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Herpes, also called visarpa or parisarpa in Ayurveda, is a condition caused by the nita group of viruses, which includes herpes zoster virus, herpes simplex virus-1 and herpes simplex virus-2. Herpes zoster virus causes shingles, which is characterised by rapidly spreading inflammation, pricking pain, deep pink-coloured patches with itching, waxiness of the skin, erection of hair on the skin, lack of energy and weakness. Although herpes lesions appear to be simple, the pain and burning sensation are agonising. It is an acute condition which needs immediate treatment.

Herpes simplex is another type of herpes infection. It is caused due to herpes simplex virus (HSV). HSV-1 mainly affects the oral cavity but it may also cause genital infections. Oral herpes spreads through direct contact with infected secretions such as by sharing toothbrush and kissing. HSV-2 is the causative organism for genital herpes, a sexually transmitted disease. 

Ayurvedic texts mention various treatments, herbs and medicines for the management of visarpa based on the predominance of the vitiated doshas. After a detailed observation of the clinical condition, an Ayurvedic physician may prescribe treatment procedures like langhana (fasting), virechana (purgation), raktamokshana (bloodletting) and lepa (coating the affected body part with medications) to treat visarpa.

Herbs and medicines used for the treatment of visarpa are yashtimadhu (mulethi), arjuna, ghrita (clarified butter), haritaki (chebulic myrobalan), amrutadi kwatha and panchatikta ghrita guggulu.

  1. Ayurvedic view of herpes
  2. Ayurvedic treatment for herpes
  3. Ayurvedic herbs and medicines for herpes
  4. Dietary and lifestyle changes for herpes patient as per ayurveda
  5. How effective are ayurvedic medicines and treatments for herpes
  6. Side effects and risks of ayurvedic medicine and treatments for herpes
  7. Takeaway
Doctors for Ayurvedic medicine, treatment and remedies for Herpes

Seven dhatus and tridoshas (three doshas) are involved in the pathogenesis of herpes. On the basis of the vitiated doshas, visarpa can be classified as:

  • Vataja: It is caused by vitiated vata and characterised by giddiness, burning sensation in the eyes, thirst, tremors, fever, pricking pain, malaise, cramps, cough, pain, loss of appetite, indigestion, cloudiness of the eyes and lacrimation (tears).
  • Pittaja: Caused due to vitiated pitta and characterised by fever and rapidly spreading deep red lesions.
  • Kaphaja: It is caused by vitiated kapha and leads to symptoms such as fever, stiffness, numbness and heaviness in the body.
  • Tridoshaja: This type of herpes is caused by vitiation of all three doshas. It spreads very fast and cannot be cured. However, it can be effectively managed using appropriate therapeutic measures.
  • Agni visarpa: Agni visarpa is caused by the simultaneous aggravation of vata and pitta, and leads to fever, dizziness, vomiting, excessive thirst, diminished digestive ability and loss of appetite.
  • Kardama visarpa: Kardama visarpa spreads slowly and gets localised in the stomach causing  red-, yellow- or pale yellow–coloured eruptions in the affected areas.
  • Granthi visarpa: It is caused by vitiation of vata and kapha and leads to glandular enlargements which is associated with suppuration. This condition is difficult to cure.
  • Langhana
    • Langhana is the ayurvedic procedure of fasting, which can be performed in any one of the two ways:
      • Complete abstinence from food
      • Eating less or light food with deepana (appetising) medicines.
    • Appropriate langhana method is decided based on the prakriti (constitution) of the individual. Fasting is continued until the individual begins to feel hungry. The fast is then broken with light and easily digestible food and water boiled with ginger or long pepper.
    • This procedure brings about the digestion of ama (toxins) and vitiated doshas which are the root cause of most diseases; thus, langhana treats the causes as well as the associated symptoms of herpes such as fever. It also aims at bringing lightness to the body. Langhana also stimulates immunity.
  • Virechana
    • Virechana involves the use of various herbs and their combinations to induce purgation. The commonly used herbs for virechana are senna, aloe and rhubarb.
    • In individuals with visarpa, virechana acts on the vitiated pitta and improves the quality of rakta. It also acts on vata and kapha and removes ama from the body.
    • Aragwadhadi kashaya is used to induce purgation in case of visarpa.
  • Raktamokshana
    • Raktamokshana involves the removal of toxic blood from the body, which makes it an effective therapy when the predominant cause of visarpa is the vitiation of rakta.
    • Skin diseases such as herpes are mainly caused due to vitiation of the pitta dosha. Raktamokshana helps in removal of the aggravated pitta and balances the imbalanced doshas in the body; thereby, helping in the treatment of visarpa and other skin diseases.
  • Lepa
    • This method involves topical application of herbs and their combinations made into a semisolid formulation. Herbs for preparing lepa are chosen based on the predominant dosha constitution of the individual and the doshas involved in the disease. The paste is then applied to the affected area against the direction of hair.
    • Ayurveda describes numerous lepas for the management of visarpa such as dashanga, mahatikta ghrita, shatadhauta ghrita, a combination of wild cherry, red sandalwood, khus (vetiver), manjishtha (Indian madder) and blue lotus petal in water; gairaka (ochre) lepa in ghrita; and combination of the roots of kushtha (costus) and vansa (bamboo), fruits of shatapushpa (dill) and sahachara (porcupine flower).

