Q. For about 15 years, I’ve gotten an ugly cold sore on my upper lip at the end of the summer. It is always painful, and it takes at least a month to heal.
The remedies I tried didn’t help much. Last week, I woke up to find a familiar bubble on my upper lip that signaled the start of a cold sore. I’d read on your site about sauerkraut juice so I rubbed some onto the spot several times a day. Within a few days, the sore had begun to heal. In less than a week, my cold sore has gone from threatening bubble to the final healing stage. I am floored at how well and quickly this worked.

A. Other readers have reported that sauerkraut juice speeds healing of canker sores. We’ve never heard of it helping cold sores before. Thank you for sharing your story.
There are medications to speed healing of cold sores, which are caused by herpes simplex virus 1 (HSV-1). Acyclovir, famciclovir and valacyclovir are prescription pills, while acyclovir and penciclovir are available as creams for topical application.
Many people find that the dietary supplement l-lysine is quite helpful for non-prescription prevention and treatment of cold sores. You can learn more about that at PeoplesPharmacy.com.
Besides taking supplemental l-lysine, many cold sore sufferers find that reducing arginine intake is helpful. Arginine is essential for HSV-1 replication. It is found in nuts, peanuts, wheat germ, chocolate and eggs.
One other dietary factor that seems useful is reducing the amount of refined carbohydrate. Pushing blood sugar and insulin levels up rapidly seems to put the immune system at a disadvantage. Eating a low glycemic-load diet may help keep the balance close enough that natural remedies such as l-lysine or lemon balm (Melissa officinalis) can work on a cold sore.

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  1. Kristine

    Lysine is the wonder cure for cold sores! You can take 3,000 mg when you first feel the sore popping up and then 1,000 mg 3 times a day until it is gone. Also, raw garlic pulls the fluid from the sore once it is full blown. The Lysine, if you catch it early enough, will prevent it from becoming a huge swollen blister however.

  2. Johnnie J.

    I remember discovering years ago that sometimes when I had a herpes outbreak and ate cabbage it healed quicker.

  3. E. Pap

    I am plagued by canker sores… especially on sides of my tongue. Usually they are in the same places and very painful… I can barely move my tongue without pain so eating is painful. When they start to subside, new ones are replaced. My mouth also has bright red abrasions on the inside checks. No one can seem to figure out what’s going on…not dentist nor primary dr. I tried over the counter Kanka for true canker sores on tongue but just a topical. Help!
    PEOPLE’S PHARMACY RESPONSE: Sauerkraut juice twice daily may help. Other visitors have found that eating kiwi fruit daily can help get rid of the canker sores.
    It the problem is as chronic as it appears, there may be an underlying condition such as celiac disease that should be investigated.

  4. betty

    I’ll bet you are overdoing the (acidy) tomatoes. I always got cold sores at the end of summer until I realized it was related to wonderful tomatoes. Now I still over-do the tomatoes, but I wash my lips and mouth and rinse well after eating them. NO more cold sores. I also got cold sores when I over did the grapefruit in the early spring.. I would buy a large bag of them, and ALWAYS got awful cold sores.. until I began the washing and rinsing ritual. No more cold sores. This is not logical, but it is true.

  5. ellie

    When I get a canker sore on my tongue I swish mylanta around in my mouth and then swallow it. The sore is gone in no time.

  6. abigail

    I’d like to know a reliable and inclusive source for glycemic load ratings. the only one I know of from Australia does not include many of the foods that people who eat a very wide variety of fresh and packaged organic foods are likely to eat. Some of the foods/brands on their list are not available in the USA.

  7. a.s.

    l-lysine works for me, and sauerkraut and the juice of it remain staples in my diet.

  8. GaryB

    Both my son and I get cold sores, usually from being over worked or heavy stress tends to brings them on. We have found that Vitamin D works wonders. V “D” cuts the healing time by over a half and if we can get the vitamin soon enough when we feel the “hot spot” coming on it will not even blister. I have not tried the sauerkraut, but if it will shorten it further I’m all for it. BTW, I have started taking a low dose of D daily (3 months) and so far only one hot spot, I got to it in time and it never developed.

  9. Mary

    A number of years ago my gynecologist recommended zinc for canker sores.
    I tried it and it worked and for cold sores as well. I still use it regularly. If I forget, I will have a sore starting on the end of my tongue by the time I go to bed.
    I do keep the dose relatively low. The amount of zinc in a multi is usually too small to make a difference for me.

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