All-Natural Homemade Anti-Viral Healing Lotion

During the second year of naturopathic medical school we started our training in herbal/botanical medicine! We have a course covering the therapeutic applications of the herbs (indications, contraindications, drug-herb interactions) as well as a botanical medicine-making lab course where we learn how to make specific formulations including infusions, decoctions, medicinal syrups, tinctures, salves and balms, lotions and more.  As part of a final project we had to create our own internal and topical formulations for one or more specific conditions and provide peer-reviewed research supporting the herbs we chose to include. I wanted to make something to help prevent and alleviate common viruses that we all face, particularly in the winter months and especially during times of fatigue and stress when the immune system may be a bit depleted. I decided on an Anti-Viral Cold Sore Lip Lotion that I specifically designed to deal with the opportunistic Herpes Simplex I virus, which rears its ugly head especially when the immune system is compromised under stress and fatigue. But this lotion is also really gentle and healing and can be used on any area of the body.

Oral herpes, commonly referred to as “cold sores” and “fever blisters” is caused by the Herpes simplex virus 1 (HSV-1). The lesions caused by infection with this virus are often painful, burning, or pruritic (itchy), clusters of vesicles on or around the lips, but symptoms may also appear between the upper lip, on or inside the nose, or on the chin or cheek. In these instances, herpes is referred to as oral-facial herpes. More than 50 percent of the adult population in the United States has oral herpes, and most people contract oral herpes when they are children by receiving a kiss from a friend or relative. Oral herpes is transmitted through direct contact between the contagious area and broken skin (a cut or break) and mucous membrane tissue (such as the mouth or genitals). Herpes can also be transmitted when there are no symptoms present. After a primary infection, HSV-1 travels to a nerve cell ganglion where it persists in a dormant phase. Various factors such as sun exposure, chapping or abrasion of the skin, fever, stress, or fatigue can reactivate the virus, resulting in recurrence at the site of the original infection.

Short term treatment with the anti-viral drug acyclovir can accelerate the healing of an acute outbreak of oral herpes, and continuous acyclovir therapy is often prescribed for people with frequent recurrences. While acyclovir can reduce the recurrence rate by 60-90 percent, it can also cause a wide array of side effects, including renal failure, hepatitis, and anaphylaxis. Safe and effective natural alternatives are therefore needed. And that’s where the anti-viral lip lotion comes in! The herbs chosen for this lotion have been shown to be effective against the herpes simplex virus and even as effective as the leading pharmaceuticals!  (I’ve provided more details on the specific research findings below if you’re interested.)

And I wanted to take you through the lotion-making process in case you want to try it for yourself! Fortunately we are becoming more aware of all of the icky ingredients in many store-bought and commercial lotions and beauty products, and while there are now lots of brands providing more natural and organic options, making your own is an inexpensive and easy way to ensure that you are getting clean, all-natural and organic products for yourself and your family!

I bought my herbs from Mountain Rose Herbs because they have very reasonably priced organic bulk herbs – and a HUGE variety, plus any equipment (bottles, labels etc.) that you might need.

(Please note! I am not a licensed medical practitioner yet and this information is just provided for informational purposes only. Please consult with your medical practitioner about any specific conditions and products.)

  • Recipe and Procedure 

*In addition to the ingredients below you will need a mixing bowl, a pot to boil water and oil, a french press if you have one otherwise you can create your own by pouring herbs over a coffee filter, a strainer and a hand held blender or whisker of some kind as well as jars/containers for your finished product!

Anti-Viral Cold Sore Lip Lotion

Ingredients:

  • Melissa officinalis (Lemon Balm), Hypericum perforatum (St. John’s Wort), Glycyrrhiza glabra (Licorice Root)
  • Olive oil (organic, extra-virgin preferable)
  • Shea butter (raw organic preferable but there are lots of options at local health food stores and online)
  • Candelilla wax (or beeswax) (Candelilla wax is a vegan beeswax substitute for those who don’t want to use bee products)
  • Vitamin E (you can buy capsules and just split them open or Vitamin E in a bottle)

I didn’t use any essential oils in this preparation because I prefer a flavorless/odorless lip balm, but tea tree, peppermint, clove and thyme would be great choices for their antiviral properties. And Melissa officinalis essential oil has been shown to be extremely effective against the HSV-1 virus as well (10).

