Q. In a recent column you answered a question about L-lysine and shingles. I have been taking L-lysine for various forms of herpes for over 20 years, and it has kept me virtually outbreak-free.

It is also important to avoid nuts and chocolate. Dietary restraint together with L-lysine have worked better for me than acyclovir, which I took for a year as part of a study at the University of Rochester.

I have read about both nut avoidance and L-lysine, but often when I speak to physicians about it they are not aware of it. A lot of pain and discomfort could be avoided if they were.

A. We heard from several other readers who use L-lysine supplements to ward off cold sores or shingles. One said: “I have been taking L-lysine along with high potency B complex since 1986 when an osteopathic physician recommended it after I was treated with Zovirax. I have continued to take it and have never had shingles again. When I Googled L-Lysine, I found that it is used for shingles.”

We too Googled L-lysine and found that the University of Maryland Medical Center web site states: “L-lysine can be used to treat mouth and genital lesions caused by herpes simplex virus as well as shingles caused by herpes zoster viruses.” We did not find placebo-controlled clinical trials that demonstrate this effect, but L-lysine is not toxic or expensive.

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  1. sylvie
    Reply

    Shingles vaccine for me caused shingles. Although a light form, but recurring.

  2. Christina
    Reply

    I dont know whether this is helpful information or not…..
    The way I treated my extremely painful blisters was to wear a snug fitting very thin T shirt which I changed (very carefully) 3 times a day.(the type with cut out arms and a low neck so quite minimal) If I wore a loose fitting Tea shirt I found the sensations of the fabric against my skin unbearable. The closer fitting material acted as a kind of bandage and was very comforting…. painful to change each time but once on ok. Important to change to keep the skin clean and infection free.
    I had shingles all over my right breast and right shoulder blade. It lasted for months but has cleared up very well. When the blisters began to heal I used aloe vera to further assist the healing process. I have no scars or itching and found that reading blogs such as this one and researching widely in the area of natural remedies took me along the right path. This illness was the most painful and long lasting I have ever had. I am 66.

  3. Christina
    Reply

    One thing important about taking Lysine is that to be effective it is important to take on an empty stomach. Otherwise it doesn’t matter how much lysine you take or how often. It is best taken early in the morning before food. I take it an hour or two before food. I had a very severe attack of shingles and found this very helpful. It is also best to eat lysine rich foods and to avoid those rich in arginine, for example chocolate, nuts, tomatoes. There is lots of info on the internet about which food types to avoid.

  4. kathy s.
    Reply

    I am 47 and am going on week 3 of this torture. Took the prescribed antiviral and prednisone which did not seem to really help much. Am supplementing with apple cider vinegar baths (have this along right collar bone, shoulder and lower neck area). Am also taking about 4,000 mg of lysine daily, along with benadryl, ibuprofen, vicodin. Keeping the rash as dry as possible and trying not to scratch. I think the ACV helps to accelerate the whole process. I did just dab some listerine (all I have is the blue) and it does seem to help soothe the pain. I took all of last week off of work, plus today. Going to try and work tomorrow. Bless all of us with this, I would rather have a root canal. Good luck.

  5. Jane G.
    Reply

    As mentioned above (by BM), L-Lysine–like all other zoster treatments–is most effective when used at the first signs of an outbreak (once you’ve had shingles once, it’s just a question of recognizing the signs). In my experience, the major triggers for an outbreak are stress and lack of sleep, along with (as mentioned in the original question) too much chocolate and nuts.
    Other than “that shingly feeling” that those of us prone to shingles learn to recognize, some early symptoms to keep in mind: sometimes shingles is preceded–a week or two before an outbreak–by mild flu-like symptoms. Ophthalmic shingles (zoster virus attacking the ophthalmic nerves, often together with other facial nerves) can be preceded–again a week or more prior to other symptoms–by a small circular dot or lesion on the tip of the nose, known as “Hutchinson’s sign.”
    Some useful supplemental treatments (best when taken early), in addition to L-Lysine:
    Chaparral (herbal tincture) – (botanical name Larrea tridentata)
    Lemon balm (herbal tea or tincture) – (botanical name Melissa officinalis)
    These and other treatments for shingles tend to have similar results against other forms of the herpes virus.
    Don’t take my word for any of this–look it up. And just because a treatment is natural, doesn’t mean it doesn’t have side effects, so do your research to ensure you are not harming yourself with medications, herbal/natural or otherwise.
    For shingles pain (and for the stress triggers) I have found acupuncture to be helpful.

  6. BM
    Reply

    L-Lysine will work if you catch it very early on, like before there is an outbreak. If you feel tingling or pain, take 2000MG, then follow up with 1000mg 3x a day. Don’t continue taking it indefinitely, because your body will become immune. Save it for when you feel an outbreak coming on.

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