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Buttermilk to Prevent Cold Sores

Q. I am plagued with ugly cold sores. You wrote once that buttermilk might help. Do you drink it as a preventive measure? Or do you apply it topically on the cold sore to make it heal faster? I know that sounds odd, but people suggest the craziest things to get rid of these awful sores. I’d really like advice on preventing them.

A. Several years ago we received a letter from a man whose pharmacist told him to drink buttermilk to avoid cold sores on the lips. He reported that it worked very well.

Another popular approach is the dietary supplement L-lysine. Many readers report that 500 mg daily can prevent outbreaks. Unfortunately, there isn’t much recent research on this approach, so we don’t know whether it would hold up in a placebo-controlled trial.

One herbal remedy that is used in Europe is lemon balm, or Melissa officinalis. This is applied topically at the first hint of the tingle that accompanies cold sore formation.

One reader shared her experience with a very simple inexpensive remedy:

“I know that I’ve written on this subject before. The easiest solution for cold sores is one I’ve been using for years. As soon as I get that familiar tingling, I apply cold. Ice wrapped in a cloth or a package of frozen veggies for about an hour or so takes the problem away. My lips are sun sensitive so I also apply lip balm with sun protection to prevent outbreaks.”


Have you ever wondered where home remedies come from and how we report on them?

Here are three for your LISTENING pleasure. Right from the horses mouth…so to speak. These stories came in from our syndicated radio show. Should you want to subscribe to the FREE podcast of the show, here is a link. You will never miss another People’s Pharmacy program again.

“Heartburn Symptoms Eased by Apple Cider Vinegar”

“Headaches: Chocolate Shake for Migraines”

“Headaches: Orange Pith Eases Pain”

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About the Author
Joe Graedon is a pharmacologist who has dedicated his career to making drug information understandable to consumers. His best-selling book, The People’s Pharmacy, was published in 1976 and led to a syndicated newspaper column, syndicated public radio show and web site. In 2006, Long Island University awarded him an honorary doctorate as “one of the country's leading drug experts for the consumer.”.
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