Instructions:

  • Combine the water portion and oil portion separately following directions below.
  • Ratio of 1 part water to 1 part oil
  • Oils should equal ¾ cup liquid oil (i.e., olive oil, etc.) to 1/3 cup solid oil (i.e., cocoa butter, shea butter, coconut oil, wax)

Make Water Portion

  1. Infuse 1 cup water with 1 tsp. Melissa officinalis
  • Pour 1 cup boiling water over herbs and infuse for 10-15 minutes

2. Make decoction of 1 cup water with 1 tsp. Glycyrrhiza glabra

  • Add herbs to boiling water and simmer on low heat for 10-15 minutes.

3. Strain infusion and decoction together into glass measuring cup and set aside

Make Oil Portion

  1. Add ¾ cup olive oil infused with 1 tsp. Hypericum perforatum (St. John’s Wort) to bowl

  1. Add 1/3 cup shea butter (or other solid oil of your choice)

  1. Add ½ – 1 oz. grated wax

  1. Melt oil portion together in a double boiler over low heat enough to melt
  2. Once melted, allow oils to cool to room temperature
  3. After preparing both oil mixture and water mixture, make sure both are at room temperature
  4. Add 200 IU vitamin E to water portion (add your chosen essential oils at this point too if you like)

  1. Once they are both at room temperature, turn blender on to highest speed and slowly add water mixture into the oil mixture

  1. Blend until cream/lotion looks thick and white and has desired consistency

  1. Pour into a jar, label and store in a cool place.

Instructions (all in one place):

  • Combine the water portion and oil portion separately following directions below.
  • Ratio of 1 part water to 1 part oil
  • Oils should equal ¾ cup liquid oil (i.e., olive oil, etc.) to 1/3 cup solid oil (i.e., cocoa butter, shea butter, coconut oil, wax)
  1. Make Water Portion
    1. Infuse 1 cup water with 1 tsp. Melissa officinalis
      • Pour 1 cup boiling water over herbs and infuse for 10-15 minutes
    2. Make decoction of 1 cup water with 1 tsp. Glycyrrhiza glabra
      • Add herbs to boiling water and simmer on low heat for 10-15 minutes.
    3. Strain infusion and decoction together into glass measuring cup and set aside
  2. Make Oil Portion
  3. Add ¾ cup olive oil infused with 1 tsp. Hypericum perforatum to bowl
  4. Add 1/3 cup shea butter (or other solid oil of your choice)
  5. Add ½ – 1 oz. grated wax
  6. Melt oil portion together in a double boiler over low heat enough to melt
  7. Once melted, allow oils to cool to room temperature
  8. After preparing both oil mixture and water mixture, make sure both are at room temperature
  9. Add 200 IU vitamin E to water portion (add your chosen essential oils at this point too if you like)
  10. Once they are both at room temperature, turn blender on to highest speed and slowly add water mixture into the oil mixture
  11. Blend until cream/lotion looks thick and white and has desired consistency
  12. Pour into a jar, label and store in a cool place.

Melissa officinalis (Lemon balm)

Part used: Aerial parts

Research has shown that hot water extracts of Melissa officinalis have antiviral properties, possibly due in part to the presence of rosmarinic acid and other polyphenolic compounds (1,2). In both laboratory and clinical trials, a lotion-based hot water extract of Melissa officinalis has been shown to have antiviral activity when applied to herpes simplex skin lesions (3,4). In one study of 116 people with HSV-1, those who applied lemon balm cream to their lip sores experienced significant improvement in redness and swelling after only 2 days! (4).

Hypericum perforatum (St. John’s Wort)

Part used: aerial part

While Hypericum perforatum is typically thought of for its antidepressant activity, it is actually a wonderful anti-viral herb. A study in 2012 described further below found that topical formulations containing Hypericum perforatum on patients with herpes skin lesions actually decreased symptoms and increased healing time more effectively than the leading antiviral drug, acyclovir, used to treat HSV-1 (5). An oil infusion of Hypericum perforatum aerial parts is needed because the chemical that is known for its activity against HSV-1 is hypericin which is highly lipophilic and therefore oil soluble.

Glycyrrhiza glabra L. (Licorice)

Part used: Dried root

Glycyrrhiza glabra has been shown to inhibit the growth of several DNA and RNA viruses and irreversibly inactivate herpes simplex virus particles (6).

