By George Eby
revision date: July 12, 2010

Background of Zinc for Herpes

In 1985, I wrote a review article Medical Hypotheses (volume 17, pages 157 - 165) reprinted below (click here) about the use of zinc to treat oral and genital herpes simplex infections. Guess what? Nobody paid any attention, even though many articles demonstrated efficacy. Times have changed. Today in "The Doctors Book of Home Remedies" available at most book stores, there is a reasonably correct discussion of the use of Zn2+ ions to treat herpes simplex cold sores. It is really very simple. "Zap It With Zinc Ions! Use zinc acetate lozenges every few hours to release herpes simplex virus killing Zn2+ ions."

Genital herpes infection rates are alarming

Did you know that about 20 percent of all young people are infected with genital herpes? Did you know that oral herpes is estimated to be present in 50 to 80 percent of the American adult population? Did you know that fellatio has increased the rate of genital herpes infections of the mouth and that they are dangerous to respiration? Did you know that herpes viruses can easily move from the mouth to the lungs where they can kill a person? Read this abstract concerning this risk of lung herpes infection. Did you know that over 50 million people in the U.S. are infected with genital herpes, and the majority of these people are totally unaware that they even have it? Did you know that more than 500,000 Americans are diagnosed with genital herpes each year, and the largest increase is occurring in young teens? Did you know that half of 15- to 19-year-olds have received or given oral sex? See this USA Today article about teen technical virginity. Some adults say fellatio is a form of sex, but kids don't really see it that way. For most teens, the only form of sex is penetration, and anything else doesn't count. They feel that they can have oral sex and remain a virgin. Even infants can get herpes simplex, primarily from being kissed on the mouth by their herpes-infected mothers. Did you know that there is evidence that when herpes gets in the brain it causes Alzheimer's disease? Did you know that herpes can cause arteriosclerosis? Did you know that herpes can be fatal? Still enjoying sex?

Are all fatal sexually transmitted diseases bad?

I suggest to you that not all fatal sexually transmitted diseases are bad. Consider the words of the philosopher Dominique Mathews: "LIFE is a sexually transmitted disease which has a 100% fatality rate". See? Not all sexually transmitted diseases are bad. Have you previously thought of yourself as a disease?

Want to see some photographs of herpes infections?

Educate yourself! Learn about herpse. The best teachers, other than personal experiences, are photographs. You won't like what you see. There is nothing left to the imagination. Learn - don't burn!

My 1985 zinc for herpes review article

In my 1985 article reprinted below, I suggested for oral herpes frequent application of ionic zinc (perhaps 9 times per day for 4 or 5 days), and about twice a day for several months, whether sores were present or not. Extended treatment destroys viruses hiding in the nerve ganglia as they surface. In genital herpes simplex infections, the means of applying Zn2+ ions is different. Zinc gluconate or zinc sulfate aqueous solutions are kept in contact with the infected tissues for about 30 minutes to an hour and are repeated frequently (4 to 9 times a day) until the sores are gone.

The secret to keeping these viruses from reinfecting is maintaining zinc ions on the tissue surface by keeping the tissue wet for a long time to insure that all herpes simplex viruses are destroyed as they surface from the nerve ganglia.

Short term contact of zinc solutions (less than 15 minutes) in vitro does not affect herpes viruses, consequently, people must use it for considerably longer periods of time, and perhaps the best idea is to apply it and do not wash it off.

I prefer zinc gluconate over zinc sulfate because "gluconate" is produced by the oxidation of glucose, a simple sugar. On the other hand zinc sulfate is made from zinc and sulfuric acid. If you don't mind treating yourself with a sulfuric acid product, be my guest. I like gluose oxides (gluconates) better!

Internet boards

In February of 2009, a man told me that he had inquired as to the functionality of zinc in the treatment of herpes to several of the Internet "boards" that discuss these things. He was told by some "authority" that topical zinc could not stop the infection since the virus was inside the nerve ganglia.

He asked me that same question and I told him that the Internet board "experts" were right in principal, but the theory espoused by the scientists that have studied zinc and herpes in great detail over the last 50 years is that by laying a "trap" with ionic zinc on the skin, the viruses are killed when they come to the surface and that if the zinc "trap" is properly set and maintained, then there are few or no viruses to return to the nerve ganglia. Over a period of time (weeks to months), enough of the viruses in the skin are killed (when they are trapped) that the infection in the nerve ganglia terminates.

The lesson here is simple, topical zinc as a one-time treatment will not work since an insufficient number of viruses are killed. It takes perseverance, lots of it; and the lack of perseverance is the main factor that prevents this treatment from working. BTW, the same "trap" idea applies to any topical treatment (iodine, Clorox) as described below. Additionally, who knows how toxic these treatment are over a long term, although I suspect zinc is much less toxic than over absorption of iodine or Clorox. The first indication of zinc toxicity that will be readily observed by the user will be nausea and vomiting. I know one woman that vomited all day from applying these solutions to the majority of her skin for a few days. She kept applying the zinc gluconate and kept on vomiting. I intervened and stopped her because she was at great risk of becoming dehydrated (with potentially lethal consequences) from her massive vomiting episode.

Buy zinc acetate lozenges

If you decide that you want to conduct oral (in the mouth) herpes experimental research, you can use Cold Cure Zinc Lozenges. These lozenges are the only product ever proved to shorten the duration and severity of natural (presumed viral) common colds in three, non-company, independent clinical trial. They are legal drugs in the United States. However, they have not been clinically tested to treat oral herpes. They last about 30 minutes in the mouth. Be careful to not overdose on zinc lozenges, (meaning no more than 9 zinc acetate lozenges per day for 4 or 5 days) and not longer, although a partial zinc lozenge about twice a day for several months seems reasonable. One does not need to swallow the zinc-laden saliva.

CAUTION: Zinc lozenges found in stores nearly always list citric acid, glycine or ascorbic acid in the fine print, and they will not be beneficial in the treatment of oral herpes. These additives are used to improve the taste of the lozenges and to eliminate the astringent taste of ionc zinc, thus they won't work because the active ingrediient, ionic zinc, has been removed. Here is an easy to read page about the problem since it shows the exact effect (benefit or harm) of over 50 different zinc lozenges.

Buy zinc gluconate powder

If you decide that you want to conduct genital herpes (or skin) experimental research, you can obtain zinc gluconate from me although I can not advertise where to buy it by providing you with a link (Food and Drug Administration regulation). You can find powdered zinc gluconate by googling "George Eby" and "powdered zinc gluconate" and sending me $60 per pound of zinc gluconate. It will arrive in a ZipLock bag as a "chemical" only. I do not make any claims for it other than that it is essentially 100% powdered zinc gluconate as the case may be, for you to do your own "research and development" work.

Most of the clinical trials cited below used zinc sulfate. The ionic action of zinc sulfate and zinc gluconate are similar with zinc sulfate containing 22.7% zinc and zinc gluconate containing 14.4% zinc, consequently zinc sulfate is a bit stronger and might be a bit more effective than zinc gluconate. Zinc sulfate was many times more often used in the clinical trials shown below than zinc gluconate. Again, I prefer zinc gluconate over zinc sulfate, since "gluconate" comes from potatoes and "sulfate" comes from sulfuric acid, which is battery acid. I have had one woman tell me that the zinc sulfate solutions gave her a rash anywhere that she applied it. Whether it was in a personal area or on on her arm or leg, it made no difference - a rash (non-herpetic) occured. See why I prefer zinc gluconate?

If you have little or no experience measuring with a spoon and cup accurately, do not buy this chemical and do not try to make these solutions.