Ayurvedic herbs for herpes

  • Yashtimadhu:
    • Yashtimadhu has immune-boosting and antioxidant properties.
    • Glycyrrhizin is a chemical constituent present in this herb, which is scientifically proven to act against DNA and RNA viruses including HZV, HSV-1 and HSV-2.
    • Yashtimadhu may cause some side effects like sodium and water retention when taken as the only therapy for 6 weeks or more. However, these side effects can be avoided by taking it with milk.
  • Arjuna
    • Arjuna acts on the digestive, reproductive and circulatory systems and has rejuvenating, astringent (constricts tissues), haemostatic and cardiac-stimulant properties. When taken internally, it is one of the best herbs for alleviating heart problems.
    • Casuarinin is the tannin constituent present in arjuna, which is proven to have antiviral activity against herpes. Arjuna is used externally for the management of acne and various skin disorders including HSV-2.
    • It can be taken in the form of a powder or decoction.
  • Ghrita
    • Ghrita has emollient soothes skin), rejuvenating, antacid and nutritive properties. It balances the digestive fire and is considered to be the best pitta pacifier. Ghrita is also used in the management of vata diseases.
    • Ghrita is helpful in improving digestion, intelligence, memory, and is used as a base in the preparation of various lepas.
    • It can be used safely in individuals of all age groups and is effective in treating herpes zoster, insanity and fevers.
  • Haritaki
    • Haritaki acts on digestive, respiratory, nervous, excretory and female reproductive systems. It has rejuvenating, astringent, expectorant (expels phlegm), antibacterial, anthelmintic and cardiotonic properties.
    • Haritaki contains an array of antioxidants which increase the lifespan of body tissues. This herb is strongly active against HSV as well as human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).
    • It can be used in the form of a powder, paste, decoction and gargle.

Ayurvedic medicines for herpes

  • Amrutadi kwatha
    • The primary ingredient of this formulation is amruta (guduchi or heart-leaved moonseed). Amruta helps treat agnimandya (weakened digestive fire). It increases the flow of digestive fire, which improves digestion and increases hunger. Some of the other ingredients of this formulation are maricha (black pepper), pippali (long pepper), shunthi (dried ginger), nagakesara (Indian rose chestnut), nagarmotha (nutgrass), and katuki (kutki).
    • Amrutadi kwatha is useful in treating various vata diseases like chronic rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis. It is also helpful in the treatment of multiple skin diseases like herpes zoster.
  • Panchatikta ghrita guggulu
    • This formulation is prepared from neem bark, guduchi, vasa (Malabar nut), ghrita, Indian nightshade, pippali, shunthi, haridra, kushtha, maricha, manjishtha, cumin, and several other ingredients.
    • It purifies blood and reduces inflammation of the skin thus being useful in treating acute and chronic skin disorders like visarpa. It is also effective in the management of fever which is one of the common symptoms of visarpa.

As treatments vary according to numerous factors and an individual’s prakriti (constitution), consult a qualified Ayurvedic doctor for the appropriate medications and treatments for your specific complaints.

Do’s

  • Include barley, wheat, lentil, gram and coarse grains in your diet.
  • Eat fruits and vegetables such as bitter gourd, raisin, grapefruit and pomegranate.
  • Maintain a good posture.
  • Consume butter, milk, ghrita and meat soup.

Don’ts

  • Do not consume pitta-aggravating foods and amalaki (Indian gooseberry).
  • Do not eat kulattha (horsegram), tila (sesame) and rasonam (garlic).
  • Do not suppress natural urges such as hunger, thirst, and evacuating the bowel or bladder.
  • Avoid sexual intercourse.
  • Avoid negative emotions like anger and grief.
  • Avoid exercise, walking and exposure to the sun.
  • Avoid sleeping during the daytime.

