Cold sores are the visible result of a lurking herpes virus becoming re-activated and causing trouble. The virus, herpes simplex 1 or HSV-1, is extremely widespread. Most of the time, though, it lurks out of sight until the immune system is overwhelmed for some reason, and then the virus triggers a nasty lesion that is both painful and ugly. One reader reports an innovative way to prevent cold sores just as they begin to form by smearing garlic on the spot.
Smearing Garlic on the Skin to Ward Off a Cold Sore:
Q. Many years ago, I was at my wit’s end with cold sores. Stress and sunshine were both triggers.
I worked for a division of the drug company Sanofi and asked one of the folks in R&D how to volunteer for a clinical trial. She did not know, but she told me that rubbing a cut clove of garlic over a tingling sore produced favorable results.
Whoopee! Indeed it does! When I feel the first tingle, I cut a clove of garlic and rub it on. It stings a bit, but there’s no eruption. While I smell a bit garlicky for a few hours, it’s so much better than two weeks of a blister.
Garlic to Fight Viruses:
A. Garlic has antiviral as well as antibacterial and antifungal activity (Microbes and Infection, Feb., 1999). Fresh garlic extract is active against herpes simplex virus 1, the virus that causes cold sores (Planta Medica, Oct., 1992).
One study tested garlic compounds in the laboratory against a potent and destructive virus in the herpes family, cytomegalovirus. The garlic compound diallyl trisulfide inhibited viral replication (Antiviral Research, Oct., 2006).
We’ve not heard before of smearing garlic on your lips to prevent or treat cold sores, but we can’t think of any reason not to try it. We have written about other remedies for cold sores in more detail here.