Flourishing—Even with Herpes

Dr. Northrup answers your questions

by Christiane Northrup, M.D.

Pelvic Health Women's Health

Flourishing — Even with HerpesBuild your immunity and update your fears.

The herpes virus and its behavior, both in individuals and in our society, is a direct reflection of our unexamined beliefs and fears. Once you have the herpes virus, you have it for life, just like the chicken pox virus. Your experience with the virus, though, has everything to do with your mind and your immunity. J. Edwin Blalock, Ph.D., an immunologist at the University of Alabama, calls the immune system “a mirror on the mind.” We’re talking about your whole mind here—both conscious and subconscious. When your immune system is strong and healthy, programmed by positive and uplifting subconscious beliefs, the virus may lie dormant for many years both in the affected tissues and also in nerves that supply the infected tissues. But under conditions of physical, emotional, or spiritual stress—like shame, fear, or inadequate nutrition—the virus may activate and produce characteristic painful sores or itching.

Most people who’ve been exposed to herpes will never know that they have it. They will never have a sore or an outbreak. And this is very good news! With herpes, as with the common cold, immunity is everything. My intent is to shore up your immunity and resilience by providing you with information and immune-enhancing tips. It’s not the herpes itself that presents the biggest problem for people, but rather the shame and fear that goes along with the diagnosis! These emotional states favor an outbreak. You can stop this vicious cycle by learning how to live in harmony with the herpes virus!

Over the past year, I’ve received the following questions about herpes. I hope my answers will provide you with illumination and immune-boosting confidence about this subject.

Q: How can I tell if I have herpes?

I have an ex-lover who has herpes. Although I have never had an outbreak (to my knowledge), I occasionally get one little “pimple” on the outside of the minor lip (of my vagina). The “pimple” feels much like a regular pimple—tight and itchy at times, and goes away after a few days. I usually notice it right before my cycle. Does this mean I’ve been infected? I have been informed there’s no way to know for sure without an outbreak. I’m concerned and would greatly welcome any information you can offer.

CN: If you don’t have an active sore, the only way to be certain is with a blood test. Though there are a variety of herpes viruses, including the chicken pox virus (herpes zoster), the two that infect the genitals are HSV-1 and HSV-2. Serologic (blood serum) testing is available that detects the specific glycoproteins in these strains. It is important to get a glycoprotein-based test because non-glycoprotein-based tests provide inaccurate results. HSV-1, the cold sore virus, can be spread to the genital area during oral sex. The good news is that HSV-1 tends to burn itself out rather quickly in the genital area and is not as virulent in that region. A finger stick test known as a biokit HSV-2 can be done in a doctor’s office. Other glycoprotein-specific assays can be drawn and sent to a reference lab. (For more information on herpes tests, visit www.herpesdiagnosis.com/blood.html.)

If you have an active herpes sore, or have developed herpes for the first time, a culture can be taken by a healthcare practitioner. Cultures can also be taken when you are asymptomatic to determine whether you are shedding the virus. But one negative test on a given day doesn’t guarantee that you won’t be shedding the virus at another time.

Q: Can you have a false positive test for herpes?

I have had two positive blood tests for the genital herpes virus, but no positive cultures of any kind. I have no outbreaks or symptoms. I recently read in the New York Times that there is a 3-4% false positive possibility. What can you tell me about this?

CN: It is estimated that 45 million people have herpes. Yet only about 10% know they have it. Herpes testing is not routine. And yes, there can always be false positives and false negatives, as with nearly any test.

The main thing to realize is that you may never have an outbreak or infect another person. I’ve known sexually active monogamous couples in whom one tests positive for herpes and the other doesn’t. The uninfected partner’s immune system manages to keep him (or her) from getting the virus.

On the other hand, it is possible to shed the virus and pass it on to a partner even if you don’t have an outbreak or symptoms. That’s why it’s a good idea to practice safe sex (using a condom or a dental dam for oral-genital contact) if you want to be sure you don’t infect a new partner. It has been my experience that as couples adjust to each other’s chemistry, they reach an ecological balance in which their immune systems become more compatible. In this harmonious state, immunity tends to be mutually enhancing.

