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Is There a Natural Remedy for Cold Sores?

You might want to try a natural remedy for cold sores to stop an outbreak at the first tingle. Lemon balm, stinging nettle and L-lysine are popular.
Is There a Natural Remedy for Cold Sores?
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During cold season, many people suffer from outbreaks of cold sores, also called fever blisters. Perhaps when the immune system is busy fighting off another infection, the herpes simplex virus that causes cold sores has more chance to cause trouble. Stress and excessive sun exposure can also trigger lesions. There are a number of prescription and over-the-counter medications that can be used to treat outbreaks, but some people would prefer a natural remedy for cold sores.

Looking for a Natural Remedy for Cold Sores:

Q. Is there a natural remedy for herpes 1 outbreaks on the lips?

A. Herpes simplex virus 1 (HSV-1) causes cold sores. Antiviral medications such as acyclovir (Sitavig, Zovirax), famciclovir (Famvir)  or valacyclovir (Valtrex) can speed healing. Doctors may also prescribe creams containing acyclovir (Zovirax, Xerese) or penciclovir (Denavir). You could also try the nonprescription cream docosanol (Abreva).

Herbal Remedies for Cold Sores:

A more natural remedy for cold sores involves L-lysine or the herb lemon balm (Melissa officinalis). When scientists conducted in-vitro (test-tube) research they found that lemon balm extract interferes with HSV-1 infecting host cells (Phytotherapy Research, Oct. 2014). We haven’t seen clinical studies, but some readers like to use lemon balm to battle cold sores.

Stinging nettle (Urtica dioica) might be another natural remedy for cold sores. This herb has antiviral activity, but we haven’t seen clinical trials with it either.

Will L-Lysine Stop Cold Sores?

A number of readers are enthusiastic about L-lysine as a way to stop cold sores fast. Nonetheless, clinical studies are lacking for this treatment as well.

Julie in the UK wrote:

“I’m so far impressed with no blister outbreaks for the past 3 months since I started taking lysine 1000mg at breakfast time. My triggers for the blisters over the last 40 years have generally been sun, wind, cold or stress. If I can get through the whole of this winter symptom-free, I will be strongly convinced that it works for me.

“I have generally experienced 4 to 6 outbreaks per year and to be free of them will be life changing. I haven’t changed my diet at all and still enjoy high arginine foods like oats and nuts.”

Sue in Indiana reported:

“I too take L-lysine. I used to get horrible..what we call fever blisters on my lip and under my nose. A woman that my husband worked with saw me and told him to tell me to try L-lysine. I did and wow did it work. If I even feel a tingle, I start the L-lysine.

“I wish someone would have told my parents about this when I was a kid. The fever blisters didn’t always hurt but I was always self conscious about them.”

Some people also find it helpful to avoid high-arginine foods such as cashews. The idea is to increase intake of the amino acid lysine and reduce intake of arginine. Taking L-lysine as a supplement at the first hint of an outbreak is probably the easiest way to utilize this natural remedy for cold sores.

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About the Author
Terry Graedon, PhD, is a medical anthropologist and co-host of The People’s Pharmacy radio show, co-author of The People’s Pharmacy syndicated newspaper columns and numerous books, and co-founder of The People’s Pharmacy website. Terry taught in the Duke University School of Nursing and was an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology. She is a Fellow of the Society of Applied Anthropology. Terry is one of the country's leading authorities on the science behind folk remedies. .
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