A cold sore is a symptom of your infection by the Herpes Simplex Virus (sometimes simply known as “HSV”). This is normally a relatively benign disease that typically only manifests itself through the occasional skin irritation known as a cold sore–in other words, it’s basically harmless, irritating maybe, but harmless. It’s nothing to lose sleep over (unless you’re up with an itching cold sore!), but it can cause problems especially as far as your social and dating life goes, so I’m going to cover a bunch of various remedies and methods that myself and my friends have come up with over the years through sheer trial-and-error of testing out various methods gathered from internet forums, relatives, and friends (sometimes grandma knows what she’s talking about!).
Cold Sore First Aid
When you first start to feel that tingling sensation that by now you’ve come to learn indicates an oncoming cold sore:
- DO NOT SCRATCH. Most of you know this, but it’s vital so I thought I’d say that first. It will cause it to spread around your mouth and will only make things worse, so don’t do it no matter how much it itches.
- Keep your cold sore dry and clean–use a wash cloth and hot soapy water (and don’t forget to throw that infectious wash cloth straight into the washing machine afterwards, don’t let anyone else touch it!)
- Apply Vaseline (petroleum jelly) to the cold sore, it forms a barrier around it and will help to prevent it from spreading.
- Wash your hands every time after you touch the cold sore–YES, you can spread herpes to other parts of your body (such as your nose and eyes–Herpes simplex infection of the eye causes scarring of the cornea and is a leading cause of blindness in the United States. Source: The Mayo Clinic).
Home Remedies for Cold Sores that Work
- Benzyl Alcohol (aka “Zilactin”): Soak a Q-Tip in some Benzyl Alcohol and apply it to the cold sore twice a day, I’ve found that if you do this early enough it can sometimes (not guaranteed) stop a cold sore dead in it’s tracks. This is one of the very few home remedies endorsed by the Mayo Clinic: Mayo Clinic – Home Remedies for Cold Sores.
- Lysine: I’ve heard this before, and I do believe that it DOES help, but it’s not the end-all be-all cure that some have made it out to be, but it wouldn’t hurt to buy some lysine tablets and take them as soon as you feel a cold sore coming on (I’ve even heard of people recommending that you start taking lysine if you know that you’re in an environment conducive to you getting a cold sore, i.e. high stress and/or cold dry weather, etc.), I’ve found that lysine does shorten the duration of a cold sore by a few days and can, in my opinion, help to prevent them if you’re taking it before you get one. Recommended dosage is 1000mg 3 times per day when you have an active outbreak or feel one coming on, and if you wish to take it as a preventative measure then 500mg once a day is typically the recommended dosage. For more information on lysine and cold sores, see: Lysine: Cold Sores Treatment? Dosage and How-To…
- Lysine Ointment: A pilot study by the Southern California University looked at the effectiveness of a lysine-containing ointment in 30 people. Researchers found that the ointment produced full resolution in 40% of participants by the third day and in 87 percent by the end of the sixth day. No adverse effects were reported. Source: http://altmedicine.about.com/cs/supplements/a/ColdSores.htm
- Witch Hazel: Dab on a Q-Tip and apply several times a day, does noticably shorten the duration of the cold sore, probably about the same as the Benzyl Alcohol.
- Probiotic Yogurt: Applying it topically several times a day has been noted to be very effective by several people and my friend Debbie swears by it: she ices her cold sore several times a day, uses a sterilized needle to drain any fluid (you have to get ALL of it out), and then applies the yogurt with a q-tip, and then tops it off with a dab of Clearasil or nail polish remover to keep it dry (this is very effective in my experience, I highy recommend the nail polish remover).
- Nail Polish Remover or Clearasil: These do an excellent job of keeping the cold sore completely dry after you’ve drained it of fluid (use a needle sterilized with alcohol), use a q-tip to apply.
- Vitamin B-12: Medical research in England found that many people with cold sores were low in B12, and that by adding 250 mcg. of B12 the condition improved rapidly. This research also suggested taking B complex supplements with emphasis on the B12 and folic acid.