Q: Can using progesterone cream activate my herpes?

I have had the HPV-2 for about four years. At first I tried to “let it burn it out” by using nothing. It didn’t work, so I started using lysine and other herbs. That was fine, except if had chocolate or wine, and I would occasionally get an outbreak. Recently, my doctor put me on natural progesterone to regulate my periods, so I can get pregnant. Since then, I’ve had outbreaks every month and I feel like it’s spreading. Is there a connection between herpes and progesterone cream? If so, what can I do? It makes me miserable and I feel horrible about myself and my body.

CN: It’s certainly possible that the progesterone has changed your system in such a way that the virus has “awakened” from dormancy. I like the way you have noticed that chocolate, wine, and your lifestyle affect your body’s ability to keep the herpes virus dormant or active. You also mention the concept that herpes tends to “burn itself out” over time. That’s actually true. And it reflects the ability of the immune system to control the virus over time as the body gets used to it—the same way you get used to a new food, a new boyfriend, or new surroundings.

It’s possible that the stress of trying to get pregnant has also activated your deepest fears, and therefore the herpes virus. I’d recommend getting some friends together to do a Divine Love healing for you on this. (Contact the World Service Institute at http://www.worldserviceinstitute.org/.) I would also recommend immune-enhancing substances such as vitamin D (5,000 IU per day if you’re not in the optimal range), eating garlic regularly (or taking deodorized garlic capsules), and following an alkalinizing diet (lots of vegetables and minimal grains, alcohol, sugar, and animal protein), which tends to keep the virus dormant.

Taking a probiotic every day also strengthens the immune system. It has been shown that women with bacterial vaginosis (an imbalance of the genital ecosystem favoring the growth of pathogenic bacteria) are more susceptible to herpes. Excellent probiotic supplements are widely available.

Q: Can I give birth vaginally if I have an outbreak?

I’ve had a herpes breakout for over three weeks. I’m pregnant and due in three weeks. As soon as I felt symptoms, I got a prescription for Acyclovir. I don’t have a full-blown breakout, but I can tell I’m shedding and am really sore. The Acyclovir doesn’t seem to be helping my symptoms at all. I’m considering stopping the Acyclovir and taking lysine, garlic, and vitamin C instead. I don’t know what else to do. Any suggestions would be appreciated.

CN: The most important thing I can tell you is: The risk of transmitting the herpes virus to your baby is so low that increasingly, experts are suggesting that it’s safe to have your baby normally, even if you have a positive blood test for herpes and have an active herpes lesion! After all, your body has been exposed to the virus for a while and has built up antibodies against it. These antibodies cross the placenta and help protect your baby. The biggest risk to an unborn child occurs when a woman is pregnant and is exposed to the herpes virus for the first time. She hasn’t had a chance to build up her immunity.

The closer you get to your due date, chances are the more you will worry. And that worry alone will increase your risk for shedding the virus. So please relax and let your baby—and your immunity—know that you trust yourself to be safe! These thoughts will help your body keep the herpes under control. I would also suggest an alkalinizing diet and some affirmations. (See below.)

Q: Should I tell past partners I tested positive for herpes if I’ve never had symptoms?

I am starting a new relationship and recently was tested for STD’s. Everything was fine, except I was told I have antibodies for herpes 2. I have never had an outbreak in the genital area, but about 30 years ago I dated a man with genital herpes. I was using a diaphragm (not condoms) at the time and was generally clueless about STD’s. A couple of weeks after we became intimate, I developed a sore above my upper lip. I didn’t know what it was, but since figured out it was herpes. In recent years I have been using antiviral medication when I feel a tingling around my lips, and that has worked very well. I assumed I had acquired herpes 1 and was surprised to hear it was herpes 2.

It has been reassuring to read what you have to say about herpes in your book Women’s Bodies, Women’s Wisdom. Since routine STD tests don’t even usually include herpes, does the medical profession not consider detection important? Do you think I need to notify past partners going back 30 years? I am struggling to come to grips with the diagnosis and how to deal with it.

CN: Please, please, please give yourself a break! I can hear how you’re trying to do the right thing and be very responsible. I applaud that. But given the huge number of people who have herpes and don’t even know it, why paint the scarlet letter on yourself by going back 30 years to tell people something that most likely would do more harm than good.