Make your own anti-herpes skin washes

Dry, neither zinc gluconate nor zinc sulfate have any beneficial pharmacological activities, but if highly concentrated solutions (pastes) dry on infected skin, they will produce severe tissue burns. Consequently they may be thought of as agents to destroy (disintegrate) herpes-infected tissue, but not normal un-infected tissues. Only when the user mixes it in water - and keeps it wet in a low concentration - does it have safe and effective pharmacological properties as a topical anti-herpes wash.

Mix one level teaspoon of powdered zinc gluconate into a half pint of warm water, and PRESTO, you will have made a TOPICAL antiviral wash of about 22 milliMolar concentration. Do you see that you can vary this concentration in a linear manner by adding zinc gluconate? What would be the millimolar concentration if you used 4 level teaspoons of zinc gluconate? I get 88 millimolar. What did you get?

Mix one level teaspoons of powdered zinc sulfate into a half pint of warm water, and PRESTO, you will have made a TOPICAL antiviral wash of about 54.5 milliMolar concentration. What would be the millimolar concentration if you used 4 level teaspoons of zinc sulfate? I get 218 millimolar. What did you get?

You can increase the strength simply by increasing the amount of zinc. In fact, some of the best responses shown in the medical journal articles below call for concentrations in the 100 to 400 mMol ionic zinc range. I do not want to recommend any specific concentration, so you will need to experiment for yourself. However, if I had genital herpes, I would start with a 100 mMol solution. This amounts to about 5 level teaspoons of powdered zinc gluconate to a half pint of warm water, or two teaspoons of zinc sulfate to a half pint of warm water.

Key to making zinc work is perseverance and keeping the infected tissue wet with the ionic zinc solution for at least 30 minutes and preferably one hour each day. Perseverance is an issue, and I am beginning to wonder if rubber adult diapers would work keep the tissues wet with zinc gluconate solutions. If this sounds like something you would like to try see this google search for adult rubber diapers

You should also be very careful about storage, and I would keep zinc gluconate solutions in a sealed container in a refrigerator as those solutions can grow bacteria.

Persistence pays!

Think of ionic zinc as a herpes killing tool. You must figure out how to use that tool for it to work.

How do you use the zinc gluconate or zinc sulfate washes? I don't have any direct experience, consequently see the medical journal articles below for ideas. If you are female, you might invent your own zinc gluconate or zinc sulfate-treated napkins or tampons. Are they safe? I don't know, but I suspect that zinc could react with any other chemicals found in those sanitary items, so I would never add zinc washes to them if there are any drug or chemical additives in them. If you are male, your job may involve bandages or perhaps a taped-on condom. Again, avoid fancy bandages that have drugs or chemical additives.

Remember that there are two aspects of treatment. First, is "treatment" of active lesions, and second is "prevention" of re-occurrence. Only long term (many months) of topical application of ionic zinc on a frequent daily basis has been shown to prevent re-occurrence as shown in the articles below. Read these articles below to see how others achieved this goal. Obviously, with a 20% incidence of herpes in the American public, your chances of getting genital herpes with each sexual encounter is 1 out of 5. Therefore, you will likely get herpes again and again and again and again... and I haven't even mentioned any of the other sexually transmitted diseases. The only "safe sex" is for those that are abstinent or monogamous.

How about zinc oxide ointments?

Zinc oxide ointments have been used for over a century to treat various skin conditions, and they are ultimately safe. I don't know if zinc oxide will work against herpes or not, since I was not able to find any clinical trial results for it. That having been said, several people (one man and one woman) have told me that it worked fine and dandy for them. It is worth a try, mainly since it is an ointment, it will stay in place perfectly. Will it work? I don't know. See this Google search for more information on "zinc oxide" and herpes.

For the science minded...

Zinc Gluconate mMol Calculation For the science minded. DATA: One level teaspoon (5 milliliters) of powdered zinc gluconate weighs 2.8 grams on my scale. Zinc gluconate is 14.4 % zinc. One level teaspoon of it contains 370 milligrams of elemental zinc. The molecular weight of zinc is 65.4 and the molecular weight of zinc gluconate is 455.67. The formula for milliMolar concentration is milliMolar = milligrams of zinc divided by the molecular weight of the zinc divided by the volume of the solute (water). Therefore, 370 mg / 65.40 / 0.25 liters equals about 22 milliMolar. What is 0.25 liter? It is essentially one-half pint of water. Further, a level tablespoon of the powdered zinc gluconate weighs 9.0 grams. Therefore a tablespoon of zinc gluconate in a half pint of water would be a 72 milliMolar concentration of zinc. You can use stronger concentrations equivalent to the strengths used in the clinical trials listed below. Get the idea?

Zinc Sulfate mMol Calculation For the science minded. DATA: One level teaspoon (5 milliliters) of powdered zinc sulfate weighs 3.9 grams on my scale. Zinc sulfate is 22.7% zinc. The molecular weight of zinc sulfate is 287.56 and the molecular weight of elemental zinc is 65.4. Therefore, one level teaspoon, 3.9 grams, contains 22.7% elemental zinc, which equals 0.885 grams of elemental zinc. The formula for milliMolar concentration is milliMolar = milligrams of zinc divided by the molecular weight of the zinc divided by the volume of the solute (water). Ok, and that equals 885 mg / 65.0 / 0.25 liters equals 54.5, which is about 2.5 times stronger than zinc gluconate.

Consequently, a level teaspoon of of zinc sulfate in a half pint of water yields a 54.5 mMol soultion of ionic zinc.

If I were making a solution for myself, I would use two level teaspoons of powdered zinc sulfate in a half pint of water to make an approximate 110 mMol solution of ionic zinc sulfate. If I did my math right! I think I am right, but you should check my work.

Here are some measurement equivalencies: 500 cubic centimeters (CC) = 500 milliliters (ml) = 2 cups = 16 fluid ounces (oz) = 1 pint = 1/2 quart.

Some warnings

Avoid applying these solutions to large areas such as the entire chest and/or back because vomiting may result from excessive ionic zinc absorption (overdose).

Avoid applying magnesium compounds (and especially magnesium chloride solutions) to skin infected with herpes, since magnesium ions will greatly worsen herpes infections, readily and rapidly doubling the amount of virus. See this article for reference. There has been a report from a person treating himself with topical magnesium chloride for other purposes than herpes, who found a great increase in the size of his herpes outbreak.

Never apply solutions stronger than 400 millimolar, and preferably no stronger than 200 millimolar. If you don't know how to make these molutions, get help from a pharcologist or pharmacist. Stong solutions have not been tested for safety and there is evidence that strong solutions can form pastes as the water dries; and these ultra-strong solutions - approaching pastes - are damaging (destructive) of tissues. We need a compounding pharmacy to make safe solutions, but since I first started looking at this matter in 1985, none have come forward to my knowledge.

WARNING: Never put pastes of zinc gluconate, zinc sulfate (or any other ionic zinc compound) on herpes simplex infected tissues or tissue burning and painful ulcers will result.

Some people have had greatly increased redness and swelling from zinc gluconate paste applied to the penis, and they developed painful deep ulcers!

Some people have reported to me that they are simply applying dry zinc gluconate powder topically to wetted skin, which forms a white paste that sticks firmly. This may work well on NON-SENSITIVE dry skin, but pastes that remain damp on sensitive genital tissues can increase the zinc ion content of the tissue to such an extent that severe tissue burning occurs. These tissue burns recover without scarring, and their occurrence do not mean that the herpes infection has worsened, but they are painful and distressing for a while. What I believe is happening is that ionic zinc in these super concentrated solutions in these virally infected tissues detaches virally infected cells from each other through intracellular adhesion molecule (ICAM) inhibition, thus destroying the weakened, virally infected tissue. This clearly causes major tissue damage, and is a much too severe effect to be called therapeutic, although it does give a graphic idea of the tissues actually infected. One may speculate that this destruction of virally infected tissues would also completely eliminate all herpes simplex viruses in that tissue.

