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What are cold sores?

Cold sores or fever blisters are associated with herpes simplex, a viral disease caused by herpes simplex virus type 1. They appear in form of small, painful blisters filled with liquid. They usually affect lips, but can also appear on gums and roof of the mouth.

Since they are caused by a virus, cold sores are contagious. They can sometimes be preceded with tingling or burning sensation one or two days before they actually appear. Cold sores go away within a week or 10 days. They are not supposed to be touched with hands or picked at, because they may start bleeding if the scab falls off and they may leave a scar.

Because herpes simplex is caused by a virus, no particular treatment is found to be effective against it. However, there are many different herbal and folk remedies that have been used successfully for years and even centuries to alleviate the symptoms, shorten the healing time and prevent recurrence of cold sores.

Cold sore remedies

Lysine, an essential amino acid found in red meat, eggs, milk, cheese, wheat germ, brewer’s yeast, and fish, is believed to be effective against the herpes simplex virus. The absorption of this amino acid can be decreased by the intake of another amino acid, called arginine, which is found in chocolate, peanuts and almonds, so it is recommended to stay off those foods until the cold sore heals.

Lysine can be used against cold sores in the form of an ointment.

Lemon balm is a herb known for its antiviral properties and it makes sense that it is effective against cold sores too. It is especially effective if applied or taken orally shortly after the exposure to the virus, for example when tingling and burning that precedes the cold sore starts.

Reishi is a mushroom with a long history of medicinal use in Asia. It is known for its ability to improve immune system, but it is also believed it slows down or even stops the spread of herpes simplex virus. Chinese usually use it in combination with a plant called astragalus, which has similar properties as reishi.

Resveratrol is a compound found in red grapes. Several laboratory studies have shown that this compound can be effective against herpes simplex. It is supposed to be applied in form of a cream several times a day directly to the cold sore.

Another very effective remedy against cold sores is propolis. This product of bees, which they use in building their hives and sanitizing them, can be found in health food and herbal stores and it has many medicinal uses.

Propolis prevents infection with herpes simplex virus and blocks its spread.

Other useful remedies include black currant extract, rhubarb and sage cream and a Japanese seaweed called undaria pinnatifida.

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