In my opinion, you don’t need to go back and inform every person you have ever had sex with—or kissed. It’s medically possible that you can give someone herpes if you’ve ever had a cold sore and you kiss them, including a baby’s hand or foot. This is extremely rare. Herpes is almost never transmitted this way, unless a person’s immune system is compromised.

If you’ve read this far, you already know how many people are walking around with herpes and don’t even know it. I believe that one reason the medical profession doesn’t routinely test for herpes is that so many people have it but it stays dormant. I can guarantee you that if we tested everyone, the ensuing panic would simply increase outbreaks and fear.

Here’s a question that only you as an individual can answer, but it bears thinking about. Aren’t there times when it’s best to let sleeping dogs lay?

On the other hand, if you’re planning to get involved with a new sexual partner, I always recommend that both of you get tested so you know what you’re dealing with.

Q: Do internal herpes outbreaks feel more painful?

I’m having trouble finding out about internal genital herpes outbreaks, but have read they are painful. I’ve had HSV-2 for a year and a half. I take Valtrex when I get tingling. I don’t get many sores on the outside. I suspect I get them internally, since this is what happened during my first outbreak. My legs also ache the way they do when I have the flu. Is all of this normal?

CN: The aching in your legs is fairly typical of the herpes becoming activated. The virus lives in the nerves that supply both the genitals and the inner thighs. Herpes tends to stay in certain areas, such as the external genitals or the lips. But it certainly can live in the inner vagina, on the cervix, and also on the sacrum and inner thighs—basically anywhere that is associated with the sacral nerves and the areas they innervate.

In addition to Valtrex or Acyclovir (common prescription antiviral medications), I also recommend an alkalinizing diet, garlic, making sure your vitamin D level is optimal, and positive affirmations. There are also a number of remedies for herpes that support the immune system. These include Medavir, lemon balm (Melissa), or tea tree oil.

Here are some affirmations to help boost immunity. Say these out loud in the mirror, looking right into your eyes for 30 days. Expect a complete turnaround in your attitude and experience.

I love my genitals. They bring me great pleasure.

I love my sexuality.

I am healthy, clean, and free, and my immunity reflects this back to me!

Last Updated: December 16, 2010

Christiane Northrup, M.D.

Christiane Northrup, M.D., is a visionary pioneer and a leading authority in the field of women’s health and wellness. Recognizing the unity of body, mind, and spirit, she empowers women to trust their inner wisdom, their connection with Source, and their ability to truly flourish.


Add comment
  1. Teresa
    1 year ago


  2. Gordon
    3 years ago

    Hi! I’ve had hsv2 for probably 12 year now and always when I have a flare up I get one extremely painful sore on my labia. However, I’m going through a breakout now and it’s sacral and a small rash on my tail bone area. So weird, not sure why this changed after so many years except now I had a csection and my tubes tied. I wonder if that changed the area on which my breakout occurred? Thoughts?

  3. Sara
    4 years ago

    I have had HSV 2 for 15 years only getting one mild outbreak per year, now in peri menopause and getting them 2 times a month, how can I get back to the once. A year? My immune system is good

    1. Lisa
      4 years ago

      My situation is almost identical. Previously once a year….tops. Started having outbreaks at least once a month and in a new location even. My dr checked my hormones and I’m perimenopausal (I’m 48). Sara – I’d love to be able to talk to someone with the same experience if you’d be willing. But I’d love to know what I can do. Would a menopause supplement help?

      1. Linda
        1 year ago

        Hi, I’m experiencing exactly the same problem. I wondered if you had had any advice regarding this?

  4. Diamond
    4 years ago

    Hello Dr. Northup,

    I am a young woman early 20’s and I’ve had HSV 2 genital for about a year and a half. I don’t frequently have outbreaks. However, after starting Nexplanon I was also prescribed Estradiol to increase estrogen to regulate bleeding due to the implant. Since then outbreaks while come out of nowhere due to my hormone imbalance. Is there anything I can do to help my body heal or return to equilibrium ?

