The People's Perspective on Medicine

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.

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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After reading Adelle Davis, ‘Let’s Get Well’, I tried her solution: Pantothenic acid, Vit B6 and Vit C:
I take a B 100mg complex, 250mg pantothenic acid and 2000mg Vit C. It is great for preventing cold sores and head colds. I have been taking this for over 20 years and have excellent results! I have a friend with genital herpes and recommended this to her; she has had wonderful results also.

Apply an ice cube at the first sign of a tingle for as long as you can stand it. Keep applying for 10 to 20 minutes. Usually shocks it back in and it doesn’t erupt.

Regarding cold sores: I use an alcohol swab immediately upon having the first signs of a sore on my lip. I press and hold the wipe against the sore for about a minute and repeat another two to three times a day. (I do NOT rub!) Cold sore doesn’t enlarge or spread, and most signs are gone withing a couple of days. The swabs are used, I believe, for sterilizing needles, and I buy them in a box of 100. Also, you might like to know that I don’t take any medicine for cold sores.

I used to take Lysine every day as a preventive, and it worked pretty well, but I was told that it’s not a good idea to take it every day, since it’s only one of the amino acids. So I stopped. Now I only take it if I feel a cold sore coming on, or if I eat too many nuts or chocolate, I’ll take it as a preventative, for that day only.

Years ago a doctor recommended to me to use witch hazel as a compress on my cold sore. I don’t believe it heals it, necessarily, but I put the witch hazel on a cotton ball and hold it there on the cold sore on my lip for a minute about three or four times a day, and it does soothe the discomfort. Lysine does work for me, as does trying not eat too many trigger foods, such as cashews, peanuts, and chocolate.

I have, for many years, used surgical spirit as a means of stopping a cold sore from erupting. This almost always works provided I apply it as soon as I feel the tingle. I use a cotton bud to apply. A bottle of surgical spirit is very cheap and lasts for a long time.

I have been a pharmacist for 45 years. Early in my career I was told by a gynecologist that L-Lysine was very effective in the treatment of Herpes Simplex 1 & 2 . My whole family had suffered from oral fever blisters for years so I decided to give it a try . I found that it was very effective as long as you started it early when you first felt the tingling on your lip. Over the years I had many family members and customers who agreed.

I suffered from this years ago, with sores all over the inside of my mouth. It was painful to eat and drink, and I lost a lot of weight. I now take L-Lysine when I feel the outbreak coming in my mouth, and it keeps it from erupting.

I am 80 years old and have suffered with cold sores since my childhood Finally I found something that really gets rid of them. I don’t get them as often these days, but recently I was getting a nasty one that was forming and even went below my lip. I applied some colloidal silver jel before retiring, and overnight showed signs of healing. It actually healed in just a few days. Colloidal silver is an antiviral supplement.

I am am a dedicated believer in L-lysine as a virus control. I suffered from cold sores and a pustule-type rash that plagued me for over 40 years. It always started in the fall and lasted until late spring in exactly the same places on my body. I also suffered from numerous colds. I went to several PC physicians, allergists and dermatologists who prescribed several things to try, and nothing helped. I found pictures similar to it in medical books, and it was labeled “dermatitis of unknown origin”. I began to suspect that it was caused by a resident virus. I mentioned this to my new PC doctor, and the next time it started up she prescribed a course of Valtrex. Sure enough, it responded within 12 hours and was completely gone within a few days! Every so often it would start again, and I would take the Valtrix, and it would go away. Then, when my husband came down with shingles in his eye, I came across a study that mentioned the effectiveness of L-lysine when taken daily on an empty stomach first thing in the morning. I started taking 1000mg of L-lysine daily. Whenever I felt the tingling coming back in the spots, despite the L-lysine (usually when I was stressing my body more than normally), I upped the dosage until it stopped and maintained that dosage for a week. The highest I have ever had to go is 6000mg. I then gradually lowered the dose downward to the 1000mg maintenance dose. I have not had to resort to the Valtrex since 2013! I also don’t get regular colds anymore! Works for me! It also worked for my husband’s shingles in his eye. Occasionally it would start to re-occur. As soon as his eye would get a little red, he would take a larger dose of the L-lysine, and it would go away, just like when he took the antiviral.

I know this sounds awful, but the best remedy for cold sores is ear wax. I read about it in a 17th Century herbalist’s book and tried it out of desperation. Not only does it work, if you catch the cold sore at the early tingling stage, it stops the virus in its tracks. I used to get cold sores 6 or 7 times a year. Since trying ear wax nearly 30 years ago (and it doesn’t take much) I haven’t had one. Really.

In our family, those who get cold sores prevent them by drinking grape juice. If a sore starts, drink some grape juice to stop it from developing.

How exactly do you use the lemon balm or stinging nettles? As a tea or in a capsule, or applied to the sore?
And is there any natural remedy yet to rid us of this annoying virus?

When I was in my mid-twenties, I felt the tingling sensation of a “fever blister” starting. A co-worker told me to get some ice and hold it on the tingling spot as long as I could stand it. And keep repeating for a few minutes. I am now 76 and have not had a fever blister since because the ice treatment works every time.

I was in a Christchurch, NZ Pharmacy in 1999 looking for Zovirax, sold OTC. The Pharmacist asked me if I had ever used L-Lysine, which I had not. He advised me to try it, which I did and do daily, and have not had a cold sore in the 19 years, since I started taking 500 mg daily.

Natural cure for cold sores is fresh lemon rinds. The oils in the rinds will stop a cold sore overnight! Seems impossible but it really works. Try it! You have nothing to lose. Just eat the rind of a half of a lemon. That’s it!

I recently got a cold sore on my lip in conjunction with a flu-like illness followed by a bout of bacterial sinusitis. I dabbed organic extra virgin coconut oil on it two or three times a day. It healed beautifully in about 5 days. Coconut oil contains capric and lauric fatty acids which have antiviral properties.

I’m taking it daily, and I’m hoping. I seem to get at least one every year, and Valtrex definitely helps if I take it right away. There seems to be no particular time of year or reason for an outbreak. It seemed I had built up some immunity until a couple of years ago when I got the worst case ever! It just kept spreading, and I even worried it had gotten in an eye. Fortunately it didn’t, but it was not only horrible to look at and extremely uncomfortable, now I’m always worried it could happen again.

I agree that foods high in arginine contribute to cold sores. Whenever I eat too many cashews I start getting the tingle on my lips. I stop and start Lysine treatment (cream and capsules).

Not as a preventative, but listening to Amber does a great job of drying out cold sores as they begin. At the first tingle I start treating topically with listening, and for me it goes away quickly before being a blister.

What??? Could you explain what the heck you are talking about? Thank you.

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