Listerine bottle

Shingles is a common affliction that happens to middle-age or older people who had chickenpox as children. The rash, which can be excruciating, is often one-sided because it follows the route of the nerves under the skin. While there are medications that can help, they work best on shingles pain if used early in the episode. That means getting to a health care provider who can make the diagnosis about as soon as the discomfort begins, even before a rash appears.

Listerine to Ease Shingles Pain:

Q. I have an unemployed friend who has no health insurance. He had an outbreak of shingles on the right side of his face that made his ear and jaw ache. The shingles was developing into a raw area.

I read your newsletter and website. In researching shingles I came across a one-paragraph mention of using Listerine on shingles. We thought this sounded logical and he tried it.

After only 72 hours of applying the Listerine three times daily, the results are pretty remarkable. The sores have dried up and are scabbing over, his pain is almost gone and he is healing nicely. This really worked in his case.

Treating a Shingles Rash with Listerine:

A. It is possible that your friend’s improvement with Listerine was a coincidence and that the outbreak would have healed without treatment. We have heard from several people, however, that old-fashioned Listerine can ease shingles pain. We’re happy that it seemed to help your friend.

We suspect that the benefits may be due in part to the activity of menthol, thymol and eucalyptol on transient receptor potential (TRP) channels in nerves (Caceres et al, British Journal of Pharmacology, May 2017).  Menthol, thymol and similar compounds that activate TRP channels seem to have local anesthetic effects (Kawasaki et al, Life Sciences, March 14, 2013). Methyl salicylate (oil of wintergreen), another component of Listerine, also has significant anti-inflammatory effects (Li et al, Molecules, Nov. 23, 2016).

Other Helpful Remedies:

The CDC has suggested that colloidal oatmeal baths or soaks (Aveeno, for example) can help subdue the itching that may accompany shingles pain. Cool compresses soaked in a mixture of white vinegar with water may also be soothing.

Antiviral Medication:

Early use of an antiviral medicine such as acyclovir (Zovirax), famciclovir (Famvir) or valacyclovir (Valtrex) is the best treatment for shingles. When it comes to shingles pain, it’s best to see a doctor early enough to get a prescription, even though this might be a challenge without insurance.

Some people who have had repeated attacks of shingles have found that taking the amino acid supplement L-lysine at the first hint of an outbreak can help ward it off.

Revised 9/21/2017

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  1. Marilynn
    SW surban Chicago, IL

    I get rid of shingles outbreaks by rubbing the blisters with a cotton ball with alcohol. It does not hurt when rubbing, does burn for a second or two when stopping, but the spot heals over and the itching disappears immediately.

    I have been doing this for several years, as the vaccine did not help. I take acyclovir as soon as the indication (headache and pinprick pain along nerves) tell me shingles is coming. And the alcohol on the blisters as soon as they appear gets rid of the rest.

  2. P Long
    N. C.

    I developed shingles 7 weeks ago. Took Valtrex for 6 weeks Gabapentin Hydrocodone and last Nortriptyline, which has made me so nervous I cannot write. Have pain on my back and right hip. Cannot wear clothes. Is there other medicine I could try?? Am allergic to Hydrocortisone. N C Long

    • mary

      I had shingles, I used colloidal silver on the face,immediately received relief but I took colloidal silver for 6 months internally.

      But one never really rids oneself from it. To me when a bump occurs near my face my body is telling me my system is down so I fix it up and it goes away.

      Bye the bye I got shingles from my chiropractor. He cracked under my jaw 3 times, I was so sick he said “I am afraid I have let loose a virus in your system, Get to the hospital right now”.

      I did and it was shingles.

  3. Paula P
    St Albans WV

    I need help
    2006 shingles severe in hairline face eye ear
    My side effect is pain in hair follicles I can’t touch head, can’t sleep
    Headache behind eye
    Neurontin does not help

  4. Tarakkad
    Mumbai, India

    I am 74yrs old living in Thane, Maharashtra. I had Herpes Zoster 5 years before during a family visit to Phoenix, Arizona, USA. As one who has undergone the same in 2011, I would like to share my ordeals on the disease, for your information, consultations, and for any patients. (I had an attack of chicken pox in 1974 and it was very severe.)