On the other hand, zinc gluconate is the least likely of the highly ionizable zinc compounds to cause tissue burning. For example, zinc acetate and zinc chloride are vastly stronger ionic chemicals, and they must never be used topically for fear of even greater, and much longer lasting tissue burning. Do not use zinc pastes! This also implies that drying solutions may increase irritation, and such is a strong reason to keep the bandages with zinc gluconate wet, perhaps by using a rubber diaper. Don't let it dry out, OR keep the solutions weak, say in the 100 to 200 milliMolar range. Keep it wet. If irritation increases, should you continue or stop? I would stop and thoroughly wash away the zinc. Any time the skin is broken, there is a possibility of another infection occurring, perhaps of a bacterial nature which may need either preventative care or therapy.

Do not give zinc gluconate or zinc sulfate powder to anyone that has not read these precautions! They will likely hurt themselves!

Chicken pox and Shingles

How about chicken pox and shingles? Will zinc work with them? These are caused by the varicella zoster virus, a close cousin to the herpes simplex viruses. I have not found any medical literature on the subject, but I did have occasion to see if it would work. About 1990, a lady friend of mine came down with chicken pox, or shingles on her face. She was a painful mess. I told her about my research with zinc and she decided to try a mild solution of zinc gluconate on her face. She said it worked and the next time I saw her, several days later, her face was clear and she was very happy. There you have it, a single vote for YES! I know of no other instances where zinc has been used to treat chicken pox, although most rashes are treated with zinc oxide ointments for relief of itching. Again, very strong solutions and pastes will probably hurt or injure skin.

How about postherpetic neuralgia? This is a painful condition affecting nerve fibers and skin. It's a complication of shingles, a second outbreak of the varicella-zoster virus, which initially was caused chickenpox. During an initial infection of chickenpox (usually in childhood), some of the chickenpox virus remains dormant inside nerve cells. Years later, factors such as old age, illness, stress or medications can reactivate the virus. Once reactivated, the virus travels along nerve fibers, causing pain or "postherpetic neuralgia". I have an elderly neighbor who suffered noisily and loudly for about 6 months from facial pain from postherpetic neuralgia after a recurrence of chicken pox, shingles. Complaining of facial pain was her main occupation, and it occupied her time 24/7, driving her husband nearly nuts. Fussing at her doctors didn't work because they knew of nothing that would help. To her doctors, postherpetic neuralgia was not curable. Fussing at her husband didn't help, but fussing at me caused me to suggest zinc gluconate solutions like the ones used for herpes simplex and shingles. In total desperation she, in front of my eyes, applied the zinc gluconate solution to her painful face. She found it soothing and re-applied it quite frequently the first day and the next day. Less than a week later, she had a total recovery and no facial pain, but adamantly and loudly denied efficacy of the zinc gluconate solutions. She had no more pain! Who cares if it was just her time to get well spontaneously or if her pain-free face was due to zinc gluconate solutions? None of us care, we are just glad she is not fussing any more. Two years later, she had not had a recurrence.

Prevent drying

Some means to prevent drying of strong solutions is needed. Perhaps, and I say perhaps, one might be able to add a water soluble substance like glycerin (glycerol) or KY Jelly to help prevent drying and tissue injury. Also, consider a rubber diaper.

Some means of protecting the sterility of the solutions is needed. Perhaps using a bottle that has a drip or squirt opening so that the bottle is never really opened to the air would be helpful. Perhaps one could use a baby bottle with a large hole in the nipple to help keep the solution clean. Keep the bottle boldly marked with the words "WARNING: ZINC GLUCONATE - DO NOT INGEST" and keep it refrigerated between uses. Use precautions and think of ways to avoid others from coming in contact with it. Keep it out of reach of everyone, not just children.

Recent Zinc for Herpes Research of Interest

Here is the abstract of a 2000 year article by Max Arens and Sharon Travis showing the efect of milder zinc solutions. Note that zinc lactate was more effective than zinc gluconate for HSV-2. Also note that a 2-hour treatment was required.

Using a standard plaque assay and clinical isolates of herpes simplex virus (HSV), we have tested the ability of zinc salts to inactivate HSV. Virus was treated by incubation at 37C with zinc salts in morpholinepropanesulfonic acid-buffered culture medium and was then diluted and plated onto CV-1 cells for detection and quantitation of remaining infectious virus. Of 10 randomly chosen clinical isolates (five HSV type 1 [HSV-1] isolates and five HSV-2 isolates), seven were inactivated >98% by treatment in vitro with 50 milliMolar zinc gluconate for 2 h and nine were inactivated >97% by treatment with zinc lactate. The effect was concentration dependent. With an HSV-1 isolate, 50 milliMolar zinc gluconate or zinc lactate caused 100% inactivation, 15 mM caused 98 to 99% inactivation, and 5 mM caused 63 to 86% inactivation. With an HSV-2 isolate, 50 and 15 mM zinc gluconate caused 30% inactivation and 5 and 1 mM caused less than 9% inactivation, whereas 50 and 15 mM zinc lactate caused greater than 92% inactivation and 5 and 1 mM caused 37 and 26% inactivation, respectively. The ability of the zinc salts to inactivate HSV was not related to pH in the pH range of 6.1 to 7.6 since inactivation by zinc gluconate or zinc lactate in that pH range was 99.7 to 100% with a 2-h treatment with 50 mM zinc salt. Short (5-min) treatments of selected isolates with zinc gluconate, zinc lactate, zinc acetate, or zinc sulfate yielded inactivation rates of 0 to 55%.

Other simple treatments for herpes

IODINE! If the truth be known, there are several chemicals that destroy or inactivate the herpes simplex virus. Iodine is a very common antiviral, antibacterial, anti fungal agent for topical use. A bit of a water soluble iodine complex like povidine iodine (Betadine iodine) might be added to the zinc gluconate or zinc sulfate wash to help in the struggle against herpes, or it can be used alone. Betadine iodine (water-soluble iodine) without any dilution has been suggested to cause zero pain and absolutely no discomfort when used to treat genitals, either male or female, or the anus, in each case internally or externally. Interestingly, it has lubricating properties suggesting an antiviral, antibacterial, antifungal sexual lubricant, although overdose might cause thyroid problems. Tincture of iodine is also used to kill herpes viruses, but it is disolved in alcohol, which will sting tender tissues and is not lubricating. Iodine stains the skin and clothing, and it is absorbed into the skin where it has its activity. An iodine-colored zinc gluconate or zinc sulfate wash might be helpful in reminding one to retreat. Iodine disappears into the skin at rates that are different between people. If it is absorbed in just a few hours, such is said to represent an "iodine deficiency", while non-deficient people tend to absorb it in about 24 hours - so they say. Look up the medical research on iodine and herpes here. For example, in a very small 1975 study patients with vulvovaginal and cervical herpes-virus infections were treated with a regimen of external and intravaginal povidone-iodine preparations. In all but 1 case, the expected duration of symptoms and healing time were shortened. The response of cervical lesions was especially remarkable. How much iodine to add? I don't know, but if your body absorbs much more than 3 drops of iodine per day over a long period of time (months), you may injure your thyroid. Too much iodine is dangerous and it can either cause hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism. However, most people are deficient in iodine, which also causes hypothyroidism. In fact, iodine deficiency is a significant cause of cardiac death in old people. You take your chances! Google articles on "hypothyroidism" and "iodine". Betadine iodine applied to genitals and anus kills Candida albicans, a common fungus that causes much irritation. However, treatment may need to extend 6-moths to a year for permanent benefit. Warnings about overdosing on iodine apply.

