A cold sore is a cluster of blisters, typically on the lips or around the mouth, caused by the Herpes Simplex 1 virus (HSV-1).  Approximately 80% of the population is infected with HSV-1, but it affects everyone differently.  Less frequently, you can have an HSV-1 outbreak in your nose or eye.  If you've ever had a cold sore, you know how difficult and uncomfortable an outbreak can be. After the initial infection, cold sores outbreaks are typically caused by stress like high sun exposure, colds, or emotional stress.  There is no cure for HSV-1; between outbreaks it lies dormant in your nerve fibers.  Approximately one-third of suffers get sores in the same spot every time.

Last Tuesday morning, I began to feel the burning and tingling on my upper lip that signaled I was going to get a cold sore.  I immediately started reading and searching through my herbal resources, eager to find a way to use herbs to help me heal more quickly.  While I'm not sure what aspects of treatment were most effective, I was able to make what is typically a 10-14 day ordeal last only 7 days with the following:

1) Perhaps the best known natural treatment for cold sores is L-Lysine.  L-Lysine is an amino acid found in fish, turkey, chicken, and legumes that interferes with the virus' ability to multiply.  In addition to dietary sources, you can buy L-Lysine as a supplement from your local drug store.  The dose I use during an outbreak is 1000 mg (1 gm) 3 times a day, as this seems to be the most common recommendation.  People with frequent outbreaks can take 1000 mg a day to reduce or prevent future outbreaks.

2) Vitamin C.  To help support my immune system, I took 1000 mg of vitamin C twice a day for 3-5 days.  Similar options would include Airborne or Emergen-C twice a day.

3) Dietary Changes.  Avoid foods high in the amino acid Arginine, which is found in chocolate, peanuts, and most nuts.  (Yes, I successfully avoided chocolate during an outbreak.  It can be done.)  Arginine stimulates virus to multiply and basically counteracts the L-Lysine.  Also avoid citrus fruit and juices while the virus is active.

4) Aloe.  I have an aloe plant on my coffee table that provides me with healing juice for a multitude of injuries and ailments.  In this case, once blisters formed, I cut a leaf and applied aloe juice directly to the blisters as often as necessary.  This reduced the pain and swelling and also helped dry up the blisters.

5)  Tea.  I drank a soothing herbal tea containing camomile, lavender, and other soothing herbs.  An outbreak is usually a reaction to stress, so relax, de-stress, and let your body heal.  Traditional Medicinals makes a tea called "Easy Now" that I enjoy.

6) Lavender.  Once my cold sore got to the scabbed and healing stage, I applied lavender essential oil directly to the sore 2-3 times a day.  This helps it heal faster and prevent infection.  Other essential oils such as Tea Tree may be equally effective; however, Lavender is the only oil that can be applied directly to the skin as is.  Other essential oils should be diluted in a carrier oil as they may cause skin irritation and/or other adverse effects.

Here are links to some of the resources I used for this entry:

National Institute of Health "tutorial" on cold sores

Things to keep in mind/Disclaimer:

These treatments are generally accepted as safe and I have obtained them from reliable resources.  However, I am not a master herbalist or licensed health care provider.  Please see your provider to confirm these treatments are safe for you, as any existing medical conditions or medications you are taking may be affected by the aforementioned treatments.  If you get an HSV infection in your eye, see your health care provider immediately.  HSV-1 infection in the eye can cause blindness if not treated properly.


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