Shingles - Acupuncture can help

      Home page
Millwoods Acupuncture Center
102, 2603 Hewes Way
Edmonton AB,   Canada

Phone: (780) 466-8683






Shingles is caused by the virus that causes chickenpox, varicella-zoster. Approximately 20% of North Americans develop shingles at some point in their life. Two-thirds of people who get shingles are over the age of 60. If you've ever had chickenpox (typically during childhood), this virus may quietly hide in the roots of some of your nerves and can re-activate late. This is known as shingles, herpes zoster, or "the devil's whip."

The incidence of shingles (e.g. the new cases of shingles each year) in Canada is 59,757 cases. So it is not at all a rare health trouble in Canada.  

Factors that may trigger the hidden virus are: older age; illness; use of drugs that suppress the body's immune system (e.g., corticosteroids for severe asthma); HIV infection or certain types of cancer, or radiation treatment. 

When the virus becomes active again, you may get symptoms such as rash, upset stomach, headache, fever, and the chills. The rash itself is reddish, with many tiny, fluid-filled blisters. From before the time the rash erupts until after it's healed, you'll be itchy. If your immune system isn't working at full capacity, your rash and symptoms will be more severe and take longer to heal, which can lead to scarring.  For some people, after healing of the skin blister, they (about 20% to 50% of them) still feel pain on the affected skin, that is called post-herpetic neuralgia (PHN).  It is characterized by severe pain along affected nerves. It can last for several weeks (45% of them) or even for several months or years (22% of the patients), even after your blisters have cleared up. The cause of PHN is not known

Treatment with conventional medicine

Shingles usually disappears on its own. You may only need treatment to relieve pain.

Antiviral medicine, such as acyclovir. Desciclovir, famciclovir, valacyclovir, and penciclovir are commonly used. These drugs help reduce pain and complications and may shorten the course of the disease. Strong anti-inflammatory medicines, such as corticosteroids, prednisone, may be used to reduce swelling and the risk of continued pain. These drugs however do not work in all patients. It could be very difficult to stop pain in the patients with post-herpetic neuralgia.

Treatment with Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM)

For acute stage of the shingles with extremely pain and blister, it is usually diagnosed as Fire and Wetness in the body by the TCM system. Chinese herbs, orally or topically, are used. Sometimes, acupuncture is also used, depending on the availability of the acupuncture. With the post-herpetic neuralgia, where there is no skin blister but mostly pain on the skin, the diagnosis with TCM may be different so do the herbal formula, though principally we also use Chinese herbal therapy and/or acupuncture.

I. Herbal therapy

(1). Longdan Xiegan wan

This is one of the mostly used Chinese herb formula in the treatment of shingles. In one study with 31 patients with shingles, the use of this herb cured 28 patients, improved 2 and did not work for one. The average time for the use of the herbs is 4 to 7 days.


(2). Qili san

Qili san is pretty good in the treatment of shingles. It is an orally intake herbs. Generally speaking one needs to take it for 1 to 2 days to reduce pain. After 2 to 3 days the blister starts to shrink and after 43 to 4 days the blister becomes dry and turns to scar. The cure occurs without later sequelae.  

(3). Yunan Baiyao

This is a herbal powder and used topically. In one study with 91 cases of shingles, fifty one patients were cured within 3 to 4 days. Thirty eight were cured within 5 to 7 days. Two cases were improved, though not cured. It takes about one hour to start reduction of pain.

(4). Liusheng wan

In a group of patients (189 cases) with shingles, the use of Liusheng wan makes 67 of them cured within one to two days, 85 of them within 3 to 4 days, and other 37 of them within 5 to 6 days.


(5). Other herbs used are Zijin ding and BingPeng san.  

With the use of  Zijin Ding, blister could become dryness within 2 to 4 times of smear of the herb lotion. It takes 2 to 6 days to stop the pain.

(6). Jideshen shaoyao

This herb formula is also used orally and topically. It takes about 5 days to cure.

(7). Xihuang wan

After intake of Xihuang wan (herb pills) for 2 to 3 days, blister become shallow, skin color turns to normal, blister becomes dry and pain stop.

 II. Flower-needle with cupping

Tap the affected skin with flower-needle first, then use suction cup to perform cupping therapy. Or, you can just tap the surrounding area of the affected skin with the flower-needle. Once a day for several days.