A common household chemical, sodium hypoclorite (Clorox bleach) is also extremely anti-herpes simplex and is finding use in treating herpes. Hunter writes, "In a small series of patients, topical treatment with dilute sodium hypoclorite hastened the resolution of cutaneous and mucosal lesions caused by herpes simplex virus. Subjective discomfort was ameliorated and vesicles healed more rapidly. Sites treated during the prodrome stage failed to vesiculate. The advantages of this therapy included ease of treatment, patient acceptance, absence of side effects, and low cost." Hunter did not report what "diluted" meant, but I would guess a one percent to a ten percent solution of Clorox. Study this idea more here.

RED WINE! Red wine? Yes! A man recently told me that the only way he could prevent recurrence of genital herpes simplex infections was to drink a lot of red wine. How much? Nearly enough to make him drunk - all the time! Is there support for red wine preventing herpes? Yes. A compound in red wine, called resveratrol, can stop the virus. The compound has previously been found to protect against heart disease. After carrying out tests and developing a slightly modified form of the compound, called stil-5, they found that this stopped infection in 99.9% of cases. However, treatment is topical, and red wine or resveratrol is frequently applied. This gives a whole new meaning to the words, "Bottoms up!" Read the resveratrol literature here. Read more about red wine and herpes here. However, others believe that red wine can aggravate or worsen herpes infections. Who knows.

Indole-3-Carbinol inhibits herpes simplex virus replication in vitro. Will it work in you? I don't know, but here is the abstract of this meeting report:

Indole-3-carbinol (I3C) is a natural component of a variety of edible plants including cabbage, broccoli and brussel sprouts. It has been reported that I3C is a cell cycle G[1] antagonist (J. Biol. Chem. 273: 3838, 1998) and that herpes simplex virus (HSV) requires cell cycle factors to replicate (J. Gen. Virol. 78: 3341, 1997). We have found that this relatively nontoxic phytocompound inhibits HSV replication in vitro in a dose and time dependent manner and adversely affects cell cycle factors. METHODS: To determine the effect of I3C on viral replication, Vero cells (monkey kidney) and MRC-5 cells (human lung) were pretreated with nontoxic concentrations of 267 uM and 375 uM I3C, respectively. Cells were infected with HSV-1, HSV-2 or acyclovir resistant HSV-1 (AcR) at a multiplicity of infection of one and viral replication assayed. Cell cycle factors were analyzed in MRC-5 cells in the presence or absence of I3C using Western blot and macroarray gene analysis. RESULTS: The replication of all HSV types tested was inhibited by at least 99.9% by the drug but Vero cells required pretreatment with I3C for at least 12 hours and MRC-5 cells required pretreatment for 36 hours prior to infection. The observed inhibition was not due to direct viral inactivation by I3C or drug induced cytoxicity. Western blot analysis of cell cycle factors revealed that MRC-5 cells pretreated with I3C for 24 and 36 hours showed significant increases in p53 and p21 protein. These results were supported by macroarray gene analysis which demonstrated increased mRNA levels of p21 and mdm[2] after I3C exposure. Mdm[2] is known to regulate p53 levels. CONCLUSION: These results demonstrate that I3C has significant anti-HSV properties in vitro and may act by disrupting cell cycle factors required by HSV for replication by manipulating p21 or p53.

You can study and order indole-3-carbinol here. Dosage? I recommend 200 mg with each meal and at bedtime. Indole-3-carbinol is extremely important to both men and women since it is clear in the medical literature that it is a potent anti-cancer agent, especially against estrogen-induced cancers. Look at about 350 medical journal articles on indole-3-carbinol and cancer here.

I strongly suspect that these nearly free treatments for herpes tend to dampen major pharmaceutical company research investment in expensive antiherpes drugs.

Do these treatments work?

Do these techniques really cure herpes simplex? I don't know! Why? Because I have never had a herpes infection and have never treated one either. I am not a physician, but a nutrient researcher who thought this was interesting material needing to be made available to the public rather than be kept locked away somewhere in a dusty laboratory. Also, because no clinical trials to test YOUR zinc gluconate or zinc sulfate solutions against herpes have been done, and because no one tells me the long-term results of THEIR private experimental efforts! At least, no users (except for the two men above using a paste) have complained to me. Since zinc for herpes is not patentable, and because we have no National policy to provide governmental support for non-patentable but potentially effective medical treatments, there never will be! On the other hand, if one does some literature research, there are more studies that show efficacy of zinc in treating herpes simplex and other herpes infections.

Are these treatments safe?

Are these treatment safe? Probably not. Why? Who knows what you will concoct!

TESTIMONIES - Here is a letter from a guy that has real experience with zinc gluconate for herpes

Hi George-

I am one of the two men who contacted you re: burning caused by zinc gluconate pastes, and I am happy to see you have updated the website to reflect this cautionary note to others. It did scar, but the scar essentially went away in about two months. Paste should always be highly, highly, highly discouraged however.

I also want to say THANK YOU SO MUCH for making this information about zinc and herpes public. I have had excellent results from use of zinc gluconate, although it is not a cure for me, at least so far. It is, however, an amazing reducer of both the potency and recurrence of the virus.

For your continued research and to help others, I thought I should report my results to you.

After I let the area heal (from use of the paste), I resumed further treatment. I began using zinc gluconate powder, this time as a 100 millimolar solution, in January of this year. At the time I was having continuous outbreaks that were severe.

My methodology was to mix 1 tsp (1 U.S. teaspoon = 4.93 milliliters) of zinc gluconate. with 50 mL of hot tap water, stir until it dissolved (which makes a mild 100 millimolar concentration), and keep the measuring cup warm in a hot water bath in the sink. I then just applied the warm acqueous solution to the affected area with a wet Kleenex, and timed the exposure to 30 minutes. Then I left the area wet and let it air dry (which extends the exposure time another few minutes). This creates minor pain during an outbreak if the legions are broken first, but even that goes away in a few minutes. Later, after the area begins to heal, it is indeed ineffective, and in fact counter-productive, so I learned to not apply it to the affected area after scabs form. Concerning frequency of use: In general I used it once per day for about three months, except during outbreaks, and then I used it twice a day. Duration (time I kept it wet) was always about 15 minutes, leaving it wet at the end.

The results have been a decrease in outbreaks from constant and severe to only about once in 4-5 months (amazing), and duration has been reduced from weeks to 3-4 days (maximum has probably been 8 or 9 days, if I munch chocolate and eat other sweet junk during the outbreak, which I try to avoid). These results are against a backdrop of a much more stressful job than most people have (very long hours, as I run a large company), a lot less sleep than I should get, and eating poorly during the whole 9 month period. So I would say this methodology is a big success and a helluva lot better than popping pills every day. It has changed my life, I can sure tell you that. I owe you big time.

It is very important to mention that those studies are right. It is important to begin treatment during the "rising red phase", and then continue treatment (if blisters appear) for the first two days the blisters are present. The blisters should be broken (with a soapy wet washcloth), and then the zinc solution applied directly. This will sting for approximately 10 minutes after application is complete. After two days, when scabbing occurs, the use of the zinc solution in the affected area needs to be discontinued, to avoid irritation. The studies are correct in this regard, also in my experience, it is ineffective to apply the solution during the healing phase --does nothing but irritate.

As I said before, duration of outbreaks dropped for me from 2 weeks to 1 week to 3-5 days. Also, the blisters go from big to small to tiny across the succesive outbreaks. Eventually, I needed a magnifying glass just to see them! So, treatment has to be adjusted somewhat to avoid irritating the area as healing is much faster over time.