    The area was starting from front center line to back center line, 75 mm above belly button, on the left side of the trunk, half way around, for a width of 100 mm . Doctor prescribed Acycyclovir and on same day and continued the medicine for one week. The pains during the time was beyond description, with severe itching, burning, scratching, pin pricks, pulling of skin, hair rising up, crawling of an insect, etc. Sleep came in bits and pieces only. The rashes were varying from a few mm to 15 mm in size. The scabs fell off after one month.

    Then started the Post Herpetic Nueralgia. Even a light vest I am not able to wear, since the skin of the area has become very sensitive. I am not able to withstand the breeze of a ceiling fan due to the sensitivity of skin. The cool air from an air conditioner gives a burning sensation in that area. Initially during walking (bare bodied), the muscles in the area were paining. Only I could just drag my feet. One day I just experimented with a 6″ wide strip of cloth tied tightly over the area. That gave me a very good relief while walking & sensitivity of the area for loose clothes reduced considerably. But expansion of the lungs to full capacity was the price to be paid for. But I could walk more comfortably. Then I changed the cloth to a 6″ wide crepe’ bandage, wound tightly over the area, to the tightness as for a blood pressure cuff, before inflation.

    During road travels, any bumps from the road due to potholes or speed breakers, gave real punches on the area, with severe pain. After a road journey of say,1hour, the sensitivity & pain in the muscles increases, but subsides after 2 hours. During take-off or landing of an airplane, the speedy ride over the expansion joints of the runway, gives severe punches. I am now tying a 6″ wide female rib belt also very tightly over the clothes, to the tightness of a blood pressure cuff, after inflation. That gives me fairly good relief during road travels and air travels. During take-off & landing periods of airplane, I also hold my breath very tight,with lungs full, for further relief.

    I have tried Homeopathy as well as Allopathy( Lyrica) for six months each, but no avail.
    At home I remain bare-chested, to avoid the skin sensitivity to clothes & the consequent irritations.
    I have now abandoned all medications, & leading my life happily, forgetting all these discomforts, & engaging in my favourite activities of listening to music and reading. I have never allowed dejection to take over.
    My family and friends call me “Half-Naked Fakir”, but I live my life “HAPPY GO LUCKY”.
    You may please use this write-up in your medical circles, as well as giving confidence to any patients.

  5. Diana

    I am a caregiver for a 71 year old man that got the shingles “40” years ago and still suffers with this horrible pain. He is in the bed about 20 hours a day and it’s been that way for the past 40 years. When he first got the shingles, the pain was so bad that he allowed his doctor to cut the nerves at T11 and T12 hoping this would help. He had a 50/50 chance that it would work. It didn’t! It has left him with chronic pain for the past 40 years. I am taking him to a pain management clinic the end of this month. I pray they can give him some relief. So far, the only relief he gets is from a deep massage and it only lasts about a day.

    • Tarakkad
      Mumbai, India

      Hi Diana,
      I pray for the quick relief for the senior citizen, to whom you give kindly care.
      Is the herpes area on the trunk? In my case, also the nuerophycisian & nuerosurgeon gave me the advise of cutting the concerned nerves. But my sixth sense prevented me from going for that.

    • P. Stevens
      God's county, CA.

      I have had excellent results with the vitamin Lysine. Three days after the shingles broke out, I took 500 mg 4 times a day of Lysine and my shingle episode was gone, as in cleared up, in 4 more days. I don’t have health insurance and am quite relieved I was able to address this problem “over the counter.”

      What does a person, who cannot get any relief including surgery, have to lose by taking a vitamin?

      Last, I have People’s Pharmacy to thank for the links which lead to the amino Lysine and my full, and hopefully permanent recovery.

  6. DCwriter

    What are your thoughts about the Shingles vaccine? Are there any adverse reactions to it? I’m thinking of getting it, but I always worry about side effects. Though I hope they wouldn’t be anywhere near as bad as a full blown shingles attack.

    • Martha

      After suffering from nerve ending pain for six months after having Shingles my dermatologist suggested using Capasin HP. It is usually applied for arthritis pain relief. It stopped the pain in a few days although I was advised to use it for no more than two weeks. The pain has never come back.