- Lemon Balm: Lemon balm (Melissa officinalis) has antiviral properties. In a research study conducted in hospitals and dermatology clinics in Germany, lemon balm cream promoted the healing of blisters in five days compared to 10 days in the control group. Used on regularly, lemon balm cream may decrease the frequency of recurrences. Source: http://altmedicine.about.com/cs/supplements/a/ColdSores.htm
- Tea Bag Treatment: Tea contains tannic acid and it has been suggested that tannic acid possesses antiviral properties (some over-the-counter medications for cold sores contain tannic acid). Placing a tea bag on a cold sore when it first begins to form (especially during the Tingle stage) can possibly help to minimize the extent to which the lesion will develop. One should position the moistened tea bag (regular black tea like that used to brew ice tea, some have suggested that Earl Grey works best) on the area where the cold sore is forming for a few minutes every hour. Source: http://www.animated-teeth.com/cold_sores/t4_cold_sores_treatments.htm
- Tea Tree Oil: There is some limited research that has shown that tea tree oil may have topical anti-viral activity, especially with the Herpes virus.
How the cold sore virus replicates and how to stop it
This is going to go into a bit of detail, there’s going to be a bit of science and some medical terms, but if you’ll stick with me til the end you’ll really have an excellent understanding of how this nasty little virus works and how a few simple tweaks in what you eat (most importantly: what to stop eating) and maybe a special supplement you probably haven’t heard of before (don’t worry, I’m not selling it and it’s not expensive) can not only eliminate your cold sore in a day or two but also prevent them from every coming back again. Let’s get started…
What causes a cold sore?
A cold sore is an outward symptom of an outbreak of the Herpes Simplex Virus (usually Type 1, aka “HSV-1″, although HSV-2 can cause oral herpes) usually due to a decreased in immune function, a very common cause of which is exposure to cold weather hence the name “cold sore”. To the left you will see the culprit: that’s HSV-1 magnified 169,000 times by scanning electron microscope–growl at it or flip it the bird if it makes you feel better
The herpes virus remains dormant in the sensory nerve cells of your face until an outbreak, and no, sorry, there’s no cure: once you’ve been infected, you’ve got it for life. It’s almost always going to be the type 1 strain (HSV-1) of herpes that causes oral cold sores, however cases of HSV-2 causing them have been documented, so it’s possible, although rare. However, 1 in 6 cases of genital herpes are causes by HSV-1 (genital herpes is usually associated with HSV-2), so that’s somewhat more likely, although the old axiom that if it’s above the waist it’s HSV-1 and if it’s below the waist it’s HSV-2 does still generally hold true.
How Did I Originally Get Infected? Or: WHY GRANDMA WHY?!?!
Studies have shown that, the vast majority of the time, oral herpes is transmitted most commonly in someone’s youth when they are kissed by a relative who’s infected and suffering from an active cold sore outbreak–yeah, that sucks. This is especially likely if you started getting cold sores when you were a small child, which would mean that you were infected when you were very young and therefore most likely acquired it from close contact with an infected relative suffering from an active outbreak. If you acquired it later in life then something else is probably the cause, most likely that you acquired it from an intimate partner through physical contact i.e. kissing someone with a cold sore.
Cold Sore Treatments, Medications, and Remedies
There’s a great variety of treatments that myself and my friends have tried over the years: most of us originally went the prescription-combined-with-OTC (over-the-counter) route where we were prescribed something like Acyclovir or Valacyclovir and then used an OTC cream like Abreva. Over the years we’ve found (myself included) that the best those can do is to shave 1 maybe 2 days off of an outbreak, and that’s about it. We’ve found, through trial-and-error between us over the years, that there are more effective remedies you can put together in your kitchen. Not only that, but there are preventative measures that you can take which will often prevent a cold sore outbreak altogether from happening again, ever, from supplements like l-lysine and Vitamin B-12 to minor but hugely effective little diet changes like avoiding vinegar at certain times because it lowers your blood pH levels and creates an environment much more favorable to the virus replicating and wreaking havoc on your face.
pH Levels, Oxygen, and Stopping the Virus Cold in Its Tracks
The Herpes Simplex Type I virus that causes your cold sores has a very narrow pH range that its environment must be within for it to be able to live and reproduce (by the way, pH is just how acidic or basic something is–acids have a low pH and bases, such as lye, have a high pH) your body’s own pH range can easily sway into this territory from time to time due to a number of factors, the most common causes of which are stress, decreased immune function, certain foods, lack of sleep, and excess sunlight–now, where have you seen these factors mentioned before? Probably in an article you read about the most common triggers for cold sores, right? Even if you haven’t read about it I’m sure you already know it anyway because you almost certainly would have noticed it: your cold sores tend to occur when you’re stressed out, when your immune system is down (this most commonly occurs when you’re ill or when it’s very cold out), when your diet changes (usually in an unhealthy way, such as the addition of junk food you weren’t eating before), when you’re not getting enough sleep, etc., right?
