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Cold Sores (Herpes Simplex)

Cold sores are small, often recurring fever blisters that can appear anywhere around the mouth, and which are caused by the virus herpes simplex 1 (HSV1). Groupings of cold sore blisters are called a cluster.

The first outbreak of cold sores may be accompanied by flu-like symptoms, with fever, neck pain, lymph node enlargement, and fatigue, or it may go unnoticed. After the first attack, the virus remains dormant in nerve cells, and can be reactivated later by stress, colds, hot weather, anxiety, nutrient deficiencies, or other illnesses, especially ones with accompanying fever.

Prolonged cold sore outbreaks may occur in people suffering from compromised immune function or in healthy people who are under high levels of stress. Recurring outbreaks usually start with a burning sensation that is quickly followed by blisters that itch and can be very sore. Within a few days to several weeks, they burst, dry, encrust, and disappear.

Nearly all people experience cold sores at least one time during their lives.

What To Consider

Herpes zoster, Coxsackie virus, low thyroid, and health problems that suppress immune function can all contribute to cold sore outbreaks, and must be addressed before long-term relief can be achieved.

Cold sores are very contagious, and can be spread from the mouth to the genitalia via oral sex. The drug acyclovir is typically prescribed (both orally and topically) to treat cold sores. However, it may cause an increase in symptoms when it is discontinued. In addition, antiviral drugs can be hard on the body and especially the liver, making natural, alternative treatment approaches more advisable.

Self-Care Tips

Eat a whole foods diet that emphasizes raw vegetables and cultured, fermented products such as yogurt and sauerkraut. Avoid citrus fruits, including pineapple.

Nutritional Supplementation
During times of outbreak L-lysine cream applied directly on the blisters, and L-lysine supplements (4 grams daily for the first four days, then 500 mg three times daily for two weeks) can also be taken orally. Do not take L-Lysine on a daily maintenance basis, however, as it may create an imbalance among other amino acids. (If continual daily lysine is the only way for you to prevent recurrent attacks, then decrease wheat and add other grains to your diet and take lysine in smaller dosages with amino acid blends. Also consider amino-acid testing.)

Other useful nutrients to help prevent and treat cold sores are vitamin B complex, vitamin C with bioflavonoids, vitamin E, and zinc gluconate. Acidophilus and thymus extract can also help, as can the flavonoid quercetin, which has been shown to inhibit the herpes virus.

Note: The two amino acids that appear to be important in herpes infections are lysine and arginine. Arginine stimulates the growth and reproduction of the herpes simplex virus, while lysine inhibits it. What's important is the ratio of arginine to lysine. The higher the arginine to lysine ratio, the more herpes virus is likely to grow. Conversely, if lysine is high with respect to arginine, the growth is inhibited. Chocolate, peanuts, most cereal grains, nuts, and seeds have more arginine than lysine.

Geranium, lemon, chamomile, tea tree, and/or lavender essential oils applied topically can help speed the healing process.

Flower Essences
The most useful flower essences for dealing with the accompanying emotional/mental stress of cold sores are Rescue Remedy, Rescue Remedy Cream, and Crab Apple.

Herbs that boost resistance to cold sores by strengthening the immune response include the tinctures of echinacea, Siberian ginseng, nettle, and goldenseal. Combine in equal parts and take 1/2 teaspoonful of this mixture three times a day. You can also externally apply diluted tincture of myrrh or calendula. Licorice root tincture applied topically has been shown to inactivate herpes simplex particles and inhibit the growth of the virus.

During early stages, use an ice application (on ten minutes, off five minutes) on the outbreak area.

Topical Treatment
Apply vitamin E ointment or saturate gauze with vitamin E oil and apply for 15 minutes over the area of outbreak.

BHT, a natural food preservative, added to an alcohol solution is another effective topical solution.


If your symptoms persist despite the above measures, seek the help of a qualified health professional.

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