  5. Maureen
    5 years ago

    Starting about 10 years ago, I broke out with blisters on my right lower buttock, close to the spine. This was after spinal manipulation and massage (s/i joint out of whack). Since then, now going back to about 5 years or so and more PT (have bursitis and spurs in both hips, diagnosed in 2016 with spondylolisthesis L4, 5 with nerve impingement at S1). Pain lately has been hard to deal with………Back to therapy. Therapist did some work trying to loosen up hips (moving legs around including pulling on legs) and use of deep laser by trochanter bursa. Within a few days, felt the tingling, the pain and then the blister. I don’t know what to do. Seems all physical manipulation causes an outbreak.

  6. Christina
    5 years ago


    I was recently diagnosed with HSV 2 and have bene taking Valtrex daily. I noticed my hair shedding a lot! Is this common when taking Valtrex for suppressive therapy?

  7. Anmol
    6 years ago

    Got hsv 1 igg 1.84., I have listed that some people has hsv 1 gg, 38.65 or 37.85, what does that mean, does it mean that with passing time hsv 1 igg level will increase automatically if so, then please advice what to do to keep hsv 1st at 1.84 and not increase it.

  8. Drod
    6 years ago

    Hello Dr.Northrup, with HSV can you drastically lose weight? also I’ve been experiencing stomach pains and diarrhea. I used to have fat thighs and now they are so skinny, do you lose muscle? Anyone out there with same symptoms? Thank you!

  9. Lisa
    7 years ago

    I was diagnosed with hsv2 in my eye and mouth from semen. I also two weeks prior had all over body pain and rash that was in diagnosed now I realize was probably part of this exposure. I have been taking lysine because I am nervous about valtrex. Am I better off taking valtrex to prevent blindness or doing something natural? I was trying to let my body heal itself. Ur now I am afraid of losing eyesight and also my hearing since I was told can travel from ur eye to ears. I am also wondering if it is in your eye does it travel in the eye to the other eye? How likely it can travel to your ears? And also if I take valtrex I heard you can’t get off wout having nonstop outbreaks? I also 2 yrs ago was given a toxic dose and was floxed from antibiotic and have been healing ever since so I am very weary about taking anything. I had no idea regretfully that it could be transferred through semen on your face.

  10. Heather
    7 years ago

    What dosage of garlic should one take during an outbreak?? I bought 400 mg deodorized garlic pills and the bottle says to take 1-3 per day, however you mention to take 4 pills every 4 hours. But what dosage? thanks!

  11. Cara Rush
    8 years ago

    I was diagnosed with herpes 30 years ago. I was not told by G U Med if it was type 1 or 2. I did not have symptoms nor have I had any symptoms since. I have been married for 28 years. We don’t know if he has contracted the virus as he has not had symptoms either. Having gone all this time without an outbreak, does it mean that I will still be experiencing asymptomatic shedding? Thank you

  12. Ashley Cates
    8 years ago

    After years of trying alternative therapies I had a hysterectomy last year, I’ve had heightened struggles with intense outbreaks, awful fatique, lower back pain some neuropathy in my legs since then.
    I’ve read of others symptoms had diminished after their hysterctomy, mine have been the other way around!!
    I’m taking anti-virals, lysine, herbal immune support and will as of today start with the affirmations and vit d and garlic.
    Is my immune so low and stress so high I keep struggling with this back to back!! jeez I’m wondering it must be deeper with my hormones out of wack before and after the surgery…
    If you recommend any bio identical’s, I still have my ovaries, however I know in several years they’ll stop functioning to
    ~Thank you

  13. Olivia
    8 years ago

    I had unprotected oral sex and intercourse. Two days later I experienced a burning, itching sensation in my genitals as well as left lower abdonimal pain. I thought i felt a small bump inside my vagina. The bump was almost like an ingrown hair but not painful and disapeared within two days. The doctor said it didn’t not look like herpes despite the other symptoms i was experiencing. 6 days after exposure i had an igG done that tested for active herpes 1. Could it show up that quickly in my blood or does it mean I already had it? How long will this primary ourbreak last if i have no symtpoms beside occasional itching the burning stopped after a few days. If i have no symptoms now does that mean i will never aquire sores? ( so far its been 16 days from exposure) Does this mean i have strong immune system?