    • Ann
      Alberta, Aanada

      My mom is nearly 80, and she broke out with the shingles almost 2 years ago
      While she had been on a high dose of prednisone from her dr for another reason, she got the flu shot. The next day she broke out with shingles, although she didn’t know what the little blisters were at the time. A few days passed before seeing the DR. By then they were full blown, too late for that medication they can give a person. My mom has suffered this nerve pain now for 2 years, trying meds after meds and going to emergency because she can’t stand the pain anymore. Tylenol 3, Tramadol, you name it, nothing has worked for her. She has no quality of life anymore. She was very active before the shingles. Seems that no doctor can give her anything that will take the pain away completely, maybe other than hook her up to morphine maybe. Why do people have to suffer so much from this nerve pain from the shingles? I am going to get the shingles vaccination soon. I don’t want to get the shingles. So when I read all these stories I feel for every one of you all.

  7. Larry
    Sarasota, FL.

    In 1980 I got shingles from my right hip to my knee. An old time doctor told me to rub Listerine (the gold one) on it several times a day. The pain and rash disappeared in about a week. I’ve had no problem since then.


  8. Susan Heil

    Why don’t more people use home remedies? A lot of them seem to work just fine and no worries about the side effects of meds doctors prescribe. Vinegar is one of the ones we use for heartburn and other tummy issues and coconut is also good for tummy issues. A friend of mine has a lot of stomach issues and I told him about eating coconut flakes and he says he feels so much better and also my granddaughter swears by it. People, please try home remedies.

  9. Joy

    Apple cider vinegar applied full strength to my lesions has made that part of the illness negligible. Stopped any discomfort and dried them up fast. I did this three times a day. However, I had severe pain in right hip and leg before the rash appeared. I thought it was sciatica until I saw the rash. The nerve pain has kept me suffering for over two weeks now, and, though I am trying every natural remedy like the olive leaf, lysine, and lecithin, plus homeopathics, high lysine and low arganine diet, nothing eases it enough for me to get good rest at night so I can get well.

  10. B K

    Have you tried Hydrogen Peroxide ? Oxygen does great things.

    • Martha

      After suffering pain from damaged nerve endings for months as a result of having shingles a dermatologist suggested I use Capzasin (over the counter) which is used to relieve pain from arthritis. She said to use it for only four weeks, three or four times a day. I stopped having pain after the first week and now after four weeks as suggested by the doctor am completely pain free and stopped using it. Although it has others ingredients the main one is from a pepper plant. If you try this be sure to apply it wearing plastic gloves as when it touches the skin it becomes hot. Be very careful not to touch your eyes even after using the plastic gloves. I suggest you talk to your doctor before starting to use Capzasin.

    • Carole

      I see you are trying mostly natural remedies, so have your vitamin B, D and your magnesium absorbtion levels checked or perhaps try the epsom soaks for magnesium and take B6 and B12. I can’t suggest amounts but perhaps lowest possible. All of these are helpful for those of us with Fibro who have nerve pain and they now are starting to see relief with many of the same drugs used to treat the Herpes Zoster Virus. The probably one day will find that it was some strain or deeper nerve dormant version that would only “flare” but then leave lasting effects each time after the flare. All these you might take already, but incase you don’t they do help strengthen the health of your nervous system. And of couse Zinc for immunity and Meletonin for help with sleep. Hope these help, and will tell my dear Mother about the old fashioned Listerine, she too thought this outbreak was her sciatica :( My prayers for good health and less pain.

    • SJ

      I would try deodorized Garlic and St. John’s Wort, vitamin C and B complex. They worked for my husband and he never had to take any meds. His doctor was amazed.

    • P. Stevens

      2,000 mg. on an empty stomach daily for the Lysine to begin to work.

  11. amy
    west Virginia

    I have shingles and everything that I have tried to ease the pain from them hasn’t helped I have them on my lower back and hip on my right side.does anyone have any ideas to help with the even hurts in wearing clothing on it.

    • joe e.

      Amy , I’ve posted several statements on this site , check them out , I also eat 3 L-Lysine tablets ( they’re big so I cut them into pieces ) Lysine is an Amino Acid supplement , somehow it gives me relief , I take one every 8 hours throughout the day , use a cool water bag too , rest it right where the sores are / were , confuses the nerves ? or nerve fibers ? , I’m no Dr. but I know from EXPERIENCE . Lidoderm Lidocaine patch too 12 hrs. on 12 hrs. off it numbs the affected nerves . Or acyclovir , Famciclovir if you still have sores , after sores heal if still have Pain , Capzacin HP , it stings a lot at first but it’s worth the pain after a couple a days it lessens you’ll handle it .

