Varicella zoster virus is a viral outbreak that has “stages” of contagious periods.

To be more specific, Varicella (Chickenpox) and Zoster (shingles) are the two different manifestations of the Varicella-Zoster virus. Varicella/chickenpox is a primary infection with Varicella zoster virus. It occurs mainly in children and is characterized by generalized itchy, vesicular eruptions/rash and fever.  Following the initial acute infection, the virus becomes latent in our sensory nerves. Shingles/Zoster is due to a reactivation of the latent/dormant Varicella (Chickenpox) virus and affects mainly adults. The risk of acquiring zoster infection increases with age (50+), spinal traumas, exposure to irradiation, HIV infection, corticosteroid therapy and cancer. It is characterized by a painful eruption of blistering lesions along with inflammation in the skin area supplied by the sensory nerve bundle associated with the location of the expressed rash. 

The Varicella (Chickenpox) zoster virus is highly contagious.

Because the main route of Chickenpox transmission occurs when protected Varicella zoster particles carry through the air, spreading of the virus can occur through the skin blistering of the infected person to the respiratory tract of the susceptible person as well as through direct contact with the infectious fluid in the blister of the infected person.

The Zoster (Shingles) virus is less communicable than varicella.

Shingles presents itself as a one sided, blistering rash; transmission occurs through direct contact with the infected fluid in the blisters of the infected person. It is important to note that a person with Shingles does not transmit “Shingles” to another, but will transmit the Varicella zoster virus to another – which may or may not present as Chickenpox or Shingles at some point in the newly infected person’s life.

A person with active shingles can spread the virus when the rash is in the blister-phase. A person is not infectious before the blisters appear. Once the rash has developed crusts, the person is no longer contagious. – CDC.

If you have Shingles or are caring for someone with Shingles

Keep the rash covered at all times. Wash the bed sheets and clothing regularly and separate from the family’s clothing. If applying symptom relieving ointments, glove up! (you can also reach for a handy garbage bag, ziploc bag or saran wrap to act as a barrier);  Avoid touching or scratching the rash; change clothes often and wash immediately; Wash your hands often; Until your rash has developed crusts, please responsibly avoid pregnant women, babies and people with weakened immune systems (patients undergoing chemotherapy or receiving immunosuppressive medications such as steroids, organ transplant recipients and people with HIV).

Natural Shingles Remedies

Because the Zoster virus is an opportunistic virus that rears its ugly head during times of duress or physical stress (like heavy sun exposure and varying heat climates), the best remedy is to rest and remove yourself from the environment causing your immune system to react in such a manner. Once you have been able to do that, the following are recommended for symptom relief and reduction of outbreak time.


As an Acupuncturist who has, on numerous occasions, surrounded this dragon with needles and watched with my own eyes the quick recession of a Shingles rash, I immediately say “get to your local acupuncturist”, or ask them to come to you.


This old Appalachian recipe was handed to me by a fellow herbalist. Grab a bag of epsom salts and cheesecloth (or cut up an old t-shirt). Pour a large handful of the epsom salts into the  (roughly 8″ x 8″ or washcloth size) cheesecloth and close with a rubber band (or whatever you have). If you are able to crush the salts with a hammer or spoon, do so. Make about 10 or 20 of these little poultices. Submerge (briefly) the poultice into water and place DIRECTLY ON the painful, inflamed and blistering areas of the outbreak. Remove the poultice once you feel it getting hot and replace with a new poultice until it gets hot. Repeat this process until you pull out the inflammation and pain has reduced.


Ancient Chinese herbal formulas are brilliant for dismantling viral skin outbreaks. The Viraease skin salve made by The Alchemist Collection will work quickly to relieve the symptoms associated with a Shingles outbreak as well as Chickenpox outbreaks.

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