Zinc oxide is a compound that, as an additive, has more uses than duct tape. It is an odorless white powder that is found in ceramics, plastics, paints, glass, adhesives, and batteries. It is also used as a food additive, as a source of the zinc nutrient. And these are just a few places you’ll find zinc oxide.
But another key one is in ointments. Zinc oxide has antibacterial properties, and is an important part of baby powders, diaper rash ointments, calamine creams and suntan lotions. The ability of zinc oxide to rest on the skin without being absorbed into it makes it a great, non-irritating source for all kinds of barrier creams.
But how effective is zinc oxide for herpes? If you’ve already experienced an outbreak, then you probably already know! Much like a diaper rash cream, an ointment containing zinc oxide protects the herpes lesions from irritation (like friction against the clothing).
Zinc Oxide and Herpes in Studies
But it is also proving to go further than just a little pain relief. One study conducted by researchers in Pennsylvania looked at zinc oxide as a topical treatment for 46 patients with HSV-1.
These subjects, men and women aged 18 to 65, all had a history of cold sores. They were randomly assigned to either an ‘experimental’ (zinc oxide cream) or ‘placebo’ (placebo cream) group. They were told to apply their assigned cream to the cold sore area every 2 hours of every day until cold sores disappeared, or for up to 21 days.
In the end, the researchers found that the zinc oxide group not only experienced reduced severity of itching and soreness, but of all ‘signs and symptoms’, including blistering and tingling. They also found that those who applied the cream within 24 hours of the start of the outbreak had a significantly quicker healing time – an average of 5 days for the zinc oxide group compared to 6.5 days for the placebo. They concluded the study by noting, ” When applied to herpetic lesions, zinc decreases viral load and markedly improves healing rates, relieving the symptoms of herpes as healing occurs”.
Products Containing Zinc Oxide
So, it goes without saying that a cream containing zinc oxide is a handy item to have around for outbreaks. But which one should you use?
Well, if you have small children there’s a good chance you already have a zinc oxide diaper rash ointment in a cabinet somewhere. Many brand-name zinc creams have zinc oxide content of 15-20%, but you can also go higher than this.
One popular option for genital herpes outbreaks is Desitin Maximum Strength Original Paste. This cream contains 40% zinc oxide, which Desitin touts as “the maximum level of zinc oxide available without a prescription”. Desitin Maximum Strength can be found at most pharmacies, or it can be ordered online at Amazon.com.
It’s probably not surprising that zinc oxide is so useful for herpes sores considering it is one of the most-used substances on earth. How used is ‘most-used’? This video, courtesy of 1977′s Kentucky Fried Movie, gives a good idea:
Category: Natural Treatments - Topical