Foods That Help Heal Cold Sores


Cold sores are caused by a virus called herpes simplex (type 1). Nutrition that helps heal such a sore includes lysine-rich foods such as fish and dairy products. But additional amino acid L-Lysine supplements can help, because it's difficult to get high doses of lysine just from food. The good news is that, with proper attention, the worst cold sore can heal over reasonably well in two to three days.

Eating Proper Foods

Lysine is an essential amino acid found in foods. As a building block of proteins, lysine prevents the reproduction of the herpes simplex virus, which triggers a cold sore. Calcium also plays a role, keeping blood alkaline versus acidic, which increases oxygen, which destroys viruses. This helps the cold sore and surrounding tissue heal. Calcium is present in dairy products, raw spinach, okra, kale, fish and calcium supplements.

Okra on wood table
Okra on wood table (Image: Szakaly/iStock/Getty Images)

Eating Right to Enhance Lysine

Cold sores appear when immunity is down, stress levels are up and the body's nutritional needs aren't being met. A good balance between the amino acid lysine and the amino acid arginine is important, but lysine should take priority. Eggs, codfish, sardines, tofu, beans, asparagus, spinach, buckwheat, lentils, dairy products and spirulina are rich in lysine.

Plate of sardines with lemon
Plate of sardines with lemon (Image: Liv Friis-Larsen/iStock/Getty Images)

Foods to Avoid to Decrease Arginine

Avoid foods rich in arginine to heal a cold sore: peanuts, peanut butter, cashew nuts, pecans, walnuts, almonds, chocolate, coconut, cereal grains, including white and whole wheat flour, oats, and meats. High levels of arginine suppress the levels of the lysine in the blood. Eat arginine-rich foods in moderation or avoid them altogether until a cold sore heals.

Spoonful of peanut butter
Spoonful of peanut butter (Image: HandmadePictures/iStock/Getty Images)

Strengthening the Immune System

Eating foods rich in vitamin C and taking vitamin supplements will amplify the effects of a well-balanced diet. A strong immune system will suppress the outbreak of herpes simplex; the virus, once present in the body, will reside there indefinitely, but it will not cause problems if your immune system is strong. Oranges, orange juice, pure vegetable juice and tomato juice provide immune-boosting Vitamin C.

Glass of tomato juice
Glass of tomato juice (Image: Wiktory/iStock/Getty Images)

Food Products as Topical Treatment

Essential oils, including both garlic and olive oil, can be applied directly to the cold sore to help it heal. They will both stop any virus from reproducing itself when applied directly on the outbreak, allowing the skin tissue can heal faster. Garlic or olive oil should be carefully applied with a cotton ball to a cold sore area that has been carefully cleaned.

Bowl of olive oil with black olives
Bowl of olive oil with black olives (Image: barol16/iStock/Getty Images)

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