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Glossary of the common terms relating to the Herpes Virus

Not only are each of these words and their meanings connected to herpes, but by using them to quest into the unknown of new concepts and understanding, you open a new door of expanse and growth in your own life. Everything we have included below is intricately related to herpes and are helpful things to know for your journey.


Aloe vera – A succulent plant clinically proven to rejuvenate, nourish and repair damaged skin tissue. Aloe vera is renowned for repairing inflamed and sunburned skin, and in the same way it can speed the healing time of scabs which form during a herpes or cold sore outbreak.

Acyclovir – An antiviral medication commonly prescribed for genital herpes and frequent cold sore outbreaks (brand name Zovirax). Acyclovir is the cheapest of all the herpes Rx medications and can be prescribed as a cream or pill. Side effects including headaches, nausea, hair loss and depression may occur with the use of this drug.

Amino Acid – The building blocks of proteins. There are twenty complex molecules known collectively as amino acids that are the ‘alphabet’ from which all proteins are made.

Andrographis paniculata – One of the most commonly prescribed herbs in Asia, Andrographis is renowned for being a powerful immune stimulant against viruses and may help to prevent re-occurrences of the Herpes simplex virus, especially when combined with the herb Echinacea.

Antibacterial – An agent or substance that has beneficial properties against bacteria, useful in managing and treating a bacterial infection.

Anal herpes – A genital herpes infection which occurs on or around the anus. Having an outbreak of herpes symptoms on the rectum does not necessarily mean that a person has contracted the virus in this location from anal sex. Often the herpes virus particles are transferred to the anus by wiping the genitals from the front to the back while going to the toilet, particularly during a first primary outbreak.

Antibodies – Proteins which are created as part of the body’s immune response to a pathogen or foreign invader. An antibody is the body’s memory system of how to deal with and combat an infection or illness. Once herpes virus antibodies are established, they help the body respond more quickly and effectively in clearing herpes symptoms. The antibodies that a herpes blood test look for take approximately 3 months to develop.

Antibiotics – Drugs that can kill living organisms such as bacteria and protozoa. The word antibiotic means against life and are not effective against viruses such as Herpes.

Antigen – A substance that when introduced into the body stimulates the production of an antibody. These substances,usually proteins, are found on the surfaces of cells, viruses, fungi, or bacteria. Non-living substances such as toxins, chemicals, drugs, and foreign particles, such as a splinter, can also be antigens.

Antiviral – An agent or substance that has beneficial properties against viruses, useful in managing and treating a viral infection such as genital herpes, shingles and cold sores.

Antiviral medication – The name given to a class of drugs prescribed for herpes viral conditions, namely Acyclovir, Valtrex® and Famvir®. These medications only work while you are taking them, are costly, have potential side effects and do not work for everyone. This is why some people actively seek other alternatives to control this family of viral conditions.

Anus – The opening of the bum or backside, where genital herpes symptoms can sometimes develop for both men and women.

Aspirin – A pain relief medication which also thins the blood. Aspirin can be helpful for pain relief during a herpes outbreak and may help to prevent the onset of symptoms for some people.

Asymptomatic herpes carrier – A person who has been exposed to the herpes simplex virus but does not exhibit or experience symptoms. An asymptomatic carrier of the herpes virus can still be contagious to other’s if the virus is active on the skin’s surface at the time of skin to skin contact. For carriers of the virus it is very difficult to determine the times when the virus is active or not active.

Asymptomatic viral shedding – When the herpes virus is active and “shedding” on the skin’s surface without showing any signs or symptoms. The herpes virus can be spread when shedding is occurring, even though there may not be any visible signs that the virus is active at the time.

Auto-inoculation – When the herpes virus is spread to another area of a person’s own body through touching the active infection. The virus can be spread to the eyes, fingers and other body areas in this way. However, this is not typical once a protective immune response has been created within the body. For this reason, auto-inoculation is most likely to occur only during the first primary outbreak, when there is a break or opening in the skin, or in cases where the immune system is compromised.