A few questions, as I still use the zinc and want to continue to experiment to further reduce or eliminate the virus entirely if possible:

Question 1: I am thinking of venturing into zinc sulfate, just because most of the research you cite is with sulfate instead of gluconate. I understand I will need to be careful with it to avoid burning, but a solution at a low molarity, I think that might be avoidable. Is zinc sulfate chemically different from zinc gluconate in a way that herpes might respond to it differently? The research appeared to be even more successful using the sulfate instead....

Answer: There would be no difference in response between zinc gluconate and zinc sulfate, because both are nearly the same in their ability to release zinc ions at physiologic pH 7.4 Zinc sulfate is available from many pharmaceutical supply and chemical companies. However, zinc gluconate is much more readily available in the high quality (food and pharmaceutical grades) that we need. Zinc sulfate tends to be used more in industry and agriculture, as you have found.

Question 2: Of all the research you cite, the most compelling (and in fact the most compelling study I have ever read about herpes) is the one about "herpigon" which cured everybody in the study, but yields ziltch when searched on google. I wonder if the Pharma folks took it off the market. My theory, is that what made it so amazingly effective was the use of ultrasound, to push it a little deeper into the skin's surface.

Answer: I agree with you. The researcher died before it could be commercialized. Also, he told me that no pharmaceutical company wanted to commercialize it. Frankly, I can't think of a single "cure" for any disease after the cure for polio, which taught the pharmaceutical company that life-long treatments were vastly more profitable than cures.

It would make for a good experiment if I could figure out how to try it.

Anyway, thanks again for everything...

Your pal, Dave.

My eye herpes was cured with zinc

Mr George,

As you will remember, I have been fighting herpes simplex infection in my eye for years. My doctor was worried that I was going to loose my eye. I think I got it from a herpes infection that I have on my face. Maybe I rubbed my eye and spread the herpes from my face to my eye? Anyway, I have had the infection for many years and as I have become older it has become worse. I will just tell you about my most recent outbreak, the one where I followed your advice (finally) upon becoming truly desperate. My eye was bothering me greatly, and I was photophobic, the sun here in Texas hurt my eyes so much due to the infection that I couldn't drive very well and stayed home a lot. It was scary. My eye hurt a lot, it was inflamed and my vision was very blurry. I felt like I was loosing my vision in that eye. Worse, the eye doctor said I had a 80 to 90% thinning of the cornea in that eye. I guess that meant that my eye was about to rupture and all the liquid in it would run out? Maybe I would end up with a "deflated" eye? The steroids that he had prescribed (absolutely vital to reduce inflammation) were believed to be causing the corneal thinning. Finally, in absolute and total desperation I got some zinc gluconate powder and, following your directions above, I made a 72 mMol solution of zinc gluconate in normal saline (one teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon sodium bicarbonate in a pint of water) by adding two tablespoons of the powdered zinc gluconate to the pint of warm normal saline. It was a cloudy mixture at first, but after stirring and warming it, it became clear. I found an eye dropper and after cleaning it, I dropped a few drops of the zinc solution into my eye. I was scared and thought it would sting. It did sting at first, but immediately my eye cleared, stopped hurting and my vision returned to normal. I was stunned! I had been using antibiotics and some kind of anti-viral medication for the herpes that my doctor had prescribed without much benefit (that I could tell), so when this worked immediately - I thought it was a miracle!

My doctor was really interested in your article, especially upon seeing my eye "look better than ever before". He told me to immediately tapper off of the steroids since he thought that the steroids might be causing the corneal thinning as a side effect (which looks pretty certain to me). What I am doing now is to adhere to your simple trick of "laying a trap" for the emerging herpes-virus by dripping a drop or two of the 72 mMol zinc solution into my eye about each hour or two while awake, and I will be doing this for at least six months like you recommended above generally for herpes.

Thanks George, I think you saved my eye.

Your friend, Bret H.

Hi Bret,

I am glad you finally followed my advice. I have been worried about your eye for years, and have recommended zinc for years. Corneal thinning can be caused by infection (like herpes), inflammation, trauma, and degeneration, which cause most of the problems. Consequently, the anti-herpes medicine and steroids were properly (IMHO) prescribed. However, zinc is both anti-inflammatory and anti-herpes, so it makes sense to use zinc in the treatment of your eye. I really hate steroids and strongly recommend against their use unless absolutely necessary. Your doctor did the right thing in tapering you off of them. BTW, you MUST tapper off. Never go cold-turkey. I agree with you about how you got the herpes in your eye. Every time you touched your face (picked at the lesions) you picked up herpes viruses, and apparently you touched your eye one time to many. Then you had both face and eye herpes. BTW, this is a good way to spread it to the genitals, simply by holding the penis while urinating. I also suggest that you use the 72 mMol zinc solution as a topical rinse on your face and hands daily (as an anti-viral agent and trap) even if you don't have an outbreak. NEVER touch your eyes or genitals (unless you use clean and new rubber gloves) without a 15-minute soap and hot water scrub, particularly under the fingernails and fingers.

BTW, I really hope that you will also take about twice the RDA of vitamin A, since a vitamin A deficiency can cause corneal thinning. Also take leutein. Each of these (zinc, vitamin A and leutein) are potent anti-oxidants needed in recovery from eye injury.

Thanks for giving me my life back

Hi George,

Thanks for giving me my life back. The zinc oxide works a treat in inhibiting the herpes simplex type II virus. I used it on my L2 ganglion and the vaginal/anal area but the virus changed nerve paths and came out in a weak fashion in a place I had missed. I persevered by plastering it everywhere I needed to and it tried twice more to come out but could not. I used it for a month and had a break as it can make a person anaemic, and still no virus.

I used Calmoseptine ointment 206mg/g made in Australia by Calmoseptine (Australia) P/L, 16 Delatite Avenue, Shepparton, Victoria 3630. It is used here as a nappy rash ointment (in fact I used it for my children many years ago) and also for bed sores etc. It worked for me in suppressing it - that's all I can tell you. Also I have not had an attack since that time which is 3 months now and counting.

I have since used Barlowe's viral elixir and prunella vulgaris in the same manner and no virus has erupted but it may be just sleeping so I am not sure of their efficacy. However, as I wanted to continue with a treatment whilst I had to have a break from zinc oxide, I chose those two as they have excellent write-ups and it is possible that they too work - I'll only know if and when the virus tries to come out again. I'll keep you posted on that if you are interested.

I had to cover the entire area plus the associated ganglion, in my case L2. If a spot is missed it will find it, like coming out for air!

Elle from Australia

Thanks Elle,

Many people have wondered about plain old ordinary zinc oxide ointment. I am certain that the plain-Jane zinc oxide ointment is not sufficiently ionizable to work, but there are special zinc oxide ointments on the market that do have enough ionic zinc that they can work. Not only that, but they stay on the skin better than the water soluble and highly ionizable forms like zinc sulfate and gluconate. You were lucky and got some good stuff. Be careful about changing brands. There is clinical evidence that a zinc oxide/glycine paste shortens oral-facial herpes infections from 6.5 days to 5 days. That product is not too effective, again since there is little ionic zinc in the preparation.


More Information

All (over 176) medical journal articles available on PubMed (the National Library of Medicine)

See this Scholar.Google search for "herpes" and "zinc".

See this story about evidence for a mononucleosis cure (Epstein Barr, a herpes family virus) using zinc acetate lozenges.

Here is a link to a 1995 German article on use of zinc sulfate gel to treat oral herpes.

Here is a year 2000 link to a medical article about zinc ion antiherpes effects in vitro.

Here is a 2003 article that shows doctors in Iran can prevent oral herpes simplex recurrence with 0.05% zinc sulfate.

