CASE: GENITAL HERPES
Lara faced her first episode of genital herpes two years ago
Let me briefly describe the case. Lara is a 28 year-old woman who faced her first symptomatic episode of a genital herpes infection two years ago. The first episode was followed by another one approximately five months ago. Both episodes were successfully treated with antiviral drugs. Lara knows that the dormant virus is still in her body and she reached out to me because she hoped that I could give her some advice on how to prevent further activations of the sleeping virus.
Lara filled out the questionnaire, which helped me understand her condition from the point of view of both western and traditional medicine. I learned that Lara is a healthy young woman who cares a lot about her physical and mental well-being, who has no major unhealthy habits, who eats healthy and is physically very active. According to The five element theory, some of her elements were out of balance.
Looking from the western point of view, genital herpes is a common sexually transmitted disease. After the first symptomatic breakout (general disease symptoms accompanied by painful genital blisters), which can be successfully treated with antiviral drugs, the virus stays in the body in a dormant state and can get reactivated anytime the immune system weakens, causing the symptoms to re-emerge. Western medicine is usually very successful in treating the breakouts of the disease with antiviral drugs. In more severe cases, when the breakouts happen often and in severe forms, patients sometimes take antiviral drugs regularly to prevent the breakouts.
To prevent the breakouts of the disease, it is crucial to maintain a strong immune system
To prevent the breakouts of the disease, it is crucial to maintain a strong immune system which will prevent the multiplication of the virus. I recommend taking vitamin C, zinc and vitamin D as food supplements. I also recommend another potent antioxidant like quercetin or NAC. One of the most potent natural antioxidants is melatonin, which is formed in the body during night. For this reason and for many other reasons, good sleep is very important for a strong immune system.
Stress and the immune system go hand in hand. Any stressful event will cause weakening of the immune system. Because I learned that Lara already has a lot of knowledge regarding stress management techniques (she is in this field professionally), I rather recommended an adaptogenic plant at this point. Adaptogens are plants that have the ability to protect the body against the negative effects of stress by chemically altering the stress response. In Lara’s case I chose siberian ginseng, because a study has proven that its regular intake reduces the frequency, severity and duration of the breakouts of genital herpes.
Suppressed emotions can cause stagnation of energy and generation of heat
Looking from the TCM point of view, herpes represents accumulated heat in the liver meridian. The emotion associated with the liver is anger. Suppressed emotions can cause stagnation of energy and generation of heat. This can translate as suppressed anger. Lara stated that she often doesn’t express her emotions and rather keeps them to herself, dealing with them alone. It could be that Lara is currently suppressing anger OR this could be about an unprocessed anger/holding grudges about something from the past. I recommend learning how to express emotions and/or learning to process old emotions that are stuck in her body. It is very important to learn how to forgive, because forgiveness frees us from anger and other stuck emotions.
food is the greatest medicine
In TCM, food is the greatest medicine. In the case of herpes infection, TCM recommends the patients to avoid fried foods, eggs, dairy products, honey, cold drinks, chocolate, sweets and raw food. It is also recommended to avoid the consumption of pepper, cinnamon, ginger and cloves. I suggest that Lara eliminates individual foods from the list (not necessarily all at once) and observes how her body reacts to it.
Acupuncture is also very successful in managing genital herpes infection. A study showed that acupuncture in combination with ear acupuncture gave great results in patients in which antiviral drugs have lost their efficiency because of too frequent use (these patients had very frequent and severe breakouts). It is also important to state that antiviral drugs have many important side effects, which is not the case in acupuncture. I recommend acupuncture to Lara if the outbreaks of herpes become more frequent or – alternatively – as a means of prevention. Acupuncture is a great way to support the immune system.
According to The five element theory, Lara has an excess of metal and lack of fire in the body. These two elements are connected in the controlling cycle, namely fire controls metal. This means that nourishing the fire will weaken the metal. Lara can nourish her fire if she takes life less seriously and enjoys more. I suggest she tries to be more spontaneous, to sing and dance more, to enjoy the company of people, to live in the moment and to care less about the future, to not be so demanding towards herself and to allow herself to make mistakes.