Monday, July 8, 2013

Are Cold Sores Getting you Down?

Herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1) and type 2 (HSV-2) are in the same family of viruses as the Varicella zoster virus that causes chicken pox and shingles and Epstein-Barr virus that causes mononucleosis (glandular fever).  HSV-1 generally causes oral infections (cold sores) and HSV-2 causes genital infections although they can be found in both locations.  It is estimated that over 75% of Australians are infected with HSV-1 and 12% with HSV-2.   This does not mean that all these people will show signs of the virus though.  Many people carry the virus, and can pass it on, without knowing.

Herpes is an opportunistic infection, which means that it comes out when your immune system is down.  Your immune system can be affected by many things including stress, lack of sleep, sugar, alcohol, some medications and food sensitivities. If you get Herpes infections there are several things you can do to help avoid outbreaks, or treat them when they do occur.

  • Ice - put ice right on the sore.  It is best to do it for about 30 seconds and as often as possible.  This helps stop the virus from spreading.
  • Tea tree - you can put the oil straight on, but only use a little the first time as some people find it too harsh.  You can get cold sore lip cream containing tea tree oil from most health food stores. 
  • Lysine - Take 500-1000mg 3-4 times per day.
  • Vitamin B12 – take 2000mcg/day orally or 1000mcg/day by injection.
  • Probiotics - these improve your immune system.  While you have a sore you can take 2 capsules 2-3x/day.
  • Olive leaf extract - take 2-3 capsules per day.  Always take with probiotics but not at the same time.
  • Oregano  - you can buy this in oil and put directly on the sore as often as you can.
  • Avoid all nuts, nut butters and chocolate as they contain arginine that aggravates the Herpes virus.
  • Avoid alcohol.
  • Avoid any foods that may lower your immune system – sugar, simple carbohydrates or any food you have a sensitivity to.
  • Deep breathing – getting a herpes outbreak is a way of your body telling you to slow down and relax.

If you are getting cold sores often you should mention this to your naturopath so you can work on improving your immune system. 

Cunningham AL, Taylor R, Taylor J, Marks C, Shaw J, Mindel A. Prevalence of infection with herpes simplex virus types 1 and 2 in Australia: a nationwide population based survey. Sex Transm Infect 2006; 82:164-168. Available from:
Accessed 6 July 2013