  • Summary of Selected Research Article Findings
  1. Clewell, Amy, et al. “Efficacy and tolerability assessment of a topical formulation containing copper sulfate and Hypericum perforatum on patients with herpes skin lesions: a comparative, randomized controlled trial.” Journal of drugs in dermatology: JDD2 (2012): 209-215.

This prospective, randomized, multi-centered clinical study compared the efficacy and tolerability of a single use, topical formulation of containing copper sulfate pentahydrate and Hypericum perforatum in a base of glycerin and water (marketed as Dynamiclear™) to a topical 5% Acyclovir cream (the standard antiviral therapy used) for treatment of the HSV virus. 149 participants between 18 and 55 years of age with active HSV-1 and HSV-2 lesions were recruited for the 14-day clinical trial. Participants were randomized into two groups, one receiving the Dynamiclear formulation with the Hypericum, and the other receiving the Acyclovir. The patients who were in the Acyclovir group were instructed to apply the cream five times daily for 7 days. The patients in the Dynamiclear group received a single topical application at the clinic on day 1 of the study and no subsequent applications. Then the researchers tracked the symptoms and progression of the herpes over 14 days including scabbing and crusting, itching, burning and stinging, acute pain, erythema, induration and vesiculation. They found that the Dynamiclear formulation had no significant adverse effects and was well tolerated by participants and, that statistically, odds for being affected by burning and stinging sensation were 1.9 times greater in the Acyclovir group in comparison to the Dynamiclear group. Similarly, the odds of being affected by symptoms of acute pain, erythema and vesiculation were 1.8, 2.4, and 4.4 times higher in the Acyclovir group in comparison to the Dynamiclear group. In other words, between the Dynamiclear with the Hypericum and Acyclovir treatments, the reduction in acute pain, erythema, induration and vesiculation were significantly greater with use of the Dynamiclear! In addition to faster resolution of all symptoms, in all the efficacy parameters, except for induration, the Dynamiclear group showed a higher rate of healing in comparison to the Acyclovir group. It also showed a faster resolution of all symptoms. And this was all just with one dose! They also noted that Hypericum perforatum’s natural analgesic effects played role in the relatively rapid pain amelioration that was observed.

References

  1. Astani, Akram, Mojdeh Heidary Navid, and Paul Schnitzler. “Attachment and Penetration of Acyclovir‐resistant Herpes Simplex Virus are Inhibited by Melissa officinalis Extract.” Phytotherapy Research10 (2014): 1547-1552.
  2. Astani, Akram, Jürgen Reichling, and Paul Schnitzler. “Melissa officinalis extract inhibits attachment of herpes simplex virus in vitro.” Chemotherapy1 (2012): 70-77.
  3. Koytchev, R., R. G. Alken, and S. Dundarov. “Balm mint extract (Lo-701) for topical treatment of recurring herpes labialis.” Phytomedicine4 (1999): 225-230.
  4. Wölbling, R. H., and K. Leonhardt. “Local therapy of herpes simplex with dried extract from Melissa officinalis.” Phytomedicine1 (1994): 25-31.
  5. Clewell, Amy, et al. “Efficacy and tolerability assessment of a topical formulation containing copper sulfate and Hypericum perforatum on patients with herpes skin lesions: a comparative, randomized controlled trial.” Journal of drugs in dermatology: JDD2 (2012): 209-215.
  6. Pompei, Raffaello, et al. “Glycyrrhizic acid inhibits virus growth and inactivates virus particles.” Nature25 (1979): 689-690.
  7. Hoffman, David. Medical Herbalism: The Science and Practice of Herbal Medicine. Healing Arts Press, 2003. Rochester, Vermont (p. 580).
  8. Serkedjieva, Julia, et al. “Antiviral activity of the infusion (SHS‐174) from flowers of Sambucus nigra L., aerial parts of Hypericum perforatum L., and roots of Saponaria officinalis L. against influenza and herpes simplex viruses.” Phytotherapy Research3 (1990): 97-100.
  9. Wölfle, Ute, Günter Seelinger, and Christoph M. Schempp. “Topical Application of St. Johnʼs Wort (Hypericum perforatum).” Planta medica02/03 (2014): 109-120.
  10. Schnitzler, P., et al. “Melissa officinalis oil affects infectivity of enveloped herpesviruses.” Phytomedicine9 (2008): 734-740.

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