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Can Splashing Listerine on Shingles Ease Lingering Pain?

Putting original amber Listerine on shingles has helped readers with the pain of this excruciating rash. We don't know why this remedy works.

Have you heard about a home remedy that seems weird? Many people are justifiably skeptical when a treatment arises from outside the mainstream. We usually like to share such an approach if it 1) might help, 2) won’t hurt and 3) doesn’t cost too much. Not every remedy meets all three criteria, but using Listerine on shingles does. Do keep in mind that an early diagnosis and a prescription for an antiviral pill might work better for shingles than a home remedy. In addition, seniors should ask their doctors whether a shingles vaccination would be appropriate. They have been shown to prevent virus reactivation.

Putting Original Listerine on Shingles for Pain Relief:   

Q. About 30 years ago, I got shingles from my hip to my knee. A doctor told me to get a bottle of original Listerine and rub it on often. It took about a week or two, but I didn’t develop blisters. The Listerine got rid of that terrible pain.

A. Shingles is a painful rash that may occur many years after a person suffers chickenpox. This viral infection is caused by a herpes virus called varicella zoster (Viruses, Nov. 2, 2018). Antiviral drugs such as acyclovir (Sitavig, Zovirax), famciclovir (Famvir) or valacyclovir (Valtrex) may speed healing if taken early enough.

Sixteen years ago, another reader shared a similar story:

“What is the miracle of Listerine? Twenty years ago I got shingles. I had a blistery rash and it really hurt.

“My doctor told me to keep rubbing Listerine on it. The itching stopped, the rash disappeared and the pain went away for good.”

We have no idea why rubbing Listerine on shingles might be helpful against the pain. We could find no research in the medical literature, though some doctors seem to know about this home remedy. Perhaps–and this is entirely speculation–the essential oils in original Listerine have some effect on pain sensing.

If you find such quirky approaches intriguing, you may be interested in our book, The People’s Pharmacy Quick & Handy Home Remedies. Look for it in your local library or at www.PeoplesPharmacy.com.

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About the Author
Terry Graedon, PhD, is a medical anthropologist and co-host of The People’s Pharmacy radio show, co-author of The People’s Pharmacy syndicated newspaper columns and numerous books, and co-founder of The People’s Pharmacy website. Terry taught in the Duke University School of Nursing and was an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology. She is a Fellow of the Society of Applied Anthropology. Terry is one of the country's leading authorities on the science behind folk remedies..
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