Genital herpes are blisters which can burst into small ulcers. They occur on a man’s penis, scrotum and groin and in a woman’s vagina, vulva and cervix. They can also spread to the buttocks and thighs.

See also ChickenpoxCold Sores and Shingles.

Genital herpes, or Herpes Simplex Virus 2 (HSV2), is one of a group of related viruses which includes cold sores, shingles and chickenpox. Once you have any one of these you have it for life, as the virus takes up residence at the base of nerves. For most people, the first episode is the worst and may be the only outbreak; however, genital herpes is likely to recur in about 40 per cent of cases. Anything which depletes the immune or nervous systems may trigger an outburst of herpes. The times to watch are when you are physically or emotionally vulnerable or run down… for instance, before the menstrual period. Some people become quite depressed by genital herpes… it can affect the way they feel about everything.

Why Me?

Upon being diagnosed with genital herpes, many people feel that they have just been made a card-carrying leper. However, this condition affects over one-quarter of the adult population in Australia. It is common because it is so easily spread, usually by sexual contact, but sometimes via saliva and skin.

What To Do


  • The herpes virus thrives on one particular amino acid, arginine, and has a strong dislike for another, lysine, which inhibits its replication. At the time of an attack it is wise to reduce foods high in arginine including chocolate, peanuts, soya beans and other legumes, nuts, seeds, carob and coconut. Foods with a good lysine: arginine ratio include eggs, fish, chicken, milk, cheese, brewer’s yeast and most fruits and vegetables.
  • Avoid coffee, alcohol and sugar.

Herbs and Supplements

  • St John’s wort is a specific for herpes as it is antiviral and restorative for the nervous system. If you are prone to herpes attacks, take a preventative course of St John’s wort two or three times a year.
  • At the first sign of an attack take a lysine tablet (500 mg-1 g) three times a day between meals. You could also take lysine at a lower dose (500 mg daily) as a preventative, particularly when you are run down or feel vulnerable to an episode of herpes.
  • Take up to 5 g vitamin C daily.
  • Zinc is important; take 22 mg twice daily.
  • Take echinacea to boost the immune system.
  • Take a vitamin B complex daily for the nerves as a preventative measure as well as treatment.
  • Dab a small amount of zinc sulphate solution on facial or genital herpes.
  • Aloe vera gel helps to heal and dry blisters.
  • To help blisters dry, wash with a dilute mixture of apple cider vinegar and water; about one teaspoon of vinegar per cup of water.
  • After the blisters have dried, apply some vitamin E straight from a capsule, to aid healing and prevent scarring.
  • One of the best and least expensive remedies is a used Earl Grey tea bag. Apply the cool tea bag to the blisters for ten minutes two to three times daily.
  • For local relief apply a little cold acidophilus yoghurt to the area, and take an acidophilus supplement for a couple of weeks.
  • Licorice root extract is particularly good applied straight onto the blister.

Other Steps

  • Ice is nice. From the moment you notice any warning tingle or pain, place ice wrapped in a teatowel or even a bag of frozen peas on the area affected. If you are lucky, this could stop an attack in its tracks.
  • If the blisters occur around the genitals, urination can be painful. Spray the area with cold water from a spray bottle when you are urinating, or urinate in the shower or bath.
  • Relaxation is an important part of treating herpes. Keeping the nervous system calm is vital to prevent flareups. Yoga, tai chi, meditation, whatever suits you.
  • Do not have unprotected sex during a herpes outbreak.
  • Although genitial herpes is not a life-threatening condition, for women particularly it poses a couple of risks. All women who contract it should have a cervical smear at least annually, as HSV2 slightly increases their risk of cervical cancer. If a baby comes into contact with herpes sores during birth, this may cause some problems. Advise your obstetrician or midwife if you have genital herpes, particularly during the latter stages of pregnancy. Since most women take very good physical and emotional care of themselves during pregnancy, an outbreak of herpes is even less likely to occur.

At a glance

Good food
Lysine foods.
Food to avoid
Arginine foods, coffee, alcohol, sugar.
Remedies to begin
Ice pack, Earl Grey tea bag, lysine, St John’s wort, echinacea, vitamin C, B complex.
May be a reflection of feelings of guilt or shame. ‘Keep Out’ or ‘Stay Away’ signs.