Here is a link to a review article about oral and genital herpes (more information than I can use - zinc not mentioned). Genital Herpes: Review of the Epidemic and Potential Use of Type-Specific Serology

Here is a link to a Scholar.Google.com search for "herpes simplex"

Here is my brand new 2010 page on using gallium nitrate as an antiviral treatment for HIV/AIDS. Gallium nitrate at low concentrations (0.10 milli Molar) kills HIV perfectly, but it has never been used in clinical trials for humans. Perhaps this new 2010 page will excite some people into trying gallium nitrate for HIV/AIDS. The concerns on this page for gallium and HIV/AIDS are similar to those for zinc for herpes.

Following is the complete text of my 1984 Medical Hypotheses (volume 17, pages 157 - 165) article.

Use of Topical Zinc to Prevent Recurrent Herpes Simples Infection: Review of Literature and Suggested Protocols, Medical Hypotheses 1985, (volume 17, pages 157 - 165)


George A. Eby, 2109 Paramount Ave. Austin, TX 78704 USA, and William W. Halcomb D.O., Mesa, Arizona, USA


Zinc ions have been reported to be antiviral to herpes simplex viruses. A number of treatments using zinc are reviewed which illustrate the effects of topically applied zinc in reducing the duration and severity of human orolabial and genital infections. Long-term topical application of zinc salts appears to greatly reduce or eliminate recurrences of genital herpetic infections.


Highly contagious and painful, mucous membrane and skin lesions caused by herpes simplex viruses are among the most common and oldest infections known to man. Two types affect humans: one which usually causes orolabial, nasal and upper-body skin lesions (type 1) and a second type which usually causes genital lesions (type 2). Recurrence is a common characteristic of these infections. Herpetic infections are believed to be incurable, thus leaving victims with a sense of helplessness at each recurrence. Recurrent herpes simplex infections of the lips are experienced by about half of the population and recurrent herpetic infections are now the most common form of venereal disease (1). Infections seem to be brought on by trauma, fever, menses, infection, sunlight, emotional stress or weakened immune response. Infants born through the birth-canal of women with active genital herpes infection have a 50% chance of developing neonatal herpes which is 80% fatal (1). Herpes simplex viruses are associated with 40 to 70% of cervical cancers in humans and can cause malignant transformation in both animal and human cells. Women who have had genital herpes face an increased risk of developing cervical and vulvar cancer years later (1).

No antiviral agent, including acyclovir, has been accepted as effective against recurrent herpes simplex symptoms (1), and most that are available have toxicity or side effects. Consequently a safe and effective method to eliminate or substantially reduce recurrence should be of considerable importance. Our interest in effects of zinc gluconate throat lozenges in reducing the duration of common colds (2) led to a review of effects of zinc on herpes simplex viruses that cause nasal infections (common colds), as well as orolabial, skin and genital infections in humans. This article reviews the evidence that zinc has antiviral effects against herpes simplex viruses and that it might be useful as definitive therapy to prevent recurrence of both primary and secondary infections.


As early as 1948, aqueous zinc sulfate solutions were used empirically as treatment for herpetic keratitis. A 0.5% zinc sulfate solution applied to debrided corneas resulted in a 90% cure rate while the remaining 10% responded to a second treatment (3). Application of zinc ointment or calamine lotion to herpes simplex infections has long been used to relieve pain and swelling (4).

In Vitro Studies

In 1967, D. Falke observed that zinc chloride added to herpes simplex virus-infected tissue culture cells completely blocked formation of herpes induced giant cells (5). Another early study demonstrated that divalent cations, particularly zinc, appeared to crosslink the double helix of DNA to increase the structural stability of the molecule (6). Since herpes simplex viruses contain linear doublestranded DNA, zinc crosslinked DNA might not undergo the scission necessary for viral replication (7). Between 1975 and 1980, in vitro studies showed that 0.lmM zinc ions completely inhibits replication of herpes simplex virus type 1 and 2 (8,9,10,11) and completely inhibits herpes simplex DNA synthesis at 0.1mM concentration, with no harm to parent cells (11). Host cell chromosome uncoiling is prevented at 0.2mM concentration (12,13). For comparison, normal zinc serum concentration is 0.01 millimolar.

Animal Studies

Intravaginally applied zinc sulfate (100mM) in collagen sponge tampons controlled experimentally induced genital herpes simplex virus type 2 infections in mice. Incidence of vaginitis, encephalitis and mortality by day 15 was zero in treated animals compared to 30%, 40% and 40% respectively in control animals (P < 0.04). Treatment resulted in a 67-fold increase in zinc concentration in the vagina, 16-fold increase in the cervix, 1.5-fold increase in the uterus, and no change in serum. Vaginal douches (100mM) were equally effective, although occlusive creams were ineffective (14,15). In guinea pigs healing time was significantly reduced for herpes simplex virus type 2 lesions by Herpigon (3% zinc sulfate, 2% tannic acid, 30% urea in a cream base) and ultrasound. Treatment also greatly reduced the amount of recoverable virus (16). In rabbits with zinc deficiency-induced depression of humoral and cellular immunity, topical zinc ointment failed to control herpes simplex keratitis (17). Intraperitoneal injection of zinc in mice (sufficient to double zinc serum concentration) worsened genital herpes simplex infections, perhaps because such administration resulted in an 82% reduction of peritoneal inflammatory cells (P < 0.001) with negligible increase in reproductive tissue zinc concentration (15).

Human Studies

In an effort to use the antiviral properties of zinc to prevent recurrence of herpes simplex infections and post-herpetic erythema multiforme, I. Brody used 0.010 - 0.025% zinc sulfate solutions for oral mucous membranes and 0.025 - 0.050% solutions for the skin in 30 patients. Lukewarm solutions were applied to upper-body skin lesions with a gauze compress for about 10 minutes once a day until the lesions disappeared. Oral mucous membranes were treated with a mouth rinse for 1 to 3 minutes daily until lesions disappeared. Maintenance treatment was similarly given first once a week for a month and thereafter twice a month. Maintenance treatment of herpes simplex and post-herpetic erythema multiforme prevented recurrence entirely during the 2-year observation period in each patient. The low concentrations prevented the irritation, pain, unpleasant dryness and emetic reflex associated with stronger concentrations (18).

Topical application of a 4% zinc sulfate aqueous solution was used by A. Wahba to treat 18 subjects having had visible evidence of recurrent herpes for 48 hours or less. Fourteen had orolabial herpes, and 4 had genital herpes infections. The vesicles were ruptured and unroofed with a sterile needle. Zinc was applied with a wet dressing for a period of at least one hour, four times daily for 4 days. In all patients, pain, tingling and burning abated and stopped completely within the first 24 hours of therapy. Crusting occurred within 2 days as opposed to 7 days with other treatments in 16 out of the 18 subjects. Time for complete healing was 9.5 days compared to 16 days with other treatments. Two subjects had new vesicles appearing in adjacent areas within 3 days after therapy started which successfully responded to retreatment. No adverse reactions to therapy were reported (19). Topical 2% zinc acetate therapy of type 2 herpes in the vesicular border of pyoderma gangrenosum lesions on the genital region of a patient with chronic lymphocytic leukemia produced dramatic relief of pain as well as quick disappearance of the vesicular margin of the lesions and of the inflammatory halo around them (20).

Collagen sponge tampons impregnated with 40 mg zinc sulfate were tested by M. Chvapil and W. Droegemueller in 10 young women with primary herpes simplex genitalis. Most had symptoms for 7 to 9 days before treatment was initiated. Tampons were replaced daily. Also, 2mM zinc glycine was used several times daily as an external spray. Treatment was continued for two to three weeks. Three patients had mild recurrence of infection within 6 months as compared to an expected 80% recurrence rate. It was suggested that delivery of a high concentration of a virucidal agent at the site of infection may prevent retrograde spread of the virus to the paracervical plexus and to the presacral ganglia. There was neither evidence of a rise in zinc serum levels, nor vaginal or systemic toxicity among the patients (21,22). The best application for topical zinc was suggested to be in patients having definite prodromes, so that they could start preventive treatment one or two days prior to the expected eruption of vesicles.