Bacteria – (sing: bacterium) A domain of life existing as small single-celled microorganisms that have no nucleus in their cells (prokaryotic). The genera vary morphologically, being spheric (cocci), rod-shaped (bacilli), spiral (spirochetes), or comma-shaped (vibrios). The nature, severity, and outcome of any infection caused by a bacterium are characteristic of that species. Herpes is a virus, not a bacterium.

Bioflavonoid – Also known as vitamin P, this nutrient is contained in many bright colored fruits and vegetables and is renowned for its antiviral and wound healing properties. Particularly effective when combined with vitamin C, bioflavonoids have an ability to prevent and heal herpes symptoms when taken in supplement form.

Blister – A vesiculation or lesion which forms a covering layer of skin over a sore, before breaking open and weeping fluid. Similar in appearance to a bubble on the skin’s surface. A blister (or cluster of several tiny blisters) can be a key characteristic of a Herpes simplex virus (HSV) breakout.

Breakout – A term given to an episode of Herpes or cold sore symptoms. The Herpes virus remains dormant (in a sleeping state) until every once in a while, it is activated and travels the nerve pathways to the surface of the skin. The virus typically then “breaks out” and produces symptoms, often in the form of a blister, pimple, tear or lesion, before healing and retreating back inside the body.



Calendula officinalis – An orange flower remarkable for its wound healing properties and commonplace in many First Aid Kits. Calendula is particularly useful for slow healing wounds, with a reputation for being a gentle yet effective medicinal herb for the skin.

Central Nervous System (CNS) – The part of the nervous system which consists of the brain and spinal cord, to which sensory impulses are transmitted and from which motor impulses pass out, and which coordinates the activity of the entire nervous system.

Cold Sore – A blister or sore on the face which is caused by the Herpes simplex virus (HSV), usually the Type 1 strand. A cold sore typically appears as a cluster of tiny blisters in or around the mouth, nostrils or lip line. It is different to a canker sore which, unlike a cold sore, is not contagious and generally develops as an ulcer on the tongue or inside of the mouth.

Cycle – The herpes virus follows a series of stages (a cycle) as part of its natural course. Most of the time, the herpes virus lies dormant in a sleeping state where it does no damage and poses no problem. Once activated, the virus travels the nerve pathways to the skin where it then causes symptoms. After a few days, the infection heals and the virus retreats back inside of the body until the next reoccurrence. This is the cycle of the herpes virus.



Dicalcium phosphate – An ingredient commonly used as a binding agent in capsules and supplements. Some research suggests that Dicalcium Phosphate may interfere with the absorption of zinc and other beneficial nutrients, and therefore it is recommended to avoid supplements which use this particular binder, especially when managing skin conditions such as herpes.

DNA – Deoxyribonucleic acid. The self replicating molecule that is the basis of all life and all viruses as well. All genetic material is made up of DNA molecules and their simpler cousins, the ribonucleic acids (RNA). They carry all the information, the blueprint, for each species on earth. The simplest organisms are the viruses, which do not encase their DNA in a cellular structure. Bacteria have their DNA and RNA loose inside the cell as they have no nucleus. The protozoa and all multicellular organisms have encased their DNA and RNA inside the nucleus.

Dormant – A sleeping or non-active state. The herpes virus remains dormant most of the time until it is activated and then erupts on the skin’s surface. Activation of herpes is often caused by a vulnerability or weakness in the body’s immune system, such as after flu or illness.



Echinacea – A powerful immune stimulant, this herb is gentle and safe to be taken long term and is particularly helpful for herpes viral conditions when combined with the herb Andrographis paniculata.

Episodic therapy – When a herpes treatment is taken only at times when there are active symptoms, in comparison to ‘suppressive therapy’ which is when the medication is taken everyday to help prevent the symptoms from returning. Herpes prescription medications only work while you are taking them and will not prevent future outbreaks if taken as an episodic therapy.

Eukaryotes – Have a nucleus in the cell. Eukaryote means ‘true cell’ as opposed to the more primitive prokaryotes whose cells have no nucleus. The microorganisms whose cells have a nucleus are collectively called the Protozoa. All multi-cellular organisms are also eukaryotic because they are made up for the most part by cells with nuclei. Protozoa are the third major group of disease-causing organisms that cause disease along with the prokaryotic bacteria and the non-cellular viruses. Protozoa that cause disease come in three basic forms: the amoebae (which cause conditions like amoebic dysentery and malaria), flagellates (e.g. Giardia) and ciliates (causing diseases like Leishmaniasis and Trichomoniasis). Protozoa and bacteria can be treated with antibiotics, but antibiotics are ineffective against viruses such as herpes.