    Ive read hsv-1 typically only has 1 breakout a year? Will aggressive excerise or saunas cause outbreaks? Thanks for your

    1. Christiane Northrup
      8 years ago

      Chances are good that you already had HSV1. And that your body has done a wonderful job of keeping it dormant. And it will continue to do so with a good antioxidant vitamin and herb and food regimen. Don’t get
      Overly stressed
      About this! Anything new and out of the ordinary ( like running a marathon or going through heartbreak) could activate the herpes. But mostly it will burn itself out after a while and remain dormant.,

  14. J
    8 years ago

    Anyone out there with addison’s disease and herpes?

  15. Claudia
    9 years ago

    I have had 4 sexual partners in 30 years including a 27 year marriage. Recently met a wonderful man and we decided to be sexually monogamous and also decided to get routine STD tests. To my astonishment ( and horror) my results were that I had antibodies for HSV2.

    Now the question is what to do! The man wants to work this out together, and I am happy about that but not thrilled with the idea that I must take daily anti virals.

    I have never ever had an outbreak of genital herpes, but have read about shedding. I did have cold sores several years ago a couple times and treated myself with Lysine.

    Both he and I have a strong attraction to one another and under normal circumstances would probably have sex daily.

    Is there anything other than submitting to anti virals that I could do? The idea o using drugs daily is not good but I value the relationship and would wish for him to be and feel protected.

    Advice appreciated

    1. Christiane Northrup
      8 years ago

      The very fact that you have not had breakouts attests to the strength of your immune system!! You do NOT need to take daily antiviral medication. Instead, keep your immunity strong with plants foods like garlic, oregano, wild blueberries, etc. You can take deodorized garlic capsules daily if you like. And HSV2 doesn’t like to live ” below the belt”. Chances are that if you are in a solid and loving relationship, all will be well!!

  16. Mari
    9 years ago

    I was diagnosed 3 months ago with Addisons disease and this week had what was diagnosed as genital herpes. It is a horrifically stupendous outbreak. I’m assuming my compromised immune system is responsible for the viciousness of the attack. MD suspects the Addisons is why the virus surfaced.
    Any experience with Addisons and Herpes?

    1. J
      8 years ago

      I just found out that I have herpes…also 8 years ago I was diagnosed with addison’s disease how have you been managing?

  17. There are 2 types of sexually transmitted herpes: herpes type 1 and herpes type 2. Both types cause painful cold sores.i have not met Dr. Odia but have heard of his excellent work on people’s life. i contacted Dr.Odia and he started his work on me with his Root and herbs and right now i am cured. I was diagnosed with Herpes and after taking Dr. Odia Herbal medicine i was cured. If you have any disease Contact him: ( drodiaherbalisthelpcare @ hotmail . com )

  18. Joan
    9 years ago

    I was diagnosed with HSV-2 in my early twenties and never had symptoms since until I entered menopause and now experiencing symptoms monthly. Is there a connection between menopause and herpes and if so is there anything I can do to minimize the symptoms?

    1. Holly
      5 years ago

      Dr Northrup please answer Joan as the same has happened to me!

    2. Sarah
      4 years ago

      Did u ever get a response? Going through same thing

    3. Lisa
      4 years ago

      My situation is almost identical. Previously once a year….tops. Started having outbreaks at least once a month and in a new location even. My dr checked my hormones and I’m perimenopausal (I’m 48). – I’d love to be able to talk to someone with the same experience if you’d be willing. But I’d love to know what I can do. Would a menopause supplement help?

      1. Lisa
        4 years ago

        I am the same, I got hsv2 ages 21 and after the initial outbreak, I was symptom free for 20 years. Now from, my early 40’s, outbreaks became regular, forgetfulness and anxiety increased. Leg weakness, leg cramps, low energy, reduced muscle mass and nausea also became an issue which appeared to coincide. . Anti virals don’t seem to agree with me. I avoid high arginine foods, take lysine, garlic & multi vitamins and also hrt. It’s a nightmare.

  19. Laura -Lynn Adkins
    9 years ago

    Can using home remedies interfere with prescriptions?

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