It’s Painful, It’s Ugly… It’s a Cold Sore
Challenged immune system, cold days with brutal winds combined with daily life stresses can create the perfect storm for these tingling and painful little eruptions.
Cold sores are caused by the Herpes simplex virus (HSV) which is present in 90% of adults. About a third of those with antibodies for HSV get cold sores, which present as small blisters on the lips or skin around the mouth.
Cold sores will usually begin with a tingling or itching a few days before a small collection of blisters appear. These blisters then burst and are often very painful. These eruptions can last up to two weeks, before resolving on their own.
Minimising the risk of infection (for you and for others) is one way to avoid cold sores. This means physical contact to infected areas (e.g. kissing), and sharing of toothbrushes, glasses and towels. However, there are some other ways to help prevent and ease cold sores.
Natural Treatments For Cold Sores
Lysine is the natural ‘go-to’ remedy for cold sores. This amino acid helps to relieve the frequency, duration and severity of HSV infections.1 In fact, in vitro studies show that lysine suppresses the growth of HSV cells. Lysine is also the counter-balancing amino acid to arginine, and studies have shown that arginine aids in HSV replication.
Most of us are already aware of zinc as an essential immune mineral, but it also helps to stop the replication of both HSV-1 cells (oral herpes or cold sores) and HSV-2 cells (genital herpes). So, not only does it help to target HSV cells but it helps to boost the immune function of all cells in the body. No immune system regime is complete without it.
There are also two key herbal medicines which can be useful when dealing with dreaded cold sores. These are lemon balm (Melissa oicinalis) and echinacea (Echinacea purpurea).
Lemon balm has traditionally been used for its antibacterial and antiviral activity. In vitro studies show that extracts of lemon baln, high in rosmarinic acid, inhibit the attachment of HSV to host cells and reduce the formation of HSV-1 and HSV-2 plaques by 70-95%.
Echinacea is widely thought of as the number one immune system herb. It helps support and maintain a healthy immune system. For cold sores, preliminary studies have shown its ability to inhibit HSV-1 cells, whilst naturally increasing the body’s own immune defences.
Most people are actually infected with the Herpes simplex virus as children, but symptoms like cold sores often don’t appear until early adulthood.
Generally they can appear at a predictable time (during winter or times of increased stress), so it is worth considering a preventative approach to cold sore treatment.
No natural medicine protocol is complete without some lifestyle management. Cold sores thrive under certain conditions, so it is best to reduce or avoid these where possible.
Reducing stress and high carbohydrate foods is highly recommended.
Also, increasing foods high in lysine (avocado, dairy, fish and chicken) whilst simultaneously reducing high-arginine foods (chocolate, oats, wheat, nuts and seeds) might also help to reduce the frequency of cold sores. The worst offenders for ‘high arginine to lysine’ ratio are chocolate, peanuts and almonds.