  12. joe e.

    5 More Days it will be TWO YEARS ! …. But it’s 95% GONE ! ….. Ha Ha Once Again Another Illness Beaten . Although I got an abscessed minor infection from scratching too much . Clydamiacin gave me Bad Diarrhea and switched to Doxycycline … Big Difference ( in cost too ) you get what you pay for , Drug Mnftrs. are shrewd .

  13. Barb

    I have just been diagnosed with shingles a week ago and I cannot believe the pain it causes. I don’t sleep at night because the pain is so severe. for some reason it seems to get much worse . I’m not sure if it’s because I’m distracted in the day. lying down is almost impossible . I have solid rash and blisters on my left side of back , above the waist, wrapping around to the front. I,m on the antiviral pills and cream and hope it will clear up within the next few weeks. I never knew it could last for months and maybe years until I started reading people’s horror stories. I am now really scared. I need to look for ways to build the immune system up so this doesn’t, keep recurring. Any help out there for ideas. I am going to try the listerine and the ice gel pack wrapped in towel. Thanks for the ideas.

  14. KHD

    I had a mild case of shingles. Doctor prescribed a pain killer which I took only one dose. I was taking a sinus/allergy pill at the same time, to relieve my allergy, and came to find out that it relieved my shingles pain very effectively. I had to take it 2-3 times a day, but I had no pain. I recovered completely from the shingles in about 4 weeks. I don’t know if doctors are interested to check it out, but I have to share this valuable piece of information.

  15. Angelica

    Dear all,
    My dad has been with this illness more than 18 months, he has tried everything possible with little results. The last thing we have been told to do, which is helping, is to cook an orange- split it in two, and while it is very hot, rub in the face in circles around the area of pain. Immediately after this, apply a poultice made of smashed mint leaves, better if it is cold and mold, and let it soothe for a while. Hope it helps you.

  16. Deborah Davis
    United States

    Sorry, if you have shingles. There are a lot of things that help temporarily. My favorites is oatmeal you eat, make a paste, let it sit as long as possible and wash in warm water. Aveeno lotion has added much relief for the burn. Benedryl itch gel helps also. Aloe plant will heal skin fast but the nerves, someone needs to help. Oxycodone 5mg you can tolerate it, but 10 mg—no pain at all, if you can get them.

    • Phyllis
      New orleans

      What was the name of the allergy medicene?

  17. joe e.

    This Shingles/Nerve Pain is one thing you don’t stop trying to beat, as I said prior, being my shingles weren’t visible and the 14 Quacks treating me never ever bothered looking at my scalp or eye brow close up, they merely asked about types and frequency of pain, when started etc. etc. I decided they weren’t “treating” the problem but merely educating themselves.
    It is when I came across this site mentioning Listerine and seeing the word GERMS on the Listerine bottle I continued washing my hair and rinsing affected area with a soaked sterile 4X4 gauze. At first it burned somewhat but by then I was use to sporadic severe pain.
    I recall a friend/neighbor who also had shingles told me about Acyclovir, it is expensive but at that point I would’ve paid 5 times anything asked.
    I hadn’t used it until after 14 months after the outbreak, of all med’s used it gave the most relief (not 100%). I will be putting some around eye brow area in another 20 minutes. I still apply a small amount 4 times daily in 4 hour intervals. The directions say do not use for more than 12 days or 2 weeks, but I am not going to agonize in pain.
    The same applies with the Capzasin HP, I apply 4 times daily, minimal amounts. When I first started using the Capzasin HP I had put on too much and it was very very painful, as I said earlier.
    And as numerous sites I’ve come across Capzasin must be applied on some for as long as 2 months and if need be I’ll do it.
    I also got Vaccinated for Shingles approx. 6 weeks ago regardless of having symptoms. The Quacks had me taking Gabapentin 300mg Capsules 3 times a day.
    They may as well give a person heroin in my opinion, Gabapentin made me have severe mood swings along with other side effects, dizzy, drowsy, fatigue.
    I was also on a Statin Drug (simvastatin) stopped it June 26th. And my mind is a lot sharper, less fatigue as well, memory is better.
    Type into your search bar “statin drugs weaken the immune system” along with this search “statin drugs interfering with memory and comprehension”
    Did I ever get an Education.
    So if you get Acyclovir she should get some relief, not right away but with time.
    The Quack didn’t want to re-fill my prescription and told me I “was using too much,” turns out my hair and follicles weren’t enabling me to put it on properly. So don’t throw away the tube, press it flat until you cannot get any more out of it.
    Then carefully cut the very end off the bottom and then near the top, after that cut a very very thin strip off one side so you can then unfold it and get even more from it rather than waste any.
    Time for me to put a bit above the brow/into the brow area, then Capzasin on again for the 4th. Time today even though there is no pain for if I don’t I’ll be awoken at around 3 a.m., find myself going to my refrigerator to get the cold water bag to somewhat numb areas in pain.

