Natural Treatments for Cold Sores

By Lisa Barger

Whether you call them cold sores, fever blisters or herpes, these painful blistering infections are caused by one of the most common viruses in the world.

Caused by the herpes simplex virus Type 1, or HSV1, cold sores are clusters of tiny blisters that appear on the surface and margins of the lips and in the corners of the mouth. HSV1 and its cousin, HSV2, the herpes virus most often implicated in genital herpes, are highly contagious. In fact, it’s estimated that at least 80% of the American population has been exposed to the herpes virus, though some people will never actually experience a cold sore outbreak.

Currently there’s no cure for cold sores so prevention is very important. To minimize your risk of contracting the herpes virus, avoid intimate contact with anyone experiencing an outbreak and resist the urge to share their eating utensils, cosmetics or towels. Doctors used to tell us that herpes was only contagious during a cold sore outbreak but we now know that herpes can be spread at any time so even if the other person doesn’t show visible signs of a cold sore, it’s a good idea to practice good hygiene habits like careful handwashing.

Once you’ve been infected, you can minimize your cold sore outbreaks by minimizing your intake of arginine-rich foods like chocolate, peanuts and seeds. Arginine, a naturally occurring amino acid, is vital to the development of a cold sore so avoiding excessive intake of this nutrient may help prevent frequent cold sore outbreaks.

Another amino acid that seems to play a role in cold sore outbreaks is lysine. But lysine doesn’t encourage cold sores like arginine does; lysine seems to suppress them. A daily 1,000 mg dose begun at the first tingle of a cold sore and taken three times daily for several days seems to suppress cold sore outbreaks in some people.. Less-studied natural treatments for cold sores include astragalus, licorice and Reishi mushrooms. These herbs are believed to prevent outbreaks by strengthening the immune system.

If you suffer from cold sore outbreaks ask your health care provider if adding lysine, licorice, Reishi or astragalus to your regimen is appropriate for you.

Lisa Barger is a traditional naturopath specializing in natural health education. To learn more about Ms. Barger’s belief in “Empowerment through Education” or to take a free online natural health class see her website,

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