Several larger studies by M.S. Fahim with both men and women addressed the effectiveness of Herpigon applied with ultrasound. Neither the ointment nor the ultrasound were effective alone; but together, they significantly shortened healing time and reduced recurrences. A controlled study of 23 male patients with herpes simplex virus type 2 blisters on their genitals was conducted with 13 receiving treatment and 10 receiving placebo treatment. Ointment with ultrasound was applied directly to the blisters. A 1% zinc sulfate rinse (zinc sulfate in a glycerol and water solution) was used weekly by the treated subjects for 3 month and thereafter once each two weeks and after intercourse. Viral cultures from zinc-treated patients showed a significant drop in viral titer after the first treatment, and titers later fell to below detectable levels. The rising red stage and earlier were described as the best times to treat. All but one of the treated patients had no recurrent infection during the 2-year observation period. The patient with a recurrence responded favorably to additional treatment and had no further recurrence within the 12-month observation period. All controls experienced recurrence within 80 days. These results indicate that genital hygiene with a zinc-containing soap is a critical factor in reducing recurrent infection. No skin irritation or other side effects were reported. A comparison of the malignant transformation frequencies of samples obtained from both guinea pigs and humans before and after treatment showed significantly less transformation in treated samples (23,24). Treatment in 116 women with Herpigon and ultrasound followed with a twice daily douche with 0.5% zinc sulfate for one week reduced itching to 0.6 days compared with 5.2 days in 21 controls and reduced the healing period to 5.8 days compared with 14.6 days in controls (P < 0.0001). During the following 2-year observation period, only 14% had recurrences, while all of the placebo-treated subjects had recurrences within 109 days. Treatment was most effective when started during the rising red stage or earlier and was ineffective if started during the healing stage. No side effects or toxicity was noted in any of the treated patients (25).

A lanolin-based ointment containing 8% lithium succinate and 0.05% zinc sulfate was tested by G.R.B. Skinner in 73 patients in a double-blind study. The ointment was applied 4 times a day for seven days with the last application immediately before bedtime. Treatment reduced the median duration of pain and discomfort from 7 to 4 days (P < 0.05); while time for full healing was 8 days in the placebo group and 7 days in the treated group. Eleven out of 20 (55%) placebo-treated patients were excreting virus by the fourth or fifth day, compared with 5 of 37 (14%) treated patients (p < 0.0l). In those patients who were still excreting virus on the fourth or fifth day, mean virus excretion in the 5 treated patients was only one-thirtieth of that in the 11 placebo-treated subjects (P < 0.0l). No local or systemic side effects were noted (26).

Orally administered zinc has been suggested in letters to reduce the severity of infection and incidence of recurrent genital and orolabial herpes (27,28,29). However, a preliminary double-blind study of 30 subjects by R. Jones indicated that oral zinc was nearly indistinguishable from a placebo. Subjects were treated daily with Zinvit-C250 tablets (zinc sulfate, 220 mg; magnesium sulfate, 50 mg; vitamin B1, 5 mg; vitamin B2, 5 mg) or placebo (Zinvit-C250 without zinc). Zinc-treated subjects had only a 15% greater reduction in duration of symptoms during a 4-month trial than did placebo-treated subjects (personal communication, 1984). 2009 NOTE: Rember that magnesium has been found to increase herpes growth) Even so, zinc supplementation might be beneficial to herpes victims with zinc deficiency. Such deficiency impairs primary (T-cell) immune system function which supplemental zinc has been shown to correct (30). Additionally, oral zinc administration might be beneficial in healing herpetic stomach ulcers.


Zinc compounds applied topically in aqueous solution may become the treatment of choice for herpes simplex infections, by virtue of zinc's antiviral activity to herpes viruses, its effect in preventing recurrence, its requirement by the immune system and its lack of toxicity. Topically applied zinc compounds seem to significantly reduce pain and itching, reduce the duration of infection, accelerate healing and reduce or eliminate recurrence when used in long-term treatments. In each study, topical application of zinc in aqueous solution was shown effective, while occlusive ointments were effective only when applied with ultrasound or lithium succinate. Occlusive ointments with other antiviral agents have also been reported to be ineffective in treating herpetic infection (1).

Herpes simplex infections are often severe or life threatening in immunocompromised patients, persons with acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS), persons with pre-existing active dermatitis and new-born infants. It may be possible to reduce or eliminate mortality and severe sequela with topical zinc in such subjects. Oral administration of sufficient zinc gluconate to raise zinc serum levels ten-fold to antiherpetic concentrations is possible (31) and in some life-threatening cases such oral or intravenous administration might be warranted in order to stop viral replication. Zinc also inhibits equine herpes viruses type 1 and 3 polymerases (32) suggesting that beneficial effects may also occur in other species. It needs to become more widely recognized that there is evidence that zinc ion greatly reduces or eliminates recurrent herpes simplex infections. Zinc, topically applied on a long-term basis appears to be effective. It may be that zinc used in this way acts as a "one-way gate" and prevents ganglionic reinfections responsible for recurrences, thus curing herpes. Various methods of applying topical zinc appear to be reasonable approaches to treating herpetic infections in routine clinical use.


This review, although believed to be an accurate reflection of the essential findings of a number of researchers, is uncritical. Some of the in vitro studies are found only in obscure, foreign literature. The cited human studies are not current studies and are not well-blinded, for the most part. Neither do they seem to be highly controlled nor do they have sufficiently large cohorts. We find no evidence to suggest that any are inaccurate, but they still remain suspect as not one study has been independently replicated using very similar protocols. Since each study was quite different from the others, and similar results were reported, it may be that the method is insensitive and that any method of applying zinc solutions to herpetic infections is helpful and may be curative if used for long periods of time. However, much work is necessary to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that topical zinc can prevent recurrence.

Topical application of zinc sulfate solutions can cause painful or irritating side effects if not used in very low concentrations. High concentrations can cause extreme pain. The gentlest form of zinc, zinc oxide, is insufficiently ionizable, not absorbed into cells, and ineffective.

The present authors have not tested any of the methods described herein for long-term effectiveness against recurrence, nor are we suitably equipped to do so. However, we know that zinc gluconate lozenges as used to treat common colds (2) cause no oral pain even when concentrations are too high to dissolve. Such treatment should be equally effective and painless as treatment for oral or nasal herpes simplex infections. To ascertain if zinc gluconate produced pain in genital herpes, we tested warm zinc gluconate aqueous solutions (235mM) on genital herpetic lesions in four female subjects. The subjects reported that such solutions caused no pain, accelerated recovery, and were well appreciated. These findings suggest an alternative to the potentially painful zinc sulfate treatments. Therefore, we are interested in and biased towards use of zinc gluconate instead of zinc sulfate in the treatment of all forms of herpetic infection. However, zinc gluconate in aqueous solutions can be biodegraded by micro-organisms turning solutions cloudy. In order to stabilize solutions preservatives such as methylparabens or refrigeration are used. To prepare saturated solutions, we used granular zinc gluconate manufactured by Akzo Chemie, Stationsstraat 48, P.O. Box 975, 3800 AZ Amersfoort, The Netherlands.