A clinical study was conducted to assess the efficacy of virechana karma with the administration of two different formulations in 30 individuals with visarpa. The participants were divided into two groups. Purgation was induced in group A with trayamana kashaya and in group B with aragwadhadi kashaya. Both trayamana kashaya and aragwadhadi kashaya purify the rakta dhatu and balance the doshas by inducing purgation; however, aragwadhadi kashaya was found to be more effective than trayamana kashaya in the treatment of visarpa.

Another clinical study, involving 101 participants with HSV, reported the effectiveness of an ayurvedic formulation consisting of various herbs. Of the 101 participants, 78 were affected by genital HSV, nine were affected by oral HSV and 13 were affected on both sites by HSV. The formulation consisted of basant (Mysore hypericum), ashwagandha (Indian ginseng) roots, bhumiamalaki (stonebreaker), chirabilva (Indian elm), khadira (black catechu), khus grass, lavanga (clove), haritaki, neem, yashtimadhu, neerbrahmi (waterhyssop) and kalamegha (green chirayta). About 76% of the participants experienced relief from various symptoms by regular consumption of this formulation, indicating the effectiveness of these herbs in the management of both oral and genital herpes.

Although Ayurvedic herbs, medicines and procedures are popular as holistic therapies, based on factors such as the constitution of the individual and the affected dosha, they may have some side effects, for which precautionary measures should be taken. Following precautions should be taken in case of visarpa:

  • Raktamokshana procedure is not advisable in babies, pregnant and menstruating women, individuals with anaemia, leukaemia, bleeding, oedema or cirrhosis
  • Caution should be taken while using haritaki in individuals with severe exhaustion, dehydration. Haritaki is contraindicated in pregnant women. 
  • Amalaki may cause diarrhoea in individuals with pitta constitution.

Visarpa is an inflammatory condition caused due to herpes virus infection. Severity of the condition depends on the virus involved and the predominant dosha and dhatu. Ayurvedic therapies such as lepa, virechana and raktamokshana along with various herbs and medicines can help in the elimination of ama and balancing of the vitiated doshas, thereby, relieving symptoms and improving the quality of life.

Dr Sanjay K Tiwari

Dr Sanjay K Tiwari

Ayurveda
3 Years of Experience

Dr. Yogesh Kumar

Dr. Yogesh Kumar

Ayurveda
12 Years of Experience

Dr. Priyanka Jha

Dr. Priyanka Jha

Ayurveda
2 Years of Experience

Dr. Anadi Mishra

Dr. Anadi Mishra

Ayurveda
14 Years of Experience

References

  1. Dr. Kiran Khot, Dr. Jinesh Kumar Jain. Management Of Herpes Zoster (Visarpa) Through Ayurveda. European Journal Of Pharmaceutical And Medical Research. 2016,3(11), 263-268.
  2. National Institute of Indian Medical Heritage (NIIMH). Visarpa. Central Council for Research in Ayurvedic Sciences (CCRAS); Ministry of AYUSH, Government of India.
  3. World Health Organization, Department of Reproductive Health and Research. Herpes simplex virus. Fifth edition; World Health Organization; 2010.
  4. Bhushan Patwardhan. Bridging Ayurveda with evidence-based scientific approaches in medicine. EPMA J. 2014; 5(1): 19, PMID: 25395997.
  5. Chun-Ching Lin. Antiherpes simplex virus type 2 activity of casuarinin from the bark of Terminalia arjuna Linn. Kaohsiung Medical University, 55(3):447-55 · October 2002.
  6. Vaidya Bhagwan Dash. Handbook of Ayurveda .Concept Publishing Company (1987) : Delhi, India.
  7. Dr.Ravindra B Ghaywate. Review of Virechan Karma And It’s Mode of Action. Aayushi International Interdisciplinary Research Journal , Vol - VI Issue - I, 2019.
  8. The Indian Medical Practitioners' Co- operative Pharmacy and stores Ltd. Vaidya Yoga Ratnavali . Adyar, Madras-20.
  9. Vijaykumar Kamat, Ritu Sandhu. Patient Reported Outcomes And Patient Satisfaction With Hyperisince® (An Ayurvedic Medicine/Poly-Herbal Combination) In Herpes Simplex. International Journal of Research IN, 8 (3), 2017.

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