Cold Sores No More - Go Magazine Feb 2013

While about 90 per cent of adults are infected with the herpes simplex virus (HSV1), only around 30 per cent suffer cold sores. The good news is there are options for treating and avoiding them!


Cold sores are caused by HSVI and are highly contagious and easily transmissible. The first breakout of cold sores signals infection by the virus and may be accompanied by fever, feeling unwell and swelling of the lymph glands. After the sore heals over, the virus migrates down the nerves into the nerve roots, near the spine. Here it lies dormant until conditions are right for it to travel back to the surface and cause another cold sore.


The usual triggers for an outbreak of the virus are stress, illness and environmental challenges such as wind, sunburn and cold weather. Some women experience cold sores premenstrually. Recurrent or frequent HSVI infections are generally a sign that the body’s immune system is compromised. The cold sore is a signal that the body is struggling and needs some time for rest and recuperation.


Treatment options

As for all viruses, the HSVI needs cells in which to replicate (and hide), and can only be treated during an active infection. For antiviral medicines to stop the dormant virus, they would have to destroy the cells that contain it. As this is not a desirable outcome, medicines are given either topically or orally for more severe or recurrent cases.


Helpful herbs

For recurrent infections, natural health practitioners tailor treatments to help relieve the underlying cause of the condition. This may range from alleviating and implementing strategies for reducing stress and minimising the negative effects of this on the body, to working at restoring healthy immune function.

Herbs such as St John’s wort can be used to support and nourish the nervous system, while herbs such as ashwaganda and liquorice can help restore adrenal function. Immune balance may be addressed by using herbs such as Echinacea and andrographis.


Nutritional aids

The amino acid lysine is useful in the treatment of cold sores because it helps to reduce the virus’ ability to replicate. Including lysine-rich foods in your diet, such as meats (particularly turkey), milk, cheese, eggs and beans, will help to reduce the tendency for cold sores occurring. Since the amino acid arginine is used to help viral replication, a reduction or avoidance of arginine-rich foods is highly recommended. Foods that should be avoided if you are suffering a cold sore outbreak include chocolate, nuts and grains. The B vitamins, vitamin C and zinc also help to support both immune and nervous systems so have a role in the treatment of cold sores.

Topical treatments

Just recently a single application product has turned cold sore treatment on its head, by providing a natural plant and mineral ingredients clinically proven to reduce healing and recovery time of cold sore outbreaks. Natural St John’s Wort and calendula extracts quickly heal cold sore symptoms, while emollients helping to moisturise the affected skin while it heals. An additional benefit of St John’s wort is its antiviral action.


Hygiene tips

Active cold sores (before crusting over occurs) are highly contagious and can easily spread to other parts of the body. To minimise this risk:

-          Avoid touching cold sores

-          Wash hands scrupulously after contact.


To reduce transmission to others:

-          Avoid kissing, sharing of glasses, cutlery and utensils during an active infection.

-          Discard any cosmetics that have had contact with the cold sore in the early stages.


Diet and lifestyle tips

  • A cold sore is your body’s way of telling you to rest and recuperate, so take time out to relax.
  • Meditation, regular exercise and adequate sleep help reduce stress levels and boost the immune system.
  • Eat light but nourishing meals, such as soups, when suffering an active cold sore. Food should not be served piping hot as this may irritate the skin further.

This article originally featured in Go Magazine Feb 2013 produced by Go Vita

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