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Cold Sores and Herpes

What causes cold sores?

Cold sores are the result of a recurrent viral infection by the virus Herpes simplex. Colds sores represent the infection targeting the skin or mucous membranes, mainly occurring about the mouth, lips, genitals or eye. The incubation period is 2-12 days & averages 6-7 days. Outbreaks may follow minor infections, trauma, stress (emotional, dietary & environmental) & sun exposure.

Chronic, persistent herpes infections are seen in immuno-suppressed individuals. There are a number of foods which should be avoided, or at least limited as dietary choices, or the nutritional status of the individual will have significant implications, by acting as triggers, which lower the immune system, bringing on an attack.

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What is Arginine's role in causing Cold Sores?

A diet rich in the amino acid Arginine and low in Lysine has been shown to contribute to cold sores.

Arginine is required by the herpes virus to make its viral proteins. Foods that contain high amounts of the amino acid arginine have been found to be a trigger for most people who suffer with herpes. These include chocolate, peanuts, almonds, cashews, peas, pecans & whole wheat. If you suffer with reoccurring outbreaks, you should consider eliminating these foods from your diet completely.

Lysine, an amino acid, has the ability to fight the infection & regulate the uptake of arginine from the diet. Therefore supplementation with lysine, while restricting your diet of foods high in arginine is considered essential.

Lysine can help suppress cold sore symptoms...

The amino acid lysine actually suppresses the symptoms of cold sores. Studies have showed that once supplementation of lysine had stopped, the cold sores returned within 1 to 4 weeks. The amount of lysine needed as a preventative for cold sores varies, depending on the person's diet & their overall nutrient balance between arginine & lysine, as well as biochemical individuality.

Generally a maintenance dosage of 500mg twice daily is suggested for prevention, increasing to as much as 2000 - 3000 mg three to four times daily, if the onset of symptoms such as the "tingling" or "itching" are noticed. In this case, remain at the higher dosage for at least four days, even if the symptoms subside.

Supporting your immune system is essential to prevent cold sores...

Supporting your immune system is essential. This can be done by taking antioxidants, vitamins & minerals. The most important are vitamin C with bioflavonoids. Supplementation has shown potential in reducing the severity of the infection as well as preventing a recurring infection. Research has found that people with a history of recurrent herpes simplex are often iron-deficient. Another important mineral for the immune system is zinc.

Herbal and natural remedies to fight infection of cold sores...

Specific herbs have emerged for their ability to attack the herpes virus itself:

Olive leaf extract is a specific antiviral herb and an excellent choice for helping to fight against the family of herpes viruses. As well as this, the herbs Echinacea or Cat's Claw may also help, as these stimulate the immune system. Liquid extracts are better for fast absorption, at the maximum recommended dosage.

A fatty acid named lauric acid is effective against enveloped viruses (herpes, CMV etc). We do not keep this in stock, but one of our suppliers offers this. Please phone for prices and availability.

Astraforte is a deep immune tonic containing the 3 herbs Astragalus, Reishi & Privet. These herbs are traditionally used in conditions of profound immune deficiencies. They increase the production of white blood cells & strengthen the body's immune response & vital force. They have an energy boosting action.

Formulas incorporating Astragalus are used in China in conjunction with radiotherapy & chemotherapy in cancer patients. This formula has been traditionally used as a liver tonic in hepatitis, for chronic fatigue syndrome, repetitive cold, flu & viral infections, debilitated immune function, post-infection recovery, bronchial coughs, for nervous debility, sleeplessness & anxiety.

Ointments and other topical applications for cold sores...

We stock a number of products that can be applied directly to a cold sore. These include Essentia Vital Skin, Malcolm Harker Healing Slave and the NaturoPharm Colsor Pack, which contains a cream and also a homeopathic preparation for cold sores.

Vital Skin is a helpful, easy to use, natural remedy for everyday Skin Problems. Vital skin calms inflammation, kills germs, and starts the healing process. The combined properties of selected certified pure essential oils create a simple yet effective healing synergy.

Healing Slave from Malcolm Harker contains a combination of oils such as menthol, pine, eucalyptol, eugenol, thymol and cedar, in a base of lanolin, virgin-green cold-pressed olive oil, jojoba wax-oil, vitamin E and U.V treated rainwater. It has been used with cold-sores, cracked lips, stings, scratches, mosquito bites, pimples, prickles and fungal sores.

Naturopharm Colsor Pack contain Colsor Oral Spray and 30g Colsor Cream. Used together they help to aid the body's normal immune function in fighting viral conditions like cold sores (herpes). They suggest for the ultimate results, use in conjunction with Lysine & Olive leaf extract.

Herp-Eze formulated for the relief of cold sores...

Healthyonline founder and Naturopath Leanne James has formulated a product specifically for helping with the prevention & relief of cold sores, called Herp-Eze. We are having excellent results with this. Each capsule contains L-lysine, zinc, olive leaf extract, selenium, vitamin A and vitamin C. This can be taken daily as a preventative & also when you have an outbreak.

Cold sores and menstruation...

Many women can experience an outbreak of cold sores close to menstruation. We recommend increasing immune-modulating herbs & nutrients around one week prior to menstruation.

Alternatively a course of Olive leaf may be necessary if recurring infections are a problem around period time and also look at dramatically increasing your zinc levels. Seek professional advice before self prescribing.

Suggested treatment for cold sores...

  • Avoid all chocolate, peanuts & almonds. These foods have a high arginine content.
  • Reduce stress & avoid excessive exposure to the sun.
  • Supplement with Vitamin C, E, bioflavonoids, zinc, selenium & lysine.
  • Take Leanne's Herp-Eze product regularly.
  • Strengthen your immune system using a selection of the immune-modulating herbs as outlined above.
  • Include a wide range of fruits & vegetables, as well as yoghurt & other soured products.


If you suffer with herpes, we would be happy to advise you how to help control this virus, rather than the virus control your life.

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The Naturopathic Team
Ideal Health

Disclaimer: The health information presented here has been written for the New Zealand health consumer. It is of a general nature and is only intended to provide a summary of the subjects covered and is intended to be used for educational and general information purposes only. It is not intended as medical advice or as a means to diagnose, treat, cure or prescribe for any particular condition or disease. You assume all responsibility for the treatment which may be undertaken as a result of the information on this site, or treatment recommended by any other party. While all care has been taken to ensure the accuracy of the information, no responsibility or liability is accepted, and no person should act in reliance on any statement contained in the information provided. All health ailments should be treated by a qualified health professional.

If you need help or advice, please email our naturopathic team with your health question.  Please allow 48 hours for a response.

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