Cold Sores

Cold Sores

Cold sores are lesions that occur around the lips and nose, starting as blisters and progressing to scabbed sores. They are caused by one of the Herpes family of viruses, and consequently share many features with genital herpes, chicken pox, and shingles.


  • Cold sores generally appear around the mouth and nose, and less commonly may affect other regions, including the eyes
  • Many sufferers experience an itching, tingling or burning sensation in the affected area before the cold sore becomes visible
  • When it initially appears, a cold sore is characterised by one or more fluid-filled blisters. The surrounding skin may be inflamed and red
  • The blisters are followed by sores, often covered with scabs, which eventually heal over and fall away
  • The duration of a cold sore from initial onset to healing averages 7-10 days


  • Cold sores are caused by the Herpes simplex virus, which is related to the viruses that cause chicken pox, shingles and genital herpes. It is transmitted via saliva, for example by kissing a person with the virus, or by sharing drinks or cutlery
  • Once the virus is contracted, it remains in the body permanently, periodically causing cold sore outbreaks
  • Factors that can trigger cold sore outbreaks include Stress, exposure to harsh sun or wind, being run down, lowered Immunity (e.g. Colds and Flu), and hormonal changes

Nutritional & Herbal Support

  • The amino acid lysine is antagonistic to Herpes viruses, and taking lysine at the first sign of symptoms may help to reduce the severity and healing time of a cold sore. Lysine can also be taken preventatively to reduce the frequency and severity of cold sore outbreaks. The recommended dose is 500 mg once or twice daily as a preventative measure, increasing to three times daily during acute outbreaks. It is best taken in combination with vitamin C, bioflavonoids and zinc
  • Vitamin C supports the healthy functioning of the immune system, helps to alleviate symptoms of infection and may reduce the severity and duration of symptoms. Along with bioflavonoids, vitamin C may help to inhibit blister formation during a cold sore outbreak
  • Zinc has many roles in the immune system, and inadequate intake may lower resistance to infection. It has specific infection-fighting effects against Herpes viruses, and is also essential for wound healing, along with vitamin C
  • Echinacea has been scientifically proven to enhance Immunity, and is specifically indicated for individuals suffering from chronic or recurrent infections
  • If you are prone to experiencing cold sore outbreaks when you're under Stress, take a high potency multivitamin that provides the B-complex group of vitamins, vitamin C, magnesium and other nutrients that help combat nervous tension and Anxiety

Diet & Lifestyle advice

  • If you experience a cold sore on or near your eyes, consult your doctor immediately
  • Understanding what triggers your cold sore outbreaks can help minimise their frequency. For example, if you tend to get cold sores after being exposed to harsh sun, try wearing a wide-brimmed hat on sunny days
  • Increase your consumption of foods rich in L-lysine (e.g. beans, fish and poultry) and simultaneously decrease foods rich in L-arginine (e.g. chocolate, almonds, peanuts, sunflower seeds, carob and soya beans). This limits the fuel that the Herpes virus has available to replicate itself, so it may help decrease the frequency and severity of outbreaks. Taking lysine supplements at the same time enhances this effect
  • Topical applications of the herb lemon balm (Melissa officinalis) may speed up the healing of cold sores. Make a strong cup of lemon balm tea, and apply the liquid to the cold sore several times throughout the day, starting as soon as possible after you feel the symptoms starting. Alternatively, ask your natural healthcare professional to prepare a more potent lemon balm cream for you
  • Practicing good hygiene helps prevent the spread of infection. If you are suffering from a cold sore, avoid touching it, and if you do, don't touch your genitals or other parts of your face. To avoid sharing the virus with others, it's also important to avoid sharing food and cutlery or kissing others

If symptoms persist consult your healthcare professional. Information provided is of a general nature and should not replace that of your healthcare professional.

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