In early 2014, a kid who was sitting in the row in front of me on an airplane coughed terribly for nine hours. About a week after this plane ride, I developed a viral pneumonia that lasted off and on through most of the summer and fall of 2014, and into the spring of 2015. (Ever since the 1980s, airplanes have been recycling the cabin air in order to decrease drag and fuel consumption. As a result, no fresh air comes into the cabin, so passengers end up breathing in each other’s sometimes contagious germs throughout the flight.)
Then, in addition to a chronic chest pain and incessant coughing, my left eye became the source of terrific headaches. Added to this was constant tearing, blurred vision, and a fluid that actually burned and then caused a sore to develop on the left side of my upper lip. That was my clue to suspect Herpes simplex type 1 (HSV-1, or oral herpes), the ‘cold sore’ virus also known to cause viral pneumonia. Tests confirmed my hunch. My black sense of humour cushioned the blow: I complained that, at my age, coming down with what I thought (erroneously) was primarily a sexually transmitted disease should have had at least some exciting escapade to blame it on. But, prosaically, this was actually the second herpes episode in my life; the first occurred 60 years ago when I had chickenpox.
Suffering and Greed
Herpes belongs to the specific class of encapsulated viruses whose DNA is wrapped in fat. This enables the virus to enter the fat cells that are found primarily in the nervous system and in areas of the body that have mucous membranes (ie. the lungs, genitals, inside the mouth, and the eyes). The herpes virus can also affect the skin and, as meningitis, it is at its worst. Following a childhood chickenpox infection, the virus remains forever in the nerve roots, ready to surge into action when the immune system is overwhelmed by acute illness or by being systematically worn down by chronic illness, such as Lyme, or any of the other spirochetal diseases. (Editor’s note: There is also anecdotal evidence to suggest that an inflammatory diet (ie. a diet that includes inflammation triggers such as salty foods, junk foods, meat, and allergenic foods), can also trigger a herpes virus outbreak.)
One might think that vaccinating kids against chickenpox would reduce the risk of herpes infections later on in life. With more than 90% of humanity being carriers, or having become infected one way or the other, vaccines can merely ensure fewer childhood chickenpox infections. But children grow up and meet herpes anyway, as the virus accompanies Lyme disease bacteria, and many other pathogens that are able to build so-called ‘biofilms’.
Alternately, the virus can be triggered by environmental assault (exposure to pollutants), or when an unhealthy lifestyle catches up and overwhelms the immune system. Herpes accompanies Lyme disease bacteria, attacking the central nervous system. And even without chickenpox making us life-long herpes hosts, the virus can be transmitted sexually, merely by using the same drinking glass, or by breathing the same air as a person who may not even know he or she is a carrier.
Since more than 90% of us carry the herpes virus in its dormant state, this issue affects the entire human family. In fact, the roots of the herpetic family tree were first recorded more than 3,500 years ago in the oldest known medical text, ancient Egypt’s Ebers Papyrus. A thousand years later Hippocrates, the father of western medicine, named those characteristic creeping sores ‘herpes’, using the Greek word for ‘creeping’. Two and a half millennia later, the virus was isolated by Albert Sabin in 1934.
Herpes in the eye is responsible for an estimated 60% of all cases of blindness. And herpetic encephalitis can cause near total amnesia as it did in the case of the famous pianist Clive Wearing; only his musical ability remained, though he was still able to recognize his wife. The terror caused by the loss of Wearing’s memory and the sudden onset of amnesia was recorded by his wife in her moving memoir, Forever Today: A True Story of Lost Memory and Never-Ending Love.
Herpes can also cause painful skin lesions, for example Eczema herpeticum, the only dermatological condition considered as a medical emergency.
As well, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and AIDS almost always include the herpes virus as part of their symptom picture.
The most common form of herpes manifests as episodic blisters and lesions on the genitalia or mouth; it is also found almost always in cases of periodontal disease where the virus systematically destroys tissue, and assists other bacteria that are known to cause heart attacks.
Given that most humans carry some strain of the herpes virus, and given that it tends to cause or aggravate chronic conditions as well as extremely painful episodic eruptions, the potential for financial exploitation matches the worldwide reach of the virus. For example, the single and most spectacularly effective antiviral medication developed so far is Acyclovir. It is available as eye drops, ointment, tablets, and intravenously – and yes, the stuff really works! However, one 30 gram tube of the ointment, at a 5% Acyclovir strength (the most commonly used), costs about $400 + tax. Tablets of 400 mg strength are twice as expensive as those 800 mg ones, possibly because the lower dose is more frequently prescribed and hence a more reliable cash cow. However, any compounding pharmacy is legally permitted to make Acyclovir ointment at a 7% strength, which is totally safe as well, and it will cost a mere $35 for a 30 mg tube (see Resource List at end).
Acyclovir’s patent expired decades ago (the original research and development took place in the 1960s), yet its Canadian manufacturer, Valeant, has become one of the most profitable pharmaceutical companies in the world. (As a side note: In an October 23, 2015 report, Valeant was accused of inflating its profits through ‘phantom sales’. Shares dropped dramatically due to this revelation and legal actions have begun. Valeant’s CEO lost more than a billion dollars of his personal investment in one week. Similarly this year, Turing Pharmaceuticals raised the price of a 62-year old highly effective drug for toxoplasmosis from $13.50 to $750 per pill, earning its CEO Martin Shkreli the title, ‘Most Hated Man in America’. While toxoplasmosis is rare, herpes most certainly is not.)