Famvir – An antiviral medication commonly prescribed for frequent genital herpes outbreaks and shingles (drug name famciclovir). FAMVIR® comes in pill form and is only proven to be effective when taken within 6 hours of the symptoms beginning. It has not been proven effective for treating the first primary genital herpes outbreak. Side effects including headaches, nausea, abdominal pain, menstrual pain and diarrhea may occur with the use of this drug.

Feedback system – A loop system in which the body or system responds to disturbance or change either in the same direction (positive feedback) or in the opposite direction (negative feedback)

Fungi – The other group of organisms that be pathogenic, besides bacteria, protozoa and viruses. Fungi (singular: fungus) are similar to plants in having a cell wall. Yeasts are fungi that cause some infections as are the organisms that cause ringworm and tinea. Fungi can be treated with anti-fungal drugs that are quite different to antibacterial and antiviral drugs because these organisms are so different biologically.



Ganglion – A group of nerve cells where the herpes virus remains dormant, sleeping state until activated. When the herpes virus is contracted in the trigeminal ganglion (the nerve group located near the mouth and face) it will cause a cold sore or facial outbreak when activated. Whereas when the herpes virus resides in the sacral ganglion (the nerve group located near the lower back and spine) the outbreaks will be activated in the genital area.

Gastrointestinal tract – The tube system that extends from the mouth and esophagus to the stomach and intestine and ends in the anus. It is responsible for ingestion, digestion, absorption of nutrients and elimination of waste products for the body.

Genetic – When a condition or trait is passed down and inherited from parent to child, or from one family member to another. The herpes virus is NOT a genetic condition and is not passed on in this way. Instead it is spread by direct contact with the active virus, usually through direct skin to skin contact when the virus is active on the skin.

Genetic also refers to the makeup of genes in the organism. Every living organism is made up of genetic materials, DNA and RNA, that are organised in chromosomes and that carry the instructions for making that organism. Viruses are also made up of the same genetic materials, DNA and RNA, but it is not contained within a cellular structure and so is not considered to be truly ‘alive’ although it is still capable of growing, spreading, causing disease and otherwise causing havoc in their human and animal hosts.

Genital Herpes – A condition caused by the Herpes simplex virus (HSV), usually the Type 2 strand. The symptoms typically appear as a blister, tear, lesion or pimple in or around the genitals, anus, lower back or the boxer short area.



Headache – A common side effect of prescription herpes antiviral medications. Also a typical symptom that may occur after the first exposure to the herpes virus, during the first primary outbreak. Other symptoms may include a fever, swollen glands and visible irritation on the skin such as a blister, tear or pimple.

Herbal – Relating to or made from herbs, especially those used in cooking and medicine.

Herpes simplex virus (HSV) – The virus which causes conditions such as genital herpes and cold sores (oral herpes). HSV is spread by direct skin to skin contact with the active virus particles and affects over 70% of the adult American population. Once contracted, the herpes virus resides in the nerves in a sleeping state until it is activated and causes symptoms.

Herpes Encephalitis – Inflammation of the brain caused by the Herpes simplex virus (HSV) Type 1, the same virus which causes cold sores. Herpes Encephalitis is a very rare but serious condition which must be treated professionally. It is estimated to affect 1 in 100,000 people.

Herpes Gladitorium – Also known as ‘wrestler’s herpes’ this condition is caused by the common Herpes simplex virus (HSV), the same virus which causes cold sores and genital herpes. It typically appears on the shoulders or back and is common among wrestlers due to the friction, heat and body moisture involved with this full contact sport.

Herpes Photos – A gallery of photographs showing symptoms and effects of the herpes simplex virus.

Herpes Whitlow – A skin infection caused by the Herpes simplex virus (HSV) that develops on the fingers or underneath the fingernail bed. It is typically caused by the Type 1 strand of the virus (HSV-1) and is often contracted by touching an active herpes infection in another body area, such as a cold sore. Herpes Whitlow was particularly common among dentists before mandatory glove use was introduced.

