Shingles causes a painful, itchy rash to form on one side of the body. While medicines can treat the condition, many people look for additional ways to relieve discomfort. Can essential oils help?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately one in three people in the United States will develop shingles. Vaccines available to older people can help to prevent the condition, though they are not entirely effective.

While scientific evidence does not fully support this application, many people try using essential oils to alleviate symptoms of shingles. When appropriate precautions are in place, some oils may help to provide relief.

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Thyme oil may help alleviate pain associated with shingles.

Researchers have found that certain essential oils have antiviral and pain-relieving properties. Though further studies are needed, some evidence suggests that these oils may help to alleviate pain and itchiness associated with shingles.

The following essential oils may help:

  • peppermint oil
  • capsaicin oil
  • geranium oil
  • thyme oil
  • lemon oil

These oils come in a variety of forms, including:

  • creams or lotions
  • patches
  • pure essential oil
  • ointments

Follow the recommendations and instructions on the packaging of premade creams, lotions, and ointments.

Always mix pure oil with a carrier oil before applying it to the skin. A carrier oil is mild and helps to moisturize the skin. Some examples include:

Typically, 2–3 drops of essential oil are added to several tablespoons of carrier oil. Apply the mixture directly to affected areas of skin.

Essential oils are often considered a low-risk remedy, but they can have negative side effects. Some people are allergic to plant-based oils. Others may feel a burning sensation after applying the oil to the skin, particularly in areas with a rash.

To avoid a widespread negative reaction, test the oil mixture on a small patch of skin. Apply a pea-sized amount to an area that is not affected by shingles. If no rash or burning occurs after 24 hours, the oils may be safe to use.

Consult a doctor before applying anything to a shingles rash, especially when taking prescription medications. Also, do not apply an oil mixture to a rash that is oozing or infected. This could lead to burning and other symptoms.

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Additional symptoms of shingles may include fever and light sensitivity.

Shingles is characterized by a rash on one side of the body. The torso is often affected.

A person with shingles may experience:

  • a painful, red rash
  • increased skin sensitivity
  • burning, tingling, or numbness
  • itching
  • blisters that burst and crust over

Additional symptoms can include:

Shingles and chickenpox are caused by the same virus, which is known as herpes zoster. Long after a person has recovered from chicken pox, the dormant virus can reactivate as shingles.

Using essential oils may help to relieve some symptoms of a shingles rash. However, essential oils should not replace medical treatment.

These oils are not appropriate for all people, as they can cause allergic reactions. Otherwise, they carry very little risk.

More research is needed to fully establish whether essential oils can provide relief from shingles-related pain. However, when properly diluted in a carrier oil, certain oils may act as a supplementary remedy.

Consult a doctor before using essential oil to alleviate shingles symptoms. Some oils may interfere with medications or make symptoms worse.