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Cold Sore Remedies

8 Ways to Fight Cold Sores Naturally

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Updated June 25, 2014

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

cold sores
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What are Cold Sores?

Cold sores are small, painful, fluid-filled blisters that usually occur on the lips, gums, or roof of the mouth. They're caused by the herpes simplex virus and are contagious. There may be pain or tingling one to two days before the cold sores appear.

Cold sores generally clear in seven to ten days. They're sometimes confused with canker sores, which are not contagious but produce small, painful ulcers in the soft tissues of the mouth, such as the tongue and the walls of the mouth.

Natural Cold Sore Remedies:

Here are eight natural remedies that are used for the treatment of cold sores.

1) Lysine

Lysine is an essential amino acid, meaning that we must get it through food or supplements because the body can't make it on its own. It's used to make protein, which we need to produce infection-fighting antibodies, enzymes, hormones, and body tissues. Lysine has been found to inhibit the spread of the herpes simplex virus.

Although we get lysine through food sources such as red meat, milk, eggs, cheese, wheat germ, brewers yeast, and fish, what appears to be most important is the ratio of lysine to another amino acid, arginine. They compete with each other for absorption in the intestines, so the less arginine there is in the diet, the more lysine is absorbed. Foods that are rich in arginine include chocolate, peanuts, and almonds.

In addition to these temporary dietary changes:
  • Lysine supplements (e.g. 1,000 mg taken three times a day) may help to shorten the duration of cold sores.
  • Lysine ointment - a pilot study by the Southern California University looked at the effectiveness of a lysine-containing ointment in 30 people. Researchers found that the ointment produced full resolution in 40% of participants by the third day and in 87 percent by the end of the sixth day. No adverse effects were reported.

See Also: Using Lysine for Cold Sores.

2) Lemon Balm

Lemon balm (Melissa officinalis) has antiviral properties. In a research study conducted in hospitals and dermatology clinics in Germany, lemon balm cream promoted the healing of blisters in five days compared to 10 days in the control group. Used on regularly, lemon balm cream may decrease the frequency of recurrences.

See my article on Using Lemon Balm.

3) Reishi and Astragalus

Reishi, also called Ganoderma lucidum is a type of mushroom that has a long history of use in traditional Asian medicine to strengthen the immune system.

Preliminary evidence shows that reishi may inhibit the spread of the herpes virus. A typical dose is 600 milligrams once or twice a day.

Reishi is available in powder or supplement form. Reishi can delay blood clotting, so consult your doctor before taking reishi if you are taking aspirin, warfarin (coumadin), or any other medications or supplements that interfere with clotting.

In traditional Chinese medicine, reishi is often used in conjunction with a herb called astragalus. Astragalus has been found to improve immune function in people with herpes simplex keratitis.

See my articles on Ganoderma (Reishi) for Viral Defense and Astragalus for Stronger Immune Defense.

4) Resveratrol

Resveratrol, a compound found naturally in red grapes, has been shown to be active against the herpes simplex virus in laboratory studies.

A study by the Northeastern Ohio University demonstrated that resveratrol cream applied topically two, three, or five times a day effectively suppressed cold sore development if it was applied one or 6 hours after infection with the herpes virus.

Resveratrol cream was also found to be as effective as 5% acyclovir ointment (Zovirax). Resveratrol cream also effectively suppressed cold sore formation in animals with herpes simplex infection that was resistant to acyclovir. No side effects were reported.

MORE: Resveratrol: Everything You Need to Know | Resveratrol for Weight Loss

5) Peppermint Oil

A study by the University of Heidelberg found that peppermint essential oil was found to penetrate the skin and have a direct virucidal effect againt the herpes simplex virus. Peppermint oil was also found to be active against an acyclovir-resistant strain of the herpes simpex virus.

Although it's promising, peppermint oil shouldn't be used until studies have established its safety. Peppermint oil is absorbed through the skin so even small amounts could be toxic. Peppermint oil should never be ingested.

6) Propolis

Propolis, also called bee propolis, is a brownish, resinous substance. Bees collect it from poplar and conifer buds and use it "cement" their hives and keep them germ-free. It is sold in health food stores.

A study found that propolis was active against herpes simplex 1 virus. It is believed to work by preventing the virus from entering body cells and by blocking the replication and spread of the virus.

More on Propolis and Soothing Cold Sores with Propolis.

7) Self-Heal

The herb self-heal, also known as Prunella vulgaris is a perennial plant commonly found in China and Europe.

Extracts of this herb have been found to be effective against both herpes simplex 1 and 2 viruses. It is also believed to work against acyclovir-resistant strains of the herpes virus. More on the herb Self-Heal for Cold Sores.

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