Herpes varicella-zoster – The virus which causes chickenpox. This virus can reactivate later in adulthood and cause a condition known as shingles or Herpes zoster. Shingles is different to other Herpes simplex conditions, such as cold sores and genital Herpes. It is generally not considered contagious and usually affects elderly people or those with a weakened immune system.

Homeostasis – The tendency of an organism or a cell to regulate its internal conditions, usually by a system of feedback controls, so as to stabilize health and functioning, regardless of the outside changing conditions.

HSV1 – The abbreviation for Herpes simplex virus Type 1, a strand of the Herpes virus family which is typically responsible for conditions such as a cold sore, facial Herpes, ocular Herpes, Herpes whitlow, Herpes Gladitorium and Herpes Encephalitis. HSV-1 can be transferred to the genitals through oral sex (causing a genital Herpes infection) if the cold sore virus is active on the skin at the time of contact.

HSV2 – The abbreviation for Herpes simplex virus Type 2, the strand of the Herpes virus family which is typically responsible for genital Herpes. HSV-2 can appear in the mouth area when spread via oral sex but this type of transmission is very rare.

Hypothalamus – About the size of a pearl, the hypothalamus directs a multitude of important functions in the body. It is the control center for many autonomic functions of the peripheral nervous system. Connections with structures of the endocrine and nervous systems enable the hypothalamus to play a vital role in maintaining homeostasis. For example, blood vessel connections between the hypothalamus and pituitary gland allow hypothalamic hormones to control pituitary hormone secretion. As a limbic system structure, the hypothalamus also influences various emotional responses.



Ibuprofen – is an anti-inflammatory drug that reduces the hormones in the body that cause inflammation and pain in the body. It is not a steroid. Ibuprofen is used to reduce fever and treat pain or inflammations caused by conditions such as headache, toothache, back pain, arthritis, menstrual cramps, or minor injuries.

IgG – an antibody produced in the body when it comes into contact with a virus or bacteria. When being diagnosed for herpes, blood tests are designed to look for the presence of Herpes IgG antibodies in order to determine if a person has been exposed to the herpes simplex virus. It can often take as long as three months for these antibodies to develop after herpes infection has occurred.

Immune System – The body’s natural defense mechanism which fights off foreign invaders and disease. The strength of a person’s immune system can be affected by diet, medications and genetics and plays a major part in preventing and controlling the symptoms of the herpes virus.

Immune Response – The immune response is how your body recognizes and defends itself against bacteria, viruses, and substances that appear foreign and harmful. The immune system protects the body from possibly harmful substances by recognizing and responding to antigens. The immune system recognizes and destroys substances that contain antigens.

Immune Stimulant – substances (drugs and nutrients) that stimulate the immune system by inducing activation or increasing activity of any of its components.

Incubation Period – The time it takes before any symptoms begin to show. This will usually range betwen 2 to 20 days after the first exposure to the Herpes virus. For some people this time period can be more tricky to pinpoint, especially if they do not experience visible or typical symptoms. Sometimes a person will experience an outbreak months or even years after their first exposure to HSV, and this is often because the initial symptoms went unnoticed or were not recognized as Herpes.

Infection – The invasion and multiplication of microorganisms such as bacteria, viruses, and parasites that are not normally present within the body. An infection may cause no symptoms and so be sub-clinical, or it may cause symptoms and be clinically apparent. An infection may remain localized, or it may spread through the blood or lymphatic vessels to become systemic or body-wide.

Inflammation – A protective tissue response to injury or destruction of tissues, which serves to destroy, dilute, or wall off both the injurious agent and the injured tissues. The classical signs of acute inflammation are pain, heat, redness, swelling, and loss of function.







Latent – Existing but not yet developed or manifest; hidden or concealed.

Lesion – A wound or hurt or injury on the body, Any pathological or traumatic discontinuity of tissue, especially the skin.

Limbic System – A complex system of nerves and networks in the brain, involving several areas near the edge of the cortex concerned with instinct and mood. It controls the basic emotions such as fear, pleasure, anger and drives such as hunger, sex, dominance, care of offspring.

