Herpes is a viral infection caused by one of two types of the herpes simplex virus. Herpes simplex type 1 usually causes infections above the waist, while type 2 causes infections below the waist, principally on the genitals, anus and buttocks. However, either type can infect almost any site on the skin, according to National Institutes of Health researchers Dr. Adriana R. Marques and Dr. Stephen E. Straus in the 2008 edition of “Fitzpatrick’s Dermatology in General Medicine.” There is no cure for herpes, so herbs such as licorice root have attracted attention as a means of reducing the severity and duration of symptoms.
In the 2006 edition of “Natural Pharmacy,” holistic medicine specialist Dr. Alan R. Gaby says that licorice root, known by the botanical names Glycyrrhiza glabra and Glycyrrhiza uralensis, has a “long and highly varied record of uses.” According to Gaby, it remains one of the most important herbs in traditional Chinese medicine, in which practitioners use it to treat viral infections such as herpes, as well as other conditions as varied as diabetes and epilepsy. Although it is commonly referred to as licorice root, that is technically a misnomer since both the root and underground stems, called rhizomes, are used in herbal remedies.
There are two types of licorice root: standard and de-glycyrrhizinated, sometimes abbreviated as DGL. People with herpes should choose standard preparation since glycyrrhizin is one of the components thought to confer therapeutic benefits for herpes. Standard licorice comes as the dried, unprocessed root, liquid extract, cream, pills or gels. People with herpes should avoid the dried, unprocessed root because the coarse particles may irritate herpes sores. All other forms can be adapted for topical use.