shown to work well. Vitamins A and C can be super-helpful. Keeping stress levels down can be done through acupuncture. Watching sun exposure is important. Increasing your intake of lysine and decreasing your arginine can decrease occurrences. One of the best things is yogurt. Cheese is another. Bad things include nuts and citrus fruits. It's kind of backward, because a lot of dairy is not usually recommended naturopathically. Then oats, nuts, garlic and citrus, things we usually consider good, are all bad if you have herpes."
MORGAN WINTON, naturopath, Toronto
"All oral herpes is type 1, and outbreaks are infrequent. In genital herpes, half will be type 1 and half type 2. With type 2, there are more frequent outbreaks and a high risk of asymptomatic shedding [where the virus is contagious]. For genital herpes, the first treatment is no treatment. Some people get infrequent outbreaks, and if they aren't concerned about transmission aren't bothered much. Treatment two is to treat each outbreak with valacyclovir. Acyclovir is also an option but requires frequent dosing for longer periods. Option three is to take medication every day to prevent outbreaks and shedding. Valacyclovir is the only drug proven to protect partners. There is no science to support alternative medications, and no evidence that specific foods will cause outbreaks. Creams like Abreva and Zovirax [for genital herpes] have not been proven."
BARBARA ROMANOWSKI, clinical professor of medicine, University of Alberta
"If someone has a chronic condition, I always prescribe constitutional homeopathy on the first visit, and then we can see what's left after that. The remedy stimulates the body to heal itself. I treat one person with herpes differently from another. There are topical homeopathic remedies you can take in a single dose when an outbreak occurs. The thing about combinations available on the market is that they can be hit-or-miss, but it's all better than drugs."
ZORANA ROSE, naturopath, Toronto
"Herpes is associated with blood impurities and liver dysfunction. Two herbs for blood purification and correcting liver function are khadir and neem. We make a decoction of one glass of water with half a teaspoon of khadir, half a teaspoon neem and half a teaspoon manjistha. Boil it 15 to 20 minutes until it is reduced by half. Take it first thing in the morning on an empty stomach. It can be used as a preventative or when one is having an outbreak."
SONAL BHATT, Ayurvedic practitioner, Toronto