In order to provide suitable evidence to verify the ability of zinc ions to prevent recurrence, numerous replications of standard protocols are needed. We suggest the following experimental protocols be used in double-blind, placebo-controlled, long-term, clinical studies. Treatment should begin as soon as possible after the infection is diagnosed. The subjects should be observed for a minimum of two years to ascertain the effect of treatment on recurrence. When recurrence is observed, retreat.

Protocol number 1 -- ocular infections

Treat infected eye with two or three drops of zinc gluconate aqueous solutions (72mM) eight times daily for one month and then several times daily for six months.

Protocol number 2 -- oral and/or nasal infections

Dissolve in mouth tablets containing 25 milligrams of elemental zinc as zinc gluconate six times daily for one week, followed by two treatments/day for the next six weeks. Zinc need not be swallowed.

Protocol number 3 -- facial and upper-body skin infections

Treat general area subject to infection with zinc gluconate aqueous solutions (100 to 200mM) using warm rinses and/or wet dressings. Maintain treatment for 15 minutes or longer twice daily for the first week then once daily for the next six weeks.

Protocol number 4 -- male genital infections

Treat the general area subject to infection with zinc gluconate aqueous solutions (100 to 200mM) using warm rinses and/or wet dressings. Maintain treatment for 15 minutes or longer twice daily for the first two weeks then once daily for the next 12 weeks.

Protocol number 5 -- female genital infections

Treat the general area subject to infection with zinc gluconate aqueous solutions (100 to 200mM) twice daily for the first two weeks and then once daily for the next 12 weeks. Use warm rinses, douches, wet vaginal sponges, sanitary napkins or other dressings as applicable. Maintain each dressing for 15 minutes or longer.

A desirable feature of each of the suggested protocols is that such treatments are sufficiently simple that they can be self-administered, thus clinic visits can be reduced to a reasonable level. Thus, if proven safe, painless and effective, these protocols could become the basis of inexpensive over-the-counter treatments to prevent the recurrence of herpes simplex infections.

REFERENCES (click on reference number to go to article abstract on PubMed.gov)

1. Steiner JF, Johnson RB, Driggers DA. Genital herpes simplex: diagnosis, treatment, prevention. US Pharmacist 9:37-59, 1984.

2. Eby GA, Davis DR, Halcomb WW. Reduction in duration of common colds by zinc gluconate lozenges in a double-blind study. Antimicrob Agents Chemother 25:20-24, 1984.

3. De Roeth A. Treatment of herpetic keratitis. Am J Opthalmol 56:729-731, 1963.

4. Fishbein M (ed). The new illustrated medical and health encyclopedia. HS Stuttman Co., New York, 1970.

5. Falke D, Kahl GF. Ca++, histidin und Zn++ als faktoren bei der riesenzellbildung durch das herpes-virus hominis. Z Med Mikrobiol u Immunol 153:175-189, 1967.

6. Shin YA, Eichhorn GL. Interactions of metal ions with polynucleotides and related compounds. XI. The reversible unwinding and rewinding of deoxyribonucleic acid by zinc (II) ions through temperature manipulation. Biochem J 7:1026-31, 1968.

7. Zimmer C, Luck G, Triebel H. Conformation and reactivity of DNA. IV. Base binding ability of transition metal ions to native DNA and effect on helix conformation with special reference to DNA-Zn (II) complex. Biopolymers 13:425-453, 1974.

8. Gordon YJ, Asher Y, Becker Y. Irreversible inhibition of herpes simplex virus replication in BSC-1 cells by zinc ions. Antimicrob Agents Chemother 8:377-380, 1975.

9. Gupta P, Rapp F. Effect of zinc ions on synthesis of herpes simplex virus type 2-induced polypeptides. Proc Soc Exp Biol Med 152:455-458, 1976.

10. Tennican PO, Carl GZ, Chvapil M. Antiviral activity of zinc-medicated collagen sponges against genital herpes simplex. In: Siegenthaler W and Luthy R, eds. current Chemotherapy: Proceedings of the 10th International Congress of Chemotherapy. Washington: American Society of Microbiologist, 1:363-366, 1978.

11. Shlomai J, Asher Y, Gordon YJ, Olshevsky U, Becker Y. Effect of zinc ions on the synthesis of herpes simplex virus DNA in infected BSC-1 Cells. Virology 66:330-335, 1975.

12. Nachtigal M, Nachtigal S. Interactions between human herpes viruses and host cell chromosomes. Arch Roum Pathol Exp Microbiol 37:223-249, 1978.

13. Nachtigal M, Nachtigal S. Effect of zinc ions, phosphonoacetate, phosphonoformate and violamycin BI on the induction by herpes simplex virus of chromosome abnormalities in cell cultures. Arch Roum Pathol Exp Microbiol 39:79-87, 1980.

14. Tennican P, Carl G, Frey J, Thies C, Chvapil M. Topical zinc in the treatment of mice infected intravaginally with herpes genitalis virus. Proc Soc Exp Biol Med 164:593-597, 1980.

15. Tennican PO, Carl GZ, Chvapil M. The diverse effects of topical and systemic administration of zinc on the virulence of herpes simplex genitalis. Life Sci 24:1877-1884, 1979.

16. Brawner TA, Senne JE, Fahim M. A combined chemical-physical treatment for herpes simplex lesions in guinea pigs. Arch Dermatol Res 265:71-77, 1979.

17. Feiler LS, Smolin G, Okumoto M, Condon D. Herpetic keratitis in zinc-deficient rabbits. Invest Opthalmol Vis Sci 22:788-795, 1982.

18. Brody I. Topical treatment of recurrent herpes simplex and post-herpetic erythema multiforme with low concentrations of zinc sulfate solution. Brit J Dermatol 104:191-194, 1981.

19. Wahba A. Topical application of zinc-solutions: A new treatment for herpes simplex infections of the skin? Acta Derm Venerol (Stockh) 60:175-177, 1980.

20. Wahba A, Cohen HA. Herpes simplex virus isolation from pyoderma gangrenosum lesions in a patient with chronic lymphatic leukemia. Dermatologica 158:373-278, 1979.

21. Chvapil M, Droegemueller W. Collagen sponge in gynecologic use. Obstet Gynecol Annu 10:363-373, 1981.

22. Early clinical results show topical agent effective vs genital herpes. Hosp. Practice 14:44-53, 1979.

23. Fahim MS, Brawner TA. Treatment of genital herpes simplex virus in male patients. Arch Androl 4:79-85, 1980.

24. Fahim M, Brawner T, Millikan L, Nickell M, Hall D. New treatment for herpes simplex virus type 2 [ultrasound and zinc, urea, and tannic acid ointment]. Part 1 - male patients. J Med (Westbury) 9:245-264, 1978.

25. Fahim MS, Brawner TA, Hall DG. New treatment for herpes simplex virus type 2 [ultrasound and zinc, urea and tannic acid] Part II: Female patients. J Med 11:143-167, 1980.

26. Skinner GRB. Lithium ointment for genital herpes. Lancet 2:288, 1983.

27. Jones R. Genital herpes and zinc. Med J Aust 1:286, 1979.

28. Fitzherbert JC. Genital herpes and zinc. Med J Aust 1:399, 1979.

29. Williams M. Herpes simplex treatment. Sportsmedicine May 7:12, 1979.

30. Duchateau J, Delespesse R, Vereecke P. Influence of oral zinc supplementation on the lymphocyte response of normal subjects. Am J Clin Nutr 34:88-93, 1981.

31. Pfeiffer C, Papaioannou R, Sohler A. Effect of chronic zinc intoxication on copper levels, blood formation and polyamines. Orthomol Psychiatry 9:79-89, 1980.

32. Allen GP, O'Callaghan DJ, Randall CC. Purification and characterization of equine herpes virus-induced DNA Polymerase. Virology 76:395-408, 1977.