Genital herpes is a common sexually transmitted infection caused by the Herpes Simplex Virus (HSV). The primary cause of genital ulcer disease worldwide is Herpes Simplex Virus type 2 (HSV-2).

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), approximately 60% of worldwide HSV infections are among women. It affects women in their reproductive age.

How does this Virus Spread?

HSV-1 and HSV-2 are transmitted by direct contact. The virus is passed from the symptomatic individuals with recurrent infections, mainly at the lips or genitals. It is also transmitted from asymptomatic individuals via saliva and genitals.

HSV-1 infections usually affect the body above the waist. Whereas, HSV-2 infections are dominant below the waist.

Once these viruses enter the body, they get incorporated into the cells. They further stay and multiply easily in the nerve cells of the pelvis. They adapt to their environment, which makes the treatment difficult.

HSV-1 and HSV-2 are found in the body fluids of the infected people, which include:

  • Vaginal Secretions
  • Semen
  • Saliva

People with past primary HSV-1 infection probably have a lower risk of acquiring the HSV-2 infection, because of the high antigenic cross-reactivity between HSV-1 and HSV-2.

HSV-2 genital infections may further increase the risk of acquiring HIV infection. The primary infections enter through the lesions of mucous membranes and skin and begin to replicate.

Symptoms of Genital Herpes in Women

Not every woman has signs of genital herpes infection. In the inactive state, the virus can stay in the nerve cells without producing any symptom. The signs and symptoms start appearing when the virus becomes active. The first attack of genital herpes causes the following symptoms.

  • Fever.
  • Headache.
  • Malaise.
  • Myalgia.
  • Itching or burning feeling around the vaginal area.
  • Tender lymphadenopathy.
  • Dysuria.
  • Abnormal vaginal discharge.
  • Herpetic vesicles appear around the vaginal area.
  • The rupture of vesicles causes tender ulcers.
  • Inflammation of vaginal mucosa.
  • Swollen vaginal mucosa
  • Inflammation of the cervix
  • Pain in legs and buttocks.

In recurrent infections, the signs and symptoms are milder than the first attack of herpes virus. However, women with a weak immunity may have severe and long-lasting outbreaks.

How to Avoid Genital Herpes

The most common cause of genital herpes is sexual contact with a person suffering from a herpes infection. Here are some tips that can help you to avoid Genital Herpes infection:

  1. Avoid sexual contact with a person having herpes sores. Check genitals for any sore or ulcer before having sex.
  2. Use male or female type condoms before and during sex.
  3. Avoid oral sex or use condoms while having or doing oral sex.
  4. Limits the number of sexual partners.

The correct use of condoms can help to prevent genital herpes. Other birth-control methods do not help you to protect against the infection. Therefore, it is wise to use condoms especially when you are having sex with a person other than your regular sex partner.

Herbal Remedies for Genital Herpes

Nature has gifted mankind an array of herbs and plants that possess therapeutic properties. These herbs contain active compounds that possess anti-viral activity. Here are some herbs and plants that help in the management of genital herpes:

Rhubarb

Rhubarb

Rhubarb

Rhubarb is one of the oldest and best-known traditional Chinese medicines. Emodin, an active compound present in Chinese rhubarb possesses anti-HSV activity. It inhibits the penetration of HSV-1 as well as HSV-2 into the cells.

An animal study found that treatment with emodin prolonged the survival time and helped in the elimination of the virus.

Research has also observed that Chinese rhubarb is as effective as acyclovir, an anti-viral medication, against HSV. This herb also contains tannins that block the attachment and penetration of HSV-2 into the cells.

Chinaberry

Chinaberry

Chinaberry

The root, bark and fruits of this traditional Chinese remedy are effective against infectious diseases. Liminoid, a compound present in Chinaberry leaves has the ability to inhibit HSV. A protein called ‘meliacine’ has shown to interfere with HSV DNA synthesis and maturation.