    • Joe C.

      My wife has shingles and she can’t get any sleep at night. How can you stop the pain at night so she can rest? Does Listerine really help? Signed, worried about my wife.

    • Judy

      Joe, where are you now with PHN/I? I’m 6 months out, and the itch & pain struggle dominate my life. I take Carbamazepine & Lyrica for the pain (they barely touch the itch) but the trade off in saying goodbye to my sharp brain, job & marriage aren’t worth it – they’re all slipping away, I feel. Your description of the pain, itch and location match mine. Did you shave your head at the site to apply the acyclovir or only trim your hair very closely? I’m only aware of acyclovir as an oral med. Thank you for sharing your experiences, and I’ve been cutting “empty” tubes for decades, and sometimes get 20% more :)

  18. BobK

    Joe e. Good luck. My wife is going on her 5th year of pain and nothing, and I mean nothing we tried has lessened the pain with the exception of drugs which only last for a few hours.
    We haven’t tried the Acyclovir cream but did try the Capazacin with little success. We keep searching for an answer……….Bob

    • joe e.
      new york

      I got relief enabling me to get a nights sleep through the use of a applying a cold water soft covered bag at night. Try to get a ” soft skinned cloth covered ice bag ” I put mine in a plastic bag and then put it into the refrigerator and by bedtime it lessens any ache enabling me to sleep. Make sure the bag is flexible that way it will conform to skulls contour, I found the bag at my grandfathers home meaning it is old but it works the best, this morning after waking with aching pain I applied the Capzasin-HP cream, there was no burn type reaction this time so if more was needed I applied more, it’s working, so don’t give up. Happy Holidays .

  19. joe e.

    Bob , I shaved the hair off the left side of scalp ( shingles area ) upper branch of the T5 Trigeminal Nerve. Of other two 1 travels through the ear canal and lower branch along the jaw .
    I was using the Acyclovir sparingly, 4 times daily. I would hold a mirror alongside my head while looking into vanity mirror. It was obvious from the spots caused from scratching the nerve affected areas. I used as many as 3 Ointment tubes as 14 Drs. & PA’s never did a good review of my scalp .
    Apparently they simply surmised Post Herpetic Neuralgia and gave me a follow up appt. NO GOOD FOR ME.
    when the Acyclovir stopped showing significant relief I then began using VERY VERY VERY little Capszacin HP (and DID IT BURN at first!). Do not ever put it close or near the eye, I suggest using a glove when applying. It may take a week to tolerate , I am slowly getting used to it. I apply it 4 times daily , Once again VERY VERY VERY Little .
    Every so often the sensations occur near the corner and top of eye brow so I simply put a tiny bit of Acyclovir on the area and that nerve area is slowly getting better .
    Considering I’ve been dealing with this for almost 15 months I refuse to let up and things are slowly getting better. Some days are better than others so hang in there . Acyclovir won’t harm you .

    • joe e.
      new york

      I was Rx’d Lyrica in 2013 , it gave no relief, I tried it again in 2014 it gave some relief however there was still some sporadic pain at times. I woke this morning with strong pain on top of head with lesser pain on forehead above the eye. I again applied Capzasin-HP sparingly, after 20 minutes pain was still active but somewhat lessened. As I continued applying it to areas to that needed it gradually lessened. There wasn’t any nerve pain reaction after applying such as there was when I first used Capzasin-HP, perhaps the nerve healed or was permanently damaged. I’ve been dealing with PHN pain for 18 months now so it’s become routine, no sweat.

    • joe e.

      was the other joe e. sent by me I don’t recall .

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