Cold sores are small, painful, fluid-filled blisters caused by the Herpes simplex 1 virus (HSV-1). Once you initially are exposed to this contagious virus you will always be susceptible to outbreaks, which are triggered by stress, fever, menstruation or sun exposure. These blisters form on the lips, chin, cheeks or inside of the mouth, but are not to be confused with canker sores, which are non-contagious ulcers of the mouth. Cold sores normally last for seven to 10 days, but you can reduce the duration and intensity with natural remedies such as lysine and licorice.
According to a study done by the Southern California University of Health Sciences, lysine “inhibits normal replication of Herpes simplex virus (HSV), shortening the normal course and duration of the disease.” Lysine is an essential amino acid that the body needs but can’t make, so it must be obtained through diet. Good sources include red meat, eggs, milk, cheese, fish and wheat germ. Since arginine, another amino acid, supports the growth of the Herpes virus, arginine-containing foods such as chocolate, nuts, grains, oatmeal and whole wheat should be avoided.
Lysine is available in supplement or cream form at most health food stores. The cream is applied topically and decreases pain as well as decreasing recovery time—from roughly two weeks to as little as four days. When you feel a sore coming on by the tell-tale sign of tingling, you can also take at least 1250 mg daily in supplement form. Lysine is especially effective when taken in conjunction with vitamin C, bioflavinoids and zinc.
Licorice root, not be confused with licorice-flavored candies, has been a staple in healthcare for thousands of years, especially in Europe and China. Licorice root's main ingredient glycyrrhizin has both anti-inflammatory and anti-viral properties, and therefore counteracts the symptoms of the Herpes simplex virus. You can chew whole sticks of licorice root, make a tea from it or take tablets. Glycyrrhizin may increase blood pressure in those who are susceptible, so don’t use it for prolonged periods of time.
Do not take lysine if you are pregnant or nursing.
No amino acid in large doses should be taken for long periods of time.
Replace your toothbrush after the cold sore is gone; your toothbrush can harbor the virus for many days, possibly leading to re-infection.
Don’t cover your cold sore with make-up as this will just incubate the virus.
Don’t pick at the sore or you will make it worse.
Avoid salty or acidic foods.
Try to relieve your stress as much as possible.
Boost your immune system with echinacea tea and sugar-free zinc lozenges.