Besides inhibiting the replication of this virus, chinaberry also acts as an immunomodulator. It enhances the activity of immune cells, which in turn protect against viruses and infection.

Chinaberry inhibits the attachment of HSV-2 to the cells, reduces the migration of this virus to the vaginal fluids and thus, prevents genital herpes.

Tea Tree Oil

Tea Tree Oil

Tea Tree Oil

Tea tree oil possesses anti-viral activity against HSV-1 and HSV-2. Terpinen-4-ol, a compound present in tea tree prevents herpes by blocking the adsorption of HSV.

Treatment of genital herpes with tea tree oil helps in reducing the virus population. It further interferes with the virus replicative cycle and reduces the multiplication and spread of HSV-2.

Turmeric

Turmeric

Turmeric

The natural compound responsible for the anti-herpetic activity of turmeric is ‘curcumin’. Curcumin possesses anti-viral and anti-inflammatory properties. This compound reduces the activation and replication of HSV-2 in the body and lowers the state of infection.

Being an anti-inflammatory agent, curcumin inhibits the induction of pro-inflammatory compounds. Inflammation of the affected nerves further leads to the worsening of genital herpes. Thus, by reducing inflammation, curcumin helps in the management of this condition.

It suppresses the replication of the infected cells and it may provide a means of controlling genital herpes.

Basil

Basil Leaves and its Tea

Basil Leaves and its Tea

Health-promoting compounds present in basil interfere at different steps of the viral multiplication cycle. It inhibits the activity of HSV-1 and HSV-2 and helps in the management of genital herpes.

Genital herpes can occur again due to poor immunity and increased stress. Basil keeps the mind calm and reduces stress. This may be effective in preventing against genital herpes recurrence.

Women with genital herpes should immediately seek medical attention. Along with medicines, these women must pay special attention towards their diet. Make sure you receive all the important nutrients in the right quantity. Treatment with natural herbs is safe and effective, however, one should consult their doctor before starting with these herbs or any vitamin or mineral supplement.

Manjistha (Rubia Cordifolia)

Manjistha is an ayurvedic herb used for its anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, antiviral and antiherpetic properties. It is also effective in genital herpes along with other herbs. The mechanism of its action attributed to its antiviral action and cleansing effects. It inhibits the activity of the herpes simplex virus, which helps to reduce the symptoms of genital herpes.

References

  1. Andreas Sauerbrei, Optimal management of genital herpes: current perspectives, Infection and Drug Resistance, Volume 9, 2016 (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4912341/)
  2. Purnima Madhivanan, Anjali Arun, Incidence of herpes simplex virus type 2 in young reproductive age women in Mysore, India, Indian Journal of Pathology and Microbiology, Volume 54, 2011 (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3625929/)
  3. Xiong HR, Luo J, The effect of emodin, an anthraquinone derivative extracted from the roots of Rheum tanguticum, against herpes simplex virus in vitro and in vivo, Journal of Ethnopharmacology, Volume 133, 2010 (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21050882)
  4. Petreta E, Coto CE, Therapeutic effect of meliacine, an antiviral derived from Melia azedarach L., in mice genital herpetic infection, Phytotherapy Research, Volume 23, 2009 (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19441066)
  5. Laura E. Alche, Milena Meo, An Antiviral Meliacarpin from Leaves of Melia azedarach L (https://www.researchgate.net/publication/10790662)
  6. F. Carson, K. A. Hammer, Melaleuca alternifolia (Tea Tree) Oil: a Review of Antimicrobial and Other Medicinal Properties, Clinical Microbiology Reviews, Volume 19, 2006 (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1360273/)
  7. Victor H Ferraria, Aisha Nazli, The Anti-Inflammatory Activity of Curcumin Protects the Genital Mucosal Epithelial Barrier from Disruption and Blocks Replication of HIV-1 and HSV-2, PLoS One, Volume 10, 2015 (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4391950/)