“Shingles: Unveiling the Eastern and Western Approaches to Manage Pain and Symptoms”

(Organ names in Chinese medicine differ from Western medicine’s understanding).​

Herpes zoster, commonly known as shingles, is a viral infection caused by the varicella-zoster virus. This is the same virus that causes chickenpox. After a person recovers from chickenpox, the virus can remain dormant in the nervous system for years and then reactivate as shingles. Shingles usually presents as a painful, blistering rash that typically appears on one side of the body, most commonly on the torso or face. Western medicine focuses on antiviral medications and pain management to treat shingles.

​In Chinese medicine, shingles is considered a manifestation of an underlying pattern of disharmony. Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) practitioners may use a combination of acupuncture, herbal medicine, and dietary therapy to manage the symptoms and address the root cause of the condition.

​TCM views shingles as a result of an imbalance in the body’s Qi (vital energy) and Blood. The pathogenic factors, such as wind, dampness, or heat, can invade the body and weaken the Qi and Blood, leading to a reactivation of the virus. Treatment aims to address the underlying pattern of disharmony by supporting the body’s natural healing abilities and restoring balance.

​One approach in TCM is the use of the Five Elements theory. This theory posits that all natural phenomena can be classified into one of five elements: Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal, and Water. Each element is associated with specific organs, emotions, and bodily functions. In the case of shingles, it is often related to the Fire element and the Heart and Liver organs. TCM practitioners may use acupuncture and herbal medicine to balance the Fire element and support the Heart and Liver organs.

​Another approach in TCM is channel therapy, which involves stimulating specific acupoints along the body’s meridians. Meridians are energy channels that run throughout the body and are connected to specific organs and bodily functions. By stimulating the appropriate acupoints, channel therapy can regulate the body’s Qi and Blood and promote healing. TCM practitioners may use both acupuncture and moxibustion, a technique that involves burning dried mugwort on or near the skin, to stimulate the meridians and promote healing.

​TCM also emphasizes the importance of dietary therapy in managing shingles. Foods are categorized according to their energetic properties, and a TCM practitioner may recommend specific foods to support the body’s healing process. For example, foods with cooling properties, such as cucumber and watermelon, may be recommended to counteract the heat and inflammation associated with shingles.

​It is important to note that TCM does not offer a cure or treatment for shingles in the Western medical sense. However, by addressing the underlying pattern of disharmony, TCM can help manage the symptoms and promote overall health and well-being.

​In conclusion, shingles is a viral infection that can be managed using both Western medicine and TCM approaches. Western medicine focuses on antiviral medications and pain management, while TCM aims to address the underlying pattern of disharmony using acupuncture, herbal medicine, and dietary therapy. Both approaches can be complementary and may be used together to manage the symptoms and promote healing.


Chinese Medicine Treatment of Shingles (Herpes Zoster). (2020). HealthCMi. Retrieved from https://www.healthcmi.com/Acupuncture-Continuing-Education-News/2053-chinese-medicine-treatment-of-shingles-herpes-zoster

Herpes Zoster (Shingles). (2022). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/shingles/index.html

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