young woman with auburn hairWhat are Cold Sores?

Cold sores are small, painful, fluid-filled blisters that usually occur on the lips, gums, or roof of the mouth. They're caused by the herpes simplex virus and are contagious. There may be pain or tingling one to two days before the cold sores appear.

Cold sores generally clear in seven to ten days. They're sometimes confused with canker sores, which are not contagious but produce small, painful ulcers in the soft tissues of the mouth, such as the tongue and the walls of the mouth.

Natural Cold Sore Remedies

Here are eight natural remedies that are used for the treatment of cold sores.

1) Lysine

Lysine is an essential amino acid, meaning that we must get it through food or supplements because the body can't make it on its own. It's used to make protein, which we need to produce infection-fighting antibodies, enzymes, hormones, and body tissues. Lysine has been found to inhibit the spread of the herpes simplex virus.

Although we get lysine through food sources such as red meat, milk, eggs, cheese, wheat germ, brewers yeast, and fish, what appears to be most important is the ratio of lysine to another amino acid, arginine. They compete with each other for absorption in the intestines, so the less arginine there is in the diet, the more lysine is absorbed. Foods that are rich in arginine include chocolate, peanuts, and almonds.

In addition to these temporary dietary changes: Lysine supplements (e.g. 1,000 mg taken three times a day) may help to shorten the duration of cold sores.
 Lysine ointment - a pilot study by the Southern California University looked at the effectiveness of a lysine-containing ointment in 30 people. Researchers found that the ointment produced full resolution in 40% of participants by the third day and in 87 percent by the end of the sixth day. No adverse effects were reported.

2) Lemon Balm

Lemon balm (Melissa officinalis) has antiviral properties. In a research study conducted in hospitals and dermatology clinics in Germany, lemon balm cream promoted the healing of blisters in five days compared to 10 days in the control group. Used on regularly, lemon balm cream may decrease the frequency of recurrences.

3) Reishi and Astragalus

Reishi, also called Ganoderma lucidum, is a type of mushroom that has a long history of use in traditional Asian medicine to strengthen the immune system. Preliminary evidence shows that reishi may inhibit the spread of the herpes virus. A typical dose is 600 milligrams once or twice a day.

Reishi is available in powder or supplement form. Reishi can delay blood clotting, so consult your doctor before taking reishi if you are taking aspirin, warfarin (coumadin), or any other medications or supplements that interfere with clotting.

In traditional Chinese medicine, reishi is often used in conjunction with an herb called astragalus. Astragalus has been found to improve immune function in people with herpes simplex keratitis.

4) Resveratrol

Resveratrol, a compound found naturally in red grapes, has been shown to be active against the herpes simplex virus in laboratory studies.

A study by the Northeastern Ohio University demonstrated that resveratrol cream applied topically two, three, or five times a day effectively suppressed cold sore development if it was applied one or 6 hours after infection with the herpes virus.
Resveratrol cream was also found to be as effective as 5% acyclovir ointment (Zovirax). Resveratrol cream also effectively suppressed cold sore formation in animals with herpes simplex infection that was resistant to acyclovir. No side effects were reported.

5) Peppermint Oil

A study by the University of Heidelberg found that peppermint essential oil was found to penetrate the skin and have a direct virucidal effect againt the herpes simplex virus. Peppermint oil was also found to be active against an acyclovir-resistant strain of the herpes simpex virus.

Although it's promising, peppermint oil shouldn't be used until studies have established its safety. Peppermint oil is absorbed through the skin so even small amounts could be toxic. Peppermint oil should never be ingested.

6) Propolis

Propolis, also called bee propolis, is a brownish, resinous substance. Bees collect it from poplar and conifer buds and use it "cement" their hives and keep them germ-free. It is sold in health food stores.

A study found that propolis was active against herpes simplex 1 virus. It is believed to work by preventing the virus from entering body cells and by blocking the replication and spread of the virus. For more information about propolis, read the Propolis Fact Sheet.

7) Self-Heal

The herb self-heal, also known as Prunella vulgaris is a perennial plant commonly found in China and Europe. Extracts of this herb have been found to be effective against both herpes simplex 1 and 2 viruses. It is also believed to work against acyclovir-resistant strains of the herpes virus.

8) Other Remedies

Echinacea - A study by the University of Ottawa found that echinacea is active against herpes simplex type 1. 

Black currant - An extract of black currant, also known as Ribes nigrum or Kurokarin in Japan, was found to fight the herpes virus in laboratory studies. 

Rhubarb and sage cream - A German study examined rhubarb-sage cream compared to sage cream and Zovirax in 149 people with oral herpes cold sores. The combined topical sage-rhubarb preparation proved to be as effective as topical aciclovir cream and tended to be more active than the sage cream. 

Undaria pinnatifida - known as wakame in Japan, undaria is a type of seaweed that has been found to improve the healing time and reactivation of herpes infections.

Safety Precautions

People with tuberculosis, leukemia, diabetes, connective tissue disorders, multiple sclerosis, HIV or AIDS, any autoimmune diseases, organ transplant, or possibly, liver disorders should not take herbs or supplements that improve immune function (such as reishi and astragalus) without consulting their doctor first. Taking immune-boosting supplements may reduce the effectiveness of medications that suppress the immune system.

Article courtesy of Medicine, written by Cathy Wong, and found with sources, here.

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