Lysine – An amino acid, one of the 20 building blocks of protein. A dietary essential amino acid, lysine is present in many proteins and is necessary for optimal growth in childhood.



Mature lesion – An old scarred lesion is considered to be mature.

Microorganism – Any organism too small to be viewed by the unaided eye, such as bacteria, protozoa, and some fungi and algae.

Mucous membrane – A membrane lining all body passages that communicate with the air, such as the respiratory and alimentary tracts, and having cells and associated glands that secrete mucus. Important in the first line of defense against invading organisms, mucous membranes produce the sticky substance we call snot which traps harmful microorganisms and removes them from the body via sneezing, coughing and spitting.


Neonatal herpes – Neonatal herpes simplex is a rare but serious condition, usually caused by vertical transmission of herpes simplex virus from mother to newborn.

Nerve pain – Nerve pain is a broad term that refers to pain that generally follows the path of a nerve and is the result of nerve damage. The nerves are the electrical system for the entire body. They are responsible for sensation, taste, sight, movement and touch. Pressure on a nerve from any source, such as a bulging disc, torn muscle or a lesion can result in nerve pain.

Nervous system – The nervous system is the complex network of nerves and cells that make up the brain and spinal cord and all the connecting nerves and cells that carry messages to and from the brain and spinal cord to various parts of the body. The nervous system includes both the central nervous system and peripheral nervous system. The central nervous system is made up of the brain and spinal cord. The peripheral nervous system is made up of the somatic and the autonomic nervous systems.



OBs – Stands for outbreaks.

Olive leaf – Studies have shown that olive leaf provides a wide range of health benefits, including in the fight against herpes viruses.

Outbreak – A sudden breaking out, eruption or occurrence. With regards to herpes we talk about outbreaks or OBs as being an episode of symptoms or a breakout of herpes blisters or visible symptoms.


Pathogen – An agent causing disease or illness to its host, such as an organism or infectious particle capable of producing a disease in another organism. The main pathogens are bacteria, protozoa, fungi and viruses. Not all micro-organisms are pathogens, in fact most of them are harmless and only a few are pathogenic.

Perianal – The genital area between the vulva and anus in a woman, and between the scrotum and anus in a man.

Peripheral Nervous System – The part of the vertebrate nervous system constituting the nerves outside the central nervous system including the cranial nerves, the spinal nerves, and the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems.

Pituitary Gland – The master endocrine gland, attached by a stalk to the base of the brain. Its two lobes secrete hormones affecting skeletal growth, development of the sex glands, and the functioning of the other endocrine glands.

Post Herpetic Neuralgia (PHN) – Post herpetic neuralgia is nerve pain due to damage caused by the varicella zoster virus that causes chickenpox and shingles. Typically, the neuralgia is confined to a dermatomic area of the skin and follows an outbreak of herpes zoster in that same dermatomic area.

Primary outbreak – An outbreak is sudden manifestation of a condition. A primary outbreak is the first. The first time someone suffers from a potentially recurring conditions such as malaria or Herpes is called the primary outbreak.

Proteins – Proteins make up the structure of the cell as well as performing a multitude of bodily tasks. Hormones, enzymes and antibiotics are all proteins, as are the cells of our skin, muscles and hair. The blueprint instructions to make every protein our bodies need are held in our DNA or genetic material. Each set of instructions basically tells the cell how to use the 20 types of amino acids we get from our food to build the particular protein we need such as the digestive enzymes we need to break down our food.

Prevention – The action of stopping something from happening or arising. The term “prevention” is reserved for interventions that occur before the initial onset of disorder.

Prokaryote – Any microorganism with a cellular structure that does not have a nucleus. The most important prokaryotes are the bacteria. They are more complex than the viruses, which lack a cell structure and less complex than the Eukaryotes or cells with a nucleus (see Protozoa). Antibiotics are useful against bacteria and protozoans but not against viruses such as Herpes.

Protozoa – Microorganisms with a cellular structure that contains a nucleus. There are three basic forms of protozoans. The simplest are the amoeboids such as the Amoeba, which move around by the flowing of cellular material against the cell membrane to create pseudopods and which cause diseases like malaria and trichomoniasis.