The reason for this is that when you allow these things to happen to you, you’re creating an environment that is the most favorable for the virus to reproduce and live in (it’s when the virus starts suddenly massively reproducing that you get cold sores) by altering your normal pH level for the worse and making it very difficult for your immune system to keep the virus at bay, which it does most of the time, which is why you don’t have cold sores most of the time–your immune system is doing it’s job, it’s only when you make it difficult for it to do its job that problems start to pop up. So, essentially, if you can get your pH level back to normal then the cold sores vanish (this is a bit of an oversimplification, but I just don’t have the room here to explain the whole process). Plus, if you just follow a couple simple guidelines concerning diet and cheap, over-the-counter supplements, you can possibly prevent them from ever coming back, or at least make them very rare (most people who follow the program described below will go several years between cold sores, which is usually a huge improvement for them). Now, how do you do that?
My friend Derek, after a couple years of experimentation (primarily on himself! he suffered horribly from cold sores for years) and some consultation with several doctors and herbal specialists, came up with a program he shared with me a couple years back that took some things we already knew about how to get rid of cold sores (taking l-lysine, avoiding stress and too much sunlight, yada yada) to a whole other level, I mean I was just completely blown away, what he originally showed me was a multi-page, super-detailed program he came up with that utilized a few small (as in they won’t inconvenience you) adjustments in diet that make a big difference primarily involving what not to eat, along with a combination of several herbal supplements (one is l-lysine, but the dosage is different from what you’d normally take since you’re combining it with other supplements) including a new one I’d never heard of called “cat’s claw” that came from some weird tree bark in the Peruvian rain forest, plus a couple others that, when combined, have a very powerful and immediate effect on your body’s pH level and can quickly bring the Herpes virus to a dead halt, but they have to be combined just right in the correct dosages, plus your diet has to be right because if you’re eating any of the several things that can throw off your pH level then it might not work. He’s currently put together a fantastic 84-page report you can get here (it’s pretty easy reading, you can get through it in a couple hours, no worries) that I highly recommend you check out, just listen to what the guy has to say, he knows what he’s doing believe me. I wish I could just give the whole thing to you here, but it’s 84 pages long and there’s just no way I can fit that into a blog post, plus he won’t let me due to copyright issues (I asked already, in fact I had to be careful about how much I gave away to you here about his method!).
I just can’t tell you how much of a difference this has made in my life, I used to suffer from cold sores nearly every other month, it was horrible: cold outside? cold sore. hot outside? cold sore. job-related stress? cold sore. the flu? cold sore bonus, yay! have trouble sleeping? cold sore. I haven’t had one in nearly 3 1/2 years now, and it all started when I first got that e-mail from Derek detailing something he spent years testing and researching and months writing the rough draft. At the time I had a terrible outbreak, two on my mouth and one just on the edge of my nostril, and they were gone in 48 hours, never to return. I follow his simple guidelines about not eating certain foods when I’m especially susceptible to cold sores (I’m stressed, not getting enough sleep, feeling a little under the weather, etc.) and I always take my daily supplements (3 little pills, which are good for you and have multiple other benefits, plus they’re cheap as dirt from my local drug store). If I feel a cold sore coming on, that familiar little tingle, I up the dosage to the level he recommends for when you actually have a cold sore (quite a bit higher than the normal dosage you use to prevent them) and then the tingle goes away and I never see a cold sore pop up, works every time. Again, just for your own benefit I’d recommend you check out his site and see what he has to say, it’ll take 5 minutes, that’s it: go here to learn how to eliminate cold sores in just a day or two and keep them from coming back ever again.