Biofilms and a New Medical Model
The discovery of Acyclovir’s actions caused a momentous shift in medical thinking; properly understood, this different approach to pathogens is of the greatest help to patients. In the early 1940s a young chemist, Gertrude B. Elion, became the assistant to George H. Hutchings at a pharmaceutical company now known as GlaxoSmithKline. Instead of pursuing the usual trial-and-error method of testing thousands of chemicals, one of which might kill a pathogen but hopefully not the human host as well, Gertrude had the idea to investigate the difference in the biochemistry between healthy human cells and disease-causing bugs. That led to the brilliant idea of selectively preventing the pathogen from replicating, thereby eliminating the risk of injuring or killing the human host cells. She asked herself: what does the enemy depend on, and how can one intercept its vital supply lines?
Herpes Drug Becomes an Essential Medicine
Elion and Hutchings developed several famous drugs, the most important being Acyclovir – the first genuine anti-viral drug that not only works but has a safety profile that is almost angelic. Acyclovir, which became available in 1977, has been on the World Health Organization’s list of Essential Medicines ever since; in 1988, Elion won the Nobel prize for developing it. Acyclovir itself does nothing except cause a metabolic cascade. This cascade causes the body to produce a substance that only the herpes virus accepts into its own DNA; it does so because that substance resembles something it absolutely needs in order to replicate itself. The human host cells do not require this substance, nor is it toxic to them, but the herpes virus does. The elegance of this process is impressive.
Of course, there is always a fly in the ointment. In the 1960s, researchers at France’s Pasteur Institute observed that bacteria and viruses, often in cooperation with each other, create a smooth fatty armour inside which they hide, evading detection by the patrolling immune system armies. In 2007, the term ‘biofilm’ was coined to describe the fatty armour and a large body of research subsequently developed around it. This research has been especially helpful in understanding chronic diseases such as Lyme, herpetic illnesses, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, and all chronic illnesses in which biofilms often present the biggest challenge.
Organisms in a biofilm are protected from both antibiotics and the immune system at the same time. Dissolving biofilms is therefore key to therapeutic success. When treating diseases caused by biofilm-building pathogens, even the best drugs eventually fail because the pathogens’ reservoirs remain hidden. Then, given the opportunity, these pathogens will strike again and again. Any illness that keeps coming back must be assumed to have biofilms.
Biofilm ‘busters’ exist, and they work wonders in conjunction with drugs needed at the acute stage. In the case of herpes, Acyclovir is indispensable. I cried with gratitude and shed tears of joy when the Acyclovir eye drops stopped the pain within a few hours, my eyes stopped tearing, and my vision cleared. For the most effective drug treatment for herpes in the eye or on the face, drops and ointments are available. And for herpes on the skin (Eczema herpitcum), the pills are best and are usually taken for 10 to 14 days, at 800 mg a pill, five times a day. This is done under medical supervision and works best when supplemented with the nutrients outlined below. One can’t stay on Acyclovir indefinitely because viruses develop drug resistance. With herpes, the price of freedom is eternal vigilance, assisted by biofilm busters and certain nutrients in therapeutic doses.
The herpes family is very large and the diagnostic methods available are excellent and reliable. While Acyclovir works on all of the Herpes simplex viruses, including the shingles variety, the methods of its use vary. The results are also determined, of course, by general health, history, and usually by the patient’s genetically hardwired ability to metabolize foods, drugs, and supplements (see my March 2008 Vitality article, Drugs Dethroned(http://tinyurl.com/qeyj9r9). The best sources of information are contained in the drug manufacturer’s formal description, and in the technical details discussed in the various resources provided at the end of this article.
Effective Biofilm Busters from the Natural World Keep Herpes at Bay
I came across a most helpful article on the Weston Price Foundation’s website. It was written by Dr. Tom Cowan, MD, who has had years of clinical experience with herpes; I put his expertise to use and – holy cow! Does it ever work!
There are four substances that work together as both biofilm busters and virus killers, and they do so by assisting the immune system and empowering its functions:
1) St. John’s Wort – contains hypericin. It can penetrate all of the oily cells of the body, including the biofilm inside which herpes hides, and it works to bust the biofilm armour open so that the immune system can recognize herpes.
2) Lauric acid – comes from coconut oil, and in its concentrated form is known as monolaurin. This is absolutely key! See details below on how to get this product in Canada. Lauricidin inhibits enough herpes pathogens that it keeps them from causing symptoms. The candida albicans yeast is also inhibited in the process.
3) Lysine is an essential amino acid. Being ‘essential’, it cannot be patented, banned, or monopolized by Big Pharma. Lysine tips the balance favourably, ensuring that a lesser amount of arginine – also an essential amino acid – is available to the herpes virus. Since the virus happens to feed on arginine, it now gets starved.
4) Vitamin C – facilitates the optimal functioning of all of the above. This biochemical deity makes all metabolic things possible.
With a daily regimen of taking these inexpensive and easily available substances cure herpes? No. But it will create a truce, meaning that the slightest hint of a herpes symptom can then be stopped in its tracks – simply by increasing the dosage of all four. Best of all, there’s no need to take Acyclovir in this context.
Nutrients cannot be prescribed in a one-size-fits-all manner, so I can only say that in my case, four Lysine capsules twice daily, each at 500 mg, is my dose of prevention. Lauricidin is generally taken twice daily, one scoop each time. St. John’s Wort requires two capsules, at 300 mg each, twice daily.* Vitamin C should be taken to bowel tolerance level (i.e. start with 2,000 mg twice daily and increase until loose stool occurs; then cut back a few capsules). The best bio-available and non-acidic vitamin C, in my opinion, is by Natural Factors; it’s called BioCgel and it comes in 500 mg capsules. In my case, bowel tolerance is at 10,000 mg daily when I am not sick, and 60,000 mg daily when I am dealing with a health issue. Any of Linus Pauling’s books will provide the details.
(*Ed. note: St. John’s Wort tincture made from the fresh plant is also recommended for everything from preventing the ‘flu to alleviating depression.)