Reoccurrence – When something happens again, it is a reoccurrence or recurrence. After the initial outbreak of a recurring condition such as Herpes, all further outbreaks are reoccurrences of the same phenomenon because they are caused by the same microorganism that has been lying latent in the body since the first infection and outbreak.


Scab – A dry, rough protective crust that forms over a lesion, cut or wound during healing.

Shingles – A viral infection that causes a painful rash. It most often appears as a single stripe of blisters that wraps around either the left or the right side of the torso, but it can occur anywhere. Shingles is caused by the varicella-zoster virus — the same virus that causes chickenpox. After a case of chickenpox, the virus lies inactive in nerve tissue near the spinal cord and brain. Years later, the virus may reactivate as shingles. While it isn’t a life-threatening condition, shingles can be very painful. Early treatment can help shorten a shingles infection and lessen the chance of complications.

Somatic Nervous System – The somatic system is the part of the peripheral nervous system that is responsible for carrying motor and sensory information both to and from the central nervous system. This system is made up of nerves that connect to the skin, sensory organs and all skeletal muscles. The system is responsible for nearly all voluntary muscle movements as well as for processing sensory information that arrives via external stimuli including hearing, touch and sight.

Suppressive Therapy – The daily use of an antiviral therapy to suppress a virus. Suppressive treatment with antiviral drugs can help people who are bothered by genital herpes outbreaks stay symptom-free longer. These drugs can also reduce the severity and duration of symptoms when they do flare up. Drug therapy is not a cure, but it can make living with the condition easier. There are three major drugs commonly used to treat genital herpes symptoms through suppression: acyclovir (Zovirax), famciclovir (Famvir), and valacyclovir (Valtrex). These are all taken in pill form. Severe cases may be treated with the intravenous drug acyclovir.

Symptom – A physical or mental feature which is regarded as indicating a condition of disease, particularly such a feature that is apparent to the patient.

Systemic – Relating to a bodily system such as the circulatory system, especially as opposed to a particular part such as the heart.


“The Talk” – Is having a conversation for the first time with your partner about having herpes. It is a good idea to have the Talk before you have sex the first time.

Trigger – The lever pressed by the finger to discharge a firearm so any device or event that releases or activates a mechanism or condition. Stress or illness for instance can be the trigger that causes a latent case of herpes to erupt in a sudden outbreak of cold sores.


UV rays – UV stands for ultraviolet. Ultraviolet light is electromagnetic radiation with a wavelength shorter than that of visible light, but longer than X-rays and is part of the energy that comes from the sun. UV radiation can damage the skin and cause melanoma and other types of skin cancer. UV radiation that reaches the earth’s surface is made up of two types of rays, called UVA and UVB rays. UVB rays are more likely than UVA rays to cause sunburn, but UVA rays pass deeper into the skin. Scientists have long thought that UVB radiation can cause melanoma and other types of skin cancer. They now think that UVA radiation also may add to skin damage that can lead to skin cancer and cause premature aging. Exposure to UV rays can also trigger a cold sore outbreak.


Valtrex – Valtrex is the trade name for valaciclovir or valacyclovir, an antiviral drug used in the management of herpes simplex, herpes zoster, and herpes B. It is a prodrug, being converted in vivo to aciclovir. It is marketed by GlaxoSmithKline under the trade names Valtrex and Zelitrex.

Vitamin C – A water-soluble vitamin also known as ascorbic acid, with the formula C6H8O6. It is found in plants and especially in fruits and leafy vegetables or made synthetically and used in the prevention and treatment of scurvy and as an antioxidant for foods.

Viral Shedding – Refers to the successful reproduction, expulsion, and host-cell infection caused by virus progeny.

Virus – An infective agent that typically consists of a nucleic acid molecule in a protein coat, is too small to be seen by light microscopy, and is able to multiply only within the living cells of a host. It does not have a cellular structure.


Whitlow – A herpetic whitlow is a lesion on a finger or thumb caused by the Herpes simplex virus. It is a painful infection that typically affects the fingers or thumbs. Occasionally infection occurs on the toes or on the nail cuticle. Herpes whitlow can be caused by infection by HSV-1 or HSV-2.




Zoster – Herpes zoster is the virus that